Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Nine queries, seven passes

A recent batch of queries produced the following:


(1) Query opens with a rhetorical question that makes me lose all interest in the book

How you will avoid that: do not open your query with a rhetorical question. If anyone advises you to do this, ignore them.


(2) Query had someVERY undeft sentences that are intended to be compliments but fail. Not enough about the book to get me past the idea this author will be an ass-hat.

How you will avoid this:
being cheeky in a query is great if you know someone. Blog readers that comment often (Colin Smith, I see you!) can get away with "Hey Snookums" or the equivalent. Almost no one else should try this. You don't know if I'm reading your query at the end of a long tiring day when humor just hits me the wrong way. Do Not Chance It. Be professional.

The purpose of a query is two-fold: tell me about your book and show me you are not an ass-hat.


(3) Word count problem: too short.


How you will avoid this: be familiar with the word count requirements of your category. I'm more likely to look at things that are too long than things that are too short. Too long can be pared. Too short means you finished a book and didn't see what was missing.


(4) List of events but no plot.

How you will avoid this:
Get plot on the page. Unless you have the choice the hero faces, and what's at stake for him/her with that choice, you do not have plot on the page. No plot is almost always an automatic pass.


(5) So abstract as to be uninteresting.

How you will avoid this: For starters, name your characters. I read a query advice book that said not to. That advice is so bad it should come with criminal charges. Name your characters and be specific about the FIRST choice they need to make. You don't need to list every event in the book. just entice me to read more.


(6) Characters are one-dimensional, and the plot is something from a 70's movie.

How you will avoid this: Watch for descriptions that are hyperbolic: billionaire, sadistic, super hacker, former Miss America now a Navy Seal, world's best (anything). Jack Reacher is a big, highly competent guy. He also has flaws and if you asked him to describe himself he probably wouldn't start with "world class marksman" even though he is. If one of your characters introduced themselves with the words you use to describe them, would you want to keep talking to them or would you roll your eyes at their self-importance?



(7) self-aggrandizing bio that is very off-putting


How you will avoid this: Don't tell me anything in your bio that can't be verified. "Nominated for an Edgar" doesn't mean the publisher sent your book for consideration. Same with the Pushcart Prize. And I don't care if you were first in your class at the LakeWoebegon School of Writing and Beet Farming. I've heard everyone there is above average.



The good news: 2 requested fulls!

64 comments:

DeadSpiderEye said...

Do you find yourself inadvertently punctuating your rhetorical questions with a question mark?

Buy Interrogation for Dummies...

Kitty said...

I love posts that recap your queries. I especially love this advice -- …be specific about the FIRST choice they need to make -- because that screams PLOT to me, and my problem usually involves plot. I’ll have the characters and some dialogue wrapped up in a clever vignette, but I’ll have no idea where all of it leads. So when I get one of those clever vignettes forming in my head, I ask myself, Where is this going? Until I started reading this blog and Janet’s Query Shark, I didn’t know plot was my problem. It sounds so elementary now, but I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Or in my case, I couldn’t see the story for the words.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

TWO requested fulls? Wow! Some folks read the archives, right?

(I did, but it may have been too long ago to have stayed in my brain, which has been rather pea like for a few months now)

Off topic, as they did not require query letters, but did anybody else submit to the Tor.com open window for novellas? I'm trying not to think about it, while of course thinking about it all the time.


DeadSpiderEye interrogation is a verrrry interesting topic to read about.....

DeadSpiderEye said...

Jennifer R. Donohue: got any recommends?

Theresa said...

I love these query recaps. And the good news of two fulls requested!

DeadSpiderEye, my book discusses how the Japanese Kempeitai interrogated their prisoners during World War II. Angels of the Underground.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I fear I would have to change genres in addition to a spiffy query and fabulous book with a real plot to earn a shark's full request. That doesn't mean I won't try when the time comes.

I have a wonderful writer's hang over this morning. I had such an inspired night of writing and can't wait to get home from day job to write some more. I think I have hit something special. Just a feeling. I could be wrong but it felt good to produce so many words despite sacrifice of sleep. Do you guys have nights like that? I wish I knew how to make that happen regularly. I seem to have prolonged dry periods between these hyper creative periods.

Colin Smith said...

