letters from the query wars (delayed from 7/17)

# of queries read last week: 159
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: YA

Dedication: This one goes out to dawnmaria (based on last week’s comment).

Acknowledgments: In my pursuit of reviewing queries and reading sample pages included therewith, I am thankful to all those who take the time to research guidelines and follow same. Without you, assessing and finding projects would be so much more difficult. Thank you to every one who understands that my time is finite. Your professionalism and dedication to your craft are a credit to you.

Dear Authors:

It is regrettable that there are those who, whether through ignorance, arrogance or some other misstep, make things more challenging for both agents and other authors by not following guidelines. And, in some cases, clearly not even being aware that such guidelines exist. It may be even more of a cause for dismay that the queries that fall into this category are fodder for entries on agent blogs and that discussion of them seems to sometimes cause misunderstandings or even just some kind of “query exhaustion” for either agents or writers.

On more than one agent blog and from more than one commenter, it’s been mentioned that those who follow guidelines and do research are frustrated with being lumped in with those who do not.

I admit, it is sometimes challenging when looking at the folder full of queries as a whole (usually these days numbering in the hundreds at a time). It can feel daunting. It can feel overwhelming to consider spending hours combing through them. Hours that are so often stolen outside of the office. Even when one hopes to find a jewel in the haystack, it can still feel like a pretty big pile of hay. And sometimes, as evidenced by the query wars posts and those on other agent blogs, there can be those who just aren’t ready, who try to take advantage, who react in damaging and destructive ways, those who don’t think the “rules” apply to them. They make it that much harder for everyone else. And it can be a stumbling block to an agent’s resources, taking time away from others who may be more prepared to pursue publication.

However, taken individually, the queries that are professionally crafted; that indicate research and personalization; that demonstrate the writer’s dedication to seeking publication — these really stand out. I cannot speak to other agents and how they approach queries, but I certainly do not lump those in with the others. In fact, they are the queries that encourage me to keep taking submissions and to keep reviewing each letter, synopsis and those first five pages. I know from experience that there may be a jewel to find. Be ye not dismayed. Your efforts are worth it.

16 responses to “letters from the query wars (delayed from 7/17)

  1. “every saturday night i felt the fever grow….all revved up with no place to go!”

  2. Thanks for this post, it’s nice to be told that our efforts at least stand a shot at being recognized. I don’t think I’m the only author out there to actually have nightmares over the horrible possibility that even with all the hours and hours (and hours…) of research I’ve done, I’m still at risk of being dismissed as just another misguided annoyance due at least as much to other folks getting the prospective agent in a bad mood than to anything I did.
    It’s disheartening to know that however amazing your query letter may be, the agent it’s been sent to has spent who knows how long having her moral attacked by people who may not have even bothered to read anything on her website. It’s one thing to believe you’re being passed on after the agent, or at least the agent’s screeners, have put thought into your proposition, but thinking that you’re being tossed out largely because of query fatigue is just plain depressing.
    Staying optimistic seems like a real challenge on both side of the query process. We writers are constantly being told what not to do and reminded of the high rate of rejection, whereas you guys are having to wade through all sorts of debris looking for a shiny that you can’t describe though you’ll know when you see it. It’s got to be tiring. And I don’t envy you for sending out those rejection letters anymore than I enjoy me and my writer friends getting them.

  3. Sorry. Been dismayed for four months. Probably still be dismayed in another four.

  4. You’re Not Alone
    I think in any business there are people with a certain mentality that rules don’t apply to them . . . or if they make a big enough stink an exception can be made. They’re almost competitive about it sometimes, often highly volatile, and I’m at a loss as to where they’ve learned displaying the smallest common consideration due another human being marks them as somehow inadequate. I know my worst offenders are always trying to weasel an exception out of me, and some are downright bullies about it.
    I’m sorry, but being writer means doing your homework. If you want instant response continue to text and twitter while driving at high speed and shaving all at once, because this is the obvious sign of productivity.
    Jennifer, we all know that providing us with this blog, with query war stats and casualties no less, is above and beyond the call of duty. Unfortunately, despite making your job easier by making our jobs easier, there’s still always going to be people who don’t bother ascertaining the rules, because they obviously don’t apply. The rest of us, however, appreciate everything you do.
    Now read my 723,872 word brilliant, nay, MASTERFUL treatise on the history of belly button lint and its influence in the modern age, each page its own attachment in non-sequential order. It’s a fiction novel, but not really. πŸ˜‰

  5. The last query wars made me wish I could delete my own posts. Certain people seemed down, and I was feeling that way myself, so I thought the best way to stop feeling that way would be to try to cheer up everyone else. I seem to have ended up making things worse. I certainly didn’t mean to depress anyone, I was actually trying to do the opposite and seem to made a hideous mess of it.
    There was a long, damp, chilly spring here, and now that it’s finally high summer you’d think I’d be in a better mood. I think it’s best I shut up for a while, but I will keep reading the blog, and when I post again I will strive to be more upbeat.

