Friday, July 16, 2010

Query Recap & Query Announcement

I’m getting ready to close for queries for a time, and given the state of my inbox, I think it’s probably a good idea. At the time I sat down to do this recap I had over 500 unanswered queries to get to. There’s no doubt that once I reach the 400 mark I’m overwhelmed, so when answering these queries there wasn’t much of a system to my approach. I started with the newer queries because that gives me the opportunity to weed out the easy rejections, things like children’s books, unrequested attachments, and other types of submissions that are nowhere near the type of book I represent; from there I randomly went from query to query.

In 45 minutes, early one morning, here’s what I got through:

  • Total Answered: 47
  • Of those total number that were nonfiction (the rest were fiction): 11
  • Total Rejected: 47
  • Requested Partials: 0
  • Number who attached the query instead of placing it in the body of the email: 1
  • Rejections in which I supplied more detailed information of why I was rejecting: 11 (Note that the reasons for these are usually because there are obvious problems: the book is a novella, the author has no idea how to write a query, the author’s platform isn’t enough for the subject matter, etc.)
  • Number of pre-queries: 1
  • Number of queries with too many (one is usually too many) exclamation points: 2
  • Letters deleted without being read: 2 (In one case it was because the author had submitted twice in a row, and yes, I realize this could have been computer/server error so I deleted one and responded to the other. In the other case the author’s query was obviously sent to 50+ agents).

Random thoughts:

  • I get a lot of “pre-queries” asking if we accept international submissions. We do, but even if you aren’t sure, just query. Let us be so wowed by your book that even if we didn’t, we will now.
  • I get a lot of submissions with fancy “letterhead”-looking paper. Made to look like a spiral notebook or resume paper. Don’t do this. It often makes the query hard to read. Remember the golden rule of queries: KISS—Keep It Simple Stupid (although I hate that word).
  • I know I’ve said this before, but I think it bears repeating. I am not interested in what your novel does. I am only interested in what your book is. In other words, I don’t care what mysteries it explores or what it will teach readers. That’s nonfiction. No one picks up fiction because they want to be taught a lesson. They want to read a story. I also don’t care how your book is written (first person narrative, etc.). Again, I want the story.
When finished I still have 450+ queries in my inbox, the oldest dating back to June 16. As I mentioned, I am closing for queries as of Monday. In other words, this is the last weekend to get your query in before Labor Day. My plan is to reopen September 7. During this time I will work to catch up on all reading, which includes queries, proposals, client work, and some books that don’t have anything to do with work at all.

If you receive an offer from another agent or publisher between July 19 and September 6 and you want me to participate in that offer, please email me with the word “offer” in the subject line. Whatever you do, do not include “query” or “submission,” since those subjects will automatically be deleted. And don’t try to trick me by putting anything other than “query” or “submission” in an email query. I am not taking queries no matter how you try to get around the system.


Oh, and one final word, five authors replied to my rejection letters. Most were to thank me, one was to supply information that wasn't included in the letter in the hopes of swaying me, and one was to tell me that it wasn't a query, just a note to ask if I wanted to see the proposal.

***Did you really think I would have only one final word? Silly people.

Janet Reid just posted an interesting blog asking readers their opinions of the practice of agents closing for submissions. If you have a moment pop on over and give your opinion. I did put something up myself, but if any of you are worried let me fill you in on a few things.

Anyone who queries during the time I'm "away" will receive an automatic reply letting them know that I am not accepting queries, that their query will be deleted, and asking them to resubmit in September. I'm very aware that being closed to queries might mean a few missed opportunities and for years I've been afraid to close for that very reason. The truth though is that I need a break. Summer is upon us and I would like the time to hit the pool with my family, lose myself in a good beach read and prepare my desk for a fresh start in September. I want to be enthusiastic about queries and new authors and sometimes the best way to do that is to reboot myself and take time to recharge. This is my time to recharge.

Someone on Janet's blog thought it was very European or very French. I like that. It means I can pretend I'm sitting on the Riveria instead of the concrete of my neighbor's pool.