letters from the query wars 3.4.2011

# of queries responded to this week: 217
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 2
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: urban fantasy (1), YA (1)

Last week I was mightily impressed with the young person (12) who sent a query that followed the guidelines. Of course, she wasn’t the only one. Here’s a few examples from this week of the kinds of things that make me appreciate everyone who takes the time to look up the guidelines and send me the material I need to evaluate things and get back to people in a timely and efficient fashion.

* Person who sent entire manuscript as an attachment. Seems like this happens every week. Needless to say, I don’t read these.

* Anyone who pre-queries. Why add an extra step?

* Sending several emails in a row about a self-published e-book including a method to access said file. Also, no actual description of the book or author information in any of these emails. Way to take yourself out of the query gene-pool.

* The how-to books. I don’t understand since I don’t represent nonfiction. Ditto memoirs. Got several this week.

I assume the people who send these things haven’t found my guidelines either on my own website or DMLA. (They are so tough to find, I know.) Questions:

(1) Are listings like these useful, or at least entertaining?
(2) Is there someway I could make my guidelines more clear?
(3) What else could I include in this series other than these lists of query casualties?

13 responses to “letters from the query wars 3.4.2011

  1. I think they are definitely useful, and of course entertaining. It makes us feel slightly better about ourselves as well knowing that following the guidelines at least starts us off on a positive note.

    As for what else to include – perhaps examples of things you really like about people’s queries as well? It might help and inspire those of us in query dread zone. I apologize if you already do this, I have only just email subscribed to this blog, so might have missed many posts in the past.

    Thank you for taking the time to do this in the first place. Definitely appreciated 🙂

  2. I think it’s always nice to see the casualities. It makes it easier to believe when agents say that a lot of queries are rejected outright for basic, simple things. As to making it easier to find, I don’t see how that’s possible. Unfortunately, some people believe in the blind shotgun method. I’ll echo the earlier comment, I wouldn’t mind hearing about the queries you liked (and why).

  3. 1) Entertaining, and often useful! And sometimes validating in the, “At least I didn’t do that” fashion.

    2) Buy someone’s telepathic downloader device, so when someone thinks about querying you, the guidelines are automatically downloaded into their brain. FABOOM!

    3) Occasional “this aspect made me look twice” might be useful — though it’s kind of a two-edged sword for you. While some of your readers might use that as “Okay, I think what I have would have a good chance,” others might go, “Right! Add more zombie rabbits! She’ll love the token zombie rabbits parading through the book at random intervals!”

    Perhaps “this aspect is what turned me off of an otherwise good book”? Things that are your *individual* quirks (“Dear gods, NO ZOMBIE RABBITS! Maybe someone else will like them, but NOT ME!”), that would mean that it’d be a really hard sell? (Or things like, “Fat Books” or “First person reverse-time narratives” or the like…)

    4) In regards to the ebooks, is it the fact that it’s an ebook, presumably previously-published — or that they just try to link you to it, without what it’s about or who the author is, rather than sending you email saying:
    “Here is my 95,000 word Zombie Rabbit Thriller, ‘It Came From the Hutch.’ It was e-published at [such and such service] last year, and has garnered 3,000 sales since then. I’m looking for more coverage by moving into physical print.
    [Insert Synopsis Here]
    [Insert first 5 pages here]”

  4. I find the guidelines useful, but I tend to over-research things by checking agency websites, QueryTracker, Absolute Write’s forums, Google, clients’ pages, etc.

    The thing is, there are always going to be people who just don’t care to do the research. I know most people I talk to don’t understand that agents accept different things and have very specific tastes and preferences. They think, oh, literary agents rep anything that’s written down, or that will make money. Um, no.

    As for point 3, I always like to see queries that work, and explanations of why.

  5. Wait, what on EARTH is a “pre-query”? A letter asking for permission to send a query letter? Huh???

  6. Sometimes, when all the info out there is about how low the odds of getting published are, it’s nice to know all the competition is not made equal.

    I think another interesting topic would be what people are doing right.

  7. It would be invaluable to know what caught your eye and caused you to request a partial. So for the two partials you requested last week, what made you say “yowza, gimme summa dat?” Only because anyone reading your blog is probably already savvy enough to look for the guidelines and follow them. And not all 200 queries you tagged but did not request a partial from could have been from abject nerf-herders or the seriously misguided? (Could they? Please say no.) Generalities are fine, if it’s too difficult to get permission from the authors.

    If you use a reject template, it may be prudent to add a link those guidelines along with a polite reminder to the querier to make sure they followed said guidelines. Or maybe use a special template or auto signature for rejecting the doozies with the submission guidelines link attached? Just a thought.

  8. I find your posts very informative and entertaining. I do not think, however, that the individuals following your blog are likely to make the query errors you write about.

  9. Kirsten Wallace

    I’m actually new to your blog, but wanted to comment.
    I find your posts on the query wars to be very helpful. I’m in agreement with Dolly. They’re actually kind of comforting to read. An amusing to see what other people do. 🙂 I was a lot more comfortable about sending you a query after reading through your blog. At least I knew you appreciated someone who followed the guidelines and that you read every query you get. I think it’s great you go through the trouble to update us.

  10. Personally I find the guidelines quite adequate, although I admit that reading your blog has also helped. For example, specifics about the synopsis…length, “yes, I want the ending,” and things like that all help.

    The proof is in the query, I guess, and I’ll soon have a chance to test that theory myself. Hopefully my work will pass or fail based upon its merits and not on my ability to follow (or ignore) directions.

  11. Yes, your Query Wars posts are helpful and entertaining! It’s always good to know that the statistics are (somewhat) skewed by the people who can’t read directions.

  12. I was wondering if you could post an example of a good query letter. It would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  13. Speaking only personally, I enjoy your letters from the query wars a lot. If nothing else it humanizes the process and puts it in perspective. I’m finishing a second draft on a m/s that I will likely shop around later this year. I have several trunk novels but have never subbed them. It’s all a new experience for me, and reading your query wars posts has (I think) made me see agent hunting as more of a no-hard-feelings process.

    I’m not sure what you can do about the guidelines. There are always going to be some people who ignore guidelines entirely, even if you add them in a 24pt flashing red font.

    I remember one conversation with a fellow at a writing workshop who told me that he wanted to submit to a particular agent, but the agent only looked at printed hardcopy first 3 chapters etc. This would have been expensive and inconvenient for the writer, so he emailed the novel instead.

    I spent some time explaining why agents cannot afford to print several hundred submissions a week. I think he understood in the end. He simply never realized that agents get that many subs.

    Perhaps agent guidelines would benefit from some sort of (brief) explanation of the basics that we sort of assume people know? Agents are people too. Different agents represent and like different things. Agents can get upwards of however-many m/s per week etc. I know some guidelines *do* cover those things, so perhaps it’s always going to be a hopeless battle.


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