letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 123
# of requests: 0

Have now read all queries received prior to the 7th of this month — replies will be done by the end of business today.

Youngest query-er this week: 10 years old (on the older side, someone had grand-children but didn’t specify their age) — I am getting an increasing number of queries from young people. Some of them are more articulate than the adult queries.

Yes, it’s true. Nothing grabbed me hard enough this week to add it to my reading queue. So far this year I’ve asked for 12 partials and 2 full manuscripts out of over 800 queries. I’ve signed 3 new clients. Today’s message is…. don’t give up. I know that each rejection, whether form or otherwise, can shake your confidence, or even make you bitter and/or angry. I’m not telling you not to feel that way. You’re perfectly entitled to it. But don’t let it fester and generate negativity. Listen, and then get back on the horse and keep on. Here’s why: In 2004, I read a partial by an author. And turned it down. (I have a note that I may have read earlier submissions from this author as well.) In the Spring of 2007, I requested a partial for a different manscript from this author. And…. asked for the full manuscript, which I read in September and signed up in October. And for which I am currently negotiating a deal.

15 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. I so appreciate your encouragement to writers. We need all the help we can get to just keep going. I think what trips me up is the form rejections. While I TOTALLY understand the practical need for them, they just leave me wondering a little too much. My query has garnered 1 request for a partial from a top agent and 19 form rejections. The agent ended up turning it down, saying she enjoyed the read and found it very engaging, but that it wasn’t right for her list. I wish I knew the reasons behind the other rejections, but without more info, there’s nothing for me to react to. Too bad there are those crazy writers that write back and argue (or worse) if they’re lucky enough to get individualized comments with their rejections. Talk about encouraging the need for form letters! I’d LOVE to have more information! Without it, I don’t know if there’s something about the book or the letter I need to change, or if I just need to keep going until I find the right agent. What’s your advice?

  2. Can I ask your opinion on the proper format for a query? I don’t mean margins and whatnot. I mean what the query is really supposed to BE. I’ve researched this on too many sites to name, but the one I keep coming back to is AgentQuery.com. They have a pretty helpful section on how to write queries. At the bottom they have links to real letters which have successfully landed an agent. But most of them don’t follow AQ’s guidelines. At all. Then there’s Evil Editor, where queries are expected to be a tight, mini synopsis. There’s no tolerance for any mention of a story element that isn’t fully explained in the query. But, again, going back to the samples offered by AQ, I’d say half of those queries (which worked!) don’t follow that kind of rule. It’s very confusing to someone who’s spent her life reading books, not queries. What is this really supposed to be? What do YOU expect a query to be?
    What I decided, after reading those letters that work, is that the common denominator among them all is a strong voice. They each had a different format, in fact, the detective one didn’t even tell me the plot! It listed a bunch of elements with the intent to show the tone and humor of the story. I’m kinda interested in the chicken thief and his skillet-wielding mother, even though I don’t really read mysteries. In fact, I’m not a big fan of the letter itself, but since an agent is going out of her way to post it as an example of an effective query, it obviously did the trick for her. Again, I think the key is to get your voice across. What do you think?

  3. Jennifer –
    I think I read and passed on that same query from a ten-year old yesterday (on behalf of another agent; I was helping her catch up her slush). \
    Hey, I tried to email you to say thanks for the kind words on my blog, and to ask you to please add me to your “Agents Who Blog” sidebar, but the email bounced back twice.
    Just wanted to say thank you, and that I owe you a drink for all the advice I’ve gotten from your blog over the past year or so. Let me know when you’re in the NYC area next so I can make good on that promise!
    All the best,

    • Welcome to agent game!
      I think one of those emails got through — will send reply soon. Would love to get together for drinks or something. And I’ll add your blog too!

  4. Your encouragement is spot on good advice.
    Last fall, I had finished a revising a novel and I was sick of it. I had a bunch of personal stress and was prepared to put writing aside for a while so I could go to grad school and get a real career. I was dressing my kid out of the thrift shop and I felt like a failure.
    Still, I sent out query letters out of a sense of habit. By December, I’d signed with a terrific agent and last week accepted an offer from Del Rey.
    Those GRE study guides went back to the library so I have time to pound away on my next book. My son still wears thrift shop clothes, but who cares? Whoo-hoo! Writing!
    Anyway, that deal came at almost the last possible time for me, and if a goofball like me can have some success, any reasonably sane person can.

  5. I love how you post where your at with queries, how many you’ve read and how many requested etc. It’s really interesting and extremely kind of you.
    I haven’t started querying yet but you definitely shine as a superb agent in this blog. From your knowledge of the business and helpful tips for newbie authors, to your awesome track record with clients. I know who I’d want for representation.
    Thanks for the inside look.

  6. Don’t give up is true! My editor and I were just talking about how the original query for my novel he contracted late last year actually first landed on his desk in early 2005. Whew!

  7. I’d like to add my thanks to everyone else’s. Even when there’s no good news from the query wars, it’s nice to get an update and a peek into how it all works.
    What’s your feeling on sample pages included with a query? Miss Snark advocated sending them. Other agents have expressed indifference or annoyance. I’m trying to puzzle out what the right approach might be when agents’ guidelines are silent on the subject. Do sample pages help push a borderline query over the edge (good or bad), or do you not look at them unless you already like the query itself?

  8. Jennifer,
    Thanks for the great info. I am currently tidying up my novel before I send it to my 2nd group of betas. After their wonderful feedback, I’ll do a quick edit, and hopefully be ready to query. Your advice has definitely helped me a lot along the way, and I appreciate it! :*)

  9. queries
    Hi. I like to think I’m capable of following directions, but just in case…
    When I went to the Maass agency’s website to query you, all I could find was an email to query “info@..” so that’s what I did. In the subject line I put: Query – please forward to Jennifer Jackson
    Is that how you get your queries, or did I miss something? You probably haven’t gotten to it if it did get to you, but I just wanted to know if I did it right.

    • Re: queries
      That’s exactly correct — queries can be sent to info [at] maassagency.com (that is our general agency address and any email to my attention will be read by me). If it doesn’t show up, I’ll let you know.

  10. thanks
    Cool. Thanks. Good to see my college education wasn’t wasted and I can follow directions after all! ๐Ÿ™‚

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