So I shouldn't address EVERY agent on my list as "Snookums"? Oh... that's right... the list thing... :)

Here's the Amazon link to Theresa's book:

https://www.amazon.com/Angels-Underground-American-Resisted-Philippines/dp/019992824X/ref=sr_1_1

CONGRATS to the two who got full requests!! I hope this is the start of something lovely for you both. :)

EM: That buzz about writing usually is a sign for me that this is a project worth seeing through. I'm loving the idea, where the plot's going, and the characters, that I can't wait to get it all down. That's happened for me on all the novels I've written so far. When you're revising and you get sucked into your own story and forget to edit--that, to me, is a good sign. You have to love your work that much if you hope to sell it to anyone else. Even though nothing came of the two novels I've queried so far, I look for that kind of buzz about a project. If I'm not "feeling it" as they say, I won't even start it.

Kitty said...

E.M. Goldsmith wrote: I have a wonderful writer's hang over this morning. I had such an inspired night of writing and can't wait to get home from day job to write some more. I think I have hit something special. Just a feeling. I could be wrong but it felt good to produce so many words despite sacrifice of sleep. Do you guys have nights like that? I wish I knew how to make that happen regularly. I seem to have prolonged dry periods between these hyper creative periods.

My answer is YES! And I can definitely relate to your "prolonged dry periods." After one very long dry spell, I finally decided to write something, ANYTHING, even if it was gibberish. More often than not that approach doesn't work with me. But recently it did, and it evolved into a week's worth of inspired writing. I've accepted I can't force the productive periods, so I just take them as they come. The dry spells are when I cook & clean and watch the kids.

Sherry Howard said...

I love these posts, too! It seems that the seven in question must surely not be blog readers because those all sounded like mistakes one would avoid if one knew her sharkiness. It seems like two full requests must have been a good day though! I hope those two are wonderful reading!

DLM said...

DSE: hee! I need that book.

EMG, hooray for a wonderful writing hangover!

(Gossamer the) Editorial comment on my own comment of two days ago - TODAY is his adopt-aversary. Day before yesterday was indeed the anniversary of something, but it was a dark and awful something, something that changed my life and not for the best. Today, though, marks the memory of the day I first met G-TEC.

Today is a good day, holding good things. It's also Bastille Day.

Several days ago, I was on the phone with my favorite Tennessean gal at work. She's the type of person for whom "gal" must be pronounced loudly, and exactly as if it were a cackling laugh. I dig her the most, she's a no-poop chick and gets things done.

She called me Snookums.

I'm still feeling happy.

The carefully modulated use of "hon" and "howya doin' darlin'" are an essential part of my job. I sound quite good-ole-girl from time to time, but you'd better believe I am using these endearments cannily and calculatedly: and only with people with whom it will be most effective. Ya gotta write certain scripts carefully, if you don't want to wear the Hat of Assness.

Snoots and purring to all from His Fuzzy Greyness.

Elias McClellan said...

"The purpose of a query is two-fold: tell me about your book and show me you are not an ass-hat." I think that sums it up nicely.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

What a great day for the QOTKU. And for Maximus!

It is great to hear about what makes a query not work.

Awww, Diane. Happy Adoptaversary Day to you and Gossamer.

Colin Smith said...

You don't know if I'm reading your query at the end of a long tiring day when humor just hits me the wrong way.

This is really important. Not just in querying, but as a general tip. You can't assume the person to whom you're writing is in exactly the same frame of mind when they read your comments as you are when you write them. In the context of querying, as Janet said, err on the side of caution. Professionalism may sound a bit cold, but it'll at least get you past the first line.

I've said this before, but I think it bears repeating. When I query, I try to imagine the agent reading my query under the worst possible circumstances. Perhaps she's on some form of public transportation, running late, with a full calendar, and having to share close space with a guy who doesn't care too much for personal hygiene. Not only that, but she's intimidated by the fact that Jessica Faust just Tweeted that she's caught up with her queries, and our agent still hasn't responded to queries from May. She gets out her phone, goes to her email, and starts working through her slush pile, hoping to get through a bunch of them as quickly as she can...

... but then she gets to your query. It starts with a professional address, and what follows are two succinct but scintillating paragraphs that introduce the main character, and briefly but elegantly describe the setting, the conflict, and the consequences. There's even a touch of humor that makes her smile, despite the odor of stale fish beside her. Her heart sinks when she gets to the end. She wants to know more. She reads the attached pages, but they only confirm that you are a writer of the first caliber, and she will be thinking about this story all day until she can get home to a comfy chair and a glass of wine to read the full she just requested.

