July 18th, 2008

books

letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 171
# of proposals requested: 2
genres of proposals requested: science fiction (1), YA (1)


Dear Authors:

In response to last week's letter, someone wanted to know--

how long do you take on a query, usually?

Truth is, I'm not sure there is an average amount of time because it really depends on the query. Something that falls into a category I have no interest in (e.g. poetry), takes very little time. But on others, it may depend on how succinct the pitch is, and how smoothly the synopsis flows, or any number of other variables. Often I read them a few at a time as a change of pace between tasks. Occasionally, I read them in the evenings back-to-back, and once I'm in the query-zone, I can get some momentum going. But I have to be careful with that because once one reaches the state of being query-drunk, they have a tendency to blur. So, YMMV.

Also...

...do you make a judgment initially on the letter and synopsis and if they aren't good enough forget about reading the enclosed pages, or do you muddle through it all as best you can, as long as it is relatively interesting and not obviously written by an inexperienced monkey at a typewriter?

Basically, if we don't necessarily have the skills to make an exciting query letter, but the chapters are great, do you make it to the five pages, or do you toss it based on the summary?


I almost always at least take a look at the five pages (and I read those before the synopsis) -- unless, as above, the idea is clearly not a good fit. Sometimes I can tell right away that the writing hasn't yet reached a publishable level, but sometimes it takes longer to get a strong feeling one way or the other about the voice and the prose style, or how strong the opening hook is. That's not to say the letter itself doesn't play a part in the assessment -- they can implicitly display other skills that are useful in being a professional author. But I know from my own experience that it can be challenging to condense a 100K narrative into a pitch, so if there's a doubt, the writing always gets the benefit of it.

Hope that helps.

And now I'm off to Readercon (where I will buy books I don't have time to read because they sound good and I wants them).