Is it actually helpful to “fix” someone’s bad query letter?
I was at my favorite writing forum, Absolute Write’s Water Cooler, looking at some query letters that had been posted in a section where author’s are looking for critique. There was one letter there, where the book blurb was so wordy and had enough grammar and style errors that I basically re-wrote the blurb for them. I didn’t mind doing it. I like helping, and the blurb was better for the changes. I’m not saying it was perfect, mind you, but certainly improved.
Now I wonder if I did them any favors. The nature of the errors in style and grammar was such that I assume the manuscript has similar errors. Enough so that I wanted to say, “Perhaps you should take another look at your novel.” I did not say that, nor will I. We all start somewhere in our writing journey, and we all need time to find our stride. Such a comment at the wrong time offers more in the way of discouragement than aid. Maybe this book won’t be published, but I’ll bet you that this writer will eventually have one that is. The ideas are there, the writer just needs some growing.
My quandary is should I have re-written the blurb at all? Am I wasting this writer’s time if the blurb might now be good enough to get a request for the book, but the book itself is going to be rejected because the writing simply isn’t there yet? I don’t know. It’s quite possible the writer will learn some things about style simply from my re-written blurb, and it’s easy enough for them to get an editor for the book if it’s needed. Also, just because the query has problems, does not necessarily mean that the book does. Many of us writer’s are terrible at queries.
I’d be interested to hear what mt readers think about this quandary.