It's as easy as that. ;)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Colin Exactly what you said. When I know I have created something that could sell, it’s exhilarating. Last night, all the smoke cleared and I had a plot from beginning to end with thrilling twists and turns and a character, a rebel archivist, who came so alive that he haunted my dreams. I woke up wanting to read the next chapter like I do when I’m reading a great book and fall asleep before the end, but I had not written it yet. I nearly called in dead so I could write that chapter.

Kitty I must learn to shrug off the dry periods. I make them longer because I fret about it so much. You are very smart to just let it go.

Donnaeve said...

#2 made me think of all the lurkers, the ones who might feel comfortable doing such b/c they "reid" the blog every day, and it gets pretty loosey goosey out here. I mean, it's a head scratcher otherwise. What other person in their right mind would send you such a query unless that sense of familiarity hatched from here? But, hello! Lurking every day and then dropping a query using buzzwords from the blog, or Twitter, etc., not professional. If I were querying Ms. Janet, I'd be so formal she'd thing I'd attended the Miss Manners School of Etiquette.

OT: As I type this the most annoying commercial ever is on in the background and even though I have my TV volume low, it makes me cringe. (Silk, I Do Plants)

Back OT: Collectively, this list of missteps in the latest round of queries makes one wonder - did they read Query Shark???

RachelErin said...

Oh Janet - now the woodland creatures get to agonize over whether we comment enough to call you Snookums! You've achieved daily torment.

On a more serious note, is there a way to check how well known a prize is? Is the standard - I haven't heard of it in multiple places so it must not be a thing? I ask because some of this is crowd dependent. Living in CT, where there are a lot of successful authors, I recently learned about an award that is big locally - they get ten or twelve agents and editors to jury it. But aside from people who've been judges, I'm not sure if anyone's heard of it. Is there a quick google test? (Not that I've won the Tassy award, nor a I querying yet; this is a classic cart before horse question.)

Craig F said...

Two requested fulls from nine queries is enough to give hope to many of us.

The questions I have are more on what makes you consider a query successful?

I also wonder if you have collated any data on rates between requested fulls and signings?

I guess what I need to know is if a summation like "what had seemed random circumstance coalesced into a new horror" is a good way to end a query.

DLM said...

EMG and Colin, thank you. Y'all have me in the mood to WRITE.

Sometimes, contagion is a good thing.

Donna, I wondered that too. (Also, yeah, I didn't mind the plant guy at first, but he grates in short order.)

RachelErin, good question!

Kitty said...

Years ago, Nancy “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” Sinatra told Johnny Carson that she was writing a book about her father. She wanted to correct all the negative stories about him and tell the world what a wonderful father he really was. Who can set the record straight better than his own daughter? Carson asked how the book was progressing. She said she had no idea how difficult it was to write about something you know very well. I can still hear her say (paraphrasing): I know what I want to say. I can see the words in my mind. But I just can’t seem to get them down on paper!

E.M., at least you have the plot. I'm still struggling with one.

Colin Smith said...

Rachel: I hope you don't mind, but I'd like to take a stab at your questions.

First, even with Janet's direct invitation, I'm not sure I would address a query "Dear Snookums." I'm really tempted to... maybe I'll compromise and go with "Dear Ms. Snookums." :) Seriously, though, I'm sure Janet will understand if you could have been more informal in your address, but you went for professional instead. I think she would respect your desire not to be presumptuous.

As for how well-known a prize is, I think that comes from knowing your genre. But remember, in the end, it's the story that's going to sell you to Janet, not your credentials. So those credentials are not a replacement for a great story, they are a query assist. If Janet is on the fence about your writing skills, or your ability to deliver on the query's promise, knowing that you won an Anthony, or your short story won the Writer's Digest Annual Short Story Contest, tells her that your writing has attracted the interest of respected industry professionals. But even that's no guarantee Janet will want to take on your project. Don't ever think, "If I include this award, Janet will be sure to call." She may read your pages. She might request a full. But whether she calls will be as a result of your writing, not your awards.

Janet can kick me three ways to Carkoon if I'm wrong, but that's my understanding. :)

Donnaeve said...

