Wednesday, April 06, 2016

My query is "meh" but I got a response on it

Can my query be meh, and still get a response from an agent, and if my query is meh and I get a response from an agent, should I be worried?

Yes
No/maybe

The goal for your query letter is not to be perfect. The goal is to entice an agent to read your novel. If an agent requests pages, your query has done her job and calling her "meh" is kind of insulting.

I've requested pages when the query wasn't all that great and been happily surprised. I even signed one or two of those books, but I forget which ones.



92 comments:

Sam Hawke said...

That made me laugh aloud, thank you Janet!

Megan V said...

Ha!

Bottle of whiskey, indeed.
Clearly, he forgot that all the best whiskey comes by the barrel.

Hooray for page requests and here's to queries that are not all that great and yet, still manage to awesome agents.

But, don't let this post be an excuse for drafting and refusing to revise a not-so-great query.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Ha! Love it! Now I know how to entice if I wish to become an author in your reef. Offer whisky. Except....I'm the wrong gender.

But seriously Opie, where is your self-confidence? You truly are being a wee woodland critter if you think, even though an agent requested pages, that your query is a "meh."

AJ Blythe said...

So if a 'meh' query snags an agent's interest, imagine what a brilliant query would do...but how to tell if the query is brilliant...I'd have to send it to agents and see what the response was...but if it isn't brilliant yet and they don't request I've messed up my chance with those agents...because mine would be 'meh' unlike OP's whose idea of 'meh' is obviously half way to brilliant...so don't send until it is brilliant...therefore revise another 4,396 times first...

Off-topic: This Calvin & Hobbes was in the local paper this week. The Hub couldn't understand why I found it so funny.

Robert Ceres said...

I'm pretty sure query letters are a giant scam designed to scare woodland creatures back into their holes so that they DON’T send that query too early. Sadly, we send them out too early anyway. (And then run back into our holes when we get a request! OP! Honestly! I know the feeling, but you gotta step outside every now and then.)

Query letters have certainly bedeviled me. I have had the best luck with lightning short query letters.

Para 1. Logline/hook, introduce 3 main characters, one sentence of plot.
Para 2. One sentence comp, one sentence summary of the literary style and POV, one sentence listing genre and word count.
Para 3. Two sentence bio.
Postscript about definitely wearing pants. No agent wants to think of me sans pants.

I’ve “improved” this format using query shark guidance (among other) to include more plot and more stakes, but have finally come to the conclusion that it ALL comes down to the writing. And thank heavens really. I want my agent to love my writing. I really hope she forgets all about the query letter. Especially any reference to pants.

DLM said...

This is an flip side to the "worked like Hell and have myself a SPIFFY query ... but nobody's liking the pages/MS" - I'm fascinated! I have to think the "meh" query's only going to get a request when the agent is in an especially good mood, or email volume was down from 3000 messages in a day to a mere 2998.

Certainly, it's no excuse for *us* not to have sparkling queries, right?

AJ, isn't everything Janet posts at this blog and Query Shark the answer to the question of how to tell if the query is brilliant ... ? :) (Hee at Calvin. Calvin is OSUM.)

Jason Magnason said...

Yes well, I finished the query letter and guess what? Now the agents I've been looking to query are asking for a Synopsis. The query is the least of my problems, its the Synopsis that every single agent is asking for.

Why oh why must I write the synopsis. It tells the whole story beginning to end, but in a flash, you don't get any of the tension or emotion.

I have been writing my query since Janet posted it on QueryShark back in January, I think I am done with it now, but just when I thought the pain was over, an agent plops a pile of Synopsis Brussels sprouts on my plate and says eat up. Can't a woodland creature catch a break or what?

Kitty said...

I seem to recall that Janet has said that sometimes dreadful queries come with great pages attached. Or something like that.

Sam Hawke said...

Jason don't stress too much about the synopsis. It's mostly there so that agents can check that the story holds up, nothing crazy/stupid happens, and that it's got a decent structure and ending. They'll likely only read it if your query and pages entice them. (I'm surprised you're finding most of your agents are asking for one. It was reasonably rare in the US when I was querying. Perhaps that's changing?).

That said, if you submit in the UK agents often don't ask for queries, only a brief cover letter and a synopsis. So there your synopsis really does have to shine.

