Friday, February 22, 2008

Raising the bar...and not in a good way

Yes, I read every query.
Some queries just aren't very enticing.

Here are some phrases that raise the bar on whether I want to read your stuff, and that's pretty much NOT what you want:

1. coming of age
2. set in the 70's
3. long suffering VietNam vet
4. billionaire
5. shadowy conspiracy
6. must run for her life
7. horrific abuse
8. evil

And when you give me a list of events in the book rather than a hook, my answer is "so what". That is not what you want my response to be either.

I'm actively looking for good stuff, but it's YOUR job to show me it's good. (Which means you don't tell me it's good and then list a bunch of reasons why ...but that's another rant entirely)


M. G. Tarquini said...

2. set in the 70's

What? You don't like the night life? You don't like to boogie?

Sean Ferrell said...

Crap. There goes my plan to send you my "That 70s Book."

Heidi the Hick said...

I'd like to donate a few that I've used in the past, since I won't be needing them anymore:

-everything will change
-face many difficulties
-disturbing problems

I liked the 70s. I had an ugly dress to wear to church and a pony. Now the 80s.... gah.

Kaleb - said...

Darn. There goes my story about the 70's teenager who falls into a conspiracy involving a billion dollars and has to run from her evil, abusive, longsuffering vietnam veteran father. You ruin everything.

Caryn said...

You know, now this sounds like a challenge. Too bad I don't have those elements in my book. *Sigh* Guess I'll have to revise.

Eric said...

Just fine until you get to #8 - evil. What's wrong with evil? Who are any of us to turn our noses up at evil? You leave out evil, there's not much else to write about.

I'm confused.

jwhit said...

I'm confused too. Why don't you want those phrases in queries? Is setting not relevant in query? Or are you getting too many queries that are coming of age stories set in the 70s? Or are you too young to remember the 70s? Or ??

More info, please.

Wilfred the Author said...

What? No, "Race against the clock" or "The future of the world hangs in the balance"?

In all seriousness, I found writing a pitch to a complicated Thriller to be a challenge. I was just too close to it and wanted to put in too much detail. Finally I solicited some help from a friend who writes movie tag lines for a living. We wrote this for the possible back jacket copy. Its a bit long for a query, but it would be a start.

Agent Laura Daniels’ career soared when the FBI assigned her to the anthrax letter case after 9/11. But failing to crack the case landed her in the Seattle field office, where she feared her life would be relegated to the routine.

While investigating the theft of low-level radiation devices, Daniels is led to the site of Interex Corporation’s controversial oil and gas exploration well just outside Yellowstone National Park, where crucial fossil records lie buried. Arriving at the site, what she encounters is unthinkable — not only have large radiation sources gone missing, but an unidentified virus is killing members of the drilling crew, and shows no signs of stopping.

Now Daniels’ career rides on getting the answers she needs. But as the virus continues its deadly rampage, she discovers the stakes are far higher than she anticipated. And the answer she gets is the last thing on Earth she’d expect.

Southern Writer said...

Damn. Goes to scratch Janet's name from top of TO QUERY list again.

Susan Adrian said...

Ooops. I used coming-of-age in my query.

Fortunately it was in the same sentence as "hot guy" and "flying monkeys"...

Anne-Marie said...

Oh no, I have a post- coming of age (more a crossing into adulthood then that middle teen thing) set in the late 70s. Does crossing into 1980 make it any safer to mention, and why are the 70s on the hit list, if I may ask? I'm thinking our age group might be into that time period.

Chumplet said...

I'm curious, too. Half of my novel is set in the 70's in Spain. They were interesting times, not all Beejees and K.C. and the Sunshine Band.

Cameron said...

In a time after the 60's, a really really rich guy, who wasn't nice, hataches a dark plot involving lots of other people...can someone help me out here I'm struggling.

Southern Writer said...

LMAO, Cameron.

I'm beginning to think that the issue with the 70's might be that it's so prevalent. We're just a smattering of writers, and look how many of us are saying, "What?! No 70's?!?!?" If we were reading the slush pile, how many more might there be? Every other query? Every third query? Is it passé already?

I've also heard the argument that it isn't long enough in the past to have been forgotten. But lots of people are still living who remember WWII and the 40's, and people still write about that every day.

The 70's must have been good to a lot of us because so many of us want to write about them. If we have a 70's setting that we can't give up, we'll just have to query other agents with them. If Janet doesn't like them, she doesn't like them. It would be great, though if SHE WOULD TELL US WHY.

Dr. Dume said...

Wow, this is an exclusive club. I had to sign up to something called Goggle to get in.

I think I'm okay on most points.

There will be no discussion of age, coming or going, when I'm in the room. I missed the seventies because of an excellent New Year party in 1969. I woke up in 1987. I know nothing of Vietnamese veterinarians. Money is a subject best kept behind closed doors, and preferably mine. There are no Government conspiracies in the UK. Our government couldn't scheme their way out of a paper bag. 'Running for her life', well, characters run sometimes but not usually for their lives. They never trip and sprain their ankle. No need. My monsters are fast.

Horrific abuse, well I have a friend who takes care of that sort of thing and there is no such thing as evil in the modern world. Only misunderstood mass-murderers.

I liked 1968 better. There was proper evil in those days.

Kim said...


Love the list of dastardly no-no's.
None of them appear in my query. Whew!

How about --
rictus smile
hillbilly justice
dimwitted thugs
dead dog exhausted ??

Good enough to avoid the reject pile?

Lynne said...

I'm with Dr. Doom, er, Dume.
See also, if you can remember the sixties, you weren't there.