Pub Rants

Queries—A Wrap Up

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STATUS: I’m actually doing a reading day—client stuff mostly but I did read 200 pages of a full manuscript last night and I’m going to pass. Why? Because the secondary plot ended up hijacking the story and I kept wondering where the two main protagonists had gotten to. So folks, remember that. A great subplot can really create terrific complexity and round out a novel but if the reader is more interested in the secondary characters with the subplot, Houston, we have a problem.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? WILD HORSES by U2

It’s Friday! And I thought it would be fun to round out the week with the top ten things that drive me crazy in queries. Pet Peeves. Now remember, I only accept queries via email so some of my peeves revolve around this medium.

10.Writers who CC at least 50 other agents on the email query.

Yep, that’s designed to make me feel special. Not. Also, email queries that do this tend to end up in my Spam folder.

9. Queries with email subject lines that read, “Pity the fool who passes up this bestseller” or something of the like

Now that’s guaranteed to get me to quirk my right eyebrow in disbelief. On principle that gets an auto NO.

8. Queries that begin with “I know you don’t represent XYZ but I’m convinced that if you just took a look at this work, it would be right for you.”

Even good writing isn’t going to get me to like a book in genre I don’t care for.

7. Queries that open up with a complaint that it’s so darn hard to get an agent.


6. Query backgrounds with color or cutesy backdrops and strange fonts.

I’m really not looking forward to bifocals. Please don’t speed up the process.

5. A query that outlines 10 full manuscript projects in excruciating detail.

Enough said. Query one work at a time.

4. My XYZ novel is 300,000 words and it’s the first in a trilogy.

Agent runs screaming.

3. You’ve rejected me before but …

Sheesh. Never highlight your unsuccess!

2. My novel would make a great Hollywood film.

Okay, how many times have I ranted about this topic? Don’t worry, I won’t get started again.

1. Queries that begin with “This novel is the next Da Vinci Code.”

Folks, my agency doesn’t represent books like the Da Vinci Code. And quit beating that poor dead horse.

Have a great weekend. Until Monday…

25 Responses

  1. 2readornot said:

    I’m hoping you’re mostly sarcastic with these…but if not, then at least I do one thing (make that ten) right! 🙂

  2. Lara said:

    How about “My novel is 90,000 words and it’s the first in a trilogy?”

    (Was it the “word count,” or the “first in a trilogy” part that sent you off screaming?)

  3. Kathleen said:

    Writers who CC at least 50 other agents on the email query.

    I just cannot fathom anyone actually doing that. (not that I am saying I don’t believe you, just that I can’t imagine what those people are thinking!)

  4. Kathleen said:

    Was it the “word count,” or the “first in a trilogy” part that sent you off screaming?

    my uninformed guess is that it is the combination of the two.

  5. Julie said:

    My guess would be that huge alone (300K words) is not good, but topping it off by saying it’s a trilogy is downright scary!

    Kind of like if Gone with the Wind was a trilogy. Too much of a good thing, maybe?

  6. Dhewco said:

    Heh, I sent Kristin a question (not a query) in which I mentioned last year’s failed requested sample…gee, maybe I should wait another six months or so before I do ‘er again? (with a different novel) LOL

    Btw, the question was about whether she’d include alternative history in scifi/fantasy.

  7. Kimber An said:

    Impatience. I’ve seen similar complaints from other people in the publishing industry and I believe most of it boils down to impatience on the part of the writer. Everything you need to know to write a good email query can be found in a few good books from the library, online writers’ groups (Critique Circle is my personal favorite,) and agents’ websites. Anyone can read these, if they take the time. We can only encourage each other in this, I think.

