Saturday, July 30, 2016

Eleven queries that did not get to yes



1. Fourth novel in a series.
Further scouting revealed the series is self-published and has fewer than ten reviews on each of  the other books. 

How you will avoid this: Generally agents aren't going to take on a novel that's not the first in a series. When they do, it's usually because the previous books sold well. Selling well means more than 10 reviews on Amazon. If you intend to self-publish, you are also signing up to self-promote and self-market and a lot of writers either don't know, don't care or just plain don't do it.

2. Identifying something as a hot topic that isn't.
How you will avoid this: Know what people are talking about, and by people I don't mean your friends and family. You have to watch the news, see what's trending on Twitter, take a look around at what people are holding protest marches about.  Something that was a hot topic 40 years ago probably isn't today.  (Although, honest to godiva, this election season is making me rethink that position.)

3. Previously published
How you will avoid this: I don't take on novels that have already been published. You just have to know this by osmosis, since I don't think it's in any of the guidelines I've posted.

4. So so query letter, really kind of a mess, but I read pages. Writing not compelling enough for me to ask for more pages to figure out where the story really starts.

How you will avoid this: If you query talks about an event, it's really helpful if that event is near the start of the book. Avoid all the stuff of moving the characters into place, explaining why they are there. They're here, you tell me, I go along for the ride.


5. Novel is a thinly disguised revenge memoir.
How you will avoid this: If you're writing a novel to showcase a grievous wrong done to you, you're better off writing something else.  Writing novels to make a point leads to very bad novels.

6. A: Overlooking the "Dear Mr. Reid" salutation
I don't get my fins in a frenzy about that stuff but I should warn you, a lot of agents do.  

How you will avoid this:  If you don't know if the agent is Mr/Ms/SnookieBaby, then Dear Janet Reid is your safest bet.

6  B: A ho-hum plot that stinks of repetition. In other words, a book I don't want to read cause I've already read 700+ versions of it, and there's nothing new here to catch my interest.

How you will avoid this: you have to bring your own particular spin to a plot, something that elevates it beyond the books I've seen before. What is NEW about your book? What are contributing to the genre? How are you adding on to the work of the others that came before you?


7. Absurd plot, categories that don't make any sense (honestly cowboy porn haiku is a damn JOKE!)
How you will avoid this: pick one category. Stick with it. As for absurd plot, I really don't know. If you don't recognize it when you see it, maybe I'm just the wrong agent for you.

8. A To: Undisclosed Recipients. In other words: spam. 
How you will avoid this: address your email to the agent you want to read your work

8. B. The first four paragraphs were about the author's writing journey.
How you will avoid this: Talk about your book, not your writing journey. I care about the former, not a fig about the latter.

9. Not enough about the plot to entice me to read the pages or the full.
How you will avoid this: Get the plot on the page. Set up and background, and rhetorical questions to "entice" the reader are a waste of space.  Tell me what happens in the first act that will change the characters for good or ill. Without that your query is boring. Boring queries get a pass.

10. NOTHING about the plot in the query. Literally NOTHING.
How you will avoid this: get the plot on the fucking page. It's not like there isn't an entire blog with  260 query letter examples to show you how to do this! This kind of stuff just kills me cause rejection SUCKETH for writers but what the hell am I going to do if you don't tell me what the fucking book is about!!!!!!!!!!!!  (yes, I need a vacation)


11. A collection of short stories. Generally short stories need to have been published before they're collected into one volume.

How you will avoid this: If you want to do a collection of short fiction, get some of them published first and mention that in the query letter.


No requests on this round, which is probably just as well since I clearly need a vacation, a drink, and review of what kind of language is appropriate for public forums.  

PS Don't forget to send your pet's selfie for the August hiatus. 
I have just enough photos for the month now. If you didn't get a chance to send, don't worry.
I'm SURE there will be another chance later in the year! 

32 comments:

AJ Blythe said...

Rather devastated you think my cowboy porn haiku is a joke. I thought it rather eloquent.

And are you planning said vacation at anytime during August? Mind you, a break from the crazy Reiders you have is probably vacation enough.

