Twitter Advice

November 16th, 2009 • Kate

Twitter-LogoI was a very busy KT this weekend, getting nearly caught up on all my queries. I’m not quite at the end yet, but I can see it from where I’m standing. Anyway, in the course of looking through about 200 queries, give or take, certain themes popped out at me, and certain #pubtips worth noting. In case you missed these when I tweeted them over the course of the weekend, I’m reposting them here, with some additional explanation as necessary:

Seriously, what is with all these 120,000 word YA novels? Too long, people! Too long! Yes, it’s true that giant YA novels are being published, but please consider them the exception, not the rule. Let’s consider 80,000 words around the top end of YA, shall we? Not that I would automatically decline a query for an excessive word count, but it could be a hatch mark in the “con” column.

To steal from @jodimeadows, if you send me an About My Query letter & then rewrite your query, please send me the new version. Thanks! This isn’t about the queries I read for submissions, but I have noticed a number of About My Query posts lately where the authors have already revised before I post their letter. If you do so, please let me know. And if you have secured representation before I post your query, please do me the courtesy of letting me know so I can pull your letter. This is why I’m only asking for AMQ posts in short bursts. Speaking of which, one more spot for this year’s weekly posts, then I’m cutting them off until January. See Friday’s post for instructions on how to submit.

A note on queries: I would love to give detailed reasons why I reject a query, but then I would never get anything else done. Sorry.I know it’s tempting to respond to a rejection to ask why, but as a matter of time management, I only give detailed responses to partial requests, not queries. If you’re seeking more feedback on your query itself, may I suggest my ABQ series?

Things I say when reading queries: “That’s not the right word.” This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Don’t overwrite your query.

Also, imagine the worst possible answer to a rhetorical question before you start your query with one. An agent may answer with it.Rexroth thought this was particularly good. Sure, we agents often say “Don’t begin your query with a rhetorical question,” but knowing the why is, I hope, helpful. In 99% of all cases, you don’t know the agent well enough to be sure the answer to a rhetorical is going to go the way you plan. Because of my particular life experience, for instance, my answer to one rhetorical posed would have been “Running and screaming in fear.” Would that have been what the author hoped for? Hells no.

Also, one forgotten word can change the entire meaning of a sentence. Forget to proofread, please! I think this one was based on a strong, loving marriage between a very traditional couple and a building, but it has many applications.

If I believed what I read in queries, something like 90% of all abortions seem to end with long-lasting infertility. Uh, no.

And most kids only have one parent. Sometimes it seems the unusual and plot-worthy is just way too overdone.

Every alternate world in existence sent someone to live on Earth, as a just in case scenario. Another thing I learned from queries. Much like the single human who is the one being in the Universe with the power to X, where X equals “save the planet/beat the evil sorcerer/complete the riddle/etc.”.

Things I say when reading queries: “What? That’s not a sentence.” Again, please proofread. And read your queries out loud to make sure they make sense. Then have someone else read them out loud as well, to make sure you aren’t adding words you meant to include, but didn’t, or the reverse. I’m nt saying you can’t use ANY sentence fragments — they have their place, in moderation.

I don’t believe that most teens think their lives are “normal and uneventful.” I think every moment is fraught with anxiety & excitement. I saw a ton of queries about average, ordinary teens living normal and uneventful lives. And maybe the world has changed, but I don’t think teens emotionally believe anythign about their existence is normal and uneventful. every moment of their lives seems imbued with drama, even without vampire/angel/werewolf boyfriends.

And none in queries, pls. RT @doycet Rules of 3 http://bit.ly/2z5L5h for #NaNoWriMo: Only 3 exclamations points per story, all in dialogue. Rexroth is blogging NaNoWriMo advice all this month, and his post on Sunday was particularly apt advice when applied to queriers. Grab ten books off your shelves and let me know how many exclamation points you find in the flap copy. That’s how many you can use in your query (i.e. None).