My brain is working in spurts today.

On this: "(7) self-aggrandizing bio that is very off-putting"

This made me think the author was striving for a few writing credits. The key words in QOTKU's answer - "Don't tell me anything in your bio that can't be verified."

So, unless you've got proof, it sounds like anything beyond winning an award is going to have about as much value as lettuce to QOTKU.

SiSi said...

I love this query recaps--thank you for providing some details and explanations behind your decisions!

E.M. Goldsmith, yes, I do know that wonderful writing feeling! I haven't felt it much lately, but I think it's about to happen. For the few weeks I've been somewhat listlessly revising, but I can feel something important right on the edge of consciousness, and I hope/believe that means I'm about to have a big breakthrough that will get me fired up again.

Brigid said...

E.M., absolutely. Both the dry spells and the heart-racing up-all-night elation of getting to create something worth doing.

Dry spell right now, but it'll resolve itself. Always does.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Dear Sweetie, I've written two epic-Novella's, about the Griswold Family's Christmas and Summer vacations. Wanna reid-em? Might even become a couple of movies. As jeez, wrong decade.

wanderlustywriter.com said...


This is so incredibly helpful, especially this part: "Unless you have the choice the hero faces, and what's at stake for him/her with that choice, you do not have plot on the page."

Also encouraging to hear you prefer too long to too short as that is me :)

Cheryl said...

Donnaeve, when I saw that about the self-aggrandizing bio I immediately assumed the author was listing their academic achievements, or perhaps their number of Twitter followers.

Colin Smith said...

Some other thoughts on #2, because I know you're thinking, "Do I comment enough to get Janet's attention?" "I'm just a lurker--am I killing my chances of getting noticed by QOTKU when I query?" "I won a Janet Reid Writing Contest, but that was years ago--probably not worth mentioning, especially with some of those amazing recent wins so fresh on her mind..."

I'm not Janet's brain, and I'm not her confident; I'm just repeating (and interpreting) things you've all read here (okay, I'm also drawing a little from things she mentioned at Bouchercon last October--yes, we did talk some about the blog and the contests):

* if you have won a Writing Contest, YES, mention it when you query. Janet keeps a list of contest winners, but it's good to remind her, especially if it's been a while. I can't stress enough how much winning a Writing Contest helps when querying Janet. At the very least, she already thinks highly of your writing skills, and will be hoping for more of the same. In other words, for Janet (and Janet ONLY), this is perhaps the most important contest win you could mention in your query. And if that's not a plug for entering the Writing Contests, I don't know what is. :)

* I don't think "regular commenter" is license to abuse the 3/100 guideline (3 100 word comments a day). I know I skate close to the edge with this (and probably skate right into the judges box way too often), but if you comment a few times per post, and your comments are helpful, entertaining, and maybe elicit interaction, you're probably on the good side of "regular." Mention in the query that you are a regular commenter, and include your Blogger name if it's different from your real name (e.g., "I comment on your blog as DeadSpiderEye"). Again, that's no guarantee of a full request, but that meaningful personal connection at least gets you past the a**hat test (unless you're an a**hat when you comment).

* Does being a regular commenter give you the familiarity to address her informally when you query? That's really hard to discern, and maybe only you know for sure. I've been commenting here for a few years, I've met Janet, and we've had some email and Twitter back-and-forth, and yet I'm still a little leery about addressing a query "Dear Snookums." It's not that I doubt her sincerity, but for a query letter, I feel like I would have to be her favorite cousin before I would be that familiar. Janet will probably say I feel this way because I'm so British... ;)

To those who only lurk here, or who are relatively new to the blog, it may seem unfair that Janet might favor regular commenters and contest winners. But consider: If you live in NYC, you have an advantage over those that don't when it comes to publishing. With so many agents working in NYC who can easily attend the same publishing events you go to, you have networking opportunities most of us only dream about. We may be tempted to think you have an unfair advantage. Likewise those whose family and financial situation affords them the opportunity to travel around attending conferences, workshops, and conventions have an advantage. I also expect close friends and relatives of agents to have an advantage when trying to get published.

But, in the end, all the advantages in the world won't help you if your novel's boring and your writing sucks. If you're worried about how to address Janet, or whether to mention this, that, or the other on a query, don't. Just write a darn cracking query, and, more importantly, a first-rate novel. In the end, that's what will get Janet's attention.

