April 3rd, 2009


letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 219
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 2
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: YA fantasy (1), paranormal romance (1)

Note: As of end of business today (that's 5pm EST), the oldest query I have on hand is dated 3/13/09. If you sent your query prior to that date, I either did not receive it or my reply did not reach you. This still leaves me with quite a stack dating back over the last couple of weeks -- your patience is appreciated.

Please be sure to check the guidelines on our website at http://www.maassagency.com/submissions.html (long story short: send by email to info [at] maassagency.com or by snailmail with SASE and include your query letter, the first five pages of your manuscript, and a synopsis).

Dear Authors:

Now about this queryfail/agentfail conflict.... I didn't participate in queryfail (I didn't even read any of it) and I'm not going to make any value judgement about its worth or injury. Suffice to say that people have argued both sides. But I will admit that I didn't make it through all the comments on agentfail. (If you haven't seen agentfail yet, it's a thread where Agent Jessica courageously opened up the Bookends blog to hear writer complaints.) I'm not going to read any more of the thread at this point but the portions I did read left me feeling by turns both enormously sympathetic with writer-kind, and ridiculously defensive on behalf of agent-kind.

A friend of mine pointed out to me that the opposite of queryfail isn't agentfail -- it's rejectionfail. And I think that focused for me one of the things that took this off the rails for me. It's the process that's flawed. And pointing fingers at either the writers or the agents just seems to raise more ruckus and animosity than awareness. Or at least that's how it looks from here. The difficulty is that the query-process feels adverserial. Since the supply of writers so much outweighs the supply of agents, it's simply impossible for everyone to be satisfied. As Nathan said in comments on his post about the topic, you can't win. If an agent answers too quickly, the agent didn't give the query enough consideration; if the agent is too slow then other criticisms come in to play. This is not to say that some of the points raised on both sides aren't valid, but that they need to be weighed in the balance of the big picture. Agents must do the best they can with the resources they have.

I'm happy to see that Jessica is having an AuthorPass and AgentPass Day today because I think what we need to remember here is that even if the query system is flawed and uses charged words like rejection and generates bad feelings on both sides as everyone struggles to make their writing or agenting dreams reality -- well, what we need to remember is that agents and authors are on the same side. And we shouldn't let the fact that agents advocate for authors get lost.

I think agentfail allowed for a lot of venting. Some of it was constructive. Some of it not so much. And though it took me nearly all day to work my head around to it, I'm determined to walk away from it with a positive outlook. I hope you will too. Let's remember that respect is a two-way street, but earned and not an inalienable right. Let's all re-commit to focusing on the positive aspects of agents getting the chance to work with talented and creative writers and writers getting the chance to bring their stories to readers, even if the road is sometimes long and the shortest distance isn't always a line between two points. Most of all, let's remember the readers. I'm glad they want more stories. May their appetites never be completely satisfied.