found the [query] process to be backwards. If I was an agent, I think I would want to read a chapter or three, and see if I was even engaged by the author’s storytelling ability. If an author can’t get my attention in that period of time, then that’s their own fault. But if I am intrigued, I could then contact the author, and they could tell me ...[about the book.]Fortunately the Shark Delay Team works 24/7 so the first response (which Sherwin Williams has inquired about patenting for use as a paint solvent) is now consigned to the ash heap.
So I read the three chapters that came with this particular query. It took me just over four minutes, because frankly by chapter two I was skimming.
Here's the math:
Four minutes per query. I got 54 queries last week. 54 queries x 4 minutes each (minimum) = 216 minutes. That's 3.6 hours of reading time. Every week.
Contrast that with reading queries: I read the next ten queries in three minutes. I said no to eight of them, and flagged two to remind me to read the enclosed pages when it's not midnight and I'm not cleaning up singe marks on the keyboard.
If I'd read all the pages with those eight rejected queries, I'd have spent just over thirty minutes (8 x 4), not three.
In other words, I would have spent 27 minutes to get the same results that three minutes did.
Here are some other reasons "just reading the chapters" isn't an efficient query system.
*I won't know the word count. It does no good to read three chapters of a book that's only 40K or more than 200K.
*I won't know the category. I generally don't take on science fiction or women's fiction or anything with supernatural elements. It's not in your best interest that I do, since there are many many other agents more capable than I in these categories.
*I won't know if what I'm reading is a prologue.
*I won't know if I'm reading about the main character.
*Most important: I will have no sense of the plot or characters before starting. And that writer friends is death for you. It breeds confusion. Confusion is NOT GOOD in a query letter. You know how I know that? Cause the QueryShark said so. About 200+ times.
And most important: when a writer tells me that the way I've set up my business practices doesn't suit them, it doesn't take much imagination to seeing how other business practices I insist on don't suit them either.
*No, you can't call the sales department to ask why your book isn't in the local Barnes and Noble.
*No, you can't call your editor to ask why the editorial notes aren't ready yet.
*No, you can't call the six editors who passed on this manuscript to see if they have any suggestions for improvement.
The first purpose of the query letter is to entice me to read your book.
The second is to demonstrate you are not an asshat.
A passing grade is not 50%.