Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 25, 2010

Agent Colleen Lindsay Gives Query Letter Tips

Colleen Lindsay is an agent at Fine Print Literary located in New York City.  She writes a blog called The Swivet.  She is a avid twitterer and very funny.  She posted about the reasons that will get your query letter rejected right away.  Below are her main points. 

Lotsa reasons, some of which you can’t control. But here are some things you can control in your query letter, and by doing so, increase your odds that I’m actually going to read the entire thing and possibly ask for more:

Spelling and grammar mistakes: Yes, I do notice them. And, yes, they do count against you. A query letter is basically your application for a writing job.

Typos: One typo I may forgive but a letter riddled with “teh” instead of “the” is getting rejected. Attention to detail matters.

You spent five paragraphs telling me A.) how much you love writing, B.) how long you have been writing, C.) how much you have always wanted to be a writer or D.) all of the above. Not to seem heartless but…I don’t care about any of this.

You told me that you’d previously self-published the book you’re querying about but now want to reach a wider audience. Unless you sold several thousand copies of that self-published book (we’re talking five digits here, kids), a legit trade publisher won’t be interested. And neither will an agent. Write a new book instead!

You told me that you were previously published by someone like PublishAmerica… and meant it. This is akin to telling me that you would consider yourself previously published if you had Xeroxed pages of your manuscript and stapled them together.

You didn’t read my submission guidelines: How do I know you didn’t read my submission guidelines? Because you: A.) included an unsolicited attachment with your query, B.) snail-mailed your query, C.) didn’t cut-and-paste the first five to ten pages of your manuscript into the email with your query letter, D.) sent me a query for a subject matter that I clearly don’t represent like screenplays, poems, or Christian fiction, or E.) all of the above.

Click here to read the full post.

Colleen is primarily interested in all kinds of fiction. She likes quirky, edgy or offbeat fiction, both literary and commercial; women’s fiction; historical fiction; high-concept thrillers, mysteries and crime novels; queer fiction; and graphic novels. Colleen also has a particular expertise in fantasy, science fiction urban fantasy, paranormal romance and other speculative sub-genres and always welcomes a well-written SF/F novel. Additionally, Colleen is looking for YA, particularly multicultural YA, YA that tackles social taboos and other issues, and YA fantasy. She’s not interested in poetry, cozies, short stories, screenplays, or Christian fiction/non-fiction. In non-fiction, she’s looking for strong narrative non-fiction, works of LGBT interest, pop culture and books dealing with Web 2.0 and non-traditional marketing; she also works closely with several book packagers to supply talented writers for work-for-hire projects.

Colleen accepts queries electronically only and has very specific submission guidelines. Please click here to read Colleen’s submission guidelines and more specifics on the kinds of projects that she’s currently seeking.

FinePrint Literary Management
240 West 35th Street Suite 500
New York, NY 10001


  1. Thanks for posting this. It would have been right up Uninvoked’s alley were I trying to get it published. I’ll bookmark her for my next novel. ^^


    • I figure we can all use information that helps us figure out if an agent is right for us. I looked at your site and I liked what I saw. It looks like you are working on a graphic novel. Let me know when you want to start submitting.



  2. Kathy, boy you have a lot of helpful information on your blog. Great guests that answer so many questions that writers and illustrators need to have answered. Thank you. Mary Nida


  3. Mary,

    Thanks for the compliment. Glad to know you are checking in. I love your poems.



  4. Hi, this is extremely random and I found this site through google and thought this might be a place to get some advice about something quickly by some people who know what they’re talking about.

    I’ve been working on a graphic novel, i’m a first time writer and everything, working really hard on getting this together, I had my query letters written and everything, but wasn’t planning on sending them out until ALL of my work was finished.

    However, due to some unexpected things happening to me in life, I panicked and rushed them out ahead of time.

    The good news is I heard back from my first choice agent within minutes. The bad news is he asked for my first pages of art ,which I have, but i’m worried because the entire book isn’t complete yet (the script and illustrations are but the inking is not) and once I tell him i’m worried my opportunity will be lost.


    • Tom,

      I would get back in touch and explain exactly where you are. I don’t think it will cause any problems. Most editors and agents do not expect an illustrator to submit final artwork with their book. I would just make sure the agent who you consider signing with is reputable.



      • Ok, thanks a bunch, you’ve definitely alleviated my worries!


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