letters from the query wars 7/2/2010

# of queries read last week: 138
# of partial/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: romance

# of queries read this week: 187
# of partial/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: science fiction thriller

oldest query in the queue: June 16th

The manuscript I requested this week is one I’ve read before. Many, many moons ago. Though it had much to recommend it, it still seemed to need further development. At that time, I sent the author my thoughts and comments. Apparently they took them to heart and have now returned with a revision. I’m intrigued to see how the story has evolved.

I wanted to mention this because I know that the statistics can look daunting, even if one sets aside the sizable percentage of queries that are for unfinished books, categories not represented, and so on — the kinds of things that shouldn’t be coming my way in the first place.

But statistics don’t tell individual stories.

I’m also seeing a hike in the number of queries from young people lately. I believe the youngest was about 10 years old, but there are many from authors in their early teens. Some of them are clearly talented and creative, but their style is still maturing. I hope these young authors continue to explore their gifts.

Reportedly, Helen Hooven Santmyer was nine years old when she decided she wanted to be a writer. She was 87 when her first novel, _And Ladies of the Club_ was published by a university press.

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes wrote the manuscript for _In the Forests of the Night_ (formerly _White Wine_) at age 13, and it was picked up by Delacorte Press in 1999 when she was age 14. She has since that time had nine more novels published.

Statistics don’t tell individual stories.

Scotland’s Jean MacLeod had her first novel published in 1938 by Harlequin Mills and Boon. Last year it was reported that she was working on her 130th book.

Donna Tartt began writing the novel that became the bestselling and well-received _The Secret History_ while in college. It was published 8 years later. It was 10 years before her next novel, _The Little Friend_ was released. Her third novel is tentatively scheduled for 2012.

Statistics don’t tell individual stories.

Which is something I remind myself of whenever I sit down to look at queries or read submissions….

15 responses to “letters from the query wars 7/2/2010

  1. A perfect partner to this post:
    Thanks for the update, as always.

  2. These are great. I’m going to add a few of them to my list of stories about writers who didn’t have easy roads to publication (a topic I’ve even started blogging about periodically). Very inspiring!
    Your basic point is strong. We’re individuals, not just numbers. It’s important to remember that. Although, man, I don’t know if I’d have Helen Hooven Santmyer’s patience or determination. Most impressive.

  3. Thank you for this. I read the statistics, and as is becoming a more frequent response, I sighed. The agents I want to work with take on so few clients. Sometimes it seems like this whole thing is impossible. And I say to myself, this is so daunting. And then you said, it can look daunting.
    Boy did I need to hear that right now.

  4. Thank you for adding the individual stories to the statistics. Sometimes statistics are heartening. You requested a partial or manuscript this past week and the previous, although many weeks you request none.

  5. Wow
    It’s amazing how much perseverance some of these authors have. I wonder if it’s because their work wasn’t good enough or the market wasn’t ready or it was simply they didn’t submit until much later.
    Thanks for the post Jennifer.
    Jessie Mac

  6. BleeBonn
    It is daunting, but you’ve got to tell yourself you can do it.
    I tell myself that every night before I go to sleep.
    Thanks for great post!

  7. Jennifer, thanks for the stories. Perseverance is the key!

  8. Thanks much & a Confession/Question
    Wow – great information Jennifer – thanks for making us feel better about how things have worked out for others. You never know – unless you try.
    Which that leads me to a confession and a question…
    We read the query guidelines, studied your blog and read up on how to write queries. Unfortunately we made a big mistake (which I am now confessing to the whole world)…
    We forgot the synopsis. Well we have a very short one paragraph synopsis in the query, as that’s what the advice books said to do. So we thought that was the synopsis, until I looked at your March 15th blog where you described what a synopsis should be. 2-3 pages.
    So my question is what should we do? Not worry? Resend the Query with a synopsis or wait to hear from you after you’ve looked at what we’ve sent?
    Thanks! Confessor Scott…

  9. On the last day of the PennWriters conference when they have the Authors of published works all together to sign their books there was an older woman who waited many years to be published. I was struck by the joy in her face. It would have been easy to miss her, she was placed next to a NY Times bestselling author. She was so happy and I felt so happy for her. Thank you Jennifer for these great stories, I would imagine that all of these folks never stopped trying to perfect their craft.
    I am odd in that I couldn’t tell you the number of times my work has been rejected. The notion of keeping track is to negative for me. Instead I keep writing and try to improve. My first book, the one I try to pitch has been revised 15 times and now I’m half complete on my third. The numbers don’t faze me because I can’t see a time when I’m not writing. Thirty years ago my Sociology professor told me computer science was not who I was and I should change majors and write. If I would ever see her again I’d love to tell her she was correct.

  10. Hi jennifer nice posts, hope you had a good weekend

  11. Wow. Thanks for sharing those stories. 😀 It is amazing how everyone is so very different when it comes to their first sale.

  12. Just wanted to add my thanks. I needed to hear this today.(kids are home, house is a mess, haven’t heard a word from the last partial I sent.) I’m wondering if I should just give up on all this and boom, you’ve given me the kick I needed. Thanks, again.

  13. statistics scare us 🙂

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