May 22nd, 2009


letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 158
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

It seems like every week someone responds to a rejection by arguing that if I only read their book, I would see I was making the wrong decision. Frequently, it seems this person has not taken advantage of the fact that our submission guidelines allow for the first five pages to be sent with the query (note: pasted into the email, no attachments). But on the occasion that they have, their contention seems to fall into either "five pages isn't enough" or "those aren't the best five pages."

I'm a reader. I was a reader long before I was an agent. So please believe me when I say that it's one of my favorite aspects of being an agent. However, there are only so many hours in the day and, though it pains me greatly, many of them are taken up by other unavoidable tasks. This year I've already responded to over 3200 queries. Naturally, I couldn't ask for a submission on each and every one. I'd have to read around 35 books per business day, and not just casually but with a critical eye. And that doesn't even include manuscripts from clients I already have. How many books do you read a day? A week? I'm sure some of you will make me envious if you answer that question....

It might not actually feel like five pages are enough to make an assessment. But isn't that the same thing that happens with readers/consumers? They walk into the bookstore, pick up the book and read the back-cover which has a pitch (like a query has) and then flip it open and read the first couple pages to decide if they want to take it home.

As for the five pages... A couple things go through my mind when I get a query that doesn't include the five pages. First, that the submitter didn't take even a few minutes to see if they could find out anything more about me or the agency. Both our official site and my own site mention the query letter, synopsis and first five pages guideline. I find it particularly peculiar when they mention reading the website (or this blog), but still don't include the five pages. Then I wonder if possibly they just aren't that confident about the five pages and think it will be a detriment to getting a request. Of course, since I would end up reading those first five pages if that were the case, that theory doesn't seem to hold water. I'm stumped. Since so many writers seem to be campaigning to be able to submit more materials to hook the agents, I just can't figure out why someone wouldn't take advantage of it. What do you think?

Happy long weekend. May you read something good!