You asked for it… Live Blogging My Queries!

January 12th, 2010 • Kate

liveblogBy far, the most popular request I received from my informal poll of what you want to see here on this site was “More live blogging!” Ask, and ye shall receive. Following please find my first live blog of 2010. A little note before I get into it, though — unlike my About My Query posts, the authors of the queries I’ll be reading have not given me permission to post their queries, and I do not intend to quote directly from them, but rather to give my impressions of them after reading, and will try to say, in an somewhat oblique manner, why it did or did not work for me. I’ll refresh this post after every five queries, so it won’t be EXACTLY “live”, but close. Ready?

1. First query is not personalized and is for a genre I don’t represent. It’s at least not bcc’ed to a host of agents, though, so it will get a response. Not off to a good start here, folks.
2. YA fantasy that I think could do with a few more rounds of edits. Not quite ready for primetime.
3. I like the idea of this next YA better than the execution.
4. This one just didn’t keep my interest.
5. “Fiction Novel” is redundant. And while the author has some credits, I don’t think this YA works for me.

6. Nonfiction that is somewhat within my interests, but just not quite right for me.
7. Self-help. An instant no.
8. YA paranormal — in a crowded field, a query needs to really stand out. This doesn’t.
9. Adult sci-fi, which is a category I might pick up to read for pleasure, but don’t represent.
10. Nine exclamation marks in the first two paragraphs of this query, and no attached pages. Without a sample to read, this comes across as a pastiche of cliches.

11. Contemporary YA, from an author with prior small press credits. This didn’t seem big enough to me.
12. Just short of 6,000 words, this doesn’t seem to fit in any category I represent. Unless the word count is a typo, which isn’t a good sign. No sample pages.
13. A query for multiple books, for which the author gives very dry, short synopses without any character or drive. No sample pages.
14. My first request of the day! Contemporary YA with an intriguing twist on the fish-out-of-water, new-kid-in-school plot.
15. I sometimes feel bad about having to decline an author’s very personal story, but when the writing is not there, I have to. This author could do with a crash course in the right way to search for an agent.

16. A love quadrangle with a Mary Sue-ish M.C. — in a depressed, suicidal kind of way.
17. An easy decline, though hard to find the author’s name. Why? Because they didn’t include it in the query, or in their email address.
18. Why are you including another agent’s comments on your book in your query to me? If they liked it so much, they would be representing it, and you wouldn’t be writing to me. Consider this a subheading under my “don’t include blurbs” advice.
19. No sample pages, so all I can go on is the very short, cliched query letter to decline. Also, no title mentioned.
20. The query reads as high fantasy, but the tone of the pages is completely different. Not, I think, for me.

21. Women’s fiction in the chick lit, screwball vein. I didn’t fall in the love with the writing, unfortunately.
22. Middle grade fiction with a wiser-than-her-years heroine. Tough to make stand out in the market.
23. Historical novel that the author pitches out of my area of interest, despite teenaged heroine. No sample pages.
24. Possibly interesting idea, but no pages, so I decline. There’s a reason I ask for sample pages, and it’s not to make you jump through hoops. It’s because writing a query is a different skill than writing a novel, and I want to know you can do BOTH.
25. Religious thriller, AKA not for me.

26. Women’s fiction with a dark tone — probably publishable, but not for me.
27. It just seems like there’s too much going on in here, and I had a hard time following the pages.
28. Killer opening line of this query, but I feared it might be too similar in theme to another novel I represent, and the pages didn’t convince me to read on anyway.
29. Unfinished manuscript of a novel — never a good sign for a new author. A couple of other comments made in the query convinced me it’s not ready.
30. You know how when you’re in a bookstore browsing, and you like what you read on the back cover of a book, you sometimes then flip to the first pages to see how things start? Well, if those pages are blank, you’re going to go on to another book. In other words: no sample pages.

31. Repeatedly telling me how funny and witty a book is, without any proof or pages, is an easy way to get me to decline. Show, don’t tell!
32. A resubmission I didn’t request gets a repeated no. Unless I *ask* for you to revise and resubmit, please consider my decision to decline as permanent.
33. If your purpose in writing a novel isn’t to entertain or tell a story, but to teach something, then maybe you should stick to teaching. Kids know when they’re being force-fed a lesson. The best books enlighten without forgetting to entertain as well.
34. I’m seeing a lot of “contemporary fantasy” that I would categorize as sort of future-tech thrillers. Which I don’t represent.
35. Another Mary Sue character, another decline.

