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.

Jessica

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.

21 comments:

wry wryter said...

Have a wonderful summer getting caught up.

Though the engine isn't on idle at least your foot is off the peddle for awhile.

Feels good to coast, wind in your hair, bugs in your teeth.

lora96 said...

Off topic:

I had a prof in grad school who elucidated the acronym as Keep It Sweet and Simple to avoid using "stupid". :)

B.E. Sanderson said...

Thanks for the heads-up. That works perfectly. It means I have time to get this manuscript polished and then send it when you're not so buried. =o)

Fawn Neun said...

Pre-queries are kind of tedious, aren't they?

Martha Ramirez said...

Hope you enjoy your time away from queries, Jessica. Much neeeded.

And happy reading:)

Anonymous said...

Jessica,
I wish more agents would close themselves to queries if need be rather than writers having to wait sometimes (as I have) six months for a query answer when an agency's guideline said one month.

Tricia said...

Jessica,
Good for you. You deserve it. Have lots of fun, don't get too crispy at the pool.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Jessica, I love you and your agenting style and always have.I adore my agent, but feel honored to have been asked for two partials from you while I was in the querying stage.

Taking a break from queries is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. It allows you to take time for yourself and your family and come back refreshed.

Enjoy your summer!

Kate Douglas said...

Recharging is as important as the work, IMHO. If you don't take the time for yourself, what was once a joy becomes a job, and when that happens, there's no magic to be found.

Enjoy your break--don't forget the sunblock!

Jessica Scott said...

I think it is a better plan to close and catch up than continue to sink beneath the weight of the overfull inbox. Everyone needs a break and by not accepting queries, you are telling writers not to wait to hear from you and allowing them to move on rather than wait for an answer that may be six or more months down the road if you didn't close.
You're doing everyone a service by closing. You, because you get to relax and catch up and get back after it refreshed when you come back in September. And writers, because they know when you do get back after it and the sub in september, you won't have an inbox with 1000 email queries in it.
Just my thoughts. Enjoy your vacation.

Jane Steen said...

I think I'll repeat (and expand) on what I commented on Janet Reid's blog.

Agents are self-employed business people. As such they get to run their business any way they like as long as they pay their taxes and abide by the general rules of good business.

You are perfectly entitled to shut up shop so that you can catch up with work and give your existing clients your attention. If we writers don't like that, we can go elsewhere. Personally, if I decide to query you I'll just wait till you're open for business again.

Have a good summer!

Anne-Marie said...

Have a great break from it all. Enjoy the summer, it's too short not to!

XX
AM

rissawrites said...

I agree with several others- I would rather not submit to an agent who is overwhelmed with queries.

It makes perfect sense to close and get caught up.

Enjoy your vacation.

Jolene said...

I really never get bored hearing what's in your inbox. Why is this fascinating? I have no idea.
Enjoy your catch-up/hopefully get ahead time.

Kelly Wittmann said...

"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 hate to say this, but writers (especially newbies) take this kind of comment from an agent as an excuse to do all kinds of things. "Well, they SAY they don't rep such-and-such, but my query will change their minds."

Anonymous said...

Looked at Janet's blog comments. Doctors do indeed stop taking new patients, so there is a precedence for that.

I'm agented, but even if I wasn't, I'd rather an agent close shop to queries than take them and let them languish for longer than usual. And "usual" can be months.

Enjoy yourself, Jessica, and renew!

Lesli Muir Lytle said...

Great idea, Ms. Faust!

I think you should feel free to break from blogging, also. I'm going to take your lead and take a break from reading industry blogs, etc.

A NYTBSA said recently, at a conference, that he wouldn't change much about what he'd done to get where he was. If he'd known it would take as long as it had, he'd have still done it.

But the things he would change were the times he'd pushed his family aside for a deadline, the missed bbqs, family gatherings, etc.

I'm taking his advice too. In a slow moving industry, I've been doing to much hurry-up-and-waitin' and it's time to slow down...and wait.

Happy Vacation! I like the French term better--Diversion. Many Happy Diversions.

Lesli

R.M.Gilbert said...

Jessica,

One quick question. Do you still plan on blogging while you're away? I tend to drop in here several times a week and enjoy your updates, informative posts, occasional rants. *smiles*

Thanks for the heads up on the return date. My WIP should be ready about the time you come back. If all goes as planned. With 3 kiddos at home it's not always that simple.

Enjoy your downtime.

Nichole Giles said...

Everyone deserves a break. I hope you enjoy yours. Just pretend that concrete is really white sand, and be sure to wear sunscreen and sunglasses.

Lucy said...

I think a break is VERY reasonable: not only that, but if agents followed the school year and closed from June to September, I'd still think it was a good idea. As others have said, it's nicer to get a timely response--once the querying is open again--than to be buried in an endless slush pile.

Of course, it's what you might call a working vacation, but do enjoy some of the time off! :-)

Gayle Pescud said...

Thanks for your excellent posts. I have read a lot but not commented. 20 emails gives me the shivers so I cannot imagine how it is to face an inbox of hundreds of queries. All the best.