Again, Janet, kick me three ways to Carkoon with kale in my mouth if I've spoken out of turn. :)

Joseph Snoe said...

I'm curious what about each of the two fulls said that tipped the scales in their favor.

Mark Ellis said...

"Very undeft sentences that are intended to be compliments but fail." Like the other day. My girlfriend broke her toe moving boxes, and had to hire a woman to come in and assist around the house. I came over for dinner, and after the woman brought our plates and returned to the kitchen, I said, "I see you've got the Downton Abbey thing going."

What I didn't realize was that my gal had developed an affection for her helpmate, and, well, doghouse.

Joseph Snoe said...

On overcoming dry spells.

It takes me forever to go to my writing desk (it’s in my basement), so that‘s my biggest obstacle.

Sometimes I can get right to work, but not usually.
Two things have helped me.

First, I sometimes try My Morning Glories (my silly name for it). Karleen Koen spoke of it at a conference two years ago, but she is not alone. Others, including Barbara Baig in “Spellbinding Sentences,” have advocated it. Here’s the exercise. Sit down and write stream of consciousness about anything that comes to mind. It could be about your book, your life, what you're mad about. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even need to make sense. It gets your brain working.

Second, I keep a novel at my desk and read it until ideas about my own novel start taking over. I didn’t realize how helpful this could be until yesterday. I pulled a Sandra Brown book off the shelf. Within a few pages I had an idea how to begin revising my latest chapter (and it had nothing to do with what she wrote per se, but the tone of the moment got me into my character’s head).

(Sorry about the length )

John Davis Frain said...

From #1: "How you will avoid that: do not open your query with a rhetorical question. If anyone advises you to do this, ignore them."

First, I LOVE any advice where I get to ignore people. So thanks for that pre-approval. Second, I've seen this advice before and I don't get it. Why is opening your query with a rhetorical question so horrendous? Trust me, I won't do it. I just like to understand why I'm not doing something. This strikes me as a reasonable way to get into your 250-word query. Why are rhetorical questions taboo?

Colin Smith said...

John: I've commented way too much today, but I'm sitting here reading your question and I'm bouncing up and down in my chair like Hermione Granger thinking "Oh, I know this one! I know this one!" Wingardium Leviohsah! See?!!

No, really, the problem with a rhetorical question is it falls flat if either a) the agent answers differently, or b) the agent really doesn't care about the answer. For example, "What if kale was the only vegetable you could eat?" This might be the start of your epic grocery dystopian, but if the agent happens to love kale, then they're not going to see the problem. Or if the agent doesn't eat vegetables, she's not going to care.

Okay, I'll shut up now. :)

John Davis Frain said...

But, Colin, isn't that on you as the writer to develop a rhetorical question that grabs the reader? After all, the question will set up your answer that explains your story. So if they don't like the question, consequently they wouldn't like your story.

I hear that movie trailer voice, Imagine a world where two people control the fate of humankind and wait, sorry that's not a rhetorical question.

What if two beasts held the fate of the world in their fins, and one of them was a conniving, power-hungry dolphin? Only a reformed 54-tooth shark can save the human race from disaster...

I'm sure I'm wrong here. (I'm also used to it.) I just don't get why. Or maybe Colin has it nailed and I'm missing that too.

BJ Muntain said...

I, too, was a bit quick on the ball, I guess. So I shall repeat my message of two days ago: Happy Home-day to DLM and Gossamer!

Regarding awards (RachelErin): I don't think Janet's comment had as much to do with unknown awards as with mentioning non-achievements. If your publisher nominates your book for an award, that's not the sort of 'nomination' you can count as an achievement. And that's not the sort of thing that will be mentioned online, either. Therefore, unverifiable. The Saskatchewan Book Awards are a local award, but they're easily verified online (as are the nominations).

If you don't have much in your bio (like me) and you managed to get a book published and have it win a local award, at least it would show that your book was appreciated professionally, even in a limited geographical region. But if you were to get on the short list for a major award, that would be something important to share. Just don't say it as though it makes you Stephen King or the Prince of Wales.

Craig: "what had seemed random circumstance coalesced into a new horror", I think, fits into the 'too abstract' area. I think the 'new horror' would need to be more specific. And maybe the random circumstance, as well.

BJ Muntain said...