Love the owl, and completely appropriate as the next installment of Harry Potter happens in just under 12 hours...

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Yes, a vacation is in order. I hear the beaches around Amity Island are most favored by sharks this time of year. Good eats or so I read somewhere.

And perhaps the quality of your inbox will improve over the month. Or at least inspire you to sharper jaws.

Donnaeve said...

Wow. It makes you wonder what those folks have been doing? Navel gazing?

The countdown is on until The Reef goes dark. Sort of. I can't wait to see all the pictures of our animal families! And visiting others blogs. I already pop in to a few of them around here...so, I might have to venture out a little further into the deep blue sea.



Sherry Howard said...

Why did I love #10 so much? Because at least that one will never be one of us. We've been better trained than that. In a very selfish way, the post today is encouraging. If that's the example of slush competition, maybe my soon-to-be submission will be okay. I just wrote THE END last night!

OT: Is anybody else among this group hanging about over in PItch Wars? For those not familiar, it's a Twitter-based contest where unpublished manuscripts are chosen to be polished up with an author who's made it through. It's very hard to get that kind of support IRL, so it's a great opportunity.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I am amazed at how many misfired queries there are. Because there are blogs that address how to do queries, including the 260+ on QueryShark (the most recent is numbered 281 but I believe a few were pulled off back in the early days). As others have said, that gives me hope that my query--and the novel itself--will someday follow in the footsteps of Donnaeve.

Thank you for this, Janet. Only 1 more day before your hiatus then you can go out and swim in that deep blue sea. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, is playing through my head with the visuals of Hawaii's landscape.

Megan V said...

Hmmmm. If SnookieBaby and Snookums are a good way to address you, the QOTKU, then what's your position on Snooks. I envision a letter on scented pink stationary that reads something like "hey Snooks, check out this here manuscript! It's a tots awsum cowboy thriller of 1,000 words."

Sherry I'm hanging out at PitchWars, though I'm not submitting this year. Like the QOTKU I've taken a brief hiatus from writing and revising. Still, I am a fan of the PitchWars community and I intend to continue to show my support.

DeadSpiderEye said...

How do you commit 10?

It's a book, there are words

2, hot topics is where it's at and I do mean hot:

'Donald your hair, it drives me wild with lust'.

'You minx Hillary, let's have some of that nectar'.

'Donald, I like it when you talk that, please don't use my name, call me, "That woman"'.

CynthiaMc said...

I don't write (or should I say "up to now I haven't written") cowboy, porn, or haiku but that combination sounds like a lot of fun.

Love the owl!

Craig F said...

I wonder if my plan to publish the Lucas way is covered in point #1? No matter. I think I have found the right size and shape of a rock to beat the idea of a query for the actual first one into my head.

Is a story about hackers subverting Pokemon Go into the zombie apocalypse current enough?

Numbers nine and ten still give me pause. I like plots that roll along. I want the start of the story to be looking in one direction when it gets slapped up side the head by the real plot line. Kind of like Andrew Grant's first book EVEN. I know there is a way but it is plumb eluding me.

Can I send a cat picture(three waking up kitties) and a wildlife shot too?

Colin Smith said...

You want a plot "ripped from the headlines"? How about, Presidential Candidate gets the Russians to hack PokemonGo, then enslaves a horde of Picachus, and forces them to build a wall across the Mexican border? Needs work? OK, how about they sing cowboy porn haiku while they work? :)

About short story collections, Ms. QOTKU. You say "get some of them published first..." So, if I have a collection of 15-18 short stories, and 3 of them have been published, is that enough to query? Are short story collections still a hard sell? Not that I have enough short stories (and certainly none published) for this to be personally relevant, but I'm curious to know. How about flash fiction collections? What if I had, oh, say, a couple hundred flash fiction stories, some of which have been "published" by an extremely perceptive and discerning Shark...? ;)

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Wanna come do some fencing? That'll work off a bunch of steam. And then there's "porch time" with a drink in your hand, dogs at your feet, cats in your lap, and horses in the pasture. Can't beat that with a stick. (I LOL'd over the perfectly appropriate eloquence of #10... sorry you're feeling such frustration. R&R is right around the corner).