  8. Maprilynne said:

    Dear Kristyn Nelsin, Jenny Bent, Nephele Tempest, Lucienne Diver, Jennifer Jackson and Nadia Cornier,

    I know many of you don’t represent New Age thrillers, but it’s so agonizing to find an agent these days that I have to try everyone, no matter what. And this novel is so great I know you won’t be able to pass it up. It is a fascinating mix of Harry Potter and the DaVinci Code. If you focus only on my genre and not the story, I know you’ll regret it later. My half-finished manuscript, entitled Haven’t Got A Brain is 200,000 words so far and I plan six more in this exciting saga.

    Now you probably recognize my name cuz you’ve all rejected me like six times already, but this is the real deal this time. This book has the potential to sell to every foreign market and be the biggest blockbuster hit since Lord of the Rings. You can’t pass this up!

    This book is so great it doesn’t even need a summary paragraph, however, I have a ten-page synopsis for this and the next six books just waiting for you! Can I send you my novel and also have you take another look at the last five I sent you? You don’t know what you’re missing!

    Nada Clew

    P.S. I usually use my fabulously cute bunny and kitty stationary, but I’m afraid your blog doesn’t accept such things.

    (wink!) Aprilynne

  9. December Quinn said:

    Queries with email subject lines that read, “Pity the fool who passes up this bestseller” or something of the like

    Yes, but would that apply if it was Mr. T’s autobiography?

    (I know it’s not your thing but I couldn’t resist!)

  10. Kimber An said:

    I’m in the process of critting novels that are about 300,000 words long right now! I was just about through one and my critter friend up and tells me it’s 150,000 words (I was up to about 100,000) and it’s only Part 1! I choked on my coffee and then spewed it all over the computer screen! And hers isn’t the only one like that I’m critting over at Critique Circle. Writers can learn a lot from critting each other’s work. One thing I’ve learned is when a novel is very long it’s usually because there’s just tons of stuff. There is a great story underneath all of that, but the writer will have to grit her teeth and find some really patient critters to help her revise it. I call that process ‘Slash & Burn’ and, yes, it can be as painful as it sounds. I’ve never written anything that long, but I’ve still had to ‘Slash & Burn’ and, yes, I screamed! Revise, revise,revise. It’s work, but it won’t happen by itself and you won’t get published if you don’t do it. Get thee to a writers’ group, either in real life or on-line. You’ll be glad you did.

  11. Rebecca said:

    This blog is wonderful. It gives writers the insight they crave (is that too strong of a word? nah). I love reading your blog. I read your article on Back Space called, “From Post Box To Agency Inbox: An Insider Look At How An Agent Reads and Evaluates The Requested Sample Pages For Your Novel.” And it is a wonderful piece of information. I work in a funeral home and to just actually be there in the midst of grieving people all the time you have to laugh sometimes just to keep your sanity. You get so busy that crazy things happen. I have done such bazaar things like paint the nails of a deceased lady three different times because her daughter didn’t like the color. And once had to put the phone to the ear of a dead man so his neice could tell him good-bye because she wouldn’t be able to make the funeral. I’m pretty sure he didn’t hear her, but I found my face leaned in very close to the corpse’s head listening to what she was saying on the phone and then I realized I was face to face with a dead man. Gee Whiz…I think I peed a little when I realized what I was doing. So, when you say… “Five percent is so poorly written, it’s laughable.” I totally get that. There are some things you have to laugh at and just go on. Thanks for the service you provide.

  12. lizzie26 said:

    There are several very good and informative agents’ blogs, and several very good and informative writer’s sites. Why can’t writers read these things first before they query????

  13. Kimber An said:

    Well, we weren’t all born knowing everything there is to submit a book for publication. I didn’t send my baby back when she was born not knowing how to walk. These things take time and patience.

  14. bloorstreet said:

    I would have thought that anything having to do with a dark and stormy night would be number one. I suspect that a literary agent sees pretty much all the bad there is to see making the few good queries or submissions that much better.

  15. Ryan Field said:

    #10 has to be the worst. Maybe it’s the reason why so many of the truly exclusive agencies only take queries by mail.

  16. Maggie said:

    Is it just me or is the DaVinci Code the written version of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Is that really what writers are supposed to aspire to?