Colin Smith said...

After stalking the Shark for the last five or so years, and a couple of failed attempts to snag an agent, I've at least learned this much about the query:

"The goal is to entice an agent to read your novel."

That's it. Period. What makes a "good" query? One that is technically correct (i.e., all the elements are in place: the correct length, written in the voice of the novel, summarizing the main plot crisis, etc.), or one that gets results? I think one reason many of us find querying difficult is because the answer is the latter, not the former. Writers are artists, so we don't like to define "success" in such pragmatic terms. A great novel might not be very commercially successful, but we love it because of the artistry that went into its creation. However, the query isn't the lovely girl who turns heads. It's the letter of introduction, the MC at the party, building anticipation of her arrival, making people anxious to meet her. The letter or the MC doesn't have to be attractive. They just need to present the girl in the best possible light. If people are excited to distraction to meet the girl, the letter or MC has done their job. Even if it was written in Comic Sans, or he was wearing tennis shoes and a Hawaiian shirt.

That said, I have composed my query to Janet:


Dear Snookums,

Please read my YA Vampire vs. Zombie Star Wars tie-in Coloring Book. I have enclosed a packet of Crayola pencils and a bottle of Jack Daniels to help you along.

Your most adoring fan,

Colin.


And yes, it will be in italics, just to be sure she reads it. ;)

DLM said...

Jason, you'll most likely end up with several synopses. Some agents specify length - one page, three to five pages, and so on. There is NO industry standard definition of the synopsis; I think I ended up with four - one as short as a half page. That's not a synopsis by my definition, but it was a submission guideline from some agency, so I wrung the wretched thing out and presented it. For all it was worth (nothing). You may want to go ahead and produce a couple versions as you create your synopsis, for situations such as this.

Colin Smith said...

Jason: How dare you insult Brussels sprouts like that!!

;)

AJ Blythe said...

DLM, oh, yes. There is no doubt JR is Queen of all things query. I can see from her explanations why *those* queries are brilliant, or what they need to become brilliant.

But seeing the good in my own work, not so obvious.

It's like finding issues with my ms. You might as well drop me, blindfolded, in the middle of the night, into a maze and tell me to find the way out. I'll still be stumbling around days later!

Give me someone elses ms to crit... easy peasy to see the good, bad and ugly.

Jason Magnason said...

Colin, Brussels sprouts have no respect, they are bitter little things and have never done a single kind thing for me, ever.

Colin Smith said...

Jason: Seriously, Diane's right. You'll want a couple of versions of the synopsis: short, medium, and long (1 page--or half a page, 1-2 pages, and 3-5 pages). If you're seriously stressing out about writing it, here's a tip that worked for me (i.e., I managed to write a synopsis, not that it got me anywhere) with my last attempt at querying. Open a spreadsheet. Column 1 is "Chapter", Column 2 is "Summary." For each chapter, write a brief one or two line description of what happens in that chapter. By the time you get to the end, Column 2 will be, essentially, your synopsis. Just cut and polish to requirements, and you're done! :) Who knows, doing this might also bring to light issues with the novel you hadn't noticed before, which is always a good thing before that first query goes out.

Jason Magnason said...

Colin, DLM, Sam, thanks for the advice.
Colin I think I will try your method. See my thing is that I write from the Hip. I sit down and I write a 110,000 word novel in 27 days. That is how I write and so when I go back and read, I forgot what it was that I wrote. So its like reading someone else's story. So in order to do the Synopsis I have to go back and read the whole book again.

Ugg, this whole process is driving me crazy, is it good, is it not good. Do I write well, or am I just fooling myself. Wait is it okay to be crazy?

DLM said...

Jason: buy FRESH sprouts, still on the stalk. Cut them off, slice almost in half, insert thick-cut bacon in each sprout. Skewer six or eight apiece together and baste with a brown-sugar/bourbon glaze. Grill or bake/broil until tender. Not bitter. Extremely kind.

Oh, and everyone here is most welcome to call me Diane if you like. DLM's easier to type, I just like to make sure everyone has the invitation. (I write stories set in highly stylized societies; the use of a name is an important invitation!)

AJ, BOY do I know your pain. I was without beta readers a few years back, facing a revision - it was like going in to slay a dragon with a butterknife. Where do you even start? (Pedicures, I found, were tricky and not much help in making the dragon - the story - presentable.)

