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A Peek in the Query Pile

I know my Live Blogs of my queries are usually a big hit, and since I’ve spent a good amount of time this weekend reading, I wanted to share some thoughts about some of what I saw. My fellow Colorado lit agent Sara Megibow often tweets a weekly #10Queriesin10Tweets, so think of this as a slightly longer version of that, while still shorter than a full live blog. As always, I don’t do this to call out any one writer, but hopefully to give a sense of what might make an agent say yes or no after reading a few pages. Ready?


  1. Pass. Contemporary MG. Interesting concept, but weak writing, plus a number of grammatical mistakes.
  2. Pass. YA paranormal (I think. It’s unclear.) Another interesting concept, and a great opening paragraph, but the author makes a common mistake and keeps things way too vague in the rest of the query. Of course you don’t want to give away the twists and turns of your narrative, but you need to be specific enough to intrigue me.
  3. Pass. Short story collection for MG, which isn’t an automatic pass, though it is close. The real reason I’m declining is because the author doesn’t tell me anything about the plots, and instead focuses on the lessons to be learned in reading the stories.
  4. Pass. Contemporary YA novel, with unfortunately weak writing, so much so that it was hard to even get a handle on the query.
  5. Pass. A YA fantasy novel highly dependent on issues of destiny and prophecy, which I find a challenge to enjoy.
  6. Pass. Adult mystery/suspense, which I don’t represent.
  7. Pass. Another adult novel, this one a suspense/mystery. (I wonder what the difference is?)
  8. Pass. Self-help. Although this is more practical minded than most self-help, it still isn’t something I rep.
  9. Pass. Another YA about a prophecy and a chosen one. In addition, the author neglects to include the sample pages I request in my submission guidelines. While they might not have convinced me, you should always give yourself every change to win over an agent, and that includes sending what they ask to see.
  10. Pass. A series of books for young children on dealing with difficult situations. Again, these are books pitched for the lessons they impart, not the stories they tell.
  11. Pass. Adult fantasy, which is usually a pass anyway, but this one clocks in at over 200,000 words. Way too long for me! (And I don’t just mean length of time to read — I can’t believe that a book that long doesn’t need major pruning.)
  12. Pass. YA with definite adult category romance stylings. That said, I don’t get much of a sense of the plot, only the set-up that puts the plot in motion.
  13. Taking a closer look. YA sci fi (which seems to be of great interest to me right now!).  Quirky, poking fun at the usual overdone trends, and coming up with something interesting. Worth a closer look.
  14. Pass. Women’s fiction based on the author’s own life.  Besides the fact that I don’t represent women’s fiction, I’d not sure opening with the fact that it’s autobiographical is your strongest selling point.
  15. Pass. Another women’s fiction. While it’s true I used to look for this, after three years of being open to it, and not finding anything of interest, it’s no longer something I seek, which has been noted on my submissions page for several months, if not a year.
  16. Pass. YA sci fi again, but with weak writing.
  17. No response. This is a repeat of a query sent four days previously, to which I’d already passed. Even seeing hundreds of queries a month, if not more, I still have a pretty good memory, and if something sounds familiar, I will doublecheck my files to see if I already saw it.
  18. No response again, for the same reason. Guys, I know I’ve been behind, but resending a query a week or so after you send it the first time, when my stated response time is within two weeks, just stinks of spamming.
  19. Pass. YA ghost story that just feels like I’ve seen it before.
  20. Pass. Women’s fiction. Ergo, not a genre I represent.

So there you have it! That’s actually a pretty good sampling of my query inbox — out of 20 emails, I’m taking a closer look at just one. Seven of the queries were for genres I don’t rep, so figure about 35% of my queries are misdirected — but still take time to answer.

With these kind of numbers, why do I still accept queries? Because there are some AMAZING manuscripts in there, and I LOVE finding them. The last three clients I signed — Elizabeth Briggs, Krista Van Dolzer, and Susan Adrian — all came to me via my query inbox. You might be next!

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