September 12th, 2008


letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 126
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of requests: n/a

Dear Authors:

This week's list -- Repeating Themes Seen in Several Queries

* Nazis (yes, still)
* stories told from the point of view of an animal
* vampires, vampires everywhere and not a drop to drink (it's not that I don't like vampire fiction - in fact, I have read a fair amount of it over the years, and certainly have represented some, but these need something newer than the tortured and resistant monster-hero, or a particularly strong narrative voice or something)
* people! using! a lot!!! of exclamation points!!!!!

There still seem to be quite a lot of people out there who aren't finding our submission guidelines -- many people not including the five sample pages in the email and/or sending attachments, which we will not open. I've attempted to hunt down all the entries on the web and correct any that don't include this information. If anyone spots one I've missed, please let me know. Thanks!

Today's bonus -- my client Kameron Hurley is making recommendations about examples of query letters to read, and posted her own on her blog. She thinks it's "a little dense and wordy" but it worked on me. It's been a long time since I read it originally, and I've now read the book that goes with it, too. But looking at it now, I would say that the following things in it worked well:

* That opening sentence (which is similar in wording to a question I answered on last week's post) tells me exactly how she perceives the book.
* I think what really hooked me was that the conflict was well-established - there are personal stakes and global stakes
* Also there is the thread of the culture and world-building permeating the description. I think this can be important particularly in SF/F but also in other genres. A strong sense of place and time is almost like another character in the book.
* She tells me relevant facts about herself (her studies that informed the background of her character). But she didn't gum it up with other personal details that I have since come to know. (It amazes me how many people will mention what I consider to be very private details about illnesses and/or family in their letters when they are not writing anything that is connected to those facts.)
* She mentions her writing plans (a sequel) but doesn't burden the letter with details that could distract me, overwhelm me (seriously, some people tell you they have 10 manuscripts waiting in the wings), or dilute the overall impact of the pitch.

In case anyone wanted to know. Four months after I signed her up and started sending out the book, we did a 3 book deal with Bantam. That time period can vary wildly. I've sold things 1 week after signing them, or 4 years after signing them.

And now I'm going to work on figuring out what to read this weekend.

Good night, and good luck.