Tag Archives: query wars

letters from the query wars 1.10.2014 with 2013 annual stats

# of queries responded to in 2013: 6,152
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 26
(some of which are still on my desk awaiting review)
note: this # does not include requests made at conferences

overall genres/subgenres requested
adult – fantasy thriller, traditional fantasy, historical fantasy, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, space opera, paranormal thriller, inspirational fiction
YA – contemporary mainstream, historical fantasy, high fantasy, cyberthriller, science fiction, post apocalyptic

# of new clients: 2

I have now responded to all queries received in 2013. If you sent a query in 2013 and did not receive a response, either it did not reach me, or my response did not reach you.

letters from the query wars 11.15.2013

# of queries responded to week ending 10.18.2013: 113
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 2
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: YA contemporary; YA SF

# of queries responded to week ending 10.25.2013: 103
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

# of queries responded to week ending 11.01.2013: 119
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 2
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: both SF

# of queries responded to week ending 11.08.2013: 49
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

# of queries responded to week ending 10.25.2013: 122
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

oldest query in the queue: November 7th

Some Thoughts on the Etiquette of Waiting
with thanks to @effies (Effie Seiberg)

So, there you are (you being a writer in this case). You’ve spent agonizing months, years, perhaps even a decade, developing your story, making sacrifices (housework? yardwork? other hobbies?) and seemingly sweating blood to birth your novel. It’s been revised, polished, and is the most amazing thing you could possibly write. You’ve spent weeks and weeks haunting social networks, studying acknowledgements in books and mining resources like agentquery.com. You’ve selected your list of dream agents and studied their submission guidelines. You’ve crafted your query letter over and over with excruciating dedication. You’re sure you’re ready. You send off the query letters to the agents (along with whatever additional material their guidelines may request)…..

…..and you wait.

What to do? What to do? The common advice is to put your writing energy on to your next project. Or this could be the opportunity to consider spending extra time with friends and family (or getting back to that yardwork). Or, heck, just get some rest. These days it seems like everyone could use some more rest. The problem is, that as one repeatedly hits the refresh button for their email, this is all rather more easily said than done, of course.

Believe me, agents understand. At the same time that you are sending your queries to the agents, they are making pitches for their clients to editors at publishing houses, and then submitting and waiting…. Even though only a midwife of sorts, agents can relate to what you’re going through at this point (we also neglect our housework to work on books).

Evenso, how does one judge when one has waited long enough? (Pause to refresh email to see if any editors have stayed late on Friday night to make offers….. just kidding…..) In the case of my agency, our website redesign earlier this year added individual agent profile pages that list our response times. (You can see mine here.) Many agencies have these in their guidelines, though, unfortunately, not all. So one can also use tools such as those on querytracker.com to get estimates (please note these are submitted by writers and not a scientific study). My query response time is currently listed at “up to 3 weeks.” I try to do better than that, but sometimes there are other factors such as travel, holidays, or even just a few sick days here and there.

Keeping that in mind, if you’ve sent a query that’s been waiting longer than a particular agent’s indicated response time, give them a few extra days or even a week or two. (Yeah, that might be tough — refresh, refresh, refresh that inbox — but remember they have hundreds of queries coming in so even just losing a couple days can throw things off.) At this point, I think it’s fine to send a polite followup email asking for a status update. After all, there are other possibilities too (darn spam filters). I recommend including the original query and requested materials with the followup so the agent has it all in one place. And, yes, unfortunately, this may reset the clock for the waiting period (and the refresh, refresh, refresh).

The important thing to remember here is that agents that are open to queries are on the hunt for new stories and new clients. They will review what they receive just as quickly and efficiently as they possibly can. Believe me the agent doesn’t want to wait any longer to discover their next stay-up-all-night reading experience than it wants to wait to be discovered.

letters from the query wars 10.11.2013

# of queries responded to week ending 10.11.2013: 106
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: urban fantasy

oldest query in the queue: October 6th

How to be a casualty in the query wars 101:

Query too soon.

Here are signs in this week’s queries that the author was querying before they were ready:

* Their debut novel was not completed.

* Using repeat queries every couple weeks with slight tweaks as if taking a sounding.

