letters from the query wars

# of queries read last week: 79
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: fantasy

# of queries read this week: 117
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: fantasy

Close to 600 queries left in the reading queue

Have read all queries received prior to March 1st

Give yourself the time you need. Lately, have been seeing many queries that come across as rushed. Also, a number of authors jumping into the pool before they should. Some before the novel is even finished. (This week’s example: A query in which the author informed me they were working on a novel and expected to be done this summer.) Additionally, even with those who have finished the novel, anxious to get the material out there, the query and synopsis may suffer.

23 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. I spent so long (months) working on my query and received so much conflicting advice that when all was said and done and I sent it out, I think it was probably a terrible query. I handpicked three agents and none of them have any idea that I took two years picking them out. There was no way to tell how much thought and care and time I’d put into it. Oh well. (Of course, much much more thought care and time went into the novel itself!)

  2. Although it may sound odd, I worry far more about writing the query/synopsis than I do the novel. I know the novel will be edited, so weak spots I might only slightly sense might get some help. On the other hand, the query is purely me, and if I screw it up, no editor will ever read the novel.
    I actually hate the process of selling what I’ve written, mainly because I know how lame some queries can sound. If I’ve written a great book, how do I say that without hyperbole? If I play it softly, does it sound too weak and not forceful enough? Where is the balance point?
    wa

    • I have no idea if would approve of this advice… But you might want to go look at Smashwords. It’s pretty much self-published stuff, and I was startled and amused by how quickly I went at it with a more “Editor”/”agent” eye, looking at the blurbs. If a blurb’s barely literate, it was an immediate pass. Some blurbs were very interesting, and I was disappointed there wasn’t more under the cut, so to speak.
      I think… You have one paragraph to grab an eyeball. You may have two or three to keep it, depending.

  3. I probably spent a bit over a year writing the thing, then — after some helpful comments from an agent — about 2 years rewriting. The first query letter took a long time. The second… Huh, actually, I’d been working on it in my backbrain for a while, so even though I banged out the second version of the query letter in a short time, it was much better than the first one, I think. Said more of what I thought was important in the book, without adding much wordcount.

  4. I’ve finally finished my first novel after nearly 20 years. Mind you, around 8 years of that, I didn’t work on it at all because I was convinced it would land in the circular file, but it took me so long because I was an idiot. People told me I had to write a certain way to be a “real” writer and it took me 4 tries at the SAME novel to realize I just couldn’t write that way. I spent my fourth try trying to figure out how I need to write. It’s finally in the hands of betas now.
    And I’ve just started working on my query.

  5. My novel took less than six months to write, but two, three months to edit. During that time, I spent some of the time researching queries and synopsis writing, but ended up just writing it, and not stressing about it so much. I mean, as someone who’d never been published before, there isn’t much I can put on my query letter, right? I made sure my synopsis was clean and tight though.
    As it turned out, the publisher I submitted to didn’t even require a query letter, but I sent one anyway.

    • Isn’t your query the hook to get the agent/publisher to read the synopsis? Many of us find it challenging to sum up the novel in a paragraph or two.

      • Surprisingly, I had more trouble with the synopsis than the query.
        I stressed on how to write them, but when it came down to it, it was the synopsis that gave me the most grief, rather than the expected query.

  6. My query’s gone through a few revisions, so it’s hard to say.

  7. Shortest time it took me to write a novel: 1 month.
    Longest time it took me to write a novel: 20 years (on and off)
    I’ve never been able to “dash off a query”, possibly because now that I’ve established a working method for writing novels, I sort of do a query as I go.
    I find it helps me keep my overall plot and themes straight. Otherwise, it’s too easy to go off on a tangent.
    I’m not very good as an organic writer.

  8. I spent about 6 years on my novel, on and off, sometimes ignoring it for more than a year, just winging it. It was only 60k words, Then I found some excellent resources, stopped bumbling about, got serious, and rewrote it in about 4 or 5 months, doubling the length. I had an English major friend edit it, and I tackled it again to work out the bugs I hadn’t seen in the plot. I’ve spent about a year and a half since then trying to master the synopsis and query. I get frustrated and ignore it for a while, then as I go through the synopsis, I tweak the story… so on and so forth.
    I’m on my 4th version of the synopsis. I figure if it doesn’t catch MY eye, and I’m the author, then something’s wrong. Maybe this time will be the charm. 🙂

  9. I’ve spent ten years writing my wip, and twelve months researching the query. I queried and then revised the query another 8 (?) times. I had the wip critiqued twice and edited, and I’m having it looked at again now before I send it out.

  10. I agonized over my first query for weeks. I actually cried because it was stressing me out so much. I posted several version on my writing forum and got the thumbs up on one.
    I immediately sent it out to half a dozen agents and was rejected by all of them. Tore my hair out some more, then decided to take a break as I was getting married soon and had bigger things to agonize over.
    After the wedding, I took a look at the query again and couldn’t believe I had sent out such a piece of crap. It was another three months before I tried writing another query. This one flowed out without a problem. I sent it out to two agents as a test and within hours received two requests for partials.
    All in all, I think my success rate is hovering around 25% at the moment, which I’m happy with.

  11. I’m 92% done with my novel, so no thoughts of a query yet!

  12. Don’t know exactly how much time I spent on my query. I know it went through 18 changes before I stopped sending out the book. The book took 2 years to initially finish, then I added many more words because the word count was too short, then it got revised a lot, queried, then set aside. Now it’s been revised a lot again, after I wrote something else for NaNo. So, once I finalize this version, I’ll have to write the query again and the synopsis again.
    The NaNo book is almost complete. Then it’ll go to betas and I’ll do a sample synopsis to see how the plot came out. Already had some alpha revision after finishing the initial 50K for NaNo.

  13. Do you mean how much time actually sitting down and writing, or are you counting pre-writing time, like researching, as well?

  14. I put more than a month for my query, but even with that, I’m still working on the darn thing 🙂

  15. One of the difficult things for me is the point of deciding when the book is complete. Sometimes I feel like, yea this is it and then I go read it again and feel like I’ve barely even started. What I hate the most is when you are praised by others but have nothing to show for yourself. I think that’s one reason I rushed the query process about a year ago. I wanted to get something out there so badly but my manuscript wasn’t ready and I think the agents could tell from the query because really my plot is lacking. So I have taken the rejections as a means to continuing refining the storyline and hopefully someday I’ll have something that I can consider perfect.

  16. Many agents offer the readers of their blog a list of what not to do in a query. This is very helpful, but I am curious to know: are there any queries that have really wowed you, like, absolutely floored you? I know there are good elements, but surely there must have been a few queries that you knew you had to read the full ms of, right away. Could you share a few of these with us? ^^; Thank you for all of the dedication to your clients, potential clients, and blog readers!

  17. Query
    I actually tried something this time around that worked really well. Maybe someone else will find it useful. I wrote the first draft of my query while I was plotting my novel. That way, I could kind of think everything through, hear how it would sound on a book jacket, figure out if there was anything cliche or confusing about the story before I even got started writing it. Once I was done with the novel, of course I had to change the query to fit what the novel had become, but it was much easier than writing one from scratch. And I got my first partial request today, so it seems to be working!

  18. Query
    Synopsis and query both kick my butt.

  19. I hate synopses. I hate them with a fire of a thousand suns. Query letters are more difficult than writing the book, I feel. But a synopsis? Seeing my story condensed to a single page disappoints me.

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