letters from the query wars 6/4/2010

# of queries read this week: 177
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 2
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: contemporary fantasy (1), romantic suspense (1)

oldest query in the queue: May 11

In a recent post, I mentioned that I preferred for people to only query one project at a time; to choose the project that one thought was the best and strongest. By this I meant the most polished, and the most viable for publication, even while fully realizing YMMV.

This comment was prompted by the fact that someone had queried me for 3 different projects in less than 24 hours. I doubt highly they read this blog as they didn’t follow the submission guidelines. Nevertheless, in due course, I responded to each email declining their work.

Just a few days later, I received a query for a 4th project. Again, this author did not follow the submission guidelines. I have to admit that I feel somewhat irked since a link to my submission guidelines was included in the responses I sent. So, while I could attribute the first 3 to a lack of research or care, the 4th certainly doesn’t have the right to claim same.

I don’t know what responding to this person again would accomplish. I think my guidelines are relatively clear and easy to find. Even without a response that includes a direct link to them. What would you do at this point?

Persistence is widely advocated in the pursuit of publication. The first novel queried may not be the first that gains representation. The first novel written may not be the first novel published. Ergo, one is encouraged to try, try again.

I admire persistence. But what does persistence alone achieve? Without a learning process of craft and/or approach, the same actions will yield the same results.

I am NOT saying that an author can’t query an agent more than once. I’m just suggesting that doing it without due consideration is a waste. It may waste the author’s potential without them realizing it. It may cause an agent to be that much slower in response times due to numerous queries with materials that aren’t ready to be submitted, or aren’t submitted with enough information to evaluate them.

Some say the query system is broken. I don’t think so as I still find clients via queries. But it may have a flaw here and there. And I think this sort of abuse of the system is one of those flaws. Before you query, read — and follow — submission guidelines. Be sure that your novel is ready for submission. And don’t query again without learning something from the first time.

13 responses to “letters from the query wars 6/4/2010

  1. i think there’s a difference between persisting and pestering. persistence indicates research, guts, and and stick-to-it-ive-ness. pestering means flailing wildly about repeatedly and expecting something different every time. or is that insanity?

  2. Simple solution. Add to your rejection, “This is your fourth query in X months. Yes, I do pay attention. You’ve not followed my specific guidelines for any of your queries, despite the fact that I included the link to said guidelines in prior correspondence. These guidelines are in place for a reason. Use them. Feel free to query again with another project, but be aware that if it does not follow the guidelines specified, it will be deleted without a response.”
    Many people are under the impression that agents don’t really read their queries, and even if they do, they don’t remember them from this one to the next.

  3. BleeBonn
    I have to totally agree with bogwitch64. That person might need something a little more in the face, unfortunately. I’m sure they must be a new writer just starting out, and someday they will feel terrible about it.

  4. Dude needs to learn the proper way to stalk you. No need to send him to me for lessons, though. The academy’s closed for the summer.
    — Susan at West of Mars

  5. reply
    I don’t think Jennifer should have to take extra time to educate someone who didn’t even bother to click on the last link she sent. I wouldn’t even respond at this point. I’m fortunate enough to have fulls and partials out there with my first novel and you can be sure I followed each agent’s guidelines exactly. It shows the agents that you are professional and take your future career seriously. Sorry about the anonymous comment but I don’t have a Live Journal account. πŸ™‚

  6. In simple terms, two choices:
    Spend the time to educate by spelling out the problems in small, short words.
    Simply consign the query to the “useless” pile, and simply move on…hoping that they will also.

  7. The problem I have with ‘be persistent’ is this: it’s not the kind of career I envision.
    What’s the best realistic outcome of finding the one (in fifty, or in a hundred) agent that sees potential in your book? That they’ll find the one in a hundred editor who does, who then needs to get it past the acquisition meeting and past the bookshop sellers and…
    well, that’s a few too many chances for me to rely on. Sure it could happen, but is the book likely to do well in the marketplace? Am I likely to get a career out of that?
    What I see over and over again is that sure, tastes may differ, but overall, if somebody writes a good book, many people will take notice. Not all of them might make offers to represent or buy it, but they’ll be _interested_ and see its potential.
    I’m no longer trying to find the one person who takes a chance on a book that has been described as ‘very good, but it won’t sell’ by a number of agents; I’m working on writing the ‘very good, and I can think of an interested editor’ one instead.

  8. I agree with most of the comments. If this person has sent a query for 4 different projects, then they aren’t that new and should know better. If one claims to be a writer, then surely one can read the guidelines all by their lonesome. πŸ˜€

  9. They are taking advantage of your good graces
    I have to agree with most of the other posters here and add that I think you are being mistreated by whoever that is. Concidering how many submissions you get it is very bad form for someone to keep sending you new proposals every few days.
    I would just ignore any other submissions from them. It’s not like you have any shortage of queries.

  10. Query process
    I don’t think the query process is broken, but I will say there are flaws like everything else that exists. That still doesn’t excuse sloppy research. You’ve often said writers need to evaluate if this is an agent we want to work with and that agents evaluate that with the writers. I think this person’s evaluation period is over, its just a matter of you realizing you know it.
    On a totally self-centered and personal note, one less competitor for me! πŸ˜€

  11. My position is…It is the author’s responsibility to research each agent’s submission guidelines. And then follow them to the best extent possible. They do vary from agent to agent, so a certain amount of research is necessary. It’s just the right way to do business.

  12. Broken Query Process?
    I feel I have to take some responsibility for this situation…as a high school teacher (SCIENCE, not English) and mentor for International Baccalaureate students, I confess that while I don’t encourage my students to turn in subjects (for projects) in rapid-fire sequence, there IS a sense in which time in school is limited and we try and teach time-management skills at all times.
    This is NOT to excuse this writer. I’m talking about 9th graders and 10th graders. HOWEVER, the “hurry up we don’t have lots of time for you to spend figuring out what you’re going to do for your science/English/social/PE project” set of mind is encouraged and cultivated.
    Long-term, reasoned planning is NOT something we encourage.
    For all teachers, everywhere, I apologize. YOUR process isn’t broken, our students and former students ARE…
    Guy Stewart

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