letters from the query wars

# of queries read: 86
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genres of partials/manuscripts requested: N/A

This week’s pet peeves:

* people who don’t send the first five sample pages with their query, as requested in our guidelines
* over 200K lengths for first novels in a series
* people who sign with other agents and don’t bother to inform you before you spend time reviewing their material
* people who take months, or even years, after you request material to submit it and then start emailing you for a response within a week or two of receipt
* people who reply to friends of mine like this: http://lyonsliterary.blogspot.com/2008/05/running-with-crazy.html“I received a rude email in response, telling me that I clearly did not read her query letter. Offended, I told the author that this was my subjective opinion and that she should not take it personally. She wrote again, telling me to grow up.” This also happens to me on an almost weekly basis, I kid you not.

22 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. I don’t envy your position. It cannot be easy to be an agent, working with crazy writers who will do just about anything to be an author truly must be a gruely days work! Thank God it’s Friday have a cocktail and be thankful to not be a writer!

    • Good suggestion! Though I must say that working with writers can also be immensely rewarding. I am often struck by the amazing talent and creativity of those I represent. Perhaps next week I’ll do “this week’s blessings” instead of “pet peeves”….

      • That could be a insightful change and maybe you’ll help stroke the identity of those you admire so greatly. If there is one thing I can say about writers-they have fragile ego that needs a good massage once in a while.

        • If there is one thing I can say about writers-they have fragile ego that needs a good massage once in a while.
          Agents too, I fear. Being told one is doing a good job is always rewarding. I’ll try to keep notes this week for an optimism post. 🙂

  2. It must be so frustrating to get letters like that. What are those people thinking? How do you not go crazy?
    I have a question about the “over 200K lengths for first novels in a series.” Is it that if there’s going to be a series, the author may as well split that book into two instead? Or is it a pet peeve for another reason? Do you feel the same if it’s only the first in a duology? I would guess it’s not a problem for stand alone novels, but if it is, I would like to hear your thoughts on that as well. 🙂 Do you think it could ever be a reasonable thing to do if that was the first decent “break” in the story, or do the authors seem to disregard obvious areas to break the story into separate books?
    I ask because I am working on my first novel, and while I don’t want it to be a series, it might end up being in the ballpark of 200k words (and for all I know at this point, maybe longer). There is a place in the story where I could feasibly split it into a duology, but I’ve been waffling about that.
    Thank you if you have the time to answer this! I really appreciate your posts, they are always insightful. 🙂

    • Maybe all agents are inherently somewhat crazy, so that removes the threat of actually going crazy?
      Part of the issue for first novels, imo, is that the longer the book, the more expensive it is to print. This can make casting out the price in a profit and loss statement cost-prohibitive for an editor to make an offer. Therefore, those lengths may also make it difficult (even though not impossible) for the agent to sell.
      In many cases, I find that the 200K+ novels suffer from structural or pacing issues that could be solved by the author asking what purpose the scenes serve. On the other hand, if each and every scene is necessary to tell your story, but you have a good break space, it might not be a bad idea to split your novel. Besides, then you can get two advances instead of one. 😉

  3. Eeeeek. O_O I just don’t understand how people can be so incredibly unprofessional.

  4. I had a weird encounter with a rejection last week in which the agent was rude and snippy with me.
    We all have bad days, but in the end, we have to be professional enough to leave our personal emotions out of our professional communications.
    It can be a challenge in many professions. There are many students, say, that I would like to be rude to under the wrong circumstances, but that’s just a no-no.

  5. It’s not you, Jennifer, it’s the crazy writers. I’d be peeved, too, if I had to deal with such rudeness on a regular basis. Considering the number of queries you get each week, I hope the irritating ones are a great minority. Still, spending a week concentrating on the good ones instead of the annoying ones is bound to make you feel better.

  6. Oh dear — I’m afraid I’m one of the writers who annoyed you recently by not sending the first five pages with my email query. I took the submission guideline’s reference to “may” (as in, “You may also paste the first five pages of your manuscript into the body of your e-mail”) as code for “if you must, but we’d rather you didn’t.”
    I’m sorry about that. I hope I was turned down because my query wasn’t good enough, not because it appeared I wasn’t able to follow rules.

  7. People who cannot deal with criticism should find another field of work besides writing. I find this same issue comes up in writer’s groups or online writing communities where people come for feedback about their writing and should be ready for criticism. Just the opposite! After they read their work or post there is an uncomfortable silence. Then someone breaks the ice with a small comment, a suggestion mixed with some flattery in order to protect the fragile ego. Then, when the writer realizes that the feedback they craved is not the grand accolades imagined, they freak out and act like everyone clearly does not understand their masterpiece. This is usually the point when someone tries to move on to another member or the thread becomes a flame war.

  8. Ho boy. Unless someone is Tad Williams incarnate, I can assure you I’m not reading their 200K+ novel. Them’s the breaks.

  9. Sooo, how do you feel about 130,000 words?
    I’m frequently amazed at people who get rude about critiques or rejections. They really are in the wrong business. Any response should be treasured. At least you know, instead of wondering if they even received it and you don’t dare bother them to ask about it. “We only respond if we’re interested,” seems to be a growing trend.
    And, speaking of rudeness, a, uh, friend, yeah, that’s it, sent out some queries long ago for her children’s book. One of the agents was a very well known and respected agent. The friend thought her friend, who was a notorious practical joker, was playing a trick on her, when a person called and told her this is *super agent’s name* and I’d like to discuss your book with you. Friend said, “Tell Tommy this isn’t funny,” and hung up. Fortunately, super agent called back and assured her it wasn’t a joke.
    Yeah, writers can really be stupid at times.

  10. Passing on Queries
    This is a little off topic but your stats made me wonder something…when you have 86 queries read and 0 requested, if 1 or 2 of them would be something that may interest one of your collegues, would you pass it on to them?

  11. Stories like this make me bite my nails and revise my query and manuscript one more time. As I make revision pass it-seems-like-number-ninety-nine-but-isn’t I wonder if I’ll ever get up the courage to face the slush pile and the incoming avalanche of “not right for me” form cards.

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