July 16th, 2010


letters from the query wars 7/16/2010

# of queries read last week: 92
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

# of queries read this week: 153
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: SF

oldest query in the queue: June 28th

Phrase in a query letter that struck my funny bone: "it must be a tedious task to pour over letters all day" As if an agent had whole days to read submissions.....

Less amusing to me: Reply to a query response in which I am told that I declined because the author was unknown and not from the U.S. -- Setting aside the tone (which I didn't find friendly but that's neither here nor there), I suppose I can understand trying to find a way to externalize this process. But as I have already signed a debut novel this year, and already represent authors who do not live within U.S. borders, this is obviously not a factor for me. I only paused for a moment on this one because I felt it was a shame that, in this case, the reasons assigned were flawed. Especially as they focused on what I consider to be irrelevant characteristics, and not what they had written.

As anyone who reads these letters frequently knows, these kinds of responses are not all that rare. Definitely, not rare enough. And they are typically as narrow-minded as they accuse others of being. Sad, it is. I don't reply to these kinds of emails. But I suppose they do provide fodder for general commentary.

So. For the record. I will certainly consider queries from outside the U.S. I will certainly consider debut novels. I am interested in a diverse reading experience which includes exploring cultures and perspective -- old or new, even those that might initially seem alien-feeling to me. On nearly every agent panel I've participated in at conferences, one of the inevitable questions seems to be: "what are you looking for?" It's a question I have struggled to find a more specific answer for but seem to come back to: Great stories that I also think I can sell. Because ultimately my goal is to get that story in a position to be read by as many people as possible.

Gentle reader, let me turn that around a bit -- What about you? When you go looking for a novel, what are you looking for?