A phrase not to use in your query: “I just completed my novel…” or any variation thereof. Again, it’s not going to make me reject you automatically, but this screams to me of a writer who’s not really ready to query. Your manuscript should be finished, polished, sat on for a while, polished some more, and THEN queried.

Yes, you need to complete your manuscript before querying! Unless you’re already a client, or have a strong track record in the genre and age range you’re querying, yes, you need to have a finished manuscript. And as per above, “finished” doesn’t mean “just completed.”

If your email holds msgs for verification, add agent emails to your Approved sender list. I’m not going to jump through hoops to send a rejection to a query — don’t make it hard for me to respond to you. Another agent had posted this the other day — I think it was Colleen Lindsay — but if you’re using earthlink or a similar email service to send your queries, make sure that all agents you’re querying are added to your list of Approved Senders. I don’t respond to requests for additional information on my rejection, and I don’t submit my email address for verification. Make it easy on yourself, and make it easy for me to reply.

Please note the difference between my clients & my clearly marked list of authors I admire, but do not represent.
I think there was only one query that prompted this tweet this weekend, but it’s come up before. For the record, the list of authors I like on my submissions page is clearly marked as “our favorite authors (other than our own clients, of course)”.

So that’s a little of what went through my head this weekend. Of course, the above doesn’t include responses to other twitterers, but is a pretty good compilation of my thoughts. Need further clarification? Let me know in the comments!

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8 Responses to “Twitter Advice”

  1. Fiona Skye Says:

    Thank you for this. I deeply appreciate finding these sorts of gems – it limits the amount of (no doubt) stupid questions I ask of professionals like you.

  2. Kater Says:

    I really want to know what these rhetorical questions are now.

  3. Kristi Says:

    Thanks for posting this here as I don't Twitter 🙂

  4. Karen Says:

    As usual, great advice. I do have a question from some advice you gave elsewhere. I'm going back a bit with this, but when you were the Secret Agent on Miss Snarks First Victim's blog, you made this comment to one of the entries:

    [This may be a personal pet peeve, but "Mom" and "Dad" are not proper names. That is, your narrator is not Michaela, and so the parents are not the narrator's parents, therefore they're not just Mom and Dad.]

    So, are you saying that if I'm writing a story in first person then it's fine to have, Mom and Dad like proper names? See, these are the things that keep me up at night, and while they may be little things, it could be something to turn someone off of my novel/query/summary.

    Thanks!

  5. Stina Says:

    The voice-to-text feature on the computer is great for catching spelling mistakes and awkward sentences. Too bad I didn't use it before sending in my query for About Query last week. Then I would have caught my typo before Kate did. 😉

  6. Kate Says:

    Karen –

    Yes, if your story is in first person, then of course your narrator would refer to his or her parents as Mom and Dad. I.e. "I couldn't believe it. Mom was being such a pain, and Dad still wouldn't let me borrow the car."

    But if your story is in third, you need to define "Mom" and "Dad". Again: "Jenny couldn't believe it. Her mom was being such a pain, and her dad still wouldn't let her borrow the car."

    If you have an incredibly close third person, you might be able to get away with it more, but my recollection of the entry in question was that it was more like "Jenny couldn't believe it. Mom was being such a pain, and Dad still wouldn't let her borrow the car." Mom is not a proper name, like Martha.

    To take an example from a published story, Maureen Johnson's SUITE SCARLETT is written in third person. Even though we're very close to Scarlett, sentences about her parents are written like this: "'I hope that's the one you wanted,' her dad said."

    While in Josie Bloss' BAND GEEKED OUT, where Ellie is the narrator of the story, she narrate "Dad would be home soon, too, and then it would be all over."

    Does that make sense?

  7. Karen Says:

    Yes, that makes perfect sense! Thanks, Kate. I just had someone tell me something different so thanks for proving me right and settling a bet!

  8. Nancy Naigle Says:

    Thanks Kate. Great recap to help us ratchet up our querying skill level.

    You're the best – Have a fabulous week.