March 6th, 2009


letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 131
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genres of partials/manuscript requested: N/A

[Note: currently there are nearly 300 queries waiting to be read. The oldest one is dated the 10th of February.]

Dear Authors:

Though this has happened on and off over the years, there is a characteristic in query letters that seems to have picked up lately. Or perhaps I am just noticing it more. In any case, there seem to be a number of queries wherein the author states the reason as to why they believe I'll reject them. Often in the first paragraph before I've even had a chance to read the idea and make up my mind for myself. This week I read one in which the author said in the very first line that they didn't believe their book was right for me, but perhaps I could recommend a few agents -- this struck me as an odd way to open a query letter, I must admit. Some of the other reasons I've been given recently include:

* the fact that the author is young
* the fact that the author is old
* the author did not graduate high school
* the author is not an American citizen
* that the author is currently in prison (but innocent!)
* this is a particularly unusual story
* the author is not photogenic
* the book is approximately 363,000 words long

Even better than the reasons that the authors state about themselves, or their work, are the ones where they presume to suggest a characteristic about me that will mean I am likely to reject them. Often I wonder how they come up with these, since many of the reasons they suggest are, shall we say, inaccurate, and few, if any, of these people have ever met me, so what data they are using to draw these conclusions escapes me.

And finally I am left to wonder why an author would begin a query by setting up the rejection. What's that supposed to accomplish? Why are they giving the agent an excuse right from the get-go? It just doesn't make sense to me.