Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How Jessica A Reads Queries

When it comes to how I approach my queries and submissions, I don’t have any firm rules.  Sometimes I start at the top of my inbox, sometimes I start at the bottom.  Sometimes I pick a submission in a genre that I’m in the mood to read or that I know an editor is looking for.  And sometimes I pick a submission that I think might be a pass so I can deal with it quickly and make my inbox less crowded.  By the way, I love it when I’m wrong about those submissions.  It’s great when I go into something thinking it’ll be a fast pass, and it ends up hooking me instead.  I love being surprised that way. 

I tend to answer queries quickly. When I want to procrastinate on another task, I answer queries.  When I’m watching tv at night and there’s a commercial break, sometimes I open up my queries. If things are slow, sometimes I answer queries as soon as they pop up in my email.  But sometimes things get busy and a week or two goes by without me even looking at my submissions box. 

I generally go with my gut reaction on queries. Is this something I want to read or not?  Is it marketable or not? Are there significant publishing credits in the author’s bio?  Is the writing great, just average, or terrible?  Is the query professional or does it feel amateurish?  Honestly, it probably takes me less than a minute to reach a decision on most queries. Sometimes I’ll put aside certain queries to think about more, but generally I go on my initial reaction.

I’ll admit, I’m slow with requested material.  I like to read requested material when I have a nice big chunk of time to devote to it.  I don’t like to read manuscripts in bits and pieces.  It makes it harder for me to keep my thoughts straight that way.  It’s rare I get to read a manuscript in one sitting, but I aim to at least get through 50-100 pages at a time. 

Also, as much as I try, I can’t get into the knack of reading submissions on my Kindle.  Back in the old days of hard copy submissions, I would cover the margins with Post-It notes of my thoughts.  And now, I can’t live without Track Changes and Comments in Word.  I’d probably be faster if I read on my Kindle but it just doesn’t gel with the way I like to take notes. 

With submissions, there’s still a bit of reacting on gut instinct but I also like to mull things over.  After reading something enjoyable, I like to put it aside for a day or two and think about it.  Do I still remember it clearly in two days?  Am I still as excited about it?  Is it something that I want to talk to my colleagues about and get second reads on?  Do I sit down at the dinner table at night and tell my husband all about the great story I read?  How would I pitch it to editors?  Then again, if I’m mulling over the project for too long and something is holding me back from offering quickly, I want to analyze why I’m hesitating. Sometimes it’s a problem that can be fixed with revisions, or a question of whether I want to take a risk on something that might not be super marketable at the moment, but sometimes it shows me that I’m not as enthusiastic about a project as I should be.  And, really, that’s what every decision comes down to: do I love this book enough to read it over and over again, and read anything and everything else the author writes? 

—Jessica A


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

How writers write -
Almost exactly like J A reads queries, right down to the hesitating, loving and wanting to read it over and over again. Well maybe not the reading over and over part, how about editing over and over again?

AJ Blythe said...

Funny what the flipside is like - when I have to write a query I find all manner of things to procrastinate over, lol.