Dena Pawling said...


Speaking of hot topics and absurd plot, if you enjoy over-the-top zany hilarity I highly recommend the book LUNATICS by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel. If you can get the audio book, so much the better because the authors are the ones reading it. It's in alternating dual POV and each author reads his character's chapters. OMG funny! It was pubbed 12/31/2012, with an ending that was supposed to be way-out-there outrageous and never-could-happen, but guess what? Yep, it actually happened several years later. I read an interview once and Alan Zweibel said it was Dave Barry who came up with that outrageous ending “so you all can blame him.” I won't spoil it by giving it away, in case anyone wants to read it.

Here's Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Lunatics-Dave-Barry/dp/0425253376/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1469891313&sr=8-1&keywords=lunatics

Here's my review

http://denapawling.blogspot.com/2015/11/lunatics-dave-barry-and-alan-zweibel.html

Enjoy your blog vacation. Hopefully an actual vacation is also in the works.

Jenny C said...

Janet, you need a vacation.

It's beautiful here in Wisconsin today. About 75 degrees, and the orange lilies and yellow coneflowers are blooming in my backyard. I have a bottle of Malbec from Argentina I've been wanting to open. Shall we say about 6 on my patio? All blog readers are invited, of course. Plenty of street parking, I have a cheerful dog who love visitors, and my daughter will play her clarinet for us. (She made the State Solo & Ensemble Band competition so don't worry. Her playing is lovely, if I do say so myself.)

Colin Smith said...

Dena's links:

https://www.amazon.com/Lunatics-Dave-Barry/dp/0425253376/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1469891313&sr=8-1&keywords=lunatics

http://denapawling.blogspot.com/2015/11/lunatics-dave-barry-and-alan-zweibel.html

Linda Strader said...

I'm SOOOO lucky! I don't have to worry about querying my memoir anymore. I've been accepted by a publisher! (Dancing around the living room has happened twice today...)

Colin Smith said...

YAY Linda!!! Congratulations!!! :D :D :D

In the words of Forrest Gump: "That's good. One less thing."

Don't forget to post the details when it's available! :)

BJ Muntain said...

I try, Janet. I spread the word. Whenever I hear someone is working on a query letter, I send them straight to Query Shark. Whenever someone has a question about the business, I send them here. Unfortunately, I have no idea how many of the thousands of members of the groups I've posted the links in have actually clicked those links.

As for cowboy porn haiku... I can believe it exists, like I can believe serial killers exist. Things where people say "I can't believe someone would do something so horrible!"... I can believe it. I can even imagine it. While I have faith in human nature, I know that human nature can be lofty or abysmal.

Congrats Sherry, for writing THE END, and congrats to Linda for getting a publisher!

Theresa said...

Adore the clarity of #10. Great way to start the day. That and Jenny's invitation!

Beth said...

Congratulations, Linda!

Ms. Reid, thanks for the information, and hope you have a lovely and restful hiatus. You deserve it.

Barbara Etlin said...

Congrats, Linda!

Barbara Etlin said...

Janet, I have an irresistible urge to write a cowboy porn haiku. You did that on purpose, didn't you?

Timothy Lowe said...

Take a vacation, Janet! That's an order.

Oh, here's my best try:

I asked for a rub
Bare except for hat and spurs
She used a cactus

Ardenwolfe said...

I really don't get this. All you to do is show the agent what the story is about. Isn't that the first thing everyone asks you when you say you're writing a book?

"What's it about?"

In a query letter, you answer that question as succinctly and as enticing as possible.

That's it. It's not rocket science.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Contrats Linda!

Queen of the Reef, Enjoy August off-line. Swim deep in those pages, avoid the crowds and regenerate like some uncharted monster of the sea's soul. Come back ferocious and purged. I look forward to your growl.

I've decided to go social média silent after the current events on this side of the Atlantic. Especially after what happened near Rouen. But I am lurking like a Sturgeon.

That would be a great song title, Lurking like a Sturgeon.

roadkills-r-us said...

Yeehah!!! Congrats to Linda!