And that's my three comments today. Y'all have a good time!

SiSi said...

Meh is in the eye of the beholder. Or maybe one person's meh is another person's treasure.

This reminds me of the post on February 13 where Janet talked about not being so concerned about correctness that you lose sight of the emotion. Maybe Opie's query wasn't "correct" but obviously it's connecting with the readers!

Sam Hawke said...

Colin I'm going to be unconventional and say I wouldn't recommend doing the chapter breakdown line by line to create your synopsis. It does indeed summarise all the events in your book, but it can make for a bloody dry read (ie it tends to lose all sense of character and emotion).

Rather, if possible, see if you can identify the classic plot structure that most closely matches yours, and write it that way. Something like this. Breaks it up into key events and lets you tell the story in a sort of engaging way.

Then you can lengthen and shorten depending on required length (as others have said - you might need to do one that is anywhere between 1-5 pages).

Anyway, I found that method easier than trying to do it chapter by chapter. Your mileage may vary! :)

BJ Muntain said...

Jason, check out this week's subheader. Crazy isn't necessarily okay, but it's normal.

I love Jeff Somers. From afar, of course. (Don't want his wife to get suspicious...)

Colin Smith said...

Sam: A synopsis for a US agent can be, and often is, dry and lacking in emotion. Its purpose is solely to give the agent an idea of what happens in the novel and how it all resolves. The agent is looking at structure and plot. A sense of voice and character should come through the query. This might be different elsewhere, especially those places where the query is a synopsis.

Robert Ceres said...

Colin, you forgot the most important part of your query letter, the reference to your pants! How is Janet going to know whether you’re a nut job without knowing whether you are wearing pants.

Jason, ah, the dreaded synopsis. An idea spawned directly from Satan's evil heart. There is no good way to write a synopsis.

And Brussels sprouts roasted with parmesan are just the thing.

Colin Smith said...

Robert: What are these "pants" of which you speak? :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I will settle for the "meh" query as long as it takes the agent to my pages and the agent likes my pages. However, I seem to be suffering from obsessive, compulsive editing disorder. I know I have to let this thing fly, but I'm scared. I tell you. Scared. What if there's a errant comma or one of those dread homonyms that I and my grammar Nazi editor missed? What if it's not ready yet again? I am giving myself until Sunday. If I don't send out the requests and new queries, I may need an intervention.

Jason, like Sam said, don't fuss over the synopsis too much. I too nearly had a melt down during my first round of queries because a couple of agents wanted a synopsis. The agent just wants to make sure the story has a solid direction and ending.

A.J. - I loved the Calvin & Hobbs. Lima Beans. Talk about meh!

Donnaeve said...

Maybe it's me. Why worry about the query letter if an agent has requested pages? I don't get it. I actually thought this post was a layover from April Fools Day.

Like Diane said, fresh Brussels Sprouts. I like to sautee mine with bacon fried crisp, then crumbled and onion. Sublime.

Jason, too late now, but writing a synopsis before writing your story (you could call it an outline) is easiest. It's easier b/c you have the opportunity of only knowing the main scenes of the story, not all those little details that tend to want to creep in after the fact. Just for future reference next time you sit down to hammer out a new novel.



Sam Hawke said...

Colin - oh, I know, and I agree. As I said to Jason in the original, it's much more of a worry in the UK where you often don't get the chance to submit an enticing query with a decent blurb. But in terms of actually describing the story without agonising about it, I found it much easier to draft it this way than trying to do it by chapter summary.

Like I said, your mileage might vary. And it probably largely depends on genre - I write (loooooooong) fantasy/mystery, and found it much easier to summarise the plot if I thought in terms of inciting events, climaxes, etc rather than describing everything that happens chapter by chapter (which I attempted first, then found it SO hard to cut it down). You get the same outcome in the end (a description of the plot from beginning to end) but you might find it easier to write and easier to read the end product.

I think Jason's writing epic fantasy and thought it might help make a difficult process easier, that's all!

And I've passed my comment limit, so off to bed for me. :)

Celia Reaves said...

OP, you got page requests - I'd be dancing in the streets! (With pants - the alternative is too dire to consider.)

Jason Magnason said...