John: Rhetorical questions can sometimes be used properly, but the problem is that they are overused. They don't add anything to the query. It may *seem* like they add tension or 'a question that needs answering', but wouldn't it be stronger to word it as statements? "Two beasts hold the fate of the world in their fins, and one of them is a conniving, power-hungry dolphin. Only a reformed 54-tooth shark can save the human race from disaster..." Of course, you'd need to put in why a shark would care anything about the human race, and what's in it for the shark. What is the shark risking to save the human race that has been systematically killing its kind?

You notice that Janet only says 'do not open your query with a rhetorical question' - closing a query with one isn't terrible. But again, can you get that across without a rhetorical question?

Colin Smith said...

John: Maybe it's the fact that a good opening rhetorical zinger is so hard to do well, and so often fails, it's not worth risking the rest of the query on it. After all, it's the first line of your query. If you get it wrong, the agent's not even going to read the rest.

Julie Weathers said...

Recaps!

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a lady bronc rider in 1930?

"Eeeeek! A pony ate my apple when I was seven and then my ponytail. I'm terrified of horses. Nooooo!"

"Ummm, why is Agent Laura hiding under her desk?"

Most rhetorical questions are met with, "Well, if you don't know, how the heck should I know? Pass."

Even if you know the agent really well, the query is a business letter. It's title and last name. You can find out if the agent is male or female with just a little digging.

As I've said before, it's painful when people come up to agents or authors at conferences and go, "Hey, Laura! It's me, Jane Smitherson."

blank look

"You know, I'm on twitter and talk to you."

"Oh, yes. Hello." Followed, by a confused look and smile.

Agent Laura probably has hundreds of people tweeting her who think they are best buddies.

Wearing white shoes after Labor Day might go out of style, but being polite and being professional never does.

I will never err on the side of being too short, unfortunately. I could write a recipe for sweet tea and make it a short story. Hence you will never see a Julie Weathers cookbook.

4) Ah, there's the sticker isn't it? You have to figure out what your character's real goal is. What's standing in their way. What happens if they fail.

5) Ah, a literary book. *ducks* I know, that was rude. I deserve a lashing. We see this a lot on the B&W forums. I don't know who is advising people not to name characters, but they need to stop. Then there's the generic, Jane's life was normal until that fateful day when everything got turned upside down. Now she's faced with a life and death choice and nothing will ever be the same again.

Southern Maid Barbecue owed its success to Granny's secret recipe that she shared with no one. Jane has the other family recipe, however, the one that keeps 176-year-old Granny alive and well. Now someone has kidnapped Granny and she suspects its the Yankee owners of the new barbecue place across town. Whoever has her is in for a surprise and Jane needs to rescue the kidnappers.

The Ransom of Red Chief with murder, mayhem, and barbecue sauce.

Sometimes barbecue is just the pits.

6) I kind of worry about this. Many of the historical characters in the Civil War really were larger than life. JEB Stuart burned bright like a comet as if he knew he would die young and said he'd rather be dead than whipped. Forrest and his man-eating horse King Philip. Wild Rose Greenhow. Even though she was middle-aged at the beginning of the war, it seems few men could resist her charms. Frank Stringfellow, master spy though he weighed 95 pounds soaking wet. Mosby the Gray Ghost. Joshua Chamberlain.

Sometimes there are just large men in life like Mad Jack Churchill or the Mad Piper. Pipes were considered a weapon of war not music until 1996, I believe.

Even with big characters, I try to give them faults. No one is perfect either for good or ill. The only exception I've had so far is a villain in Far Rider. She's a sociopath. She takes care of her mother, but I have a feeling Mother dearest will die if she ever becomes inconvenient. I haven't found anything redeeming about the creature yet.

Bios are tough. We had the discussion on Books and Writers. Some people thought I should leave off writing for the magazine for 23 years and the game company currently. Others felt it was a valid point.

Whatever you put in, it should be short and sweet. The query is about the story.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

All good points on being professional and polite. Yes. Can't beat it. However, if you are a citizen of The Reef, and you are bold enough to query our esteemed queen, the correct address is Your Majesty, naturally. I am certain of this and bow low as you type it.

John Davis Frain said...

Julie,

If you do write a cookbook, I'll reserve an advanced copy. I don't know how the food would turn out, but I'd have a crazy fun time preparing it.

