Thursday, September 03, 2009

Feeling Rejected?

If you've queried me recently (as in after the last time I'd cleared out my incoming query mailbox) and received a form rejection, take a good look at your query letter.

Does it tell me about the book? I don't mean you tell me "it's amazing" or "it's a page turner." I mean, did you tell me who the main character is and what the conflict is or the choices the MC faces?

No? Form rejection.

Did you tell me enough about the book that I could see I might want to read it? In other words did you write a PARAGRAPH about what the book is about?

No? Form rejection


Did you send a couple quick sentences about yourself and then say, here are the first couple pages attached below?

Yes? Form rejection


The good news? If you try again, and I mean you REWRITE that query letter and tell me what the damn book is about and send it again, I'll read it. DO NOT MENTION this is another query.

I make no apology for form rejections if you don't tell me what the book is about and I'm not tolerating any crap about it in the comment column.

I figure I've done my part by telling you there's a problem and identifying the solution.

37 comments:

Chris Johnson said...

"I make no apology for form rejections if you don't tell me what the book is about and I'm not tolerating any crap about it in the comment column."

You're expecting crap? Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

Bane of Anubis said...

Ms. Reid, I love your sass.

Marsha Sigman said...

That seems more than fair. I think the fact that my previous manuscript was about werewolves meant it was destined for form rejections.

I have moved on to a new idea....(heavy sigh).

Matt Mikalatos said...

I think you scared away all the comenters! :)

L. T. Host said...

Hey, sounds reasonable to me, Janet. It's only thanks to Rick Daley's Public Query Slushpile that my query's any good... now I just need to send it out. :)

I think there are a lot of people out there who have that "Whoopsie" moment when they try to do something new and terrifying without collecting enough information first, and make a major mistake. I also think there are a lot of people out there who don't care to correct their behavior once they find out it's wrong, and quite possibly some who never even find out it's wrong. Either way, agents like you who are so in touch with the writing community and try to help us are a godsend.

Anthony said...

I feel rejected because you don't represent my genre!

*pout*

~Aimee States said...

"I make no apology for form rejections if you don't tell me what the book is about and I'm not tolerating any crap about it in the comment column."

I love it! It's better to make your point than to beat a dead horse. Business and feelings don't have to mix.

Daisy said...

Just out of curiosity, about what percentage of the queries you get do you think come from people who read, or at least have glanced over, this blog?

DebraLSchubert said...

I wish you'd climb out of your shell and say what you mean. You're SUCH a wallflower.;-)

magolla said...

>>If you've queried me recently (as in after the last time I'd cleared out my incoming query mailbox)

Uh, *stupid question alert* When exactly was this? Though I have a new and improved query, I don't want to waste your time by sending it if it wasn't within your parameters.

BJ said...

Sounds like you've had a hard time in the query pile today. And that you may have received some of the crap you're talking about already.

I think you're doing a great job, and helping writers in the process. Thank you.

Jenn Johansson said...

Does this mean you're caught up on queries? I'm wondering if your spam filter has it out for me again.

Alicia A said...

You have always been very clear about what you expect. I appreciate that.

dylan said...

Dear Ms. Reid

Wow.

You don't get many 'do-overs' in querying.

I hope folks appreciate this rare and generous opportunity.

dylan

Natalie Murphy said...

I can't believe people actually give you crap about stuff like this. It's YOUR choice who to represent and who not to. If they don't write a good query, it's not your fault.

The same thing has been happening on Twitter. It truly baffles me why people argue with agents/editors they want to represent them.

Travener said...

Do we interpret this to mean that if we got a form rejection our query sucked? I'd just assumed all your rejections -- or most of them -- would be form rejections.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I'm in the same boat as Anthony, but think it's more than fair that you're allowing--even encouraging--re-queries.

Mira said...

Well, this isn't giving you 'crap' specifically because I say it everywhere: I hate the query. I think it wastes everyone's time and causes good books to go over-looked ALL THE TIME.

I wish, wish, wish agents would just dump that stupid time-wasting travesty of an unnecessary hoop-jumping nonsense called the 'query' and go to an extremely sensible system called the fill-in submission form. They would all brag about how much time it saved them, and how much easier it was to pick their books.

Heck, if agents must have the query, request one with a partial or full. But get it out of the initial contact.

I'm looking for a slogan. How about 'Form reject the query!' No. Darn, I wish I could think of a slogan.

Laura said...

What if I wrote what the book was about it but you thought it was so bad you'd never want to read it? Would you still send a form letter or would you tell me that my idea sucks? (Yes, feeling rejected lately & feeling like you wrote this post just for me!)

Sarah Laurenson said...

Ask and you shall receive (one hopes).

I love straight forward talk. Alas, not writing in your chosen genres.

CKHB said...

Mira, how would your fill-in submission form work? I'm not looking to be snarky, but a query IS pretty much a fill-in form:

State the book's title.
State the genre.
State the word count.
Please describe the content of the book in 1-2 paragraphs.
State your contact information.

Optional: give one paragraph about yourself and/or why you think this agent would be a good fit for your project.

robinmizell said...

