Thursday, December 26, 2013

Question: is my query too good?

Is it possible to have too good of a query letter?

I have received a generous response from several agents to my latest query, some even asking for the full manuscript right out of the gate. The follow up I’ve received back from these agents make me think my killer query is leaving them letdown by the opening pages, where as perhaps a more mediocre query letter might have given the opening pages more leniency, by having less expectation. (I did get an additional 50 page request after the first 10 by one agent--so the opening pages can't be that terrible.) Is it possible my query letter is doing more harm than good?

Your query letter is doing its job just fine. The purpose of your query is to entice an agent to want to read more.  You're getting requests.  Your query deserves no condemnation for THAT!

The problem is your manuscript.

You don't fix this problem by making your query worse.  The net result of that will be what? That's right: NO REQUESTS!

My guess is you've polished up your query but not your manuscript.  If this question to me is an indication of the writing in your manuscript, it needs polishing.  "Too good of a query" is a phrase that makes my hair stand on end.  You really want to polish that to "is my query too good"  See the difference?

Polishing a novel is hard work. A lot of times enrolling in a writing workshop will give you added tools for accomplishing the task.  I know Grub Street in Boston offers workshops for this purpose and I'm sure there are others. is a valuable resource for finding this kind of information.

Now, go pat your query on the head and apologize.  


Stephanie Cain said...

LOL! I know the feeling this questioner has! After reading through all of QueryShark and revising my query to death, I realized I had a kick-butt query that my novel didn't live up to. So that sort of put a pause in my querying plans while I revised the novel. ;) I got a full request based on the query a while back, and while she eventually passed, I think it had more to do with my novel not fitting perfectly into her list than the novel quality. We'll see. *crosses fingers*

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Well...we know that "too gooda' query" sure as hell wasn't mine.
"Manuscript the problem"...there I might be.

JD Paradise said...

I once thought I had too gouda query, but it turns out it was just cheesy.

Michael Seese said...

I was going to make a snide comment (or several snide comments) along the lines of, "Yeah, I have that problem with women in bars... Am I too good looking?" But I'll shelve the rest.

Obviously, this author did a GREAT job with his of her query, and now feels the (justifiable) pressure of making sure the manuscript lives up to it.

That's why writing is hard.

And that's why, as Dorothy Parker said, "I hate writing, I love having written."

Elissa M said...

Some writers (though not those who follow this blog) have the strange idea their manuscripts don't have to be perfect because polishing is the agent's job. I've actually heard writer's say exactly that, or the close variant, "That's what editors are for."

Since this writer penned a near perfect query, I have confidence he/she will be able to straighten out the manuscript.

FLA Information Brokers said...

They say you don't have a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression. I'm learned it starts (and often unfortunately ends) with the query letter. Thanks for the fine post.

Sam Mills said...

I get so frustrated by action-packed, emotionally arresting movie trailers that imply a completely different plot and tone than the actual movie. I can't help thinking, "The trailer director clearly knows what the audience wants, why couldn't they make THAT movie??" If your query describes something riveting, and your book is not that 'something,' then yes consider revising the book.

BP said...

@JD re: too Gouda...thanks, you made my night :D

Joelle said...

I had this problem and took Darcy Pattison's Novel Revision weekend workshop. She teaches them around the country, but if you can't get to one, she does have a book out now published by Writer's Digest. I had a lot of almosts, but after her workshop, some things jelled for me in regards to how to structure a novel. There were twelve of us there and at least two others went on to get agents and be published not long after that, too (I have a great agent and two YAs published, just so you know I'm not here to just talk up Darcy or get her some business - and this all came after her workshop). I'm not saying that she's the best, or the only one, but instead of a writing workshop, it was a "polish your novel that you think is done but isn't getting the attention you know it should sort of weekend" which sounds like it's what you need.