letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 188
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 2
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: fantasy, YA-fantasy

Oldest query currently in queue: 2/19/2010. I have sent replies to all queries received prior to this date. If you sent a query but did not receive a reply, either the query didn’t reach me, or my reply was caught in your spam filter and/or eaten by the grue.

Still a little over 500 queries to go.

Still not opening unsolicited attachments (still not king).

Oddly if a query about a type of book I explicitly do not represent garners a reply indicating same (and I know a *lot* of agents who just delete without replying when this happens to them), re-sending that query a few weeks later when there has been no announcement indicating a new agenda to acquire said genre, will not change the result. All this does for me is to slow me down in getting to read the queries that do actually fall into categories that I’m interested in representing. What it indicates to me about the author is they don’t care. Not about the other authors submitting. And, not about doing even the barest amount of research.

And speaking of research, an odd thing I’ve been noticing lately is when I get a query from someone that I think should have the instincts and skills to do it (e.g. they are an investigative journalist, they have many graduate degrees and prominently list their Ph.D.), but they very obviously have not done any. I saw somewhere recently a comment where a person said it had never occurred to them to google search the agent they were interested in sending a submission to.

I’m sure this is wasted on those who read agent blogs. They’re out there doing the research, following the guidelines, and giving it 110%. I appreciate that every time I see it in a query. Thank you to those who do that.

9 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. Wow. You just gave me flashbacks to high school and quoting VSD at each other with my friends while we waited in line for the midnight showings of LotR. Good times, man.
    The non-researchers are the reason I have a ready-made email for instances when I come across a “I have an idea for a book; how do I get it published?” type person. They don’t know what they don’t know, so I give them about half a dozen links to blogs and websites that will help them mend their ways before they break them.
    Of course, there’s always those people who see all that information and go, “Urgh, I have to read all that?” To which I can only blink at in amazement. Someone needs to find the writers-should-be-readers common sense gene and ensure all babies are born with it.

  2. There’s a rule in casting that if you’re perfect for the part, it doesn’t matter how badly you screw up the audition. I’ve hired actors who have committed every cardinal sin in the audition process. Do you find it’s the same with authors who don’t follow the guidelines? Do you overlook it if the property is right? Or is it a deal-killer no matter what?
    (This comes from someone who always tries to follow the rules, as it’s very rare for someone or something to be perfect, and when they’re deciding between me and the guy next to me, I want to be the one they know will be good to work with. But I think it’s an interesting question.)

    • I am not arcaedia (and I, too, look forward to the official answer!), but I’ve been in an editor-who-looks-at-submissions position in a very small niche market.
      Someone who commits certain deal-breaker sins — in my case, sending HTML email which I can tell upon looking is HTML — will not get read. Period. I will, if I’m feeling nice, send back a “no HTML email; it’s on the submission page” reply. (HTML email was, for a while, usually rendering in 3 point Flyspeck on my email reader. It doesn’t anymore, usually, but I still don’t like what it does do, and I’m a pedant about it.) Basically, if I can’t read it trivially, it’s not going to get read.
      Other things… If someone were really brilliant and I thought they were simply uneducated-but-educable (i.e., I could tell them once and they’d mend their ways), I might give it a go. If I thought that they were just full of themselves, then even if it was mostly justified (it is never, ever entirely justified…), I’d at least never work with them again. I tried, once. Once. But arrogance is not what I want to work with as an editor; it’s not worth it.

  3. Formerly commenting as myspacearchive!
    Well, I just remembered I have a LiveJournal id, so why oh why have I been using OpenID.
    And – again – very much enjoy and appreciate the query updates! I seriously wanna know how someone chose an agent without having done the research? Is that a silly question? How else do you come up with their names? Looking up agents who represent your favorite books… even that requires some measure of research, yes?

  4. Thank you for being one of the agents who posts information on how to properly query agents. This really does help some of us, even if it doesn’t help every single person who queries.

  5. queries
    Go! Go! Go!
    LOL.. I love how you keep writers updated with your query progress! Can you tell I have a query in the queue?
    Go! Go! Go!
    Just and FYI… There is an agent who wrote on her blog something like.. Query every agent. Even if they don’t represent your genre. After reading your submission, she may change her mind.
    This is not a direct quote, but it’s to the point. So maybe several people took her advice!
    TLC

    • Re: queries
      I’ve seen that kind of advice.
      There is this well known independent editor who advises to attach the manuscript. Or at the least paste the whole thing into the email because the agent will be tempted to read it. Not if you got 500 queries to go!
      Jimmy Ng

  6. Yah for grues. 🙂 Sorry, absolutely love the MC Frontalot song by the same title (Eaten by a Grue).
    I still find it absolutely fascinating what dredges you work through. And I have a hard time picturing it, but I still remember that one time that I poured over the directions, thought I followed it to the letter, and got a reply of “read our website on submission guidelines”. Oh well, I still submit (occasionally) and keep trying (with different people).

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