letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 122
# of partials requested: 1
genre of partials requested: fantasy

What you need to have in order to query me:
– a finished manuscript of novel-length fiction (if you are a new author — not an idea, not a work-in-progress; already published* authors can send queries on partials/option materials)
– preferably in English
– preferably in a genre that I profess to have an interest in (those genres are many, but do not include poetry or children’s picture books)

Here is what you should send (to me, other agents may have other preferences):
– a query letter
– an SASE if by snailmail
– the first five pages of your work (plain text if by email, no attachments)
– a synopsis (not to exceed 5 pages)

*where published means paying market recognized as professional

11 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. Hi. If you think ‘hmm, what should I write about today?’ in the near-to-distant future, would there be any chance you could write about conferences and pitch sessions and the like? I’m just worried because everyone seems to be going to them, and if it’s going to help my career then I will scrape the money together and do it dammit, but if not I should stop worrying. (Or if I need to be at a certain point before I go, that’s useful to know also.) Thank you.

  2. All right, time for my seldom-answered-the-same-way-twice question regarding pitch vs. finished novel.
    I have one novel, one novella and three short stories (currently) in my list of published credits. However, they’re all media tie-in work (Star Trek, Doctor Who, etc.). They were paid at professional rates(or professional enough that SFWA let me join).
    Right now, it’s running 6-4 among agents I have spoken to over the past three years that I would need to have a finished novel to (and I quote) “prove I can create something on my own”.
    I’m curioius to your feelings on this.

    • Having a finished original manuscript will give you more leverage. Or at least that has been my experience. Not everyone considers media work-for-hire – by itself – a substantial enough foundation even if professional-rate ones would still help as credits.
      That said, I have sold Buffy books, Angel books, Stargate books, BSG books, Spiderman books… for both established and newer writers.
      In the end, it all comes down to the writing. It’s harder to sell on proposal, so it tends to need to be that much better.

      • Understood.
        I have come to the conclusion for right now, sell tie-in work on a proposal (which is their standard) and try to sell original work with a completed manuscript (which is the other standard).
        I’d say the score is 6-4-1 now. *grin*

  3. Does “the first five pages” mean double-spaced pages? Is there a font preference?

    • I’m betting that for “first five pages” in hard-copy, you can’t go wrong with “12-point Courier, double spaced, 1-inch margins.” Some agents and editors may have more lenient standards, but in the absence of finding any other data on the websites available? I put my money on that one.
      The one that does fluster me with each agent is whether or not that 12-point Courier, in email, should be HTML or if I should just copy the first 5 pages from my formatted manuscript, paste into the email, adjust to having a blank line between paragraphs, put in indications of _underlining_, and send as plain text so that the agent/editor’s email application preferences will automatically adjust it to whatever font they chose.
      In my editor guise (for a niche RPG line), I detest HTML email, and say so plainly on the appropriate page. (It overrides my preferences for font size and style, which is bad for my eyes.) It makes me even more sensitive to the topic than many, I suspect.

    • First five means first five as they would appear in your manuscript – so double-spaced, one side of page, 1 inch margins.
      Font should be readable.

  4. Hi,
    I know there’s no exact science, but what typically grabs you in the first five pages enough to make you request a partial (the writing, characters, plot)? I’ve heard agents say most of what they receive is an obvious pass, but what about well written pages with something interesting happening and potentially intriguing characters, yet you still pass? What are the factors then? How much can you really tell in those five pages?

  5. query wars
    Would published nonfiction (by major houses) qualify an author to query with a WIP?

  6. Wow, out of 122, only one partial was requested. This is interesting stuff to know. Thanks for sharing this. :*)

  7. Acceptance/rejection ratio
    One partial request out of 122 submissions? My wife is an astronomer, and she says that proposals for getting observing time on the Hubble Space Telescope have a better success rate than that! Ah well, I’m still not giving up my writing career.

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