Live Blogging my Queries, part two

September 16th, 2008 • Kate

So, as people seem to be enjoying my dive into the query pile, and as I have 52 more (they just keep coming in, for those of you keeping track at home), let’s get back to it, shall we?
As before, this is merely a stream-of-consciousness reaction thing to the queries I receive. No cruelness is intended, and I hope no one is able to recognize their own work, but is able to take from my general comments something that may help their own process. And with that said, let’s head behind the cut again.


52 unread queries dated September 8th or later. My thoughts:
1. Chick lit set in the 90s that might have worked then, but doesn’t sing to me to now.
2. Women’s fiction which seems to focus more on themes and lessons than story.
3. YA novel about angels, with another example of name confusion. Doesn’t stand out.
4. I repeat this one a lot: intriguing pitch, underwhelming execution.
5. Just didn’t love the writing of this memoir.
6. Rampantly overwritten query, and no pages.
7. Murder mystery that sounds like a lot of other women’s murder mysteries.
8. Hey, look! Another self-help book. Still not interested.
9. If you address me as “Dear Literary Agent”, I will respond with the similarly generic “Dear Writer.”
10. Not a query, but a request to network. I decline.
11. Feels more like category romance than a breakout success. Not for me.
12. “Show, don’t tell” is still a valid truth of writing a novel.
13. Query from a YA with a YA. An important bit of writing advice you pick up with experience: use ellipses sparingly, if at all.
14. Once again, interesting idea, but I didn’t love the writing, and it felt a scosh too derivative of other works.
15. Paranormal suspense that just felt a little too lesson-y.
16. An email from a frequent querier — interesting idea, well-written, but similar to something I already have on my list.
17. You know what I LOVE? When you address a query you’re sending to me to another agent. That sometimes really helps me make my decision.
18. Romantic suspense with attached chapters instead of pages, with a plot that sounds like a number of other books out there.
19. Difficult to follow plot that depends on daydreams for drama, rather than action.
20. Chapters I’d already requested from a conference, which will go to the Kindle.
21. A short story collection, which feels more literary than commercial, and not for me.
22. Memoir/self-help book, with what I’m seriously hoping is a major typo in the word count, as a book with over 50 million words is pretty much unpublishable anywhere.
23. Woman-in-jeopardy novel with a somewhat banal writing style.
24. Wow, no, not for me. Recent history/current affairs nonfiction.
25. Not a query, but a business publisher introducing themselves to me. Since I don’t do business books, unlikely to be a useful contact for either of us.
26. More girls with mysterious, unexplained paranormal gifts they don’t fully understand. Doesn’t stand out for me.
27. Good setting/premise, but I didn’t love the writing.
28. How this is wrong for me, let me count the ways: picture book, multiple manuscripts in one email, no real query letter, not personalized… I don’t think I need to go on.
29. A follow up to #25, which I’d seen before, and included in my initial response.
30. Pitched a bit like a 1930s screwball comedy, but I didn’t love the sample.
31. Feels about 20 years out of date.
32. I don’t mind reading thrillers for fun, but I don’t have any plans to represent them.
(Woot! 20 left to go!)
33. Another repeated submission. Guys, I keep track of my submissions. Besides having a pretty good memory for stories, I have electronic archives. Trust me, I remember having rejected you a month ago.
34. Fourth submission in 7 months. Please see Nathan Bransford’s recent post about re-querying.
35. Another “fiction novel”! Writers, please try to know your age range, and don’t tell me your book’s for middle grade through YA, and on to adult readers. Be as specific as you can.
36. YA mystery, but I don’t love the historical setting. Not for me, but something I can see someone else picking up.
37. Literary novel with spiritual themes — not for me on many levels.
38. Another D&D-type sprawling fantasy novel. Again, if I can play it, I don’t want to read it.
39. Romance that feels more like category than break-out. Nothing wrong with it that I can see, but you’d be better off with an agent that specializes in romance.
40. End times literary thriller — may want to try Christian publishing contacts rather than mainstream ones.
41. This seems to throw in everything but the kitchen sink, including illustrations. Just didn’t sing to me.
42. Memoir turned novel. I can understand the impetus to write to get your story out there, but not every story that needs to be told needs to be published, if that makes sense.
43. High-concept sci fi that doesn’t connect with me.
44. The author of this one even seems to know that her werewolf story sounds like a lot of other tales already out there. I agree with her.
45. “Here’s the first three pages of my novel” does not a query make. And the pages didn’t work for me.
46. This one tries for the difficult post-high school to early working years age range. But then it seems to dive back into high school. Confusing.
47. Set in an interesting part of the world, but feels like a YA novel I’ve read before.
48. I feel like I’ve seen a number of YA and MG novels recently that start with their protagonist in the principal’s office. it’s beginning to feel like a cliche.
49. Another self-help book. Did someone post that I want these somewhere, and no one told me?
50. A helpful hint from a fellow writer: any scene with no conflict = doooooooom! This also applies for novels with perfect heroines.
51. Chick-lit style, with an oft-seen list concept to drive the plot. I feel like I’ve seen this before.
52. This one breaks a number of rules — generic address, new multi-genre, sure-to-be-bestseller, and disregards my preferences. An easy no.
And a bonus #53, which came in while I was blogging:
Sci fi that overwhelms with a lengthy query and tells me more about why it will be successful than why I’d want to read it.
Once again, I hope this has been helpful! Now I’ve got to get back to the rest of my work day.