Sam is absolutely correct! I write epic fantasy. It is so hard to create a short version of such a long story. I think the Synopsis and the Brussels sprouts are in cahoots with the Query monster and that's why our fellow woodland creatures are always running back into their caves.

Carkoonian Literature 101: Lesson 1 - Don't get eaten by the Meh Query Monster

Oh and by the way on Carkoon we don't eat Brussels sprouts, they eat us.

However the recipes offered up so far are enticing me to tempt the fates, but my inner child says don't do it.

Adib Khorram said...

I'm glad to see the prevailing wisdom that bacon improves everything is once more proving its worth. If only one could wrap a query letter in bacon...

Light bulb...

OP, I'm curious what makes you call your query 'meh' in the first place, and why you sent it if you felt that way? Or was it hindsight?

Synopses (especially the varying length requirements) seem to exist purely to vex querying writers.

Maggie Maxwell said...

My eyes have been opened. Clearly my plan for querying has been all wrong. Why bother trying to explain my story in 250 words when I can offer booze and cookies within twenty? Who can say no to booze and cookies?

Karen McCoy said...

The query might be meh, but this post sure isn't. Thank you for the much needed laugh this morning, as well as the insight.

What DLM said. This is yet another example of how perfectionism kills. Sometimes good equals enough.

Lucie Witt said...

#teambrusselsprouts

I suck at writing a synopsis. Not as much as I used too, but still.

Jason, it might help to try writing a synopsis for a favorite fantasy book. It's easier to see what subplots you can leave out when it's someone else's work. Then you can try applying what you learned to your own.

I take heart in the fact that most agents seem to know a synopsis is the devil incarnate and, as others mentioned, use it to mostly make sure aliens don't show up in your contemporary romance in chapter 25.

CynthiaMc said...

I write the synopsis as I go. That way when I'm finished with the book, I'm finished with the synopsis, too.

Queries used to befuddle me. After reading all the ones on Query Shark I may be getting the hang of it.

Amanda Capper said...

That Jeff is a funny guy.

Lucie Witt said...

On yesterday's topic:
For those on Twitter, Chuck Wendig is tweeting some really interesting stuff about platform, promotion, and the power of recommendation.

Julie Weathers said...

Snowman was an $80 Amish plow horse with a hole in his shoulder bought off a slaughter truck. De Leyer wanted a stout horse for his heavier clients to take riding lessons on. The horse was very sweet and gentle, but didn't have a great gait, so he sold him to a neighbor.

Snowman jumped the fence and came home. De Leyer told the neighbor to build a taller fence. It didn't matter how tall the fence was, Snowman came home. The last time he came home dragging a tire attached to his leg. De Leyer gave up and bought him back, vowing he'd never leave.

Then De Leyer decided to see if the horse could jump competitively. He could. The money people laughed at De Leyer and his gray horse when he first appeared, but not for long. They jumped well enough to win championships, set records, and put the jumping world on its ear.

It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to work.

Craig said...

Queries are female? Oh chnit, no wonder my sucks. I'm trying to make it masculine.

LynnRodz said...

OMG, that made me laugh out loud! That query sums up Jeff in a nutshell - liquor and no pants.

What I don't understand OP is why would you send out a query you thought was meh in the first place? A query is so important, wouldn't you work on it until it shined like your ms, or is your ms also meh? And then you think the agent is probably meh because s/he liked your query?

Sometimes I don't understand what some people are thinking. Just a few days ago, a writer wrote she started querying (even though she knows her manuscript isn't ready) because she was just too excited to query.

I know, sometimes I'm too blunt, but I mean, really?

Maggie McT said...

Did that actually happen? If so, makes my week : ) Just great on every level.

Maggie McT said...

Re Jeff S ..in case that wasn't clear : )

Julie Weathers said...

Maggie,

I have two autographed copies of his books. The autographs are...colorful. I don't doubt for a moment the email is true.

Julie

Sherry Howard said...

I think of a query as my book's handshake introduction. When you meet new people you tell them the things that present yourself in the best light and make people want to know more about you. Hopefully, a query does that for your MS.

I was struggling with a synopsis, then someone said: You're relaxed in a bar telling your best friend about your whole story. He's fascinated. Tell him what he needs to know to understand your story from start to finish, but only the really important stuff. I whipped out my synopsis once I went to the bar and recorded that drunken conversation.

