letters from the query wars 5/7/2010

# of queries read this week: 268
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: YA

400+ queries awaiting review
oldest query in the queue: 4/12/2010

Thanks to those who offered suggestions on submission guidelines last week. I’d be happy to entertain more, so if anyone has any further thoughts, please feel free to comment.

I’ve got an upcoming workshop in which I will talk about — you guessed it, queries. My goal in this — as it is with these posts — is to help those sending queries to avoid common pitfalls and shoot for having their query be in the cream of the crop that garners requests. To that end, I try to look for patterns seen in queries that don’t tend to work, as well as those that work quite well, and also anticipate questions people might have.

In the spirit of anticipation (and the possibility of finding future topics for this series of blog posts), if you were to attend such a workshop, what topics would you want to see addressed? And if there was time for Q&A at the end, what would you ask?

11 responses to “letters from the query wars 5/7/2010

  1. I was at Conestoga (Oklahoma convention) last month and went to a panel on queries. There was discussion about whether to personalize queries such as mentioning blogs or something on-topic that the agent you’re querying has mentioned. Some people thought that it would be sucking up or too chatty and not professional enough, while others thought at least it would show you were paying attention. So, I’d ask you about that, if there were any new advice/feelings on the subject or lines not to cross and etc.

  2. query process question
    What about setting up an interactive query process that would squeeze the information you desire from writers like blood from a blood orange? For example, someone wanting to submit would have to fill in fields (name, genre, word count, contact info, etc) before being able to click through to a synopsis/etc submission window (with a word limit). Something like that. Easy to set up. The database could then kick submissions out for you into categories, track demographics, genres, etc. Spit out nifty apple-flavored pie charts. Or eat them.

  3. I really think examples of good queries and what worked in them would help. Many of us know the basics, but have problems drafting the two paragraphs describing our story. Maybe everyone could bring a sample query & you could give some tips on how to improve it. That would help so much.

  4. In the query wars you list the # of partials you requested. Maybe you could obtain permission from those lucky authors to show their queries on here, & specify what it was that prompted you to request the partial? Or if that isn’t possible, perhaps a few clients would allow you to post their original query & you could point out what you liked.
    I’ve seen another agent do something similar, but it’s always good to get differing agents’ views.

  5. One thing I have noticed lacking in query workshops is some clarification on the section where we personalize the query to each agent. I am really struggling with that part.
    How to do I word the research I have done on each agent in a query professionally? Do we mention how much we love their client’s books? Do we mention how much research we’ve put into researching their blog/website/guidelines? Or will that speak for itself?
    Also, I have read “The Career Novelist” by Donald Maass, and have thought at great length about what sort of agent I want. Do I mention I am not just sending a query to every agent that represent my genre, but I have chosen to query agents who will help me grow my writing career, offer editorial advice on my manuscripts, and will work with me as a team?
    If you spend some time in your workshop going over the personalize-to-the-agent section of the query letter, that would be very helpful.
    You are awesome to ask us for opinions!

  6. Good morning, I think I will be at that workshop. The schedule on the PennWriters conference web site just says “An Hour with Agent Jennifer Jackson.”
    What I would ask, and probably will concerns the paragraph that concerns experience. The question would be:
    When you have little or no publishing credits how do you present the experience you have in a way that will be a positive?
    And a follow-up would be:
    How much weight does the experience have when you are reading queries?
    After reading this entry in your blog I hope that the query is the topic of conversation at the conference. I’ve tried several different approaches while submitting queries, none of which includes exaggerating my writing credits. It will be interesting to see what I’ve done wrong and what I’ve done right.
    I’m looking forward to seeing you in horse and buggy country!

  7. Voice
    My question would be:
    How important is ‘voice’ in a query?
    Cheers, Julie Rowe

  8. query workshop
    At the PNWA last summer, I attended a query workshop. A panel of agents read selected queries out loud and discussed their reactions to each one. Would they request material, and why or why not? Did the voice come out in the query? Was there a strong hook, clear conflict, interesting characters…
    At the start of the workshop, attendees could turn in their query for review. It seemed like fifty or so people turned one in (maybe seventy or so attended, maybe more). They were able to read six queries from what I recall. The agents did a great job of discussing each query, getting audience feedback, pointing out ways to improve the query…
    Perhaps having two or three queries to read out loud at the workshop would help attendees better understand what works (or doesn’t)?
    Catherine

  9. dedication
    Hi Jennifer,
    My book comes out today and since I didn’t know if you’d ever read it or not, I wanted to let you know that you might be interested in the acknowledgments. They’re posted on my blog today (so you don’t have to buy the book to see them or anything!) http://joelleanthony.com/daily-writings/happy-book-birthday-gratitude/
    cheers,
    Joelle Anthony

  10. Query Assistance
    Jennifer,
    It was a pleasure meeting you this weekend at PennWriters. Your query workshop (and your review of my work) was informative and insightful. I look forward to querying you when I’m finished with my revisions… thanks so much for giving all us struggling writers a piece of your time!
    Michael

  11. i just want to say- i think it’s so fantastic that you write for authors and request feedback.
    re: queries, there are two burning issues always at the forefront of my mind. first, the greeting. i’d like to know what’s considered polite- whether full names should be used, a mr. or mrs. or ms. with a last name, or if there are other ways to address an agent, or if it’s not as big of a deal as quaking new writers think. second, the synopsis. you did a great post before on this and i learned a lot. i think it would be fabulous to have examples of synopses you have rejected and accepted. queryshark does this in a pre-query style. i’m not sure if showing aspiring writers copies of synopses you liked is a violation of some privacy law, but it’d be super interesting to find out what intrigued you. are there other websites where you can find things like that? seeing examples of successful synopses might help new writers like me get an idea of what we should do.

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