letters from the query wars 8/6/2010

# of queries read 2 weeks ago: 171
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

# of queries read last week: 183
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: YA

# of queries read this week: 247
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 2
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: historical UF; fantasy thriller

oldest query in the queue: July 23

Bless me, for it has been 3 weeks since my last query confession. Whomever suggested that July was a slow month for publishing…. I say unto you that you were quite mistaken. Quite.

Even without attending two conferences, where I had the great fortune of seeing clients face-to-face and partaking in some really delicious meals, there seemed to be no slow-down in on-going business. My email proliferates like bunny rabbits.

Which is, why, oh, gentle readers, I say unto you — it is more likely that a cupcake can be snitched from Janet Reid than an agent will respond to a request for additional information and/or clarification when they decline a query. (Earlier this week, a guest post on Rachelle Gardner’s blog addressed a similar topic.)

Somewhere I suspect someone is encouraging people to write back as I have seen an upswing in these the last couple weeks.

Many of these responses are kind and thoughtful. Some even acknowledge that they know an agent might not be able to reply due to the time constraints. Some express an understandable level of frustration. Then there are those that are less than polite. Others make some “intriguing” assumptions about my reading habits and personal tastes (when I say intriguing I sometimes mean insulting, but mostly they are just plain wrong). Some few implore “please just give me a chance.”

I don’t believe in the no response means no thing. For my part, I reply to each query and indicate whether I want to read more or not. But I keep it simple, so I can give the next story and the next and the next…. a chance.

Do those who send this kind of additional correspondence think about the others waiting for that chance? Does a query + 5 pages + synopsis = a chance? And how are you going to get your hands on that cupcake?

15 responses to “letters from the query wars 8/6/2010

  1. The last time we went to Disneyworld we ate at Boma in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and it was so incredibly good. My other favorite there was Artist Point.

  2. Do those who send this kind of additional correspondence think about the others waiting for that chance? Does a query + 5 pages + synopsis = a chance?
    My take would be these people avoid deep thinking at all costs.
    And yes, your left side of the equation equals the right — and I have an engineering management degree πŸ™‚ so I excel at fuzzy math.

  3. Cupcakes
    Well, as for the cupcake…my husband and I are opening a bakery, so no need for me to risk a shark attack.
    Oh, wait…you probably meant that symbolically. Cupcake (ultimate treat) as request for full by an agent. In that case, I hope to do so by improving my writing and storytelling, revising my manuscript, and not giving up.
    But I’m not above bribing with baked goods. πŸ™‚

  4. And then there are those of us who are so terrified of being one of the 245 that we just never submit anything any more. And yet we still read agent blogs. πŸ˜‰

  5. I really wanted to get my hands on that cupcake, especially the toy shark. That was adorable.
    Tara Maya

  6. If you are professional enough to respond to every query, then obviously there should be no further need for communication once you’ve declined. As for me, on the writing end, I appreciate exactly that, because I don’t wish to waste my time either. However, since not all agents respond (quite unprofessional in my opinion), I reckon you have to pay for their sins by putting up with disgruntled writers who feel the need to press their luck (and this is my cross to bear since, even though I wouldn’t waste my time with such foolishness, others do, apparently).
    Not all writers do this. I keep a spreadsheet, so that I never query the same agent or the same publisher twice. It’s a time saving business practice.

  7. Does a query + 5 pages + synopsis = a chance?
    Yes. I’m not a big fan of queries alone – while you can spot some similarities (a roundabout style, blatant abuse of the English language), I don’t think they’re the most effective tool for finding the best stories. (They seem, however, to be a perfectly adequate tool for finding as many good manuscripts as an agent can handle; so the writer’s perspective might be irrelevant: to an agent it doesn’t matter whether they miss out on one more good mss as long as they have their fill of good mss to choose from; they’ll never have time for all of them anyway.)
    The first five pages give a good idea of the writer’s skills and problems- if I can choose whether to buy a book by page five, an agent will know whether they want to invest the time to read it by that point, too. The synopsis gives a chance to show the flow of the story (and here I think 3-4 pages will probably be more useful than the 1-page synopsis): here the writer can show that their ideas are unique and they have a handle on the craft of storytelling.
    If someone doesn’t want the book after seeing all of these, I must conclude that it’s either not good enough, not right for the market, or not to the agent’s taste. (It would be nice to know which of the latter applies.)

