Query letter fun…

Sentences not to begin with:

“I am not an author and have no skill to become one.”

And – no – I’m not making this one up. This was really in the last batch that arrived from the NY office. (I work mostly from home right now and they ship them up once a week en masse. Of course, we missed a week during the holidays, so the last box, which arrived Wednesday, weighed in at 25 pounds. Yep, 25 *pounds* of mail – quite intimidating, though not quite all of it was queries.)


Addendum: It occurs to me that it might be interesting (at least to me) to track how many queries I get each week. I’ve never really done it in exact terms. Just sort of generally. So, the 25 pound box – first box of the year – had 65 query packages in it, 40 of which were the traditional letter with SASE; 25 of which were those people who either have been unable to secure guidelines or unwilling to follow them and include unsolicited sample chapters or whole manuscripts. I requested one partial out of the batch.

16 responses to “Query letter fun…

  1. Er. What on earth was the not-an-author writing to you for, then?

    • He has this really great idea, y’see…

      • Oh *dear*. *laugh* I can’t imagine doing that. *laugh*

        • And actually is absolutely correct. I’m going to guess she’s seen more than her fair share of similar queries in the past. And it’s not my first one either. Indeed, this individual went on with an attempt to convince me that they were a great fan of science fiction and fantasy, and that they had a unique idea they wanted me to give to one of my authors. I guess I’m never really quite sure what to say to these people.

          • Say “No!” (Politeness optional.)
            That’s pretty much all there is to it.

          • Oh, I had no doubt she was absolutely correct. I just can’t imagine doing that! Weird, weird weird. 🙂

          • People do that for fanfic, too. (yes, I’m catching up on journal entries at work, why do you ask?)
            “I’ve got this great idea, here are all the bits, this would be fun, now someone write it!”
            It’s even better when they do this as a “challenge.” *shakes head*

  2. Query Letters
    So I’m wondering two things – is that around the usual ratio of query/requests to see more?
    And of those you didn’t want to see more, were any of the “sounds interesting just not for me” type or were they all less than compelling?

    • Re: Query Letters
      Hmmm….essay question. I suppose it’s only fair since I’ve been using this LJ to pose my own now and then.
      I’m not sure there is a “usual ratio” — but I will say that it doesn’t surprise me to go through a pile of that size and only find one project that seems both intriguing and saleable enough to pursue. If I had to make a guess I’d say that on average 1 in every 100 queries yields a request for more materials from me. (And, of those materials requested, I have to admit that most of them turn out not to be ready for publication.)
      I know that sounds somewhat harsh. Truth is, there are generally a few that aren’t even appropriate (e.g. nonfiction, of which I handle very little; or poetry, which I handle not at all). And there are always quite a lot of them that aren’t done using proper spelling and grammar (again, not kidding). Plus, those where it’s obvious the person took little time in crafting the letter – something I rarely understand since they no doubt spent months, or even years, writing the manuscript.
      Yes, there are a few that fall into the category of being interesting but not fitting where I am right now. And there are a lot of factors that go into that too. In most cases, though, they just aren’t pitching something that seems to offer a new angle or insight, or a fresh voice, or what have you. Of course, whenever I say that it sounds far too vague of a guideline to me. It’s not the tropes that are the issue, really, in my opinion — it’s whether that one letter hooks me in a way the other 99 didn’t.
      You know, I don’t like how unfair that sounds; like it’s just my good opinion or what mood I’m in or if I don’t happen to hate unicorns on that particular day. It’s not really like that. Yes, it’s subjective. All the readers in the market are too, so why should I be different in that respect? The big deal, though, is that I’m likely to be able to get the manuscript on an editor’s desk, and not all readers can do that. Part of what figures in this is my belief that you have to passionately like a project in order to effectively represent it — you can’t sell something if your heart’s not in it. However, there are objective factors that figure into it too, and that’s not usually a consideration one gets from the general reading public. When people ask me what I’m looking for (a question that’s always one of my least favorites because the exact nature of it changes practically daily), my answer is generally — “something I like, something written well, and something I can sell.” It requires all of those factors. So I look for the first because that’s the easiest, and then assess the second and third before continuing.
      Heh. I bet that’s more of an answer than you bargained for.

      • Re: Query Letters
        Rats. My image of the invisible agent’s day has been shattered.
        This is how it *should* go:
        I.A.: Hey, Big Name Editor, I’ve got something for you.
        B.N.E.: Cool. Send it over, I’ll make sure it gets published.
        I.A.: We need seven figures for this, too, btw.
        B.N.E.: For you? No problem. Can I take you to lunch?
        I thought the whole invisibility thing was just a secondary superpower which is followed soon after by sainthood or something. Bummer.

        • Re: Query Letters
          I thought the whole invisibility thing was just a secondary superpower which is followed soon after by sainthood or something.
          Actually, sainthood comes first. That’s how she can read through all of these submissions and not be found up on a water tower with a high-powered rifle taking aim at people buying word processing software.

        • Re: Query Letters
          Well….sure….but if every day was like that it would get so boring…. *g*

      • Re: Query Letters
        Actually, it doesn’t sound unfair at all, and no more (or less) than I expected. (though it is always interesting to hear a bit from the other side of the fence.) Agenting is a very personal vocation – I can’t imagine wanting one who wasn’t very passionate about my book, otherwise how could she be the very best advocate for the project?
        thanks for taking the time to answer.

        • Re: Query Letters
          The interesting thing to me is that I’m not entirely sure all writers think that. I’m fine with the ones that just want a business manager. I’ve even got a couple of clients who prefer the relationship that way. But I get the impression that some of the writers who approach me look at it as a means to an end and don’t think long term. About the relationship that *I* am going to have with their fiction — as a reader *and* an agent.

          • Re: Query Letters
            …how bizarre. If I didn’t consider you (or an agent in general) a long term investment I wouldn’t have bothered looking for an agent.
            I mean, in my particular case I made my first book sale without an agent. That removed the first means-to-an-end aspect from the equation, but for me, the inescapable conclusion was that if I was interested in building a career as an author, it was a much better move to go find myself an agent with my shiny new book sale. I have a lot of books I intend to write, and my odds of selling them are much better if I have an agent pitching for me.
            Which does, of course, sound very means-to-an-end, but that’s the nature of business transactions. I want *my* job to be *writing* books. Having someone else hawking my wares is a *much* more practical application of my time than doing it myself.
            And I specifically want an agent who *is* excited about my writing, because passion sells. That’s one of the reasons you were my first choice: I knew the kinds of material you’ve represented, and I thought you’d be a good fit, not just for this sale, but for me in my writing career. Had my writing not struck a chord with you, I might’ve looked for an agent with a shorter term working partnership in mind, but to me, developing a good agent/author relationship is a significant part of building a successful writing career. I’m in it for the long haul, and I’d personally rather have an agent who was, too. Interesting, very interesting, the different approaches people have!

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