And, c'mon, "The Ransom of Red Chief with murder, mayhem, and barbecue sauce." Who's not requesting a full to that?

You must be a hoot in brainstorm sessions. I suddenly have a dozen rhetorical questions in my head and the answer to all 12 is: Julie Weathers.

Brigid said...

Julie, I am instantly invested in Southern Maid Barbecue. I need more. Can you write this in installments? Can we get weekly updates on Jane's rescue attempt? Just what, exactly, is in that magic sauce?

DLM said...

"I suddenly have a dozen rhetorical questions in my head and the answer to all 12 is: Julie Weathers."

John (and Julie), that's a subheader I'd like to see!

Okay, I believe that's my three. Ciao for now, fella Reider babies.

Jason Magnason said...

I will tell you all now I am a better writer because of the advice that Janet has given. If any of you do anything in your journey read the Queries on queryshark they will change your life. :-)

Donnaeve said...

"Just what, exactly, is in that magic sauce?"

I don't know what Julie's writing into her magic sauce, but in FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, I believe it was good enough to cover up the taste of...homo sapiens. "The secret's in the sauce!"

Tawanda!

*if you've never seen FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, you will think I've been into the sauce.*

Timothy Lowe said...

That horse is way too coy...it must know something. John Frain, I think you eschew rhetorical questions merely because they are notorious. No other reason. I imagine a hair trigger on which the agent rests...what is it about this one that I can reject? There are agents like Janet that give things a fair shake but I imagine others might react extremely quickly. I recently got a partial request in less than 60 seconds. I have yet to get rejected in 60 seconds but I'm sure that's coming too.

Anyhoo, nothing else to add, except for the fact that yes, Fried Green Tomatoes is an awesome movie but I found the book to be too dense to get through...that and the fact that the secret sauce makes me think of Steve Forti's FF entry from last week.

As far as REALLY addressing any agent as "Dear Snookums," well, I suppose that if you can't read between certain lines you might just qualify as that unfortunate "asshat."

BTW - Janet has mentioned "The Wire" - "Marcella" (on Netflix) has been pretty boss lately. If you're looking for something to suck you in on a summer night, I recommend it.

AJ Blythe said...

I love reading the why's for query rejection, but it always leaves me a little panicked. Without fail, each post I've pulled out my query letter and reread to check for a**hat mistakes.

Colin said: if you comment a few times per post, and your comments are helpful, entertaining, and maybe elicit interaction, you're probably on the good side of "regular."

Dang. I'll have to cancel my order for a Reider badge of honour. I try to be helpful, not sure I manage entertaining, and very rarely comment a few times per post. It's not easy when you live closer to Carkoon than New York.

Donna, never seem Fried Green Tomatoes, but I thought it was a 'women's fiction' kinda story... looks like I might be way off with that!

John Davis Frain said...

AJ:

This from you yesterday:

Friend rings: "AJ, love to have you over for dinner Friday."
Me: "Great, but I don't eat kale, lima beans or ice-cream."
Friend: "Why not?"
Me: "It's all Janet Reid's fault. She lets Reiders talk about anything."
Friend: "Who's Janet Reid?"
Me: "A whiskey-swilling, tofu-eating shark."
Friend: *dial tone*

You have entertaining covered for the week, don't you worry. Any more entertainment outta you is a cherry on top.

Theresa said...

EM, I hope you adequately nursed your writer's hangover. I love that phrase. It goes very well with one from a recent flash fiction: I love the smell of whiskey in the morning.

Colin, thanks for linkifying my book. Every bit of promotion helps.

Donnaeve said...

Cheryl Just saw your comment. We can't do that? Damn. And here I was thinking I was important to have a few followers. Hmph!

NICE FRANCE: I don't know what to say anymore, except France, je'taime.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Yes, Nice, France - prayers. Some crazy world we're living in. Stay strong France.

AJ Blythe said...

Thanks, John. I can puff out my chest and wear my badge with pride (and now I've multi-commented as well *grin*).

I have a rather warped sense of Aussie humour, so I often delete my comments before posting and rewrite. You guys would probably think I'm completely bonkers otherwise.

BJ Muntain said...

AJ: We're writers. We're all completely bonkers.

John Davis Frain said...

If I hadn't already used my 3 comments, AJ, I woulda said "Nice try, but we already think you're bonkers."