Janet:

Thanks for playing the bad cop. I didn't need to think twice before listing your blog as one of my daily reads, at the suggestion of an aspiring author with a positive attitude.

Kaz Augustin said...

Hold on a sec. Quote from your post:

Did you send a couple quick sentences about yourself and then say, here are the first couple pages attached below?

Yes? Form rejection


But doesn't your query guidelines state:

6. The first 3-5 pages of the novel or memoir pasted below the query letter
(do NOT send an attachment in a query letter. I will not open it)


In the interests of clarity, you might want to change "attached below" to "in a separate attachment", and leave out the "couple quick sentences about yourself", otherwise -- all together -- it sounds a pretty weird reason for getting a form rejection.

Jm Diaz said...

"Did you send a couple quick sentences about yourself and then say, here are the first couple pages attached below?

Yes? Form rejection"

Does this mean that "Yes", if I did the above mentioned it's bad? Because the pages are "attached" not in the body?

I think, to really encourage folks, you should tell them to take their main character (regardless of genre), and give him\her fangs with pale skin and sorrowful stare. That should sell their novel!

*evil grin*

T. Anne said...

I double dog dare myself to get it right this time. I demand a personalized rejection! Um... something like that.

Mira said...

CKHB, I don't think you're snarky, but I'm cool if you are. :)

I'm grateful you asked. I LOVE to talk about this. Especially on agent's blogs.

And that's EXACTLY what a submission form would look like. The only main difference would be to leave out the two paragraphs and cut it to a few lines. Force it to be a few lines. The agent doesn't need more if the writer also attachs the 5 pages.

Just think how quick and easy that would be for the writer. They could get back to writing, instead of spending six months working on the silly query letter. And the agent - the agent could breeze through the forms in a quarter of the time it takes to figure out a query. No hunt and peck for story. No hunt and peck for genre,etc. Easy Peesy.

Then, if the agent must have a query, they can request it with the full or partial. Or just get the information another way. For example, if the agent really likes an MS and wants to know if the author has social skills, they could call them. Much more efficient than trying to guess that from a query.

Thanks for asking, CKHB. I'd go on, but I think my word count has been limited to 100,000.

Philangelus said...

Mira, if they're doing submission forms, then could you add in something like the submission process for One Story and many other literary magazines?

That being, the submitter can log back in afterward and there will be a little status bar which reads "received," "under review" or "rejected."

It could be totally automated such that when the agent clicks on a button to delete the submission, it automatically changes status (and could even send an automated email rejection.)

It seems cheap to implement (no-budget and low-budget magazines can set it up, after all) and would benefit both the agency and the submitter.

BuffySquirrel said...

Okay, Mira, now explain how your submission form will give the agent a feel for the writer's ability to, yanno, write....

Mira said...

BuffySquirrel, first of all I really have to take a moment to enjoy your name. Wow. I hope you don't mind, but I need to now call myself BuffySquirrel, because that's the best darn name I ever heard.

Okay, now to your question, and thank you for asking. Well, the agents can get a feel for the writer's ability to write by reading the attached 5 pages of their manuscript.

If the agent wants to get a feel for whether the writer can write a business letter and/or summarize their work, they can request a business letter (query) with the partial or full. If the writer did not write a compelling M.S., then why would the agent even care if they can write a business letter? Find the writing first, then assess the writer. Save time.

So, what about this for a slogan: Bad Query! Bad, bad, bad!

Hmmm. Not quite there yet.

BJ said...

"Did you send a couple quick sentences about yourself and then say, here are the first couple pages attached below?

Yes? Form rejection"

For those who were asking, I think this means ONLY a couple quick sentences about yourself and the attached pages. Like:

Dear Ms. Reid;

I love to write. Everything I do regards writing. I *need* to be published!

Yours Truly,
Desperate

[[then the attached pages]]

Mira said...

Philanglus, I'm sorry, I didn't see your comment.

That is actually a great idea. Especially if the rejected part is worded kindly. Very time saving as well.

BuffySquirrel said...

Lol, Mira, Philip K. Dick should get some of the credit for the name.

I think agents want to get that information from the query--much shorter than five pages--but I see your point.

Mira said...

Lol.

Well, Phillip K. Dick is a great name, too. I like BuffySquirrel better though.

:)

Philangelus said...

Mira, even if it said, "Rejected. Loser" that would be better than total silence. :-) And it would save the agent time if the writer could log back into the system, see it had been rejected, and not re-query on the off-chance that the query had gotten lost in the bitbucket.

It would only have to connect the same "delete" button the agent/agency already uses to delete an unwanted query and an automated system would handle the rest.

Literary Cowgirl said...

Alas, it is unlikely you will ever see that rewrite, because anyone hanging out around here has caught your drift about a century ago. But, thanks for the post. I'm going to print it off and use it as a checklist.

Tara said...

To whom it may concern: I'm delighted that I started reading your blog BEFORE I started querying.

Mira said...

Phil - I agree. Automated systems would save tons of time. I think it's a good idea.