Saturday, April 18, 2009

Last word on the query letter system...I promise

If the query letter system is broken, you can't tell from my sales list. This is copied and pasted from my website:

What have you sold?
##Evan Mandery, FIRST CONTACT (Harper: forthcoming)
**Alysia Sofios, WHERE HOPE BEGINS (nee Into the Sun) Pocket: forthcoming)

**+Andrew Grant, EVEN (Thomas Dunne Books: May 2009)
**+Kennedy Foster, ALL ROADS LEAD ME BACK TO YOU (nee Standfast) (Pocket, forthcoming)

+Jeff Somers, THE ETERNAL PRISON (Orbit: May 2009)
Evan Mandery, THE KILLING COURT (Delphinium: forthcoming)

**+Gary Corby, THE EPHAILTES AFFAIR (Minotaur: forthcoming)
**+Sean Ferrell, NUMB (Harper: forthcoming)

**Lucy Hornstein, 10 LAWS OF THE DINOSAUR (Kaplan: August 2009)
**+Adam Eisenberg, A DIFFERENT SHADE OF BLUE (Behler: July 2009)

**+Patrick Lee, THE BREACH (Harper, forthcoming)

**+Amy Minato, SIESTA LANE (Skyhorse:2009)
##+Bill Cameron, CHASING SMOKE (Bleak House; 2008)

Eric Stone, FLIGHT OF THE HORNBILL (Bleak House, 2008)
+Jeff Somers, THE DIGITAL PLAGUE (Orbit, 2008)

+Dan Tomasulo, CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER CHILD (Graywolf, 2008)
**+Richard Gilbert, MARCHING UP MADISON AVENUE (Behler, 2008)

**debut writers
+writers whose initial contact with me was by a query letter in the incoming mail (fondly known as the slush pile)

## second novels by writers for whom I also sold their debut novels.

I'm now going to leave the query letter ranting to others. The bottom line for me is that the query system in place now works just fine. I find great clients there. I sell their work. I may miss good stuff, but I'm ok with that.


Eileen said...

My agent found me in the query pile. She has continued to be an amazing business partner. Querying is not a fun process. Rejection sucks. Finding the right agent who loves your work- priceless.

David said...

I see a lot of plusses there. Good news.

Tracy Loewer said...

Oh, snap! You sure know how to drive a point home and put it to bed.

I love your blog. I've been educated and entertained more times than I can count - and I haven't even been lurking for very long. Thanks for that!

lotusgirl said...

I think those who complain about the system have not really done this sort of questioning of agents. I would wager that many agents have this same sort of thing going on. Those who don't are probably not looking for any more clients than the ones they've got. Just a thought.

Jackie Uhrmacher said...

I don't think the system is flawed, I just think it's annoying. Not because of any inherent evilness in the publishing world, but because my query letters are so wretched. : ) If only there were another way! But alas, the need for an organized, sane system trumps by inability to summarize.

Anette J Kres said...

I think the query system is just as helpful for writers as agents. Writing my query letter has taught me a ton about my own novel. I love it.

Bring on the rejections! (and hopefully some positive responses too)

J.R. Johansson said...

Awesome response Janet and difficult to argue--not impossible, as we will probably see--but difficult.

Queries are a pain. Deal with it. That is the way it should be. If it were easy then everyone could do it and it wouldn't really be worth doing.

Lucas Darr said...

Oh man I want to read Gary Corby's novel. Tell Minotaur to step it up, thanks.


Anonymous said...

Gah I don't understand why people want to abolish a system that actually allows new writers a chance to get their foot in the door. The mind boggles.

kah said...

I'm a fan of the query system. I'll even respect the rejection process because each rejection will mean I'm one step closer to finding the "right" agent. Don't let pessimists get you down! You're a great agent and your blog and track record proves that.

PurpleClover said...

Thanks for the reassuring stats.


Julie said...

Thanks for publishing your stats... I find that very hopeful.

I keep thinking about all the talk about the system and its defects, but how different is it than my gleeful trips to the bookstore? I peruse the bookshelves, reading the backs of books (avoiding any comments by others and just reading the blurb). If I like, I buy; if not, I move on. Many times, I make it to the end of the aisle, still thinking of a character mentioned on one of the many books I have glanced at. When that happens, I search for said book and buy it. A few words can make me care about a character. Sometimes a cover grabs me, like the recently purchased and devoured book entitled The Girl She Used to Be (the blurb was ensnaring as well).

Anyway, my point is: how is the query process any different than the book-buying process? I send my query to you and you like or not (lovely agents like you reply to let me know that I was not selected). And you move down the aisle looking for what grabs you and I wait (sending many more queries) for the right buyer for me.

The query-writing process is challenging. It's supposed to be and it is part of the craft. I've actually started hammering out queries as I am writing a novel, making sure that I know what my books is about and have come to really enjoy the process.

With all the resources that you and the other blogging agents provide, we should count our blessings and do our best instead of fighting the system.

Thanks for everything you do.

Anonymous said...

Ditto for the stats Janet.
Your sense of humour is what I like about the blog. To each his/her own I guess. I was even a query shark snack, and it didn't phase me. I took your comments like a big girl.

It's too bad that the writer of the essay that triggered all this has turned her comments section off.

Had she left it on I would have told her about a group that formed after racefail imploded. For those unaware, some commentors on racefail spoke on the lack of diversity in scifi and fantasy. So a group decided to form a publishing company to represent works from writers of color, lesbian, gay, the disabled and transgendered. I just saw a piece in Publisher's Weekly about the group called verb noire.
I think they're an example of what can be done if one feels the system is ignoring a segment of readers and writers. Also, they've managed to get donations close to $8,000 in the short time that they announced their intention to do this. I don't know them, but I salute their initiative. That "can do" spirit is always good to see.

And that's what I still hope will happen to the essay writer and her talented group of friends. Many eyes were directed in that blog's direction, but they didn't capitalize off it. For one brief moment, the very agents mentioned checked out their beef,and may have looked at the novel offered for review. Sometimes when you complain about the system, people are listening. Just make sure you're ready for the spotlight.

Being Beth said...

I have friends and family members ask me about my current WIP, and they always want to know what it' about. I used to go into a long detailed premise and watched their eyes glaze over. I usually got "That's interesting" as a response.

Hmmm... That didn't work. So, I made a change. As soon as I finish my character work and get the book story-boarded/plotted, I write a thirty second summary of the book. I memorize it, and whenever I'm asked about my WIP, I spout that summary off. If the response I get is something like, "Oh, that's nice. Good luck." I go back and write another summary and keep rewriting until I get an immediate response of "Wow. I want to read that book!"

In essence I've written my query and I've practiced my pitch. All I have left to do is to finish the book.

We'll see how the system actually works when I begin submissions, but at least I know I can drum up interest.

Liana Brooks said...

The Little Book of Curses and Maledictions?

Am I the only one who was caught by the title? I really would love to see the query letter for that book. I know if I had written the query it would have sounded vaguely ominous. Maybe I'm just mean...

Melanie Hooyenga said...

This gives me hope, thanks. :)

Rebecca Knight said...

Janet, thank you so much for these posts! This definitely gives us aspiring writers the extra "oomph" we need to keep at it :).

I agree with the others that the query system should be seen as a huge opportunity, instead of a "writer trap." Thank you for telling it like it is!

Rachel Bicknell said...

The ones who complain about the query process are probably the ones who are getting rejected because they aren't writing a query correctly.