* Indicating in the query that the manuscript is a rough draft.

* Apologizing in the query for grammatical errors in the sample pages.

Don’t send queries until your novel is completed and edited to the absolute best of your ability. When you think you’re ready to query, spend time on developing that letter and pitch – get feedback before sending it out from writing peers and serious readers. Draft it, let it sit, revise it. A lot of time is spent writing and developing the novel. Some extra time to invest in submitting it will only be a benefit. Remember, there’s only one chance to make a first impression.

A clean, well-crafted query that follows the agent’s guidelines is a thing to be admired. It allows the agent to focus on the concept of the novel and the author’s writing. Whether that yields a positive reply or not, it’s the best opportunity for the story to shine and for the author to find an effective agent match.

letters from the query wars 10.4.2013

# of queries responded to week ending 10.4.2013: 114
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: mainstream fiction

First, I wanted to say thank you to those who commented on last week’s query wars. Many of the suggestions made were good to hear, though I’ll admit I was more thinking over a way to change this column than my method of reviewing queries themselves. I particularly appreciated the comments giving me perspective on how the statistics were helpful in a way – giving insight or showing how much just following guidelines alone gives an author a step up. It seems like it’s just sometimes so easy to get bogged down in the numbers and forget the good stories. So, as one person pointed out, I’ll look for something like that to add to future letters at times. Those comments gave me some things to think about and I may go back to them again for some other insights in future entries.

Tonight, though I want to share a kind of funny bit that oddly helped me regain some perspective. No sooner had I posted last Friday than I received in just a few hours:

* a query sent solely as an attachment
* a re-query of the same project less than 24 hours after declining
* a query for an incomplete debut novel
* a book of poetry on a nonfiction topic

Based on the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs in last week’s entry, writers, I thought maybe someone was having a bit of fun at my expense. Or, possibly, as someone commented last week, there are just a number of people who aren’t doing much research at all since most other agents I know don’t want attachments or incomplete work or submissions in areas they specifically list as not representing. However, in those same hours I got plenty of queries that followed the guidelines and pitched books in genres of interest to me. So, yeah, it’s an imperfect thing but the key is to appreciate the efforts of those making them, and to focus on the hunt. You never know when the next query is going to bring the next manuscript you can’t put down…

letters from the query wars 9.27.2013

Some days back someone asked me if I was going to continue the query wars posts. I realized at that point that I’d somewhat inadvertently taken the summer off.

Bless me writers — it has been far too many queries since my last posting. I’m afraid I must admit that I became a touch discouraged at continuing this ongoing set of entries and talking about queries received as the number of them which don’t even make the vaguest attempt to follow guidelines seems to have risen dramatically. Some of them have been the usual sort — no sample pages, everything as an attachment, and so on. They make it harder to give each one a fair assessment, but one tries regardless. Others should have never made it to my inbox at all (e.g. the self-help dating book, the poetry, and additional categories that are listed online as not for me).

There’s also been an increasing number of what we generally refer to as “pre-queries.” Most of these fall into the category of those who would rather ask for guidelines than do a quick search online. Some of them of late have wanted feedback on ideas — before the novels are even begun. (Sidebar: Insert essay on the question of whether ideas or execution factor more highly into whether a book might find a publisher.)

Enough of this shows up daily to slow down responses to those who follow the guidelines and are seeking representation for projects that fall into my wide and varied genre interests. So I used to write about those that didn’t in what I intended as an effort to help everyone. It was supposed to get me more of the kinds of queries I wanted and less of those that I did not. It was supposed to help writers more expediently find a good match for their work and succeed in getting representation. Of course, the flaw in this plan in that those not taking the time to do the little bit of research to find guidelines desperately hidden in plain sight on the internet are in all likelihood also not finding these “query wars” entries.

All this is by way of saying I’m rethinking my approach. I’ve got some ideas and I’m mulling them over, probably for a few more weeks. However, I’d also welcome feedback from the trenches, so to speak. Whether you’ve already queried or are about to query or have just begun writing and may plan to query some day down the road. If you were on the agent side of the so-called query wars, how would you approach it?