Time for Another Live-Blog!

September 20th, 2010 • Kate

Live Blog 1I know you like these, and I’ve got a truly terrifying backlog of queries to respond to, so I’m going to be going through them all day today and posting my brief comments as much as possible. As always, I try to keep the actual queries as anonymous as possible, so if you’re waiting to hear from me, don’t fear that I’m going to rip you a new one in public. That’s not the way I do this. Ready?

1. This query focused almost entirely on the author, with almost nothing about the book except the pages, which didn’t hold my attention.
2. Not really a query, more of a request for information on querying. May I point out my submissions page, which has all that information?
3. Literary adult fiction. Not for me. Also, the query focused on theme, not plot, which turns me off.
4. Well written query, but a topic too close to something that’s already being done by one of my clients.
5. Paranormal romance that felt too category to me than break-out Women’s Fiction.

6. This was an interesting one. I went from not being interested in the query, to somewhat intrigued. Then I got to the sample pages, and lost interest. Reading queries can be a bit of a roller coaster ride, guys.
7. Another YA novel that’s just a little too close to something one of my clients is already working on.
8. Paranormal YA again, with an element that reads as extremely overdone to me, without anything that might distinguish it from the countless other YAs out there like it.
9. This was too short to be true MG, and the writing was too unpolished to place in this market. When you’re writing for early readers, the language needs to be PERFECT. In essence, you’re helping kids learn to read — don’t you want them to get it right?
10. Wow, this is getting repetitive: another novel that reads JUST LIKE one of my clients’ books. Not just in theme and rough outline, but in plot details (although not all of them). Also, unless you’re a packager, telling me you’re “developing a series” isn’t as compelling, EVER, as “written a manuscript.”

11. This one was adult, which is always a more difficult play for my attention, and the genre felt more like a mystery than the women’s fic stuff I’m looking for.
12. Darker historical fiction than I want to do. And again, adult, which only consists of about 5% of everything I’m looking to represent.
13. Vampire novel that, I must be honest, sounds like several dozen other vampire novels I’ve seen recently. It’s tough, because there are SO MANY vamp novels out there right now, and people still seem to want to read them, but agents and editors are almost completely fatigued by them.
14. Prophecy in another paranormal YA. Even with unique elements, it still feels like too much else out there.
15. Long book description that confused me at several points as I read through it, and perhaps a little too cruel or mean for my taste. Also, adult.

16. Hey, look! More vampires.
17. This query spent more time telling me how the book was written than showing me plot or characters. Also, the author repeatedly touted a similarity to an author I don’t much care for. (No, I’m not going to say which one.) But it points out the risk of thinking too much about a Hollywood-esque pitch, instead of concentrating on the story.
18. This one takes some of the overused tropes from YA paranormal and applies it to an adult book.
19. Four paragraphs into the query before I’m told anything about a character. Also, sent too many sample pages, which means the author either can’t or chose not to follow directions.
20. Adult nonfiction, which probably makes up only 1% of stuff I rep. Also, the tone of the query was way too conversational — I don’t know the author, he doesn’t know me, and “hey, check this out,” doesn’t work as a professional introduction by a serious writer.

21. Hey, that sounds kind of like Mass Effect, which I’m currently playing (again). But not as cool.
22. Kind of like a recent kids’ bestseller turned movie, but as if the author thought it wasn’t enough, and doubled-down on the “stuff” in it. Also, no sample, and without the actual pages to make a decision, it’s super easy to say no.
23. Another YA paranormal — not vampires this time, but still very familiar-sounding.
24. MG that seemed too twee — as if the author were writing down to kids, instead of for them.
25. Self-pubbed success story that seeks representation now, but doesn’t actually tell me anything about the book.

26. It starts with “Dear Agent Who Is Not Me” and takes 8 sentences of book description to get to the first of two titular heroes. From a non-nitpicky perspective, the writing is just didn’t work for me.
27. A bit of a gimmicky concept, which some might read as a hook, but for me, the plot behind the concept just didn’t feel fresh.
28. Adult nonfiction which might be interesting to read, but isn’t for me to represent.
29. This one hit one of my wish list categories, but the sample pages didn’t have characters or writing that compelled me to read on.
30. YA that isn’t, and a subplot that hits one of my big “don’t really care” buttons. That’s cruel, but if it’s your plot pont, you want your agent to care passionately, not think, “well, maybe if you lost that whole part.”

