STATUS: It’s Tuesday and really hot here in Denver. It hit 99 degrees. This is silly. I live a mile above sea level. A mile. 5280 to be exact. We have mild summers. Mild do you hear me! I feel slightly better now. Had to work on that contract. I reviewed it this morning to decide what was worth getting grubby and fighting for. And there was a little bit of exciting news too but I can’t reveal it quite yet.
What song is playing on the iPod right now? YOU DON’T MESS AROUND WITH JIM by Jim Croce
I’ve got a great rant today.
I just have to remember that I am a nice agent and I only rant politely. I leave the snarkiness to Miss Snark. Ah, the temptation though.
I sent out a NO response for a poorly done query that I reviewed and sure enough, not five minutes later, I got a reply email. In it, the writer said that although she wasn’t any good at writing query letters, the novel was indeed masterful and I should rethink my NO and ask for sample pages.
Uh… No thank you.
In the beginning of my agency, I didn’t receive as many queries as I do currently and I would often give the query writer the benefit of the doubt. If the concept was interesting, despite the unpromising query letter, I would ask for sample pages. Maybe, just maybe, the novel was masterful where the query letter was not.
In almost five years (and thousands upon thousands of query letters), this has never happened. Basically, the sample pages lived up to the expectation given by the query letter—which basically means it didn’t measure up.
If you are a terrific writer, you’ll master the query letter. You’ll do everything in your power to get the feedback you need to make it the best it can be. Why? Because you take your career seriously, and you know that the query letter may be the best (and sometimes only) way to open the door to an agent or an editor.
Now, just to clarify (because there is always somebody who reads this blog and jumps to conclusions), I’m not suggesting that if I sent you a NO that your query was poorly written. It may be a great query but it just wasn’t right for me. We unfortunately can’t take the time (given the volume of what we receive) to tell folks, “yep, good query but not for us” or “OMG what a terribly written query, definitely not right for us.”
We just have the standard response letter.
So as a writer, how will you know if your query letter is any good?
Did you run the query letter by folks at the critique mill who know what makes a good one? (I hear Evil Editor is doing some query dissing and critiquing over at that site.)
Are you getting any requests for partials? If not, well, your query letter isn’t masterful. Or even if you are just getting a tiny number of requests like let’s say 1 or 2 out of every 50 queries sent. Not masterful enough.
And I have never read a bad query letter only to read the sample pages and get blown away by incredible writing.
Now I have read great query letters, asked for sample pages, and not have the partial measure up to the terrific query. And that is always heartbreaking.