I recently received a reply from a disgruntled querier who was unhappy I hadn't taken enough time to consider his query. He knew I hadn't taken enough time because I'd said no to it.
Contrary to his assumption, I'd said no because (1) he didn't tell me what the book was about and (2) later in the query it was clear he was off his rocker.
Which brings me to the value of a query in addition to all the stuff I've been ranting about for years (plot mostly.)
I'm also getting my first sense of whether you're someone I want to work with.
Here's a list of the things I really want to find in prospective clients. I can't alway tell from a query or manuscript if a writer meets these criteria, but it's the starting point:
1. They think I'm the cat's pjs. In other words, they've read my blogs; they think I'm funny. They think I'm good at my job. They want to work with me, and when I call to chat about the book, they're pleased.
This is not to say you should be slavishly effusive cause that makes me insane. I just want you to want me! Not "an agent' but THIS agent.
2. They don't interpret everything negatively. Or if that's their first reaction, as it is with most of us, they've learned some balance and perspective. Queries are rejected for lots of reasons other than "it sux." Books don't sell for lots of reasons other than "it sucked." Agents aren't able to sell things for lots of reason other than "they're idiots."
3. They've got a sense of humor. Almost everyone on my list has a wicked sense of humor. I know this cause we laugh at the same things and crack each other up. A couple of my clients are so damn funny I barely speak when I'm around them cause I'm too busy trying not to pee my pants from laughing.
4. They're ready for the work. They don't rise from their beds bright eyed and bushy tailed like some sort of Stepford/Pollyanna doll. (That's AFTER the coffee IV) But they are prepared to work and do what needs to get done. They may not like it much (promotion is pain) but they're eager to have careers and understand this is one of the requirements.
5. They read. They read a LOT. They read their fellow client's books, they read widely in different genres and they read things they end up telling me about and make me want to read them too.
6. They're generous to the writing and publishing community.
7. They're neurotic and crazy and brilliant. All in the best possible way. They aren't perfect, but they are Fabulous.
You can tell a lot from what people tell you about themselves in a query, and how they respond to rejection (and what they say in blog comments!)
Yes, I am paying attention.