  8. From now on, any time I implore for another shot at anything, I’ll do a little algebraic substitution and tell that person, “Please just give me a query + 5 pages + synopsis!”

  9. Does a query + 5 pages + synopsis = a chance?
    Honestly, I think it depends on the type of novel: epic fantasy, for example, has a bit more set up needed than most, and that can give it a slower start, and those 5 pages may not be enough, even with a synopsis, to see how it goes.
    That being said, an agent has to set the line somewhere for his or her own sanity, so I understand setting the pages limit so low. Personally, though, I wish most of ya’all took 3 chapters or so. πŸ˜‰
    As for the additional correspondence, I think if an agent had the time to send something more personal, they would have done so in the first place, so I find the additional correspondence a little rude. I’ve resisted even saying thank you to an agent who did send me a rejection despite the website saying they don’t respond unless interested. Yes, I was grateful, but, no, I wasn’t going to take up any more of the agent’s precious time.

  10. appreciation
    I appreciate, and I am sure many others would agree, that you do respond to every query.
    That in itself is a feat. But I do wonder, what it is we are supposed to do when told we will get a response and the expected time frame has passed. Do we risk contacting an agent, perhaps irritating them? Or do we wait an indefinite period of time and hope they get back to us? Querying other agents that are lower down on our list’s? Should we wait to get a response from our first choice , or move on to a second and risk losing out on what could possibly be the greatest business relationship were ever apart of?
    The whole process is incredibly confusing for unpublished authors seeking representation, as I am sure you know. I believe people should graciously accept the response given, but I do understand why they want to know why.

  11. I’ve been seeing a lot more responses to my pass letters as well, and mine also run the same gamut of responses as yours. I will say, though, that it used to be I really only got the responses that said “clearly you don’t really want to publish my genre, you lied” or “I should have known you don’t publish REAL authors” but recently I’ve been seeing a lot more thoughtful thank yous.
    The ones that are hardest for me, though, are those emailing to ask for feedback. If there was feedback to give, I gave it in the pass letter, but generally I do use the form letter because 1) it’s most efficient and time saving and 2) sometimes the only thing to say is “your writing is really, really bad” and I don’t think that’s appropriate. Emailing to ask for feedback puts me in a tough spot in both cases.

  12. Yes, a query + 5 pages + a synopsis = a chance. A slim one, perhaps, given the competition, but it is still a chance.
    I found myself most intrigued by your requesting a “historical UF”, since UF to me seems to always be modern. I would have thought that any urban fantasy-type story set in the past would generally assume another genre label. Now I’m really curious about the setting of that book!

  13. Form or personalized
    Query + 5 pages + synopsis = about a .5% chance based on the numbers provided. πŸ˜‰
    After following this blog for a while I realized that I tried to query WAY too early so take this with a grain of salt…
    The rejection letter I got left me scratching my head. Something to the tune of “I’m not in love with your premise” I wondered if that might mean:
    “Please don’t unleash that #$@! on me again”
    or maybe:
    “Good writing style and concept. Please look up the words Plot and premise in the dictionary then try again”
    Perhaps:
    “Query and 5 pages were O.K. but why was your synopsis was written in crayon”
    It’s hard not to wonder:
    ‘how close did I get’
    or
    ‘what weighed most in that decision’
    or
    ‘If I had $200 to spend would you tell me to invest in a writing class or a new x-box 360’
    Thank you for this blog… I only wish I had discovered it before I queried.
    VX42
    Dixon

  14. Does a query + 5 pages + synopsis = a chance?
    Yes, yes, yes. Especially asking for sample pages, since query letters aren’t always the best indicators of prose writing skill. Your submission guidelines are more than a fair chance for anyone who queries you.
    I am amazed that you *do* answer every query, too.

  15. Query + 5 pages + synopsis = a chance?
    Sure. Gives an author opportunity to introduce themselves, present a sample of their writing and the concept of the entire novel. Given the volume of submissions and those pesky “time constraints” it seems very reasonable.
    Groveling or badgering won’t get you anywhere. Hugely unprofessional and immature.
    I most certainly appreciate agents who give me the courtesy of a response either way. OTOH, I’m very frustrated by the ‘if the phone don’t ring, you know it’s us’ school of communication.

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