January 9th, 2009


letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 213
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 3 (they were all partials, and all from the same author)
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: paranormal romance (1), urban fantasy (1), YA urban fantasy (1)

this week's query wars casualty: the author who sent their email query cc:ed to over 70 agents with several attachments


Dear Authors:

There were several posts about queries this week and the writing of them. There was my own on Wednesday about the reading, assessment and writing of queries, and Agent Kristin's about her new(ish) client Courtney Milan, and Agent Nathan's two posts.

These posts prompted some really interesting comments. In particular, a few made me think about the idea of hiring someone to write a query for you. I know there are services out there that do this, but I can't say that I recommend using them. I occasionally get submissions from them, and nearly all are stilted and, well, tedious. Plus, their format is so uniform it becomes quickly obvious. I don't believe I have ever made a submission request based on one of those.

And, as I said in my previous post, the query gives me some insight into the voice and personality of the author. I don't get that if the author doesn't write the query. Sure, my submission guidelines also call for the first five pages to be included with the query, and those provide more on the quality of the voice and prose. But, I don't think sending just the pages would work either, because there is still so much that can be communicated in the query. Those first five pages don't tell me about the author or how they see the book, or, often, what the book is about. The combination of the query and pages is where the assessment advantage seems to lie.

I'm sure I'd be famous were I to discover an alternative method, but I have to say that I can't think of a better one. There just has to be a winnowing process of some kind. I have seen a lot of people rail against the query system, but has anyone proposed a solution that's more accurate and more efficient -- without making the logistics impossible? Would that there were such a thing. I'd take advantage of it in a second. And I'm sure a lot of other agents would too.