  6. Thank you
    I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to write this post. It is nice to know that agents acknowledge those of us who take our writing seriously enough to follow the guidelines.
    Teresa

  7. the hell with all this crap! you know the biggest reason we fail? it’s because we expect to. it’s been pounded into our heads how this writer got rejected 30 times, or that writer got rejected 50 times before getting published! someone last week talked about how many times tom clancy got rejected, yet tom clancy himself said he never receieved a rejection.
    and since all this garbage gets pounded into the young writer’s head, he suddenly thinks it’s okay not to polish that manuscript or research his target agent. it’s almost like we’ve been programmed to have a rejection quota before we can ever see the light. some people on here talk about how many times they’ve been rejected as if they’re bragging — haha, 18 more rejections and i’m guaranteed to get published! yeah, well, i got 98 rection slips, beat that!
    where’s the dadgum motivation? i think it was john grisham who walked the streets of new york knocking on doors to find a publisher. tom clancy drove his novel (the hunt for red october, with it biggest fan being the president of the u.s.) to a small publisher with whom he felt he could connect. dean koontz’s wife made a deal with him where she would support him for a limited time, and if you’ve read any of his early sci fi work, it’s no wonder she had to give him the big ultimatem. how many short stories did stephen king publish before signing his first modest book contract?
    the internet has made people lazy. used to, a person didn’t want to go through the hassle of sending a box through the mail unless they felt strongly about their work. now any fool with a laptop and some time on his hands can write a book. take your first page, take down a bestseller from your shelf, and ask yourself, “do i feel lucky? well, do i?…punk.”

  8. Thank you for writing this post. It is cheering to read and your blog has been a great help in understanding the other end of the trials. Thank you for your continuing patience and good humor in the face of overwhelming odds! πŸ˜‰

  9. Considered An Email Rule?
    Jennifer,
    Have you considered establishing an email rule wherein the e-queries are routed to a specific folder which generates a message to the sender along the lines of “Thank you for your interest–if you followed submission guidelines we will make a best efforts basis to respond to you within 30 business days. If you did NOT follow the easily found submission guidelines
    , your email will be promptly deleted, but not before you are posted on my blog to be mocked by the professionals who DID follow said guidelines.”
    Or something.
    It beats me why the same people who will spend a few seconds searching on imdb.com for that actor they saw that time refuse to invest the same amount of time to check out submission guidelines.
    Whatever you decide to do, you have our support. (You tar, we’ll hold the feathers.)

  10. Thank you
    Honestly, you’ve been such a big help to so many of us – this post is definitely a big help in keeping me, personally, positive and moving forward in the writing career to which I aspire.
    So, truly, thank you! πŸ™‚

    • Re: Thank you
      I’d like to add my thanks for this post and for the blog in general. Your openness about the submission process is a big help. πŸ™‚
      Greatly appreciated!

  11. Wow! Thanks for the dedication Jennifer.
    What I’m learning as I go through my own agent search, is that I have to put it in its place. I had reached a point where it was consuming me- worrying about submission correctness, research and then resentment when I read all the bad query stories. It was affecting my writing and my desire to write. It is important to be on top of the industry right now, especially with all the changes going on, but it still needs to be about the writing.
    Happy writing everyone!

  12. Thanks for the post. As someone who tries to do things the right way, I’m glad you recognize we don’t all think the rules apply to everyone else but us πŸ™‚

  13. I think it’s funny to see people so gung ho about bashing on these queries, agents and authors alike, when, being human, half the people ready to burn the witches at the stake have sent out a very similar query, probably didn’t even know it, mixing up one agent’s guidelines for another, a silly typo that ends up being significant, all from queryING fatigue. You can only have a modest smile then.
    But I don’t think that’s really what Ms. Jackson’s talking about, is it? More those people that put at the top “to whom it may concern.” From not all but most agent interviews/blogs I’ve read, they talk game but generally have a little grace for those human slip-ups. Probably better to chuckle at it all than anything else. On both sides, agent and author.

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