letters from the query wars 6/11/2010

# of queries responded to this week: 142
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 3
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: fantasy (1), YA contemporary (1), YA urban fantasy (1)

oldest query in the queue: May 18

A sampling of sentences that should not have appeared in my queries (if the writers had read submission guidelines):

“I will assume, if I don’t hear back from you within three days, that you are not interested”

“Below, I’m including a short sample from the middle of the book”

“Here are the first three chapters”

“I would love the chance to send you a synopsis”

“I have enclosed my query letter and ten chapters of my book.” [said documents attached]

This is your brain on queries. Any questions?

13 responses to “letters from the query wars 6/11/2010

  1. At the bus company that I drive for, we use buses that have automatic electronic destination signs and audio announcements; when I pull up to a stop and open the door, the side and front signs say 82 AMERICAN RIVER COLLEGE, and the automatic voice says to the waiting passengers, “82, American River College.”
    I imagine the way I feel when somebody asks (quite seriously), “Is this the 82 going to American River College?” is much the way you feel when reviewing fully half of the queries you get.
    Never let it be said that writers are automatically smart.

  2. Why, fellow writer, why?!?
    I’m sure that agents try very hard not to let irritation about one query’s disregard for submission guidelines bleed into the reading of others. Just as I try not to let a difficult first period class shadow my interactions with the rest of my students throughout the day. Yet sometimes, despite my very best intentions, irritation does linger. It makes me sad that some writers don’t take into account the fact agents are real people with real nerves that get frayed. Wouldn’t it make everyone’s day a littler better if we all just took a second to read guidelines and, oh, I don’t know, follow them?
    Of course, this is preaching to the choir because if people are bothering to read blogs, they’re also probably following the rules. 🙂

    • Re: Why, fellow writer, why?!?
      True, but at the same time, I like to imagine that our queries will automatically look better by comparison when we follow the rules. Agents will at least not want to bash their heads in when they read our queries! Or so I hope.
      I’m just feeling happy about her query stats. Three out of over 140 doesn’t seem like much–unless you’ve seen her normal request rates. Sounds like a good batch of queries.

    • Re: Why, fellow writer, why?!?
      I suspect that the problem here is the not perception of agents as “real people”.
      I get the impression that most people have no concept of other people (especially those they have no physical interaction with) as “real people”. This, in their subconscious, excuses them from things like “politeness”, “guidelines”, “best practices” and “rules” because those don’t matter when you’re not dealing “actual people”.

  3. I’d love to see some samples of cover letters and stuff from successful queries, if at all possible. Examples of how not to do it are useful, but so are examples of *how* to do it! 🙂

  4. If you would like to borrow my “Braaains!” icon for “brain on queries,” I doubt anyone would mind…
    Here’s hoping those three requested partials/manuscripts are all gems!

  5. (warning: this is a bit of rant)
    okay, i just can’t believe how some of the authors are stupid enough not to read your guidelines when agents are so essential for them. I mean it makes us, who actually research on the agents and take our time to know them, look really bad to you guys. cause we’re sweating tears and blood in our manuscripts and the least the other people looking for representation could do is to make the agent’s lives better, so they’ll be in a good mood and start to scan queries in a much positive atmosphere. And maybe having a good atmosphere could somehow trigger more positive replies. i mean these guys are just making things worse. and what’s even worse, is when you (Jen-the agent) send instructions on how to follow guidelines the next time and then they come back doing the same thing. i think its all just spam.
    i just admire how well you guys are striving through tons of would-be-published books and take out the real, hit ones. and to all those who don’t read instructions (and i mean the ones who ignore it, not the first timers) stop hating a system you didn’t even try to read properly.

  6. Draft Responses:
    Dear Author
    You may assume whatever you wish. I shall assume that, given the compressed time frame you have presented, you did not actually expect me to give your story a thorough reading before rejecting it.
    Dear Author
    While the section from the middle of your book might have been interesting, without any introduction, the characters seemed shallow and poorly developed. Their interactions, given a lack of context, made no sense, and I struggled to understand why Maggie felt it was so important to travel to New York.
    Dear Author
    Personally, I would have “loved” if you had sent me a synopsis, since my submission guidelines specifically ask for one. However, since you didn’t, I guess both our loves will remain unrequited.
    Hmmm, too snarky? Dunno.

  7. I think some folks don’t think rules apply to them while others…well let’s just say they’re probably not the sharpest pencils in the box.

  8. can you give us a breakdown of the 142 – are you still getting paranormals? what seem to be some querying trends?

  9. “Oh those rules don’t apply to me – I’m special…”
    Yes, I’m afriad that is what many of the writers are thinking, “My novel is so good, that once they read this, they’ll be so blown away, that they won’t care that I didn’t bother with any of the rules and guidelines”
    Maybe once, long ago, that may have been true, but with all the books floating around, why take the chance of annoying someone who might be your agent? Part of that involves a co-operative relationship between agent and author. Not a good way to start, I say.
    We plan to follow those guidelines, to the letter, and then pray Jennifer likes it! lol

  10. Just wondering
    I was wondering what criteria you use to request a partial vs. a full. If you get an intriguing query and the author claims in the cover that the ms is ready for submission, do you request the full ms.? Or do you always do query, then partial, then full?

  11. query war
    lots of people out there who want to try do it their way…

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