January 29th, 2010

books

letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 208
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: thriller


I have no idea how I managed to read almost twice as many queries this week as I did last week. Still have another 200 and change to go....

In the most recent query wars post, a commenter asked whether feedback from a random test audience for their unpublished novel was useful in a query. Based on my reading of their comment, they don't mean professional referrals (see this entry for thoughts on those) or even their own friends and family. Just test readers from their target audience.

I may have written about this in the distant past but since I saw several queries this week that included exactly this sort of thing, maybe it deserves another look.

Getting feedback can be very helpful, whether from a critique group or other test readers. I've heard many writers explain how they are too far inside the story and too close to it to see things and that having another perspective gives them insight. The place to discuss this, though, is not in a query letter. Really, an endorsement works best if it's from someone that the person about to read the story knows (if not personally, then at the very least by reputation). The potential reader also has to have some kind of confidence in that person's opinion.

To be plain: The opinions of random test readers are incredibly unlikely to be relevant. I don't know them. So how much weight could their opinion -- good or bad -- possibly have for me?

Or, let me put it this way: If you were in your local bookstore and a complete stranger walked up to you and recommended a book, what would your reaction be? What would you feel or think, about either them or the book? What effect would it have on your decision to spend your hard-earned cash and rare-spare-time on that book?