Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Workshop Wednesday

By repeated request we've started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we'll just have to see. We've received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don't be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that's great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I'm leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don't make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never "met" Query Shark, get over there and do that. She's the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.

Because your agency represents many authors whose titles I've read, I would like to be considered for your query workshop.

I think this opening is fine. You show that you've done your research on the agency, and that's good.

I have been on the receiving end of many a query when I worked for a literary journal. However, drafting a query for the specific type of genre I've chosen to write -- women's fiction/romance -- has been the most challenging and confusing aspect of seeing this m.s. through to completion. (Synopsis? Cake walk.)

I actually like the way you slip in your experience at the literary journal and connect with the agent by showing that you have a background in publishing and writing. The same holds true for the genre. This is very conversational. I would suggest you spell out "manuscript." One of the problems with email is it can easily become too casual, especially if you're also a Tweeter. It's easy for all of us to get lazy and start to shorten or abbreviate. I've been guilty of this many times. When it comes to professional correspondence, no matter how conversational, use your best grammar. Remember, we're judging your writing on this query first. I also like the parenthetical comment you made. Again, conversational, which, even though it's a professional correspondence, works nicely.

The hapless query attached has been through so many incarnations, with so much (conflicting) input from various mentors, I'm beginning to wonder if the poor thing will ever reach its zen. I keep fingers crossed that your agency can give me gentle guidance.

And here's the problem. You've attached the query. Many are going to wonder why I even bothered to include this in the query workshop when it's not actually a query. Because many times it is the query I receive and only the query I read. At least once a week I receive a query very similar to this. The author spends a great deal of time writing a nice email explaining the query and then attaches it. It states on our website that queries should be written in the body of the email, and most agents will agree. Few will open an unrequested attachment. Contrary to popular belief, this is not entirely about a fear of viruses. In fact, as far as I'm concerned it's not about viruses at all. The BookEnds policy to not open query attachments is about time management. I can easily spend an hour a day answering queries and still not be even close to caught up. Opening attachments and then going back to the email to respond adds extra time, and to be successful in life we all need to carefully manage our time. This is one way I try to streamline the query process for myself. Think of it this way: What if every response to a query you sent came as an attachment, including my response telling you the query was received?

Fond regards from Austin,

There's nothing wrong with this. The "fond regards" bugs me personally for some reason, but in the grand scheme of a query critique that doesn't matter.



Donna K. Weaver said...

Good points about the time management issue. Do you get many queries that are too chatty? When your schedule is so tight, is there a suggestion for how brief to keep any opening remarks?

Anonymous said...

Well, personally, I feel a little sorry for Austin (I'm assuming he's a person, and not simply someone who lives in Texas!).

My guess is that the only thing he did wrong was attach a query he thought was going to be critiqued in a workshop, instead of putting it in the body of an email.

What you've posted here is simply a personal message that I assume he never meant for public viewing. At least, that's how I read it. Correct me if I'm wrong, Austin!

Laura said...

Though I agree "manuscript" should be spelled out, I would also point out that the correct abbreviation is "MS."

m----- h---------- said...

great feedback, and thank you for sharing it!

And while this was not your intent, I choked on my coffee over the "fond regards" bit, then laughed outright, then went to get some water.

("Warm regards" is my personal eeuuw for a sign-off. To me, it just sounds like a sticky handshake.)

Lehcarjt said...

@Anon 8:46 -

Regardless of how improvement the submitter could have made if the actual query had been posted here, learning to follow the rules is the greater lesson.

On a different note, I hate 'Fondest Regards.' I feel fondly for my children or my close friends. Not business associates. Seth Godin says to use 'With Respect' because that is the feeling you should want to convey in a business relationship. (also fondest is too close to fondle)

Anonymous said...

Isn't it some kind of unwritten publishing rule to sign off with "Best Wishes?" (Or "Best")

I always do it, but I'm not fond of it. Way too cliche.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

Actually, now I'm interested in the sign-off. Is "Sincerely" too pedestrian? Is there actually an industry standard? In the military the standard was "Very Respectfully" and sometimes I still use that.

Eileen said...

I have a friend in Europe who started to sign his letters to me: Beware- (his name). After a few I emailed him and asked what was up with that. He told me that he noticed I ended my letters "Take Care- Eileen."

He looked up Take Care in his English to Dutch dictionary. He used Beware because it meant the same thing. I had to explain that while technically they mean they same thing they have a different feel.

I think it might be fun to start signing my notes- BEWARE.

Mastering Investments said...

Gosh, I was hoping to see the critique of the query itself.

Robena Grant said...

Thanks author for offering your work, and I'm sorry we didn't get to critique the actual query letter.

Your mistake was of assuming a familiarity when there was none. Plus, not reading the Agency requirements.

Also, by inserting a disclaimer (apologizing up front) for the query letter sounds passive, and that initial feeling might carry over to reading the query. You don't want that to happen.

Publishing is a tough world. You have to own your work. You have to believe in yourself. Humility is good, in some respects, but too much is as bad as bragging that you've written the next great American novel. Better luck next time.

Karen Duvall said...

Not only would it take extra time to read and respond to attached queries, they also collect on your computer's hard drive and have to be cleaned out later. What a nuissance.

Anonymous said...


Austin here. I’m a “she,” but no worries. ☺

Yes, I did intend that part of the correspondence to be private, so it is jarring to see it posted for public consumption. However, that said, if this is the worst thing that can happen today, I’m golden. (I work with scary news editors. Think really thick skin!)

I do apologize to Ms. Faust for the sign-off. “Fond regards” is used in business communiqu├ęs, but it is apparently regional. I’ve been reading your blog for so long, I felt I owe you for your insight – and did wish to express that.

jjdebenedictis said...

The letter sounds like an apology for querying. Be brave, stalwart author! As a writer, you're way scarier than any agent could be. Fear them not.

Also, if you want to workshop your query more (since it didn't get done here), there are--in addition to the Query Shark--sites like Evil Editor, Phoenix Sullivan and The Query Goblin to help you.

Good luck!

dolorah said...

I never thought about the time management issues in opening attachments for every e-mail. I see the point though. So much easier to flick that scroll button.

I don't think I've put more than two lines in the personalization portion of a query - emailed or snail mail.

I prefer to get to the heart of the query as quickly as possible so I don't lose the Agent's interest. There are so many different ways to catch the attention.

Thanks for sharing the tips.


Stephsco said...

I just took a business writing course through my work and was told that Sincerely always works and is appropriate for business communication. Anything else is suggested to use with caution since it can sound hammy or insincere. I know I personally cringe when I see less formal send-offs in work-related communication, complete with quotes and different colored font.

Anonymous said...

Was this not a query for a query?

I think Jessica demonstrated very well that the agent will look at the text sent in the email and not the attachment, which is why we don't get to see the query critique.