letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 104
# of partials requested: 1
genre of partials requested: suspense

Dear Authors:

Just a couple quick notes. This is not a week for complex sentences. I have been ill (one day migraine – yuck – could have been worse). I have been having trouble with the internet connection (yes, again). This has made the blog (and me) quieter than planned. It’s not all bad — I did get a galley of Cherie Priest’s Fathom (Tor, November 2008) today (squee). In any case….

* This week’s theme – overweight heroines in several queries (it’s so strange when this happens — is it in the drinking water?). The one where anyone who is a size 10 or less was very insulted? Let’s just say I’m apparently not in the target audience. I’m not biased. Preaching to the choir wouldn’t have worked on me either. Recommended in this category: Alternate Beauty by Andrea Rains Waggener (not one of mine but the editor turned me on to it). It’s not that fiction can’t have a platform or a message, but it shouldn’t bury the story. (Oops, complex sentence.) Plus, I just don’t like feeling insulted by a query – strange, that.
* A heroine named Candace Snark, who is a literary agent often confused with the other Miss Snark? Really? (No, I’m not making this up.)
* I finally got my fantasy thriller query which I had posted on the agency “what we’re looking for” a couple months back (James Bond meets the Lord of the Rings). It was exactly what I was looking for, but the writing just didn’t hold up. I am incredibly disappointed.
* Offering me a 40% commission will not change my answer if I don’t think I can sell it. Do the math.

Captain Agent: Weekend reading pile, ahoy. There she blows off the starboard bow.
First Mate: Captain, the monster from the deep! She’s huge! Man the life boats!
Captain Agent: That’s just C.E. Murphy’s next book…. it can be tamed — it’s only 711 pages. Buck up, man.
Disclaimer: This is not to advocate giant manuscripts. Rampant wordcount can be a problem. Think about what each scene does. Save a tree.

In other news: loving Jessica’s post about rules, particularly as they apply to queries. One of the most frustrating things for me about being blasted for all of our rules is that so many of them are created because authors ask for them, and so many more are not rules I’ve put out but rules authors impose themselves. Amen.

Good night, and good luck.

23 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. My utmost sympathy on the migraine. Even five minutes of a migraine is too much.
    Maybe the writer of the James Bond meets Lord of the Rings piece can rewrite and strengthen it? It sounds like an intriguing concept.

  2. I think women have certainly had enough of their size defining their character and don’t wish to contribute to that social-psychosis. I try to make such things a non-issue in my writing, describing their appearance without being judgmental. I’m not sure if I’m successful at it, but I’m trying.

  3. Sorry about the migraine. I get those as well, and – weirdly – was incapacitated most of the day Saturday with one. Have you tried Imitrx inhalers? They work wonders for em if I catch the migraine early enough.
    And — HA HA HA!!! Query weirdness!
    I had someone just write back to me after a rejection yesterday and offer to pay me for 30 minutes of my time if I would only go over WHY I didn’t want her book with her and what was wrong with her query.
    Have a good weekend. 🙂

  4. If you have the time, I’d be curious to know – why only 1 partial requested out of 141? That is, how many were terrible, how many were good/great but didn’t fit what you need, and so forth?

  5. Speaking of CE Murphy – I just picked up a copy of Coyote Dreams (I know, I’m late, sue me and within a day am 300 pages in. Awesome.

    • Glad you are enjoying it! I think she’s working on the 4th book now. What I referenced above is the sequel to The Queen’s Bastard.

    • Oh, no, I shall not sue you. I shall be pleased you picked it up! Glad you’re enjoying it. 🙂 And, as Jenn said, I’m working on the fourth book (not quite even as we speak, but pretty close). 🙂

  6. I’m sorry, but what the hell is “James Bond meets the Lord of the Rings” suppose to mean? Seriously.
    And people wonder why talented, serious writers get frustrated with the publishing industry…

    • I’m sorry too — that was the author’s high concept pitch (not mine) and I thought it was a great way to give me an impression of what he was trying to do.
      Yes, I seriously do wonder. Sometimes.

  7. “It was exactly what I was looking for, but the writing just didn’t hold up.”
    Patience. These things take time.

  8. Man, everybody’s got it but ME.
    [:: sulks ::]

  9. Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed is the definitive story with a plus-size heroine IMO.

  10. I’ve noticed that in the last four or five weeks, you’ve asked for about one partial for every 100 queries. How many full manuscripts do you ask for from those partials?
    Adrianne Middleton

    • According to my submissions log, I have asked for a total of 31 partials so far this year (note: this is for queries, does not include requests at conferences) and from those 4 full manuscripts. These statistics are slightly skewed by the fact that some of those partials were from much-published writers and there were not, in fact, full manuscripts available.
      In some few cases, 4 to be precise, I have asked for the full manuscript directly rather than request just a partial.

  11. *laughs out loud* I, um, er, well. Um! *looks bright and perky and cute*

  12. Sorry about the migraine. I had them daily for over a year and they are miserable.
    I’m still trying to figure out what, “James Bond meets Lord of the Rings” means. I think mine is “Miss Congeniality meets Lord of the Rings.” Yes, that about sums it up.
    I don’t like to be preached to when all I want is a little entertainment. Hopefully, I leave my agenda at home when I write. Well, perhaps I do the “klutzes are people too,” a bit.

  13. Just a note of thanks for introducing me to Cassandra Chan’s work – I’m loving her mysteries.

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