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letters from the query wars

# of queries read last week: 135
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

# of queries read this week: 133
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

500+ queries still awaiting review


Recent commenters inquired along the lines of what percentage of queries I receive actually follow our guidelines....

For the record, our guidelines say to send a query letter, the first five pages, and a synopsis of your novel.

From Saturday, February 20th through Monday, March 1st, I tracked and categorized email queries received on that basis. This amounted to close to 250 queries.

Percentage of submissions that followed the guidelines close enough to pass: 48%. That's right. Slightly less than half.

The other 52% either:

(a) did not include a letter (or sometimes even a salutation of any kind)
(b) did not send the first five pages
(c) included *way* more than five pages (the record was the first five chapters)
(d) didn't include a synopsis
(e) sent attachments
(f) some combination of (a) through (e)

Over 30% of these queries did not include a synopsis (for the purposes of this review, a pitch paragraph in the letter wasn't considered a synopsis -- because, really, it's not).

I've had some questions in the past about the synopsis length, but, as some have pointed out, our website doesn't have anything officially listed. Ergo, I'm somewhat forgiving when it comes to that. I do want it to deliver information in summary (not outline or bullet-point) fashion about the story, the characters, the setting -- you know, those things that go in a book. (I find the ones that don't include the ending perplexing and unhelpful.) As a general estimate, 2-3 pages seems like a reasonable length, and more than 5 starts to feel hefty, imo. They don't have to say everything; they just have to say enough.

For me, the letter, the first five pages, and the synopsis all assist me in making a decision. The letter gives me a feel for the author and their perspective on the book, the first five pages an impression of their writing style and talent, and the synopsis a way to see where the story is going to go and whether it seems marketable. If one (or two) of these are missing, I have less with which to make a decision. It's that simple to me.

Percentage of queries included in this review that I've declined: 0%

No content assessment was made on any of these queries. In fact, they are still waiting to be read as I'm working on those dated during the first week of February.

So... do you send a synopsis if the submission guidelines request one? Why or why not? Are they a challenge or a snap to write? Are they a necessary evil or helpful tool? If you were going to a synopsis workshop, what should it cover to help you? What would you tell other writers about writing a synopsis?

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