letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 118
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: N/A

I wanted to say thanks to everyone who had suggestions on last week’s query wars post. I’m reading all the comments and figuring out ways to address those. Meanwhile, though, it’s been an extremely busy week and so this week’s entry will be on the short side. But I invite you to go and read Victoria Strauss’ The Ultimate Queryfail about how she – not an agent or editor at all – sometimes still gets queried. Last summer, I had an intern for a few weeks and when he wanted to list our agency on his work history on an online site, I told him to go ahead. And he got an inquiry from someone asking for help in getting published. Just for the record, he not only no longer works as my intern, but isn’t planning on going into publishing.

Also, thanks to Maya Reynolds for her rant, particularly “it’s how you handle what luck throws at you that matters.” (and that isn’t dependent on whether it’s good or bad luck) I agree with her: Life isn’t fair. Why _should_ publishing be any different?

13 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. Publishing shouldn’t be.
    But what do I know, I’ve never been rejected. My work might not have been accepted, but I wasn’t rejected.

  2. hilarious
    LOVE the part about having to report the spammer. What a jerk. That is hilarious though. Why would anyone do that?? Well should any of the pethic MS’s get published she might want to hold on to those emails…lol.

    • Re: hilarious
      Oh Lord have mercy…I posted my correction as anonymous didn’t I? After I just finished saying I needed to “preview” it.
      I meant to say pathetic. But the more I edit my previous post the more pathetic I feel. 😦
      *Crawls in corner*
      Just so you know…if I screwed up again. I’m not showing my face again. 😛

  3. Thanks for the shout-out!
    – Victoria

  4. It’s the same in every profession
    I’m a lecturer and the number of students who do not read the instructions on the website or try to get away with not doing doing something the way you’ve asked for it, is amazing.
    For example. An on line test is made available on a certain day, the student’s have had three weeks to read the reading and study the set text. The exam is completed, they fail and then complain that the exam was too hard.
    When they ring up to voice their concerns, the first thing I ask is, did you read the reading and study for the test. Answers! No; I couldn’t find the readings; I didn’t buy the set text; I wasn’t sure which part of the text I was supposed to read; and finally, I thought I could do it without doing the readings.
    It’s the same thing with those writers who place a query without really doing their homework. They hope for the best with something that’s mediocre, and then wonder why the query is rejected.
    Do it, do it right, and do it right now!
    Christopher Ballantyne.

    • Re: It’s the same in every profession
      We live in a culture with a strong sense of entitlement. I definitely see this in the complaints of editors and agents, and often. There are those that write that feel that because they have written (and you know, sometimes they query without even writing) that they are somehow entitled to an agent, publishing contract etc etc, that the agent somehow owes them representation or the editor owes them acquisition. Or that their sense of entitlement is so great that they can somehow blatantly ignore the rules of submission, that because of their special-snow-flake uniqueness they are entitled to special privileges.
      Ha ha ha ha! How wrong they are…

      • Re: It’s the same in every profession
        “special snow-flake” **ROFL** Well, they are flakes, of a kind.

  5. “Just for the record, he not only no longer works as my intern, but isn’t planning on going into publishing.”
    Maass Agency, We Eat Our Young. O.o

  6. No, it shouldn’t be any different. It just hurts more.

  7. Query wars
    Unlike a lot of ranting writers, I’m not angry with agents or publishers. I don’t know how you do it week after week; bad writing, rule breaking, whining dipsticks. Oh, maybe I do rant- just a tiny bit.
    –Julie

  8. entitlement
    Entitlement is certainly a good way to look at it. Many seem to think that simply because they write something great, that it should be published, that somehow they deserve to have their writing sitting on the bookshelves for the writing public to consume. Wtf? They might be entitled to healthcare and having a place to live, but entitled to recognition of creativity? Uhm…not so much.

  9. Art shouldn’t always imitate life.
    I agree with her: Life isn’t fair. Why _should_ publishing be any different?
    Because publishing is still conducted by human beings, regardless of how business-like it strives to become. It is the business of human beings to strive to out-do life in this respect. Saying ‘life isn’t fair’ is the ultimate cop-out.

  10. Publishing IS fair…
    It’s perfectly fair as it is! Nobody is forced to buy (or promise to sell) something they don’t want or believe in. Agents work on commission instead of fees from authors, so it’s FREE to send queries. It’s FREE to research agents. It’s FREE (and so are you) to write in the first place. Women, prisoners,ethnic minorities, the poor, and even children are all permitted and encouraged to write, and some even make a decent living at it.
    What I love about writing is that even when you have nothing, absolutely nothing in the world except your mind, you can still create something of value. But the key here is “value.” If it isn’t wanted, it isn’t valuable, no matter how much blood, sweat and tears you poured into it.
    I would argue that publishing is better than fair – that’s why so many people are desperate to get into it, even people with no love of the craft or process.
    Publishing is more than fair because…
    * You don’t have to be qualified in any way other than what is already spelled out clearly in the agents’ or publishers’ guidelines. These guidelines are ridiculously basic and objective, and are designed only to make it easier for those reading the queries to get them all read. No one is purposely discriminated against.
    * You can improve your chances of publication by loving your craft more than your ego. Simply check your work over one more time, eliminate the errors, be professional, and treat your query as the business correspondence that it is.
    * Did I mention that it’s FREE?!!! You can be as flat broke as a steamrolled bicycle and still write, still query, still submit, and still publish.
    * Your work is judged exclusively on its own merits and how well it fits the needs of the publisher.
    * You can always improve your craft, revise your manuscript, shelve your work until it’s current again… writing is never wasted.
    * If you get published, you are paid an advance before your books are even printed, and if your books don’t sell enough to earn the publisher the money they paid you, you still don’t have to pay it back.
    What’s so unfair? That you actually have to be a good writer? That you actually have to be considerate of the agents and publishers who read hundreds of queries a week in search of the odd one that might actually indicate a good book someday? That the market is unpredictable? That you have to compete with so doggone many wannabes?
    Somebody, anybody, give me one concrete example of “unfairness” in publishing. I dare you.
    Paula R.
    (P.S. Jennifer Jackson rejected my query a month or so ago, and yes, it stings a bit. You know why she rejected it? Because it was not, in fact, good enough. Know what else? It is within my power to improve it or write something better. No doors have been shut on my writing career whatsoever. What’s unfair about that?)

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