someone else’s queries

So… nihilistic_kid went to Writer’s House to visit with his agent yesterday and had an interesting conversation with the submissions coordinator (that’s what I’m going to call him). I particularly liked this quote: “we have 400 clients, and 500 of them are crazy.” I would have said eccentric *g* if I were talking about my client list. In any case, it sounds like a pretty accurate look at how this works, though we don’t have a submissions pool like theirs. Of course, I was reading this first thing in the morning as I have my ritual cup of tea, still sort of reeling from the query binge that I had last night (in which 38 out of 97 queries still had SASE’s with the old postage rate) and was also struck by: “Of the submissions, most fall into two groups: talented writers with nothing that makes them unique or sets them apart, and writers with lots of creativity who can’t write.”

E.T.A.: So, of course that means that I want: “talented writers with lots of creativity” — which answers that oft-asked conference question: “What are you looking for?”

29 responses to “someone else’s queries

  1. so the third catagory would be writers that can write and have ways to tell a story that are unique?
    . . .okay, off to work on staying in that catagory! (G)

  2. “we have 400 clients, and 500 of them are crazy.”
    All writers are crazy. It’s part-and-parcel of the definition.
    The trick is learning to make it pay, and then learning to make it pay enough that you become merely “ecentric” or “Interesting.”

  3. There’s this thing I call “sweatiness” that I find missing from far too much otherwise utterly competent writing. It’s one of those elements which rises above competence. That’s how I interpret that last comment…”more sweat.”
    (And by “sweatiness” I don’t mean squick factor, though that is one path to sweatiness. I mean intensity such that the writer sweated (sweat?) while writing it, and the reader feels that same cold grab at their heart while reading.)

  4. Now I feel like a good girl with my two-cent stamp. *grin* *stalks mailman*
    38/97 isn’t terribly bad, though, is it? More than half remembered!
    And a question!
    So you can usually tell from a query letter whether someone can write or not? I mean, the basics seem obvious: can they use their spell-checker, do their sentences make sense, and that sort of thing. But how much more can you tell?
    I guess I’m curious because I imagine after reading a zillion queries you’ve gotten pretty good at learning a lot just from the letter. Or are we talking about “can’t write” meaning lack of basics?

    • Can I usually tell from just a query letter? Well…. often, I believe. The Writers House line above about many of the ideas not having enough that sets them apart is true of a great many queries. There’s also a part of reviewing them which is an instinct developed over the years. And the fact that an editor or agent is immersed in the market and the community of publishing in a different way than writers and have developed a gut-sense for what will stand out.
      And that “thing” that and are talking about above *can* come through in just a query. I had one last year. And I *had* to read the book, and then I *had* to take it on.
      With regard to the basics, they are really important. I mean, really, if there are a lot of errors in the query letter which is only one page, one is unlikely to ask for a writing sample that has every chance of being riddled with same when one has nearly 100 pitches a week to choose from. The query is your resume. It’s your first impression. I’m always amazed that people can take years to write the book and then not give the query letter quality attention.

      • *nodnod* Okay, that makes lots of sense. I guess when you read lots of queries it’s only natural to get a feel for the writer through them.
        And now you’ve got me wondering about that query you liked so much. Would it be rude to ask if you and the author would mind sharing it with the class? I bet lots of us would love to see what made you drooly! 🙂
        And *nod*, yes, good sense with the basics. I guess I always *hear* about people sending ill-prepared queries. I just can’t imagine *why*.

        • I don’t think I can share the specific query here, but I can tell you that it was that elusive thing that people like to call “voice.” The *query* had it. The *synopsis* had it. The novel, itself, had it in spades. Everything this author sent popped. I was blown away.

  5. I’m worried about falling into the former category, because that seems to me a harder problem to fix… Though maybe the grass is always greener. (I just hope I’m not in the “no talent, no creativity” category!)

  6. *damn*.
    ::puts away her highly derivative novel that people say is just like the last book they read::

  7. This reminds me of what was touching upon in her latest post: the challenge of making competent fiction rise to the next level.

  8. I actually thought the most brutally helpful comment was:
    It can take months to get an agreement for representation, but a rejection can be gained as soon as you want it. “Call me twenty times in twenty days, and everyone here will hear about it.” If people want a quick answer, the answer is no.
    If you make a nuisance of yourself, I probably won’t even look at your submission. I’ll just send it right back to you to shut you up. Human nature, my friends. And it’s amazing how many writers just don’t get that.

    • If you make a nuisance of yourself, I probably won’t even look at your submission. I’ll just send it right back to you to shut you up
      She will, too. She has no mercy. No kindness. No compassion for the supplicant.
      (and she’s going to take all that as a compliment, too)

  9. Of the submissions, most fall into two groups: talented writers with nothing that makes them unique or sets them apart, and writers with lots of creativity who can’t write.
    That quite succintly sums up every fear I’ve ever had about my writing. 😛

  10. What is creativity?
    It’s not just ability to come up with ideas.

  11. “Of the submissions, most fall into two groups: talented writers with nothing that makes them unique or sets them apart, and writers with lots of creativity who can’t write.”
    Which will probably fall into Parato’s Principle: 80/20; that group being the 80% that receive rejection letters.
    Or we could tack it up to just good ol’ 50/50/90
    ‘You’re either in, or you’re out, but 90% of the time, you’re out.’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s