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7 Responses to “Live Blogging my Queries, part two”

  1. CJ Says:

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  2. slf Says:

    Yes, thanks – Really educational and interesting reading!

  3. jeanoram Says:

    Thanks for another great and helpful post. This one brought a couple of questions to mind. Are you up for answering? If so:
    Say you (a querying writer) mess up, but don’t realize until after you press the ‘send’ button. (You forgot to send your sample pages or you realize you wrote the wrong agent name on the email.) What do you do? Can you send an immediate follow up apologizing and with the correction? I haven’t (to my knowledge) done a big flub up yet, but I’ve always wondered because I am paranoid, plus, occasionally, I hit the wrong key on my keyboard which leads to unexpected results—such as half-written emails being sent.
    Second, is chick lit hard to sell these days? And if so, what does that actually mean to an unpub chick lit writer? (And what is a ‘list concept’?)
    If you know a story isn't for you (for whatever reason) in the first paragraph of the query, do you stop reading or do you keep going–just in case.
    Sorry, that was a lot of questions!
    Thanks again for your great blog. I've learned a lot. πŸ™‚

  4. Kate Says:

    A couple of quick answers to Jean's questions.
    If you've messed up and realize it, yes, please feel free to send out a correction. Ideally, you should use the same subject line or just forward your original email, so it get stacks together as a conversation. This way, if it's to me, I'll see both emails at the same time. If you send "query: book title" as one subject line and "sample pages" as another, then I won't see them at the same time, and will likely respond to the first one I see. I'm gentler on corrections than those that let them go.
    Secondly, yes, chick lit is very hard to sell right now. But if it can be called mainstream women's fiction, and it has personality, it's still viable. Just difficult.
    "List concept" — I mean using a list like ten things to do on a first date (or not to do), to make up an example, to carry your plot.
    And finally, if I know right off something isn't for me, I'll keep reading, but I'm scanning more than I would otherwise.

  5. jeanoram Says:

    Thanks for answering my questions, I appreciate it–especially the tip on how to keep the corrected email 'together' with the oopsy one.
    πŸ™‚

  6. Lynn Price Says:

    Great post, Kate. I could so relate. I hope you don't mind if I shared my mirth over on my blog. Great stuff.

  7. Jolie Hale Says:

    I loved these posts. If you ever do this live blogging thing again, I will definitely tune in.