Mark Thurber said...

My synopsis-writing trick is to imitate the style of a synopsis in an opera playbill. Most opera plots are fairly Byzantine, so you can see how the synopsis writers have to work hard to boil them down without losing key plot points. This spare quality of opera synopses also lends them a certain wry humor in my opinion. Pretending I'm writing a synopsis in a program makes the process a lot more fun for me. And maybe something's working because the one full request I've gotten so far was for an agent who required a synopsis as well as pages!

Kae Bell said...

Yep, daily laughter, check.

Mark Thurber said...

My FF contest prize was Jeff Somers's amazing WE ARE NOT GOOD PEOPLE, so it's great to get some deep insight into the man.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Sherry- brilliant. Doing that tonight.

Jason- Donnaeve helped me with the synopsis for my WUS, and I took her advice and wrote the synopsis first for all my WIPs. It really helps. My first drafts are 100% easier. They still suck but getting past that first draft with a less cloudy vision is fantastic.

And you guys are so funny. Even when puttering around in editing Hell, you guys still make me laugh so hard.

Stephen G Parks said...

Sam - thanks for the link to Pub Crawl. Literally just re-wrote my synopsis following those steps and got it down to a first draft of 550 words (from 2,000 following the 'chapters' method). Thanks!

Has anyone else done a synopsis that follows character arcs or themes instead of linear plot? My first attempt was that. I thought it represented the story well but it ran about 3,500 words.

#TeamBroccoli
#SayNoToBrusselSprouts

John Frain said...

Oh my, that was hilarious. No sense adding a thing to it.

Dena Pawling said...


Good thing Jeff turned into a good client rather than your #1 fan.........

When I write a synopsis I include a brief description of the normal world, the first second and third plot points, the climax, and the resolution, along with a glimpse at the relevant character arc. This usually takes 250-400 words (1-2 pages).

Mark Thurber said...

Also just noticing that Jeff Somers spelled "whisky" correctly. Clearly a pro.

french sojourn said...


Mark Thurber...small world, I also received WE ARE NOT GOOD PEOPLE...FTW as well.

Julie Weathers...loved your post. Snowman...clutch!

Cheers Hank

Mark Ellis said...

David Letterman claimed that the word "pants" was inately funny, and so named his production company Worldwide Pants. Johnny Carson was partial to "hat." Writing a synopsis for literary fiction can quickly turn lobster Newburg into steamed Brussels sprouts.

avidreader995 said...

I hope that isn't the initial query sent to Janet from Jeff. If so, then what is this entire blog, and Query Shark, and all the other blogs and books written about how to send a proper query doing wasting everyone's time?

At the least, it is totally unprofessional and in offices where I've worked, it would be brought to the attention of HR for sexual harassment.

The whole mentioning of liquor, the xxxooo, and of course saying he's wearing no pants, sent to a woman, decries everything the women of publishing have been fighting against for years.

I wonder how this would be received and what would be thought of her work ethic, if a woman sent a query to a man, mentioning liquor, xxxooo, and the fact she's wearing no top(or pants), instead of writing about her ms?

I see gender bias, double standard and the good old boys network is still alive and well in publishing.

I've known many women who try to fit into a "man's world" by allowing themselves to be disrespected. I didn't expect to see it on this blog. It's an eyeopener, to be sure.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but all opinions should be welcomed here.

Christina Seine said...

That's it. I'm sending all future queries in Morse code.

-- . .... (meh)

Colin Smith said...

avid: If I might throw in my 2c, I think your first sentence should have been a question. If you received a positive response your question, then the rest of your comment would have merit. As it is, everything you wrote after that first line assumes Janet is being serious. Those of us who know Janet, and have spent some time on Jeff's website, see the humor. Yes, it's a bit of an in-joke. But ask yourself: If Janet was seriously suggesting that Jeff's "query" is the way everyone should query, why WOULD she invest so much time and energy into this blog, Query Shark, presentations on querying, etc? She's a busy shark. If it was that easy, she'd spend a lot more time in trouser-optional bars with potential clients.

Robert Ceres said...

The proper spellin of whisky (whiskey, wisky, hwiskay...) is entirely dependent on where you're from and how much you've had.

