Sunday, September 30, 2012

10 Queries in 10 Tweets recap

I just did a stirring round of 10 Queries in 10 Tweets (this meme shamelessly stolen from the brilliant Sara Megibow) where I go through the slush pile and tweet my reaction - what the category is, if I am passing or requesting, and why.

I don't do this in "real time" exactly, so it is pointless to try and figure out if I'm talking about you specifically. (I'm not.) I sometimes conflate multiple queries and I do NOT quote directly from query letters, and if there is a point to be made that would require a quote, I invent one to prove the point. I'm not interested in shaming any writers or being snarky or making people feel personally "dissed" -- the point of the exercise is to see the general tenor of the slush pile, the ratio of requests to passes (and the amount of it that's nothing I rep, etc.) I try to be helpful. And it is just MY perspective, I cannot say what any other agents' reactions would be to the exact same query. All that said, here are my takeaways:

* I knew this already, but now it is confirmed: At least half my slush pile is stuff I don't represent or it doesn't follow query guidelines. This is a waste of my time and your own.

* It's been said before, but seriously, if you don't follow query guidelines, or you write a messy letter, you're only hurting yourself. I don't ask for much... what's the problem? Pick one agent at the agency. Put Query in the subject line. Query and first 10 pages in the body of the email. Still, many people don't paste pages in, even though we specifically ask for them. A lot of that is forgetfulness, I reckon, and I realize everyone makes mistakes. Same goes for typos - one, OK sure. More than that? Come on. This is possibly one of the more important emails you can write. Double check spelling, grammar, agent name, and that you've followed guidelines before pressing send!

* Every day I have at least one querier who makes a point of mentioning that they will not share their work unless I reach out and contact them. I guess it's like the writers version of Stranger Danger? They are afraid random agents are going to ... steal their ideas? Or something? This is my best guess. But I don't have the time or inclination to chase after you. And if you're that unclear about how publishing works, I'm afraid we probably won't be a great fit for each other anyway. I can't assess your work if you don't show it to me.

* Of the viable queries that are left, 90% are YA. The thing is, I already represent lots of amazing YA books. This means I am not "hungry" for YA and I am VERY picky. I tend to go through these teen queries very quickly and am less inclined to give a second read or request a full unless it is very much up my alley or something extremely fresh that I've not seen before. It's just chemistry, baby, you know it when you read it. (But to start: GREAT VOICE and AWESOME PREMISE, along with some combo of smarts, wit, tension, high stakes, emotion, terrific writing? Likely to get my attention.) There's a glut, which means YA queries have to really spark, or they aren't going to be requested. Seriously. In fact, I don't just want a spark, I want FIREWORKS.

* Conversely, because I get relatively few Middle Grade queries (and because I really WANT MG) - I tend to consider each MG extra-favorably. These queries very often end up in my "think about" file for a closer and more thoughtful read, and are more likely to end up as full requests. (That doesn't mean I'm taking them all on - just that I'm looking a bit harder at them and giving them an extra chance.)

Is this helpful? I don't know. What would make it more helpful?

12 comments:

  1. I have nothing to add since this post is brilliant except to reiterate how important double checking your query is. When I queried my first ms a few years ago, I had accidentally typed in the phrase 'highly retarded agent' instead of 'highly regarded agent'. Spellcheck did not catch this. READ YOUR QUERY OUT LOUD.

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    1. Marsha, you made me laugh out loud. Comedy = tragedy + time.

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  2. I found this helpful. So much of the query process on the agent end is a mystery. It made me hopeful as I followed the directions correctly (I'm in the top 50%), but down as my query is for YA. What do you mean by fireworks? A spirited voice? A unique concept?

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    1. Again, it's not meant to be dispiriting. It's just a fact: I have a ton of YA. I don't need YA. I can afford to be extremely picky, and so I am.

      As for what I'd fall for... I don't know. What makes anyone like anything? It's like, I can say "I like guys who are between 5'8-5'10 with brown hair and green eyes." But I certainly don't like ALL guys who fit that description, and I may like guys who don't fit that description at all. In fact, the chances are quite good that the person I'd fall most in love with would not fit into what I consider "my type" at all. And just like every person is unique, every book is unique. But my fancy is more likely to be struck by something that is not only unique but has some combo of the characteristics I describe in the post.

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  3. Dionna12:27 PM

    I've received typos in letters from awesome editors, another author's name in rejections from amazing agents, a different manuscript other than mine named in a contract, seen grammatical errors on respected publishers' websites... All I can say is, I expected the land of publishing to be the hallmark for accuracy of the written word, but have not always found it so, (though it generally is). I've concluded that all this hurried multi-tasking we do makes us ALL mistake-prone. At least, that makes me feel better when I blunder (though I try hard not to!).

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  4. I found this EXTREMELY helpful, especially since my query to be coming your way very soon is for MG. It also took a lot of the not so mysterious mystery out of the life of an agent. Simple- do your homework, follow the rules, cross your T's, dot your I's, and you stand a fare chance. Not hard. The easier you make the agent's job, the easier it will be to make it through the slush pile. :)

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  5. Anonymous2:44 PM

    I have a query question: If the submission guidelines say that you will get an automatic email confirming receipt (of your query) but you don't, should you re-query the agent? Or should you just pray to the internet gods and hope for the best? Thanks!

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    1. Well, I can only answer for myself. For MYSELF, I know for a fact my auto-responder is on and everyone gets it if their query worked.

      So if you DIDN'T get it - your query didn't work, it went into spam or something. Could be you have an email address my spam filter doesn't like (too many numbers or something like that) - you might try again from a different email.

      I can't speak for any other agent.

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  6. Anonymous6:01 AM

    Oh, brilliant. Thanks for your reply.

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  7. Very helpful! I'm glad I found your blog not to mention made errors with submitting my query. If only I had found it first. lol :-)

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  8. Anonymous8:35 PM

    I plan to submit to you. I have been trying so hard to make my novel flawless. I was just wondering for a young adult book how many pages or words should there be? Also what should be the page size and the size of the margins?

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