Monday, July 19, 2010

Query Red Flags

These are actual details from query letters that ultimately caused me to reject the query almost immediately. To me these are red flags, or obvious signs that either the work isn’t ready or the author and I are not compatible.

I have written three books and three screenplays in the past three months.

My thought: written, but not edited or revised


I am writing this book to promote my website and business.

My thought: I would like you to think of the book as a business separate from your other work. It’s also just not that easy.


We are not interested in a contract that does not provide an advance something on the order of six figures.

My thought: While it’s admirable to have high hopes, this particular genre is not going to garner that type of advance for a debut author, and I do not want to waste my time working with an author who is likely to turn down any other offer we get.

Jessica

29 comments:

Heidi Norrod said...

Six figures for a debut! Wow, to me that sounds snobby. As for the other ones.... I honestly don't know what to say. I always thought the purpose of a query is to make the author sound good, not make every agent run for the hills.

Thanks for the post! :)

Megan said...

I find it really hilarious the comments you get from potential clients!

But I also like how you can read between the lines - today at work my boss got an email from an employee that was addressed to the former boss, even though the email address AND the email the worker was replying to were both from the new boss.

My boss said, "well, obviously I'm not going to get her in to do anything that requires an eye for detail!"

Red Boot Pearl said...

Ha! Love the six figure comment... sounds like they'll go far.

Stanislas Neparkovat said...

Six figs for an advance? I'd call that realistic. But that's just me. Why shoot lower?

I only despise those who say they don't do it for the monkey.

you might as well shoot high. Of course it helps to know da Bidness

wry wryter said...

Jessica, what you posted proves that arrogance and entitlement breed stupidity and information and humility gives birth to success.

But cha gotta be brave, gotta have balls.

I think those sentiments are worth at least six integers.

Kate Douglas said...

Some day I'd just LOVE to sift through your in box...it's amazing what you actually get from some folks!

Joseph L. Selby said...

As a debut author, I would be stoked if I got a five-figure deal. :)

And six mss in three months is certainly a red flag, but I'm always nervous about assigned requisite time to the creative process since people work at different speeds and have different amounts of time to commit.

I wrote two mss last year and had more than one person, without ever reading either work, tell me I did not spend enough time editing if I was able to finish two in a year. That annoyed me.

Happy Jackass said...

well I was a debut author and I did get a six figure advance.

Now I'm finishing up book Number 2 and about to send it to editor who already said she doesn't like it.

five figs? two figs? a pogo stick and some Arby's two-for-one coupons?

BookEnds, LLC said...

Let me pipe in to say there's nothing wrong with shooting for the stars and why shouldn't everyone want six figures for a debut or otherwise? The difference are those who present as if they will settle for nothing less and I've seen many of those--people who say flat out not to bother unless I can get them six figures.

I'd rather not bother.

--jhf

Tere Kirkland said...

People actually write such pompous crap about potential advances in query letters?

Not only is that rude and presumptuous, it burns bridges by limiting your options.

I've never seen a practice query letter that included demands before, either. But hey, if you're a demanding person, better to just get that out in the open right off the bat. ;)

Bill Greer said...

I was curious about the use of the pronoun "We" in expecting the six-figure advance. Did more than one person write the book? I know this happens some times (Nanny Diaries, Freakonomics).

J.V. Altharas said...

Damn, I just snuck a query in before you closed and I completely forgot to demand an eight figure advance and a pony.

While crafting queries I've been reading every "query don'ts" post I can find. It seems sad to me that these writers went to all the trouble to bang out a novel then cut themselves off at the legs like this with their queries.

Oh well, less competition for me I suppose :)

S Spann said...

Oh man...I didn't know I could ask for a pony.

So publishing IS all unicorns and rainbows?

Brad Jaeger said...

Reading excerpts of other people's query letters usually makes me feel less incompetent, and delightfully amused :)

The tone of the third writer in particular resonated as brash and uncompromising.

Lisa_Gibson said...

Craziness. Some people have all the nerve. ;)

Aspiring Author said...

Wow. You do get some crazy types. Don't really know what to say about those...
But, the more down-to-eartn writers might agree that these tips can help improve the aspiring author-agent relationship...
http://aspiringwriterworld.blogspot.com/2010/07/wonder-of-automatic-response-and-other.html
Hope you'll all chime in!

Kristin Laughtin said...

The difference are those who present as if they will settle for nothing less and I've seen many of those--people who say flat out not to bother unless I can get them six figures.

This is what I find so hilarious about the whole situation. "Oh, five figures is much too low. What on earth would we do with that?" Perhaps you should write back and offer them what J.V. Altharas requested. Surely they would like a pony as well. Perhaps it will help them carry all that money to the bank!

Sheila Cull said...

That author that wants the six figure advance would be so fortunate to get anything. Saying it would waste your time was being too nice.

By the way, I don't want any advance! That's how honored this author would to be published by an agency like yours.

Brad Jaeger said...

@ Sheila

"By the way, I don't want any advance! That's how honored this author would to be published by an agency like yours."

Haha...I can see where you're coming from, and I'm sure they'd love that sort of enthusiam, but I have a feeling that no agent wants you to go penniless. 15% of a nonexistent advance is what again? ;)

rod reel said...

You know, the person in question who said they weren't interested in anything but a six fig advance was indeed a chump for putting it in a query letter. But at least that person knows why they're doing what they're doing. When they learn a little nuance, they may actually be dangerous.

However suck-ups like the previous posters (Sheila, baby that's U) are what's really driving down this business. Bookends LLC is a bidnes, hopefully they are just crass enough to smell where the money is. Why would they want anything to do with someone who dreams of leaving them with 15% of buttkis?

Everybody else, start growin some cajones!

Steph Damore said...

Let's hear it for confidence. Wow.

Gilbert J. Avila said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gilbert J. Avila said...

Ask him if he knows that two of those figures will be to right of the decimal point.

Janet Morgenstern said...

Several of the phrases that you've posted smacks of self-sabotage. I know it sounds crazy, but I'm curious to see if the Six-Figure Wonder made that demand so that he/she could blame you for his/her failure to sign a contract rather than fail based on the quality of the work alone.

Kate Douglas said...

Joseph L. Selby writes: I wrote two mss last year and had more than one person, without ever reading either work, tell me I did not spend enough time editing if I was able to finish two in a year. That annoyed me.
==
I really have to respond to this--Mr. Selby, I don't blame you for being annoyed. In the past five years I have written 14 novels and 10 novellas, all under contract. My editor (Kensington Publishing) wouldn't have asked for them if they didn't think I could produce good, salable stories within that time frame. We all work at our own pace--mine happens to be fast, but I've never had any complaints about the quality of my work. Don't let anyone else tell you what you are or are not capable of. You know what's comfortable for you, and that's all that counts.

Anonymous said...

Sheila: Uh...agencies don't publish books, they just represent them. That's what publishers do and I doubt they work on the "honor system" LOL

Anonymous said...

It sounds like alot of first time authors are idiots. They have not accomplished anything and are making demands.

can you blog about what percentage of the query letters appear to be written by really stupid people?

Sheila Cull said...

You need to be represented to get published. Same thing. It's what I meant but it was my bad for not being specific.

Sheila Cull said...

I'm a suck up and proud of it. And I know this is a business and sucking up doesn't hurt anyone. In fact, sucking up lets people know how wonderful and appreciated their accomplishmenst are.