Avid reader, I think a lot of this depends on how well people know each other, and how well they like each other. Once, in a mixed company meeting, one of my female associates, referencing working from home, mentioned "sure, you can work in your underwear, or..." OMG we had to stop the meeting to collect ourselves off the floor. Reconvened 15 minutes later in the bar downstairs over a late afternoon beer.

I do, however, see your point, and all to often what you say is true.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Frankly, I think my query is a big "meh", but there are parts of it I like quite a lot. And, well, I kind of like the book too. And I've gotten a couple of requests, so I guess it's doing its job?

From what knowledge I feel I've gleaned of Jeff Somers, he sent everybody that same query. Probably personalized the liquor inclusions, though....

In general, it seems writers are against pants. Again, this is gleaned from Twitter. I am not a statistician. I mean, I like my skirts and dresses well enough, but waking up to 11 degree April mornings has caused the pants to remain firmly entrenched. Maybe others are on more sunkissed shores (or shores at all).

BJ Muntain said...

avidreader: I think your post is more disrespectful to our hostess than the e-mail.

I was going to defend Jeff Somers, but he doesn't need my defense. I was going to explain Janet... but she doesn't need my explanation. I think it's rude to chastise someone on their own blog for having a sense of humour.

I'm sorry, but it had to be said.

Lennon Faris said...

Oh wow! I need to re-do my query letter asap. Thanks for the pointers, QOTKU!!

Sherry - that's a great way to think about a synopsis creation. I love it.

Lucie Witt said...

"I've known many women who try to fit into a "man's world" by allowing themselves to be disrespected. I didn't expect to see it on this blog. It's an eyeopener, to be sure."

That's far more disrespectful than anything in the email. Come on now.

Julie Weathers said...

Avid,

"I've known many women who try to fit into a "man's world" by allowing themselves to be disrespected. I didn't expect to see it on this blog. It's an eyeopener, to be sure."

Yeah, trust me. Miss Janet doesn't put up with crap from people, though she is more gracious at times than she should be.

The no pants thing is a running joke. The clients go back and forth with each other and the no pants joke if you follow them on social media. They just include Janet, since she is the head bronc of the herd. No pants Friday, for instance. Janet often mentions she likes Macallan, I believe, Scotch whisky. It's another inside joke to mention sending whisky.

Charley said...

Clearly you people don't know Janet. Mere generic whiskey? Bring BOURBON. (heh, heh)

Julie Weathers said...

Jason,

"That is how I write and so when I go back and read, I forgot what it was that I wrote. So its like reading someone else's story. So in order to do the Synopsis I have to go back and read the whole book again."

If you can't remember what you wrote, how are you going to sell it to an agent or publisher? How many times did you re-read it to edit and revise? You ought to know that story better than your name. If you have to re-read it to do the synopsis, so be it.

Diana Gabaldon writes very long, complex books and she still managed to write a synopsis for them.

My high fantasy is longer than yours and I have a short and long synopsis for it.

It's part of the business. Suck it up, buttercup. When you're trying to stand out in a field of yellow, you have to be the brightest yellow ever. Not trying to be rude.

John Frain said...

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, Avid and brave of you to introduce what you knew would be an unpopular one.

If I might suggest turning the letter writers around in the response and I think you'd see it's pretty much just as funny.

To: Jeff
Fr: Janet Reid

You expect me to finish reading your stuff, you better bring more whisky. And more pants.

It has nothing to do with fitting into a man's world (or a man's pants, for that matter) and everything to do with enjoying a good sense of humor.

I think I can agree with some of your view on society while disagreeing how you're applying it here. But isn't it great to be able to have a civil discourse about it! Then again, it'd also be fun to throw meringue pies at one another, so civility doesn't automatically carry the day.

BJ Muntain said...

John Frain: Make those meringue pies gluten-free, and I'm in.

Jason Magnason said...

I hear Sacramento, CA and Brisbane,Australia are nice places to live.

CynthiaMc said...

Julie - love the Snowman story

#TeamChocolate

Colin Smith said...

#TeamSproutsBroccoliCabbageKaleCheeseFruitChocolateIsItSupperTimeYetThisIsMakingMeHungry

Jason Magnason said...

avid: Hmm. It is not my place, or is it my place. Define a friend. Hmm okay did that, I consider Janet a friend. So I will defend my friend by saying this:

Interpretation belongs to the individual, not to someone else. You cannot interpret an offense, slight, or perspective for me. They are mine to do with as I wish, just as surely as my mistakes are my own, so are my interpretations.