Alas, I'm all out of comments. So lucky for you, this probably won't post.

Julie Weathers said...

I have been so depressed all week. The police in Dallas. Now France. I'm sure there will be more carnage tomorrow.

Prayers needed.

AJ Blythe said...

Well, if you all know I'm bonkers I won't try and hide anymore. Don't say I didn't warn you...

Julie, whenever you need faith in people again you should visit Sunny Skyz. They only post positive, uplifting and intriguing news stories from around the world.

Craig F said...

B.J.: Thank you. That sentence does look a bit amorphous and forlorn out of context. It is at the end of the query and the inciting incidents stand above it. The hope was that it would make an agent look back over the query to figure it out.

In truth I stuck it there as a very unsubtle hint to my Queen. This idiot's fearless smile faltered after I hit send with it and I was feeling insecure.

If any of you wish to see that query drop me a line. cfenner at tampabay dot rr dot com

I feel even more insecure after seeing the news of Nice. I hope all of you are safe and stay that way. I also saw a congressional briefing of some sort today and they were proclaiming a terrorist diaspora as ISIL falls apart and dreams of a caliphate come apart.

Please be careful, all of you.

Gypmar said...

Colin, thank you for the link to Theresa's book! Theresa, I am so excited to read it! My grandmother and her sister were visiting the Philippines (where their Spanish mother was born and raised) and ended up imprisoned in Los Banos and rescued in the raid. They have amazing stories of courage and defiance. Also, my grandfather was a top man in the secret armed forces working with the Philippine guerillas (and afterword hunting down any remaining Japanese troops in hiding to let them know it was over.) They would never talk about it. Will look forward to learning more about what else was going on there at the time.

Gypmar said...

Well, I guess I really de-lurking today!

ErinRachel, I just wanted to second BJ's comment on your question. Janet was talking about mentioning nominations for a prize like the Pushcart. These nominations are submitted by small presses (online literary journals included) that have published the work, and number in the thousands. They don't advertise how many. :) *Winning* such a prize would, however, be worthy of mention!

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

DeadSpiderEye: For recommendations, I only have a pair. One is a CIA book I don't remember the title of properly but was in my library system, and it may or may not be A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror by Alfred W. McCoy. The other is the previous-use Army manual (1992) FM 34-52 Intelligence Interrogation. There's also a newer book, which I've never laid eyes upon, on the neuroscience of why torture doesn't work, and there's an article by Christopher Hitchens who had himself waterboarded to write about it.

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

(7) self-aggrandizing bio that is very off-putting

I wonder about lying outrageously in your bio?

Last weekend I purchased a book written by an indie author who described herself (I kid you not) as a "New York Times Bestselling author" as well as bestselling on a few other recognisable lists.

She lied.

The book I read was so absolutely awful in *every* aspect. Plot, characters, the writing itself. Truly, shudderingly awful. No way is she a bestseller in any field, fiction or non-fiction.

Now, I bought the book because it's a genre I read and the desc sounded good. (Cover was questionable, but one should not judge by dodgy cover alone. Come to think about it, the cover was the best part.)

Googled the author. No, she does not appear on any "best selling" lists, NYT or otherwise.

If you're not a nytba, kindly don't say you're one. Makes you look stupid.

So, what can a reader do? Leave a truly honest review on Amazon as a way of warning other readers who might be bothered by a book that can't string two decent sentences together.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

When I was in art school we were taught how to fill our resumes. I can imagine writers, who are unimformed about the publishing industry, try plump up their experience. Kind of like girls who add stufffing in their bras or guys who enance their junk. Unveiled, the truth always makes for disappointment.

John, rhetorical questions are for marketing product. They don't give a clue about plot.

Vacation started yeterday. 20 min from Nice. Luckily we stayed home last night.

Panda in Chief said...

I have to echo John Frain. I would totally buy a cookbook by Julie.

Theresa said...

Gypmar, I'd love to hear more about your family. Please drop me a line if you're so inclined.

Gypmar said...

Theresa, will do once my summer settles down in a few weeks!

Kel Heinen said...

I always love your posts! Esp. when co-workers have made me grouchy (do they not know I'm an introverted night owl in an early morning job?!).

Good query advice as always. I struggle with stakes because my book is character driven and the stakes are literally the MC gets clean or his husband is divorcing him and that's the end of that. *writer problems*