You’ve given all your energy and passion to your manuscript, bleeding over your keyboard for years, missing sleep and events and maybe even your day job. It’s a darn good story – not just your mom and your spouse, but beta readers and peers in workshops are blown away and ask if you have more writing they can read. Your query letter is immaculate and you submit perfectly to the requirements of each agent you email.
So what the heck is holding things up? Why are agents sending rejections, or worse, not returning your emails at all?
Check your book title. Check your chapter titles. Check your leading sentences. Do any of them sound like lyrics to a pop song? Are they puns or silly plays on words? Are they cliché in any way?
An agent gets hundreds of queries every week. Sometimes all it takes for yours to end up in the email trash is a terribly worded title. If you don’t have the imagination and ingenuity to create a unique and intriguing title, what else can an agent expect than your manuscript is a big yawn as well?
I detest clichés, trite little packages of recycled words. When I am editing a manuscript from a 40-year-old writer with a Master of Fine Arts in English and Creative Writing, I expect to find a total of ZERO overused and mundane phrases. It is a habit of young writers, junior high kids exploring their interests before time and maturity helps to hone their skills. Nothing will turn me off from a book more than a simile that ends in a cliché.
There are two types of music I have a hard time listening to: pop and country. For me, no matter how beautiful or fun a song is to the ear, as I writer I must love the lyrics. Too many songwriters have a rotten knack for reusing hackneyed rhymes. The worst, however, has to be the words falling from the mouths of sports commentators. We get it: the teams are up against the clock, the only way a team will win is to rack up points, and the crowd will go wild every single time.
If your book is about a serial killer living on a rural farm, dismantling his victims and burying their body parts beneath rows of corn, who is finally caught and falls into a threshing machine during the chase scene, his blood spraying out over the fields… do not entitle it You Reap What You Sow. Just don’t.