It’s been a while since we’ve done this, and I have just over 50 queries in my inbox to get all caught up on, so I figured it’s time for another live blog! As always, my goal here isn’t to be mean or petty, but to give my brief comments on what about each query makes me say yes or no, in as an anonymous manner as I can. Hope it’s informative!
1. I like the idea of this, but the writing seemed unnecessarily gory, and I worried about the likability of the MC.
2. Not really my genre — call it lad lit, if you will.
3. Women’s Fiction that takes a pinch of multiple cliches and combines it with a dash of spiritualism. Not for me. I’ll admit the use (and lack thereof) of commas was a deterrent as well.
4. Again, writers, it’s more than ok to round up or down your word count. 58, 979 can be 59,000. For reals. Otherwise, this just seems like too much to me.
5. I feel like I’m seeing a lot of past lives/time travel romances. Is that just me? The writing on this didn’t sell me on the difficult concept to nail.
6. Another trope — the teen girl who moves to a new school, finds mysterious boyfriend, gets involved in something paranormal. Not saying it can’t work, but it needs to be SPECTACULAR, not just reminiscent of other books.
7. I imagine it’s tough to query me on women’s fiction — I’ve read a lot, but represented few. I do know I prefer humor to pathos, and would rather read something happy than sad. This is a little too much of the later.
8. This should interest me, but for some unable-to-quantify reason, just doesn’t. Totally not the author’s fault. Just goes to show how very personal this business is.
9. Another time travel romance, this one women’s fiction. Feels more category than break-out to me.
10. I’m afraid the writing just isn’t up to par in this memoir.
11. Once again, authors, don’t pitch your book by demeaning other stuff out there in the marketplace. No one likes the guy who snarks on everyone. I’m all about the positivity, please.
12. Sure, it’s possible that you’re so overwhelmed by the pressure of writing a good query that everything you learned about grammar and spelling go out the window. But I want to work with authors who consistently know how to write.
13. Interesting idea, but completely overwritten. Be wary of extra adjectives, and try not to go crazy with the thesaurus, ok? Rexroth has a favorite quote: “Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.”
14. Recovery memoir. Definitely not for me.
15. Also out of my interests. Well, I suppose this could be considered women’s fiction, in a pinch, but it’s again on the depressing side of things.
16. An offer of a revised manuscript, which I decline. Unless I specifically ask to see a revision, trust me, you’re better off taking my no as final, and taking your revised manuscript on a fresh, new round of submissions.
17. A first novel that feels like exactly that. Very rough, and the author could use the benefit of knowledge that SCBWI offers to its members to learn how to submit, as well as the boundaries of certain categories within the children’s book world.
18. Please don’t tell me about the lessons the characters learn. Tell me about the story.
19. A request! Middle grade with a voice that jumps off the page. It may help that I can perfectly picture the scene the author sets in the first few pages, having been where she describes, but it’s the voice that entices me to read more.
20. Again, this decision is based on voice — in this case, the narrative voice doesn’t work for me.
21. I think some authors use a Mad Libs formula to draft queries. Take one [orphaned/abandoned/lonely] teen who moves to a new [school/town/country] and always felt [ordinary/overlooked] until [he/she] suddenly discovers [special powers/love/secret mission/destiny]. Rinse and repeat. Yes, ok, you could use that formula to tell the story of several very popular novels — but you want yours to STAND OUT, right? So be original!
22. Action thriller. Not for me.
23. Repeated query for a screenplay, which I declined last week. Also, I don’t represent screenplays.
24. I think I’d like reading this book for fun, but I’m not in love enough to represent.
25. I imagine there’s more than a few agents on the lookout for wacky Southern fiction. If that’s al it is, however, I don’t think I’m one of them.
26. Just didn’t feel the writing was where it needed to be in this YA novel. Also, authors should beware the ellipses, except in speech — and there, use it only sparingly.
27. I like the writing here, but the plot feels like it’s been done to death already, with comparisons to a couple of books I didn’t exactly love.
28. An interesting idea, but the writing’s not where it needs to be.
29. Beginnings are tough, but that’s where you can win or lose a reader. This one didn’t nab my attention.
30. I feel like I’ve seen this plot a dozen or more times recently, and the writing doesn’t stand out enough for me.
[Ok, taking a break for lunch and errand-running. Will do my best to finish my queries later this afternoon.]
[And we’re back!]
31. Quirky, funny voice, but it feels similar (in tone if not in plot) to a current client’s work. No, but something I could easily see getting picked up elsewhere.
32. Just not compelled by the plot, and I’m put off by a narrator that speaks directly to the reader.
33. Middle grade plot with possibilities, but the writing felt a bit like talking down to the audience.
34. The writing isn’t polished enough, and the plot feels like a mishmash of several other MG tropes.
35. I tripped over the hook on this queries, which featured a plethora of incompatible verb tenses. I’m not the world’s best copyeditor, but do be sure to read your query aloud before sending it off, and make sure it sounds right.
36. Chick lit that feels somewhat like the Shopaholic books — in that the hapless heroine seems to fall into all sort of manner of scrapes. I like reading the books, but all too often they leave me feeling too frustrated for words.
37. I’ve been sitting here trying to express how to work my reason for declining this one, but nothing comes to mind. it’s fine, I guess, just doesn’t do anything for me.
38. I do usually like post-apocalyptic stories, but I didn’t love the voice in this one.
39. A big ole “no” on many levels: illustrated, self-published, handwritten, with blurbs from readers… please don’t make me go on.
40. Funny: this is the second query in a week featuring a MC with the same rare condition. I requested the previous one, which was YA — this is adult, and doesn’t quite measure up.
41. Getting near the end. Woot! The language in this MG just feels slightly awkward, and again features the lone child who can save a world.
42. Query from an obviously accomplished writer, but it’s literary fiction, and not for me.
43. You’d think an English teacher would catch an obvious mistake in the first sentence of their query, but you’d be wrong. I’d debate the point that just because you work with kids, you know how to write for them. It helps, certainly, but it’s not the only qualification.
44. Ok, so no one’s saying you can’t take a concept someone else may have tried and make it your own. But I would steer away from using familiar “x meets y” analogies to describe your story when someone else has already used them. The Luxe is known as Gossip Girl in the Golden Age, for instance. Find another way to tell me about your pitch.
45. Great concept, but the writing doesn’t keep up.
Ok, so a few short of 50, but the other emails in my query inbox were either questions of a different sort, repeat queries, or response from Intern Jenny on requested partials (she’s reading along with me, but all final decisions are my own). As always, I hope this is helpful! And for those of you keeping track at home, out of 45 queries, I requested one partial.
And I can now report that I am ALL CAUGHT UP, so if you’ve sent an email and did not receive a response, please check your spam filter, and if you still haven’t heard from me, do feel free to resend your query (with a note that it is a resubmission) and I’ll get to it within two weeks.