letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 124
# of partials requested: 3
genres of partials requested: mystery (1), sf/fantasy (2)

Also, requested a full YA from one author after reading the earlier requested partial.

Have now read all post queries received by the 14th, and all electronic queries received prior to the 20th. Hope to have all replies out by the end of business today on those.

Finding myself not as inspired as usual to offer commentary on the queries (perhaps it’s part and parcel with winter’s renewed assault on the Northeast), I will open a Q&A thread herewith. I’ll only be answering questions regarding the query process, so save anything else for the next time around. Thanks.


Oh, and in case anyone missed it over on my website: http://www.jenniferjackson.org/ (LJ feed for my news page: http://syndicated.livejournal.com/jjackson_agent/ )– the mass market version of Jim Butcher’s White Night (The Dresden Files, Book 9) will be on the upcoming New York Times Bestseller List! I am so thrilled for him, and extend my thanks to the many readers and fans who have helped this series grow.

28 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. On QL hooks — do you prefer the one-paragraph “short hook” I see recommended online, or the three-paragraph “mini-synopisis” that I’ve seen a lot of at Miss Snark’s?

    • Since my query guidelines on the website call for the submission of a synopsis and five pages, I think if the letter has a strong hook that has me eagerly looking forward to those pages, that works. In the case of agents who do not ask for any additional materials, the stronger the hook, whether one paragraph or three, the more likely they are to request more.

  2. In the query letter, how much information do you like to see about the authors and how they relate to their work? I’ve seen it suggested that authors include a little biographical hook that relates back to their writing or the specific piece they’re querying.

    • My opinion on this is that whatever biographical details are included should be part and parcel to the intent of the query to get the agent/editor to read the work. Think of it as a resume/application. Unless you are applying to work at a vet, you don’t mention your pets. (Many people seem to mention pets in queries, so that’s why that one sticks in my head.)

  3. You mentioned earlier in your blog about teens querying you. Have you ever requested material from someone who outright claimed they were a teenager, or is that something you get turned off with? Thanks!

  4. If you request a partial but decide to pass after seeing it, is there any point for that author to re-query after a significant rewrite? If so, should the author acknowledge this history in the query?
    Thanks! I haven’t queried far and wide, but I have wondered.

    • Usually if I think I’m going to want to take another look after revisions, I’ll invite a resubmit. That’s not to say that someone can’t re-query evenso. Things change (the market, what I’m looking for, etc.) As for mentioning the history, if I’ve requested and read the partial, there’s a chance I’ll remember it — I’ve been known to recall them years later. I’m sure your mileage will vary with other agents. I think I’d advise you to mention it.

  5. queries
    Hmmm…so if you’ve read electronic queries through the 20th, and mine was sent on the 16th, and I haven’t heard back…does that mean that it’s probably still being sorted and hasn’t gotten to you yet and I should sit tight for another week or two, or does it mean it was eaten by the agency’s cyber dog and I should requery?

    • Re: queries
      Check your spam filter before you re-send. I also got a couple bounces because I got blocked. But I have sent out replies to every electronic query that was sent prior to the 20th.

      • Re: queries
        I guess the cyberdogs were hungry, must’ve gotten lost. I can’t find an answer in any spam or anything…I’ll send it again and hope I’m not doubling you up somehow.
        P.S. No need to post this unless you want to!

  6. I was wondering if you give queriers (is that a word?) extra mental points for:
    1) Mentioning they read your blog?
    2) Mentioning they loved one of your client’s books?
    3) Alluding to the fact that said client book is similar to theirs in some way and you might, therefore, love it as well?
    Do any of these things, when handled well, make you want to request a partial from them more?

    • I have to say that I’m not sure that I think about it that consciously. I would guess probably — if they then mention some way in which either the blog or the book was relevant to them as a writer.
      It seems there are many people who read the blog but it stands as a throw-away line. I’m not sure that makes much of an impression on me either way.
      I _do_ notice when people mention they read my blog but send me something extremely inappropriate (non-fiction, poetry) or when they say they loved a client book and compare it to their own, making it self-evident that they never read that book.