All right, I think my vision is starting to blur. I can usually get through more queries than this in a day, but not when I’m also blogging them. Thanks for tuning in! If you have any questions, leave ’em in the comments!

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27 Responses to “You asked for it… Live Blogging My Queries!”

  1. Ash Says:

    haha i loved this!

  2. Rissa Watkins Says:

    Woo hoo! for 14.

    So for the not quite ready do you send out a form rejection?

  3. Karen Says:

    YAY! Bring em on!

  4. Stina Says:

    Now you don't have to send rejections. We just have to locate which query is ours, and you've save time. 😀

  5. Rissa Watkins Says:

    Stine – if that's the case- I want to be 14. Oh wait, I didn't send a query yet. darn it.

  6. Karen Says:

    Hi Kate, just a quick question about the Mary Sue; what lets you know a character is a Mary Sue from the query or the sample pages?

  7. allreb Says:

    I'd also be really curious to know what you consider a Mary Sue character, or how a character gets to be so Mary Sue you're turned off by her.

  8. Sam Downing Says:

    Great post – more like this, please!

    Kinda surprised (though I probably shouldn't be) by the sheer number of queries that seem to include some obvious no-nos. Not even including your name in the query…?!

  9. Justin Herd Says:

    Wow, that is very insightful. Definitely interested in seeing more of this, though it is a shame it slows down your workflow.

  10. Christy Gail Says:

    Loved this! Even without including the actual queries, it is easy to see obvious flaw (not submitting required information, not in your genre, etc.) It is nice to see the thought you put into those that are "closer", and then which ones interest enough to request further info.

  11. Sandy Shin Says:

    This is very interesting to read. Thank you for indulging us! 🙂

  12. Laura Says:

    This is a great opportunity to learn about the process. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this, especially as I'm gearing up to query soon.

  13. Vonna Says:

    This is mesmerizing, like watching a house burn down. 😉

  14. ChristaCarol Says:

    Yeah, I'm stumped at the idea of people not getting the basic rules of querying. Great blog post!

  15. Stina Says:

    I'm with Karen and allreb on the Mary Sue term. I thought that was a type of shoe. Oh wait! That's Mary Janes.

  16. Alexis Grant Says:

    Helpful… and entertaining. Thanks!

  17. --Deb Says:

    I can't quite decide if this is a funny post, or just kind of depressing… though I'm leaning toward funny. I think.

  18. Caitlin Says:

    Best. Idea. Ever. Such a great tool for those of us agent-hunters out there!

  19. Sara Nash Says:

    Thank you! I appreciate the look at what comes in and the tips on what not to do.

  20. Gina Black Says:

    Fascinating in so many ways. Thank you for taking the time to do this!

  21. Eric Stallsworth Says:

    This was very interesting to read through, so thanks for taking the time. It gives us a great idea of what not to do, as well as some hints as to what we should be doing instead (not to mention evoking quiet laughter here and there at some of the more obvious mistakes).

  22. Abby Stevens Says:

    Wow. I am surprised how many people don't include sample pages. What a shame. At least this is underscoring what not to do.

  23. Shannon Says:

    I would love to know what number I am. Wait. It really doesn't matter. I'll read all of the responses and see what I parts of my query can be done better (where's the lightbulb smiley). Glad to see some constructive criticism.

  24. Delilah S. Dawson Says:

    Favorite thing I've read today. Fascinating. I want to be you in my next life!

  25. Donna Gambale Says:

    This is so helpful. Really drives points home to see the list of rejections here. Thanks!

  26. laura diamond Says:

    This is very helpful. I am wondering, though it's probably a personal preference thing, how important is a personalized query letter?

    I ask because I feel a little corny saying–"I've followed your blog and I think you'd be interested in…" -or- "I find your Ask Daphne About My Query posts both informative and interesting. I believe you would be interested in my YA…"

    Is is okay to open with something like that, or do agents, ahem, smirk? 🙂

  27. Kate Says:

    Laura, those are both good ways to open a query. What I don't want — or rather, what I mean when I say a query isn't personalized — is a letter addressed to "Dear Agent."