Janet, have you considered taking a vacation?

Dena, I love Dave Barry; I've read his columns for years although I am currently behind as I seldom see a paper and rely on anthologies (or whatever you call a collection of columns). You might like his take on Peter Pan, too.

Timothy, bwahahahaha!

And now I have an idea for a Pokemon Go story. Thanks to Craig and Colin!

CynthiaMc said...

Yay Linda!

Roast is in the oven and I'm chilling in the garden with the pups while enjoying a cherry coke and a rare cool breeze. Lots of thunder, no rain (yet) so of course I had to try my hand at our poem form du jour. I blame Timothy :)

Starlit sky above
My cowboy and I as one
Beside the campfire

This is going to be featured in the National Enquirer about the time my book about Mother Teresa hits the best seller list isn't it?

Happy weekend, everyone!

Craig F said...

Angie: Down this way we have attack sturgeons. They have killed people and I have seen them leap. So it should be Leaping like a Sturgeon.

Roadkills: Cool! as long as I get a chance to read it.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

ME! I'm over at #PitchWars. I'm subbing an Adult Fantasy Romance (that sounds dirtier than it really is).

I've pimped my bio, GIFfed my feed and stalked the mentors. Its a hoot!

Joseph Snoe said...

Sherry Howard
Congratulations. “The End” is such a magical whirlwind phrase to type at the end of a manuscript.

Linda Stader
Congratulations to you, too. What joy and relief you must feel. Now, what was the second reason you danced around your living room today?

Linda Strader said...

I still get random bursts of "oh my, this is really happening"; thus the dance or two. Should have said that even though I no longer sending out queries, I do have my full ms out to 2 agents, and I let them know about the publisher (with whom I've not yet signed the contract) in hopes they will represent me. I would MUCH rather have an agent than not...but will certainly go with the publisher unagented if I need to.

Julie Weathers said...

Oh my gosh what a day has been. I've been fighting my website all day. I've been on the phone with hostgator twice, once to India and the last time not, thank God. I had determined one day or another today was going to be the day to get this thing done.

Finally, I came to the realization it wasn't me, it was the information they have sent me over and again. On the last phone call I got, "You need to call Bluehost and have them take care of this on their end."

"No, I don't. I've talked to them. They've been very helpful. Unfortunately, they can't change your information. Only you can do that."

"Let me send--"

"Don't you dare send me that information again. You look at the last three emails. It's already been sent. Between this election, this website, and your crappy hold music I am about to go crazy. If you send me the wrong information again, I may go right on over the edge."

"I understand. If you'll call back tomorrow we'll see about canceling your account. It's been two months."

I think it was the mention of the election that convinced him I really was on the verge of madness.

Anyway, you know it's been a bad day when I'm not checking Janet Reid until 1:00 a.m.

Yay query time!

1. Good gravy. How many times does this need to be repeated. Pick your poison. If you're going to self publish, commit to being a solo act. You can't decide you need a partner after you jump out of the plane.

2. And even if it is a hot topic, it won't be by the time it gets published most likely.

5. I have to wonder how many people are busy penning novels about horrible political candidates and creative ways they get taken out as we speak.

6. Sigh. It's so darned easy to get contact information right. There's no reason not to have stuff right.

6.B It's amazing how many people have referred me to a certain book about lady spies in the Civil War. The pathetic part is that it was presented as non-fiction and it's very inaccurate and the author admits some parts are unsubstantiated. They were just too horrifically graphic to leave out. It made me wonder if a well-written and researched book on the subject might be an anomaly. Anyway, You have to stand out from the crowd.

7. Well, wouldn't that be interesting. I might flirt with politically incorrect Cajun cowboy romance, but haiku? Never. (Consensual bondage and spurs is still romance isn't it?)

8. That's blows that query letter and I thought my journey was so interesting.

Oops, no more pet photos. I sent the horse butts earlier.

Yes, you need a vacation. We'll miss you, but don't worry. We won't burned the place down.

8.

Gypmar said...

Congrats to Linda, and even better if you manage to secure an agent you're after!

Jenny C makes a vacation to Wisconsin sound most appealing.