  7. Hi, thanks for taking these questions. It’s very helpful to read. I’m wondering if your work was not taken on by an agent, but in the reply letter that agent gave the name of another agent you might consider querying, would it be worth mentioning in a query to the second agent that you were referred by the first? Thanks!

    • I have gotten referrals from agents that I have never heard of and that I can’t even google up a reference to. Those don’t help so much.
      Usually when I give a referral it’s to an agent I know and I may even suggest that my name get used (for example if it’s Kristin Nelson, Lucienne Diver, or any of the Knight Agency who are friends of mine).
      What you may wish to consider is that there is the potential for this to be a double-edged sword, depending on the reputation of said agent.

  8. I know that you and most agents would like a synopsis along with the query and 5 pages. The length of queries varies so greatly, I was wondering if it’s appropriate to send the 5-10 page query, or a one page query? Or does it even matter?

    • I think of the query as the one-page (typically)introductory letter that is designed to hook the agent/editor into reading further. The synopsis (typically) is a 2-5 page addition — at DMLA, accompanied by the first 5 pages per our submission guidelines. Hope that helps.

      • Hello,
        I am a little confused now – you say the synopsis’ you get are typically 2-5 pages, but on the DMLA submission guidelines it asks for a 1 page synopsis.
        So it is actually okay for my synopsis to be longer then one page?

        • Most of the ones I get are not confined to one page, regardless of what the submission guidelines request. I wouldn’t mind if they were. But, personally, I don’t have a problem with them being a little longer (as long as they are a reasonable length – the 40 page one I got last week is right out). If you’re submitting to anyone else at DMLA, perhaps it would be helpful to stick with the guidelines page (though there are probably only about 50% of queries received each week that actually follow them).

  9. It does help. Thanks! Also, if an agent requests the first few chapters, should a writer include a prologue as well if they have one (if it’s no more than 10 pages), or does it depend? Should they just stick with the first 3 chapters as requested? Or is sending the prologue a deal breaker? Thanks! :*)

    • I always ask for a number of pages (roughly — if I say 50 and the chapter break is at 52, that’s fine), so this doesn’t end up applying to me. If your prologue is short, I’d say just include it, and if long, then count it as one of the chapters. I think the important thing is that the agent needs to know exactly what they will be showing to the editor in order to make an accurate assessment of the work.

  10. How Good a Fit?
    I am in the process of querying, with several novels already published. I am having an issue that I hope you can address. Because I write in multiple genres, I find myself eliminating agents because they don’t handle one or more of the genres in which I write.
    How would you handle a potential client who writes both genres you represent, and those you don’t? Would you suggest they find someone who represents all their genres? Find an additional agent for that
    (or those) other genres? Handle their own submissions in those genres, and either handle their own contracts, or have you negotiate the contracts?
    I know there are those that will advise a writer in that situation to stick to one genre, to find their voice and market in that genre; to establish themselves before they try to move into other markets. But if that isn’t an option (I’ve already published in three genres, and want to continue) what would you advise?

  11. Ugh! Jennifer, forgive me. I meant to say synopses, not queries on my last question. I was asking about a one page synopsis or a 5-10 synopsis. Ooops—sorry.

  12. Your answer was more than sufficient, as always! ;*) Thank you!

  13. I too fall into the category of a sent query with no response. It was sent snail priority mail with a SASE and USPS states it was delivered on Jan 30, 2008. Would you have sent a reply via email if a SASE was enclosed?
    Thank you for your time.
    L. Green

    • If you included an SASE, I sent a response via snailmail. If you don’t live in the US, please allow up to a month for the response to reach you. It’s possible the USPS may have lost the reply — in which case, please feel free to resubmit either by email at info [at] maassagency.com or via snailmail with an SASE. As per my notes above, no January queries are currently in my pending file.

  14. More questions on queries…
    Thank you so much for your willingness to answer questions on your blog. Agent blogs are such a great resource for writers.
    I sent an e-query about three or four weeks ago to the info address, and never received a response. I was operating under the assumption that no response meant a rejection…but I’ve read a few posts where you indicate that you were responding to e-queries whether rejection or not.
    Really, I’m just trying to determine if I was rejected, which is fine (no stranger here! :-D), or if perhaps something got lost during transmission.

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