February 27th, 2009

books

letters from query wars

# of queries read this week: 189
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: fantasy


Dear Authors:

I write you from these trenches where the sound of cannon-fire has grown remarkably repetitive. I feel as if these letters must also begin to sound far too similar after a while. I have a fear in all this. That the repetition and frequency will cause so much haze that those gems in the rough waiting to catch my attention -- or any other agent's -- will be harder to spot. That might just be a flaw of the system, though. I struggle to come up with new things to say. Am I the only one who feels that way? Things like:


* Don't send attachments. (I don't care what format they are or if you scanned them for a virus first. I will not be risking this hard drive. It's where I keep my (virtual) stuff.)

* Do proofread. Be sure that your mail merge hasn't decided that I work for a different agency (which you are, no doubt, also querying). Be sure that if you are using the same letter for snailmail and email queries that you don't mention an SASE in the latter. (I don't count it against you but I won't promise that my colleagues have the same opinion. Plus, even I have to admit it feels sloppy.)

* Don't use some unfortunate circumstance of your life (or in your immediate family) to try and garner sympathy and get your book read. Those letters make me feel sad, for certain. But I'm still only going to ask for books that I am intrigued to read and think have a possibility of selling. Besides, this makes me feel like you are using your defenseless family member for leverage. (And, don't you know, these kinds of things don't work on heartless gate-keepers because agents have to give up all these sappy feelings when we first sign up for the job?)

* Don't write back and argue with me about the rejection. (It is what it is and that's all it is.)

* Don't immediately re-query after a rejection. In most cases, don't re-query at all unless you are absolutely sure that your revised query and revised manuscript have a 150% better chance than the previous time. (And, if I happen to turn down your book 3 times in 3 months, maybe that is some kind of hint or something.)

* If you are a debut author (and not a celebrity or someone with a platform), please finish the book before you start sending out queries. (This is for fiction; non-fiction is a whole different ball game.)

* Don't CC a bunch of agents.

* Don't use fonts of unusual size (I don't believe they exist). Don't send things in colored print or on colored paper. Please avoid gimmicks altogether.

* Please get my name right. (I mean, I understand why people get stumped by Agent Nathan's. After all, Brandford Brenford Bransford is such a challenge to spell correctly. However, I think I've had more first names this week than my parents probably originally had on their list when they were first picking it out.)


All the examples above happened at least once this week. I will not be surprised if they happen again in the approximately 200 more queries (currently) left in the queue.... But I wish they wouldn't. Over and out.