Incoming queries are a bit like Christmas with the extended family...some items are fabulously intriguing, and some are ...well...socks.
I've been trying to describe what I look for in queries. I've yapped about voice; I've huffed and puffed about write well.
But it's also true that I see queries with great voice and good writing, and I still say no. Unless I'm just picking queries at random from the compelling voice/writes well tank there's got to be one more variable.
If voice is the x-axis, and write well is the y-axis, then the z-axis, the third dimension is this: describe a book I want to read. (Remember when Mrs. Logan your 10th grade math teacher mentioned geometry would be useful later in life? Well, this is that time.)
This third dimension is the most subjective criteria of all. There are many many fine books I don't want to read. I started six of them while I was on vacation. Five were by well-known, well-reviewed writers. I just didn't much like the books and didn't want to read them. So I didn't. (I sucked up two John Harvey novels though-yummmm!)
What this means for those of you querying agents:
Describe the book you've written as though you're telling a friend about a great book they'll want to read right now.
Think about how you talk to your friends about books. Do you start out "this is a crime novel about curvy, radiant Wilbur who's racing against the clock and falls in with wily secretive miser Templeton?"
No, you don't. Well, I hope you don't.
You'd probably describe what happens, what the point of conflict is. Why you cared about what happened.
"A pig, Wilbur, at the Fair has to figure out how to win a prize but he's penned up plus, he doesn't have a lot of time. His friend Charlotte helps him but they have to figure out how to get help from their frenemy Templeton to make it all happen."
This is clearly a very very raw effort but you get the gist.
And this third dimension means you simply MUST query widely. There's no way to determine in advance if you're writing a book I want to read. The only way you'll know is if you query. And this is
And if I say no, it's entirely possible you've written a really good book I just don't want to read. Take heart knowing that someone else will. Many many writers have built entire careers writing books I don't want to read. Why shouldn't you?
So, if you want to query me, go ahead. I'm glad to get every single query. I get a bit annoyed and impatient when queriers shoot themselves in the foot but it's never ever a waste of my time to get your query. Even the ones that elicit an exasperated "darn!" when opened.