Do not pretend to assume that you own Janet's interpretations. Janet's interpretations are her own to do with as she wishes. To imply that her work ethic is tainted by her sense of humor, is another projection of your beliefs on her. Your belief's belong to you and are not a requisite of everyone else's interpretations.

This is just a world. We are free to interpret it as we please.

Sorry Janet, I couldn't help it.

#BrusselSproutsMadeMeDoIt

Lisa Bodenheim said...

ohoh. Charley. There's nothing "mere generic" about a pure malt whisky.

Just as there are wine connoisseurs who sniff, swirl, and taste, so there are also with the various whisky malts. (And I'm sure I'm phrasing this all wrong.)

I remember sitting in a pub in Scotland, listening to a couple of folks discuss the merits of the slight peach flavor in one compared with the smoky peat taste of the other. It was an enchanted evening.

BJ Muntain said...

Back to the 'meh' query: Even if you got a good response or two, if you don't like your query, rewrite it and send the new one out.

I don't know why you'd be worried if an agent responded favourably to your former query, though. It's your writing that's going to get the yay or nay from her. If your query doesn't match your novel well, she'll figure that out pretty quickly.

There are more pressing things to worry about. Like meringue pies being thrown. And brussels sprouts. Both of which are making me hungry right now.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

What a great example, once again Janet, that you posted.

It does go to show in the comments posted here that not all people have the same sense of humor. And that is exactly why you DONT write a query letter like that; your query shark reveals the successful way to write a query letter. Those that actually read your blog know this.

i.e. Being disrespected is never the disrespected person's fault - that's the "dressing like a slut deserves rape" type of primitive thinking that people hide behind. Disrespecting someone because you think they "deserve it" is not called justice, it's called bullshit.

Humans have evolved to be able to work with others who they don't agree with, but not all have caught up to be able to live among the civilized. That's why we work on having laws in the US based on discrimination, including racial and sexual. But we also choose to have freedom of speech for all sexes. ALL.

And one last note - it's definitely not a man's world, that is a proven fallacy - you work outdoors long enough and you realize that nature will win, every time. Every single time. Nature knows no Gods, and follows no human, ever.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Forgot to add - Opie, your query letter received responses, what it was intended for?

I try to make it a point never to underestimate my work when I send it out - if I am doing this, I need to reexamine what my thought processes are in reaching that conclusion. If it's valid, I make it a point to correct it before sending; if it isn't valid, I try to figure out how not to mentally sabotage myself.

This is not on the Agents who requested; this is your issue :) Good luck on your querying!

Craig said...

Reconciling to the fact that queries are feminine is hard. I am closer to that now and can at least finish my earlier and somewhat shocked response.

There are two parts to enticing an Agent with a query. One is the four C's method of coherently showing your story.

The other part is the actual writing. A query make look meh to someone who is trying hard to use the 4 C's method. The writing style might be enough to enrapture and Agent enough to see if it is for real. For someone whose has such a style as an innate part of themselves might not actually see it. At times you have to believe it when someone else points to something you didn't realize was a positive.

Avidreader: I am sorry that you feel that way. The writing business is like most others in that there are many more applicants than positions for them The only way to stay sane in such an environment is to keep a firm grip on your humor. Sorry that you did not see it as such.

Jason Magnason said...

Craig: Class act, you rock socks!!

AJ Blythe said...


For those of you who read/commented on QOTKU post on book promo yestreday, Allen Eskens, the author of the book Janet discussed, commented at 12.51pm.

Jason Magnason said...

AJ just read it. How about that? That is awesome. Just another reason to confirm Janet's awesomeness.

She draws in the world, but then again, she is the queen.

Kae Bell said...

"#BrusselSproutsMadeMeDoIt"

Haha Jason!

Brussels sprouts that have been roasted to the point of being burnt/burned are super yummy and sublime. You can't have just one.

Now I must return to my battle against the squirrels, which I am, for once, winning.

Joseph Snoe said...

I’m going back to the original question and probably reinterpreting it. The poster may be concerned he queried a poor agent or one who might be out to rip him off.

