You asked, I answer! Now it’s time for another live-blog of my queries. I’ve got over 100 in my inbox right now, but we’ll just see how many I can get through. To recap — this isn’t about making fun of anyone (aka, it’s not queryfail), but is hopefully just an exercise to help you see my thought process as I go through your query letters and try to find something with that incalculable “something” that makes me what to read more. Ready?
1. Not making things easy for me, are you? This one is a no, because it’s a format and age range that feel incompatible to me. It might work younger, with illustrations, in which case it would need to be shorter.
2. An adult police thriller. An easy no.
3. The query for the next one emphasized plot over the hook — not necessarily a bad thing, but in this case I felt like I had been told the entire story of the book, and didn’t need to read it for myself.
4. This next one felt rather amateurish to me — in that the author clearly loves what he’s writing, but isn’t going about things in the most professional way. The format, the sample, the letter: each felt a little off, a little not-ready-for-submission.
5. An interesting idea, but without any sample pages, all I have to go on for writing style is the query letter itself, and the voice there takes a backseat to the concept.
6. The writing in this one just isn’t polished enough.
7. Another in a long series of fantasy novels featuring the one outsider who can save the world. Opening pages, setting up character’s boredom, unfortunately cause that effect on the reader.
8. Not sure what gave the author of this next one the idea his book was middle grade, but it’s not. Also, authors, when you compare your book to my clients’ titles, are you condescending to them? Not a good idea.
9. Some interesting bits in this next one, but I wasn’t drawn in by the writing.
10. Well written, but more on the side of epic or traditional fantasy than is my preference to represent.
11. This next one was a tough decision. Strong writing, but it includes a paranormal element that I think might take away from the driving plot. For me, if I have doubts, that’s unlikely to turn into a yes, so I say no early (and hopefully less painfully).
12. Conceptually similar to a title I already represent, and I didn’t feel the characters were strong enough to stand on their own.
13. A non fiction query that might fit my interest in pop culture, but feels more sociological than pop. Beyond that, the voice is offputting to me.
14. Paranormal romance that doesn’t feel big enough for me — I like reading category romance, but it’s not what I want to represent. There’s a reason I don’t list “romance” on my submission interests and it’s useful for you to know, as authors, that that may mean I don’t have any contacts with editors in that world. Is that what you want from an agent?
15. MG fantasy that makes me rethink my stated interest in “quirky.” To me, “quirky” does not mean deliberate misspellings, excessive use of exclamation marks, and an overabundance of puns. And yet, many authors seem to think that’s what I mean.
16. Another novel more romance than mainstream women’s fiction, with some interesting literary allusions, but just not for me.
17. Traditional fantasy, well-written, from an author with nice credentials, but better for one of my colleagues that specializes in adult fantasy.
18. Adult literary novel with recent-historical social commentary. I’ve lost count of the ways this is wrong for me.
19. While I recognize a market for it, I’m not interested in YA or MG nonfiction.
20. Another adult thriller. Another easy no.
21. A YA mystery, but I’m overwhelmed and lost in the plot description included in the query, and the voice of the main character/narrator doesn’t appeal to me.
22. YA paranormal, but the writing feels too unpolished, and the synopsis has a squick-inducing plot that’s hard to get over.
23. A memoir, which might work for YA or MG, but the writing doesn’t appeal to me.
24. Chick lit, where I wished for more about the character before getting into a traditional everything-goes-wrong-before-it-goes-right plot.
25. Another category romance. Also, a note: there is no need for images in your emails to me. My mail program interprets them as attachments, and attachments may get your query deleted unread. Do yourself a favor and don’t risk it. No images. There’s no need.
On that note, I’m taking a break for lunch. More later!
And… we’re back!
26. Overly long women’s fiction with a story that just doesn’t draw me in. And by overly long, I’m talking over 200,000 words. May I direct you to this post by Moonrat which explains why we have general “no longer than” cut-offs for books?
27. An “unconventional” submission that gets a very conventional “no thank you.” Completely out of my stated interests.
28. As #26 was too long, #28 here is too short — the word count and voice are more appropriate for an early chapter book than a middle grade novel, which is fine, but not for me.
29. Women’s fiction with another girl-loses-everything-in-order-to-find-herself-and-love type of plots. May be great, but just didn’t draw me in.
30. A middle grade novel from a previously published author that feels a little too issue-driven (or rather, Important Theme-y) for me.
31. So you know how yesterday I said I was getting tired of paranormals with the same old vampires, werewolves, fairies, ghosts, and guardian angels? This is an angel book.
32. Adult novel on the literary side. Wrong for me.
33. Oh good, I was worried I wouldn’t have a chance to repeat one of my favorite comments: if I can play your novel as a D&D campaign, it’s not for me.
34. The idea that a novel written by a teenager represents a special closeness to the teen experience is nice, but it has to stand up against the writing quality of those who have spent years perfecting their craft.
35. My first request of the day! A middle grade novel that wasn’t immediately hook-y, but where the writing drew me in with the compelling voice of the main character. I’m curious enough about her to want to read what happens next.
36. To continue on with my thought from #34, a young writer’s book that isn’t about a young protagonist, without that “teen experience” as a selling point, is even harder to place. It’s all about the writing!
37. Another request! A YA high-tech thriller. Really curious to see what happens next.
38. Sigh. Why so much raping, authors? A dark adult novel with a paranormal aspect. I just don’t want to read more after a serious downer of an opening.
39. I think fellow Colorado lit agent Rachelle Gardner said something similar recently, but no, living in a small town does not give you a unique ability to write about small town life. Also, I’m wary of middle grade novels set in what appears to be the author’s own childhood — they often lack appeal for contemporary children.
40. Vampires. Why did it have to be vampires? And witches, and civil war, and I think I’ve seen this before.
41. I’ve said this before, too. Don’t query in the voice of your characters. Particularly when they’re dead things. It’s kinda creepy.
42. This one was a close one, but again, I tend to err on the side of saying no. Compelling idea, but it’s one that I feel has been done before, and I don’t know if the heroine’s voice is unique enough.
43. Without actually saying the word “superhero,” that’s what this feels like to me — an origin story. I already have two superhero novels on my list, so that’s enough for me.
44. Three! My third request — this one a YA crime novel that might fulfill that Veronica Mars yen I spoke about yesterday.
45. An unpersonalized email send to me via bcc. about the author’s self-published book. You may be seeking representation, but this comes across as unwelcome promotion, and is not for me.
Ok, this next one doesn’t earn a number. But emailing me that it’s too much work to include your first three pages in an email and that if I won’t take an attachment or snail mail means you won’t query me — well, is “good riddance” too harsh?
46. A little confusing. This one feels familiar, but I can’t find a record of it in my archives. So this could be either of two things: I saw it before and already made a decision, which I will stick to; or it’s familiar because it’s a lot like something I’ve already seen, which doesn’t speak well to originality and newness, as editors would see it. The lesson from this: if you’re resubmitting, TELL ME. If it’s a revision that you think would change my mind, make that clear (even though I don’t usually change my mind about revisions).
47. Memoir, without the pop culture aspect that would turn it into something I’m interested in representing.
Going to take a break now. Nowhere near the over 100 I had to look at, but with three requests, I consider it a fairly good day. Any questions, sing out in the comments.