letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 227
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0

Nathan Bransford (who I finally got to meet while we were both attending RWA) had some good advice earlier this week about what to do when you have multiple novels finished and how to decide which one (or perhaps two) to query, and how often. Read it here.

I suspect some people are looking at the numbers above and finding them astounding. And someone recently commented (I can’t find the exact comment) wondering whether it was better to query during slower times in the industry and, if so, when that slow time might be. Once upon a time I would have actually said that summer was the slow time that allowed me to catch up on reading and submissions. However, I no longer can make such a claim. Indeed, the last couple years, I would have to say that there is no such thing as a slow time, and have heard many agents and editors confirm the same. I can tell you one thing, though — the number of queries has nothing to do with requests, or lack of requests, that I, personally, make for submissions. If I am strongly hooked by the pitch in the query, the synopsis and the first five pages (as requested in our submission guidelines), I will ask to read more. Period. I’m a bookaholic. My current suspicion is that I will never get enough.

9 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. I bow before your query-reading prowess. Good Lord, but that’s a lot of queries!

  2. I see why you ask for only five pages. 😉

  3. Stand-out queries
    Good on you for keeping up on that many queries on top of all the rest of your responsibilities!
    It always surprises me to hear authors asking about things like “slow-time,” because, to me, that makes me wonder how much they have faith in their writing (or in their ability to write a good query). Obviously, not all writers are magnificently confident, I’m certainly not, and definitely timing can be helpful in an agent or editor reading your query or text sooner rather than later, but as to helping one’s chances. . . only the writer’s own abilities to give a good pitch can do that. Besides, if a query can’t stand up against a lot of competition on the agents desk, how would the book (should the text make it from query to completion) ever stand up on the shelves in competition with THOUSANDS instead of hundreds?
    Nancy D’Inzillo

  4. I saw on Butcher’s website that you declined his query on Dresden, but then two months later decided to represent him after meeting at a convention.
    So, I’ll have to keep track of your convention schedule and see if I can close a deal on mine. 🙂

  5. I read on the SC Writer’s Workshop site about your grade school and high school reading feats. And all that was just a warm-up, I suppose! Bookaholic indeed! I’m convinced there’s no amount that you can’t read!
    Mr. Bransford’s advice was interesting. I’d never heard of a dual-query before. Thanks for the link!

  6. When you do get hooked…
    When you do get hooked, what’s your average turn-around on a partial? Nathan Bransford say he takes two weeks. He also sounds like he sniped all of your good queries this week (50 partials!)

  7. But that begs a question…
    First of all, as a first-time poster, let me compliment you on your Blog — very informative and well written (no surprise there).
    You say the Query has to hook you.
    So.. what’ hooks you?

  8. It doesn’t bode well for would-be authors that out of 227 queries in a week, not a single one strongly hooked you…
    Were there any out of those 227 to which you had an inkling of “maybe” on, and decided in the end not to request more?

    • Queries
      I once attended a conference at which a popular NY agent held up a one-page query letter that she had actually received. It was written using a large-diameter sharpie on a torn-out page of three-ring notebook paper. There was no return address, nor a phone number (which was probably a good thing). The author was unable to follow the blue registration lines on the pater and the text descended to the right as if it had been written in a submarine during a crash dive.
      Not only were there misspellings in the body of the text, but it was physically painful to read the stinted half-sentences that comprised the authors request for representation. The most shocking part of this demonstration, however, was the agent’s statement that ‘I get more than one of these every week.’

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