September 5th, 2008


letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 183
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of requests: general fiction

Dear Authors:

Agent Nathan posted a very handy list of Things I Don't Need To Know in a Query yesterday. I think I agreed with them all - the things he mentions just aren't relevant to the decision-making process at the query stage. And I particularly liked: "That your manuscript is completely different than anything that's ever been published" - because every week more than one author assures me of that very thing, and I wonder how they have read every single book ever published when I can't even find time put a dent in my TBR pile....

Here's my own list this week -- Things I thought of while reading queries this week....

* 40,000 words really tends to be too short for an adult novel (ymmv with YA/MG).
* When you get three queries in a row about novels featuring children being abused you have to take a break.
* Yes, I do find it sad when I realize the author didn't even use the spellchecker for their query. (Typos do happen, but 3 in the first line is just sloppy.)
* Certain kinds of email address names are really not appropriate for professional correspondence. (But sometimes they make me laugh. Or cry. And, no, they don't determine whether I ask for pages. I just notice some of the really outlandish ones when I'm drafting replies.)
* My Official Sidekick still fears staples.
* Please do not assume anything about the religious background, racial background, political bias, or sexual orientation of the agent you are querying. In particular, do not expound at length on the pro or con arguments for any of the same. This could potentially backfire. This is not to say these elements and concepts cannot inform your story. But being preached to in a query (whether you agree with the perspective or not) is a terrible distraction from ascertaining its literary worth.
* It's not helpful to apologize for how bad your query letter is...
* In the same vein, I'm pretty sure many authors believe their novel is far too complex to be sufficiently summarized in a query or synopsis but explaining how ineffective the method is doesn't remove the necessity of providing one.

With all this in mind, and many queries still to read, I invite you to ask about the do's and don't's of the query letter -- just in case these points have raised questions or there are things that you've been wondering about.