letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 134
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: YA(fantasy)

Things that made me go hmmm…. -or- huh? while reading queries this week:

* queries sent electronically that say there is an SASE enclosed (I can has proofreading nao?)
* people who say “as per the submission guidelines on your website” and then send three chapters as an attachment
* people who include the text of a rejection from a publisher as part of their pitch
* people who tell me what their GPA in college was
* a new apparent trend of no actual query letter — just the synopsis all by its lonesome
* getting the same query 3 times in 10 days when you have a response time of 2-3 weeks listed on the website
* people who explain in their query why the guidelines on the DMLA website don’t apply to them

29 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. Did I mention I had all A’s on my report card in Grade Two? πŸ˜‰

  2. people who tell me what their GPA in college was
    Assuming they are recent graduates, it’s because college employment offices tend to tell you that if your GPA was over X you should include it in job applications. A query letter is like a job app, and there you are.

    • I suppose anyone of any age *could* be a recent graduate, but since these people also were the ones that told me how long they’d been married and what their children do for a living, I’m thinking it’s not likely.

      • Okay, fair ’nuff. I just know there was a period when I included it on almost everything for that reason, but it never would have occurred to me to include personal details that don’t pertain to the book (and have a hard time coming up w/ personal details that pertain to most books: “I know the exciting life of an aerospace and defense technical writer and therefore my novel about space pirates should be chock full of odd technical language and indirect statements!”).

  3. I was a straight D student, but that means I don’t have to listen to the rules.
    Because, I’m special.
    … I have my own bus.
    … it’s short.
    In other words, I can’t imagine not following the rules. True, sometimes I read them wrong or I don’t understand them, but I always try to follow them when I submit.

    • I try not to be too much of a stickler for rules — the basic ones (include a query letter, a synopsis and first five pages, not as an attachment) are what I’m really after. I just find some of the things included in the letters peculiar on occasion.

  4. “people who explain in their query why the guidelines on the DMLA website don’t apply to them”
    I’d love to read the most audacious of these.

    • I second this motion
      I’d love to see a post detailing some of the funniest (or most bizarre) reasons people seem to think the rules don’t apply to them.

  5. * people who explain in their query why the guidelines on the DMLA website don’t apply to them
    Because it’s a privilege that they would even think to honor you with their time and consideration to allow you to represent their Great American Noveltm.
    How dare you question an artiste?!
    My Great American Noveltm is sooo unique it defies normal genre boundaries — no one can categorize it! Therefore I ignored your pesky DMLA guidelines and sent the entire novel as 30 separate .pdf files, total 352,000 words. I expect a phone call with a six-figure offer immediately or I’ll dare to take my offer to another agent! Don’t pass this up! It’s better than the crap you normally represent! (!!!)!
    I’d have become a functional alcoholic a long time ago…

    • Personally I find the voices in my head drown the need for alcohol…
      I suppose on the plus side, all those people not following simple instructions removes the need to wade through so many queries.
      It’d drive me mad (or madder) having to go through so many every single week. It also astonishes me that a single agent gets so many queries – multiply that by the number of agents out there and there must be a staggering about of queries each week.
      Makes me wonder that by the time I have something in a state ready for queries that I might be more likely to win the lottery.
      Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say.

  6. About the SASE one
    I bet the e-mail mentioning an SASE was cut and pasted from a snail-mail letter and then not properly edited.
    That idea just came to me out of the blue. I have never, ever, ever, ever done anything like that.

    • Re: About the SASE one
      Yeah, I suspected it was a cut/paste issue — hence, my suggestion for proofreading before hitting send. I get a few of these a week actually.

    • Re: About the SASE one
      I think I’ve sent one like that. Now I just leave the SASE line (and anything that has to do with sample pages/synopses) out of all queries. It’s there. They know what to do with it.

  7. Wow. Just wow.
    On a similar note, I once got a manuscript submitted from an author and the cover letter said how nice it was to chat with me at XX conference, and thanked me for requesting the novel. Only… I had never attended the conference mentioned, or even been in the same state as that conference that year. And I keep notes on my conference requests, so I knew that it was, just like Diana’s experience, someone faking a request.

  8. There is no official (unofficial) blacklist in the publishing industry. However, the publishing industry is small — why would you want to poop in the same sandbox you’re trying to play in? Yanno…

  9. Not a blacklist: a spam filter. πŸ™‚ To which I add the email addresses of people who cross the line, like the fellow who pulled the stunt on my friend Diana. And the fellow who phoned me at 9:00 PM on Thanksgiving night.

  10. I got a query from a woman this afternoon who then called my cell phone (which is not a published number, so I’m unclear where she obtained it) to follow up on the query she’d sent an hour previously.
    ::: head desk :::

  11. I think I got your number six, too, except it was three times in two days, and I’d already responded to the first two queries. That last reply got a little terse. :S
    Here, have a spork.

  12. people who explain in their query why the guidelines on the DMLA website don’t apply to them
    What, you don’t have a ‘unique and special snowflake’ fast track???

  13. people who explain in their query why the guidelines on the DMLA website don’t apply to them
    “I can’t read in English so I don’t have to follow the rules. No, wait…!”
    God, I’m one of the people that quadruple-check everything to be sure I followed any guidelines to the letter, so I just can’t understand that way of thinking 0o

  14. Yoiks. Cringeworthy.
    And at the same time, cringeworthiness tempered with a little of the old there-but-for-the-grace, y’know?
    Somewhere out there (I’d like believe it’s here in my chair, but probably not) is another Nathanael West, waiting to do for query letters (and agents’ responses) what Miss Lonelyhearts did for readers and writers of advice columns.

  15. * people who explain in their query why the guidelines on the DMLA website don’t apply to them
    Because they’re special?

  16. Wow. Just wow. I’ve been following your blog for a while but have never been a big commenter. Every time I read your query wars I always shake my head. I felt the need to do it publicly I guess now. I always thought it was common sense to do these things [queries] right, seeing as if you don’t you’re only screwing yourself in the end. Is it really not common sense or are there just a bunch of wacko idiots out there trying to make us all look bad? πŸ˜›
    And happy holidays!

  17. I’ve always been kind of anal about following submission guidelines to the letter. Since I’ve had proper forms and letter etiquette drummed into me by the armed forces during my formative years, and four years of librarian training, I get kind of mortified if my submissions or business letters come off looking as anything less than professional. Be nice if some people (non writing industry) returned the favour. πŸ˜€
    Although I have a request from a big publishing house mystery editor to read my manuscript (unsolicited) when it is completed, along with the sequel ideas, I will still follow her submission guidelines instruction by instruction. It’s only courtesy.
    It’s too soon to decide whether to try the publishing slush pile or the agent slush pile, yet. My opinion of my chances of publication are not starry eyed, but rather humble: still, I’m not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth if the offer is still available when I’m ready to submit.

  18. Totally off-topic, but I thought you might like to see this.
    Check out #16.
    The only question left is “Do you use your power for good, or for awesome?”

  19. Completely off topic. Congratulations, Jennifer! πŸ™‚ I just read the link that Curgoth left. Cool. That is awesome. Okay, so you have to post about it. πŸ˜€

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