A person does not need a license or certification to be an agent. There’s no guarantee an agent is competent or moral.

I‘d say if the poster has not already checked out the agent, do so. Janet Reid and others have written about traits of bad agents or rip off artists. Read those. Also, if the agent (and agency) is still in the running, Janet Reid has posted a list of questions you should consider asking a possible agent. Read those, too.

Oh, and don’t send any money.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Good point, Joseph Snoe. And it doesn't hurt before querying to look up Agents on sites such as Writers Beware, Absolute Write, Preditors & Editors etc.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Ordered Brussel sprouts with dinner. Granted they are wrapped in bacon. But this is entirely the fault of the Reef. The effect this blog has on me is most unsettling. I don't even like Brussel sprouts. And tomorrow I am totally not wearing pants.

#TeamBacon

Kae Bell said...

You know what is good wrapped in bacon? Dates. Bacon wrapped dates are heaven on earth. if you believe in that kind of thing.

Pants might even be good in bacon. Bacon pants. Next on QVC.

I am reminded today of a quotation:

"Happiness is good health and a bad memory.” Sometimes attributed to Ingrid Bergman.

Donnaeve said...

I'm not wearing pants while I write this comment.

Does that equalize things here?


#BrusselSproutswithBACONYES!


Kae Bell said...

And, exceeding the post limit for the first time, a response to Janice L. Grinyer. Nature is certainly winning here in New England this spring. Snow in April, come ON!!! And frostbite city, it is so cold here still and add that windchill factor! Yikes! Especially since I'm not wearing any pants!

Kae Ridwyn said...

Youze guyz crack me up!
Oh, and EM - I'll be on that intervention team, if you still need it. But I believe in you! :D

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hi ho, off line, out of touch, busy as a pregnant robin without a nest. Missed the 7am wisdom for the day and am so exhausted I can't bring myself to read all the amazing comments -so- meh, I'm going to bed early WITH pants on, not that anyone cares.
Nighty night Reiders.

Christina Seine said...

*streaks through post and steals all the bacon and booze*

*leaves the Brussels sprouts*

Charley said...

Oh-ho, Lisa Bodenheim, you're a whisky aficionada for sure. Alas, I'm really a tyro. hehe

kdjames.com said...

Avidreader, of course your opinion is welcome, as are you. I don't know if this was Jeff's initial query to Janet, but I can almost guarantee is was not the first communication between them. Just as a query from one of the un-agented commenters over here wouldn't be the first impression she had of us. I don't disagree with your perspective about how tough it can be for women in the workplace. It can be a real problem. However, having worked most of my life in a "man's" business world, I can say that the men who include you in the joke, rather than make you the brunt of it and laugh AT you, are the ones you want as friends and colleagues. And in fact, Janet's zero tolerance for BS is one of the reasons I'd love to have her as an agent. Or a friend.

OP, you are such a woodland creature and I feel so much empathy for you fretting over something good that happened and worrying it might actually be something bad. I imagine we all see our lack of confidence in that question. Don't sabotage yourself like this. Clearly, your query did what it was supposed to do. It's okay to feel good about that and celebrate your success!

DeadSpiderEye said...

This is an interesting lesson, I think I recognise a , where an individual applies their craft, skill and possibly guile too, to a task without positive results; while a seemingly haphazard attempt, produces a successful outcome. It's a bit like angling for trout, there's a whole craft to creating flies to attract a take from fish and some anglers spend a lot of effort, time and money creating the perfect trout fly. When it comes to time on the bank though, is it time well spent when theirs a kid next to you, pulling out fish with something he made from a sweet wrapper?

It's not that expending greater effort is a waste of time, it's how you focus that effort. concentrate on the techniques that produce results, or if you don't know what that might be, experiment to see what's successful. Obviously the analogy is a little crude, I don't think most literary agents have much in common with trout and angling is something you do for sport, not to feed and cloth the kids.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Rereading, I meant to say I thought my query was "a bit meh" not "a big meh". If it was a BIG meh, I wouldn't have been sending it out.

roadkills-r-us said...

"Bacon wrapped dates". YES!

Although most of my dates would not let me wrap them in bacon. When I found one who would, I married her. This woman recently tie-dyed all my underwear. Every. Last. Pair.

Yes, you may be jealous.