31. Comedic YA that would entirely depend on voice and writing to sell, but without pages, it’s just not enough to convince me.
32. A genre I don’t rep, which gets my form “Dear Author, I don’t represent this genre” response.
33. A book for a pre-existing series, as if the author decided since there weren’t any more Nancy Drew mysteries, he would write one. That’s not the way series publishing works, unfortunately. Could maybe work for another agent if the series elements were taken out, though.
34. A repeat query of one of the previous 33, without mention of it being a repeat. I know I’m a little behind in my queries, but the way to get a response isn’t to send a whole new query. When I fall behind my stated two-week response time, if I haven’t said anything particular in my blog or twitter about being behind, and you feel you NEED to find out what’s going on, you should send a email responding to your original message, so the conversation is threaded. Of course, what gmail will do is update the conversation with the date of the most recent message, so that instead of getting to your original query dated August 16th first, for example, I won’t get to it until I’m up to queries from September 9th. So maybe you could be patient instead? Thanks.
35. “Non-fiction novel”? No.

36. I think this is a novel, but I have no idea what it’s about. Also, authors, if you want to write under a pseudonym, fine, but your agent needs to know your real name. That’s what the checks will be made out to. It literally doesn’t pay to hide that.
37. You know, I’ve been feeling pretty negative today. Let’s change that. This novel, which the author calls YA but I think is MG, gets a request. It has several plots which pique my interest. We’ll see.
38. The writing on this felt very immature, and authors, if the first few pages of your book aren’t good enough to send, get back to working on them before you query. Don’t send a sample from chapter 21!
39. This YA novel is about half as long as it probably should be. Practically a short story. Also, started with a rhetorical question, which is always a turn-off. In any case, I’d say the author needs to go back and rethink what she’s submitting.
40. Another YA paranormal, with another well-trod plot device. On a related note, have you seen Leila Sales’ column in Publishers Weekly about the Dead Parent Syndrome? Worth a read!

And on that note, I’m going to close up this Live Blog for today. I need to get some real work done before I go pick up my little munchkin (who actually has THREE parents) from school.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Shoe recommendations for a pregnant lady who has to go to a wedding next month?

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12 Responses to “Time for Another Live-Blog!”

  1. Kristan Says:

    Ooo, I like this. Very interesting to see your thought process unfold. And (not surprisingly, although I bet SOME paranoid people might be shocked) nothing you were thinking was mean! You just had your reasons for not wanting to pursue a project, and they made sense.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Stephanie Says:

    Indeed, this is a great peek into your thought process, thank you for sharing. The fact that you're receiving queries for such similar material is both intriguing and a little scary. Maybe even a little distressing, too!

  3. Olivia Says:

    Ah, if only you'd been doing this the day you hit my query. I suppose it's considered bad form to ask for details regarding my rejection in comments, so I won't.

    I will, however, ask this: You mentioned in #32 that your form regarding unrepresented genres started with "Dear Author." Do all of your forms start that way?

    And hey, why don't I throw in another one? My creative writing teacher in 9th grade said queries shouldn't mention "I've been reading your blog for awhile" or whatever, and should dive directly into the plot. Do you agree with this?

  4. Karen Says:

    Oh goodness, well none of them sounded like my submission and as I haven't recieved a rejection, I'll take it that mine is still in the pile to be read. *fingers crossed*

  5. Olivia Says:

    Good luck, Karen!

  6. Veronica Says:

    Wow. Thanks for sharing. I'm nervous since I sent a query–not for a vampire, paranormal or adult non-fiction book, but still. I'm with Karen, hoping mine isn't reflected in this list anywhere.

    Having attended many weddings while pregnant, the best advice I have is to wear what matches for the service and bring a pair of comfy slippers for the reception. No one bothers a pregnant woman about her footwear. It's just too dangerous.

  7. Krista V. Says:

    Love these posts, Kate. Thanks.

  8. Adam Heine Says:

    I'm really impressed how you're able to keep the queries anonymous, yet still give enough information that this is really, really helpful. Thank you!

  9. Jess Says:

    As someone without a dad that article kinda bugs me. I mean, it's true. But I just hate generalizations.

  10. Kate Says:

    Jess, my dad died when I was a teenager in high school. But I also know I was just about the only person in my school at the time who'd had something like that happen to them. I think the article just points up the odds.

  11. Derrick Camardo Says:

    I've missed these. Thanks.

  12. Tessa Quin Says:

    I sincerely hope they'll never stop publishing vampire books! I love them. I don't write them myself, but I will never stop loving such books – agents/publishers fatigued or not. The readers are the market, after all.