Friday, June 19, 2009

Here's Why Your Query Got NO today

1. Your novel isn't finished. You were kind enough to tell me in the first line saving me the time required to read the entire query. Finish the novel before you send the query.

2. The Heroin of your story wasn't drugs. Misused words, particularly when you're writing for kids are instant no.

3. Kid's books that, for lack of a better phrase, are vile. Really scary books and really mean books usually with a "should" theme: "this book will show kids should do this; parents should do that."

4. In your 250 word query letter there's nothing, literally NOTHING, about the novel other than the title.

These are queries that don't make it to the holding pen; they're rejected in about 15 seconds, the time it takes to skim a page.


Matt said...

Mental note: wait until the last sentence to mention the book isn't done.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

I think having a proper heroin is important in a novel; especially if she's dressed in a white, powdery gown, hangs out in dark alleys, and blows the minds of the people in the story (or, at least calms them down for a while). And, you want the query letter to tell you something about the book? Really, Janet, picky, picky, picky...

Leona said...

OOOOOH. OUCH! Wow. I would laugh thinking you had to make this up, but I'm afraid I know the truth. You are absolutely serious.

I'm going to send in my query to your query shark once I've finished my editing process. I promise not to make THAT mistake. I'll probably make a different one. **groan**

Back to editing.

Liana Brooks said...

But, Janet! I'm a Speshul Snowflake. And I know you'll love my magnum opus, a 200,000 word epic of zombie love. It's brimming with rotted corpses and almost finished! It's perfect right from draft one.

And you have to accept me fast! This is the only book I'll ever write. I'll just die of despair if you say no.

So, pretty please? Send me the contract to sign and I'll send you this perfect book I know you can't live without.

Cassidy said...

What are some people thinking?

Thanks for letting us know what not to do. (And making me laugh)

Have a great weekend.


Buffra said...

"Vile" subject matter in kids' books....see, I'm afraid I've made this one. I wrote a short (2000 words) story about a girl who's molested by a neighbor.

I've gotten great responses from readers and have been told it's powerful and well-done. BUT it's definitely sort of a "teaching" (or worse, "preaching" book).

It makes me sad to think it might be not worth the (imaginary, non-corporeal) paper it's printed on. ("Jump drive it's saved on" just doesn't have the same ring!)

And yet, that IS the focus -- the event (non-graphic!) and then her feelings and how she deals with it with her parents.

Maybe my story is just vile.


laughingwolf said...

sometimes it takes even less time to 'reject', that's why it pays to have it copy edited, at the very least...


Clarity: To make things clear.
Clarity is good.

Mira said...

Buffra - I would imagine it's all in how it's handled. A book that is sensitively written about a child molestation is a book that is desperately needed, in my opinion. It could be a powerful healing tool for children that have been molested. That's different than book that is written to scare children, or a book that is mean to children. Good for you for tackling that topic - that's a really hard one.

I like this list. I can stick with this list. No innocent mistakes here; this all makes total sense, thanks Janet.

Although. It's funny. I am actually writing a book about people who use heroin. I hope that's not interpreted as a spelling mistake. :-)

Marjorie said...

I hate spelling and grammar errors. I still see "your" for "you're" and "could care less" for the correct ": "couldn't care less."

Generally, the excuse is: "Publishers have editors." But, my reply is: "Presentation is everything."

John said...

#2 says misused words are particularly bad in a query for a children's book. I can sea Wye their a death Nell fore any work of pro's, but why in kids' books especially?

Buffra said...

Thanks Mira. I hope it's well done. (and not scary or mean!)


Tamaryn Tobian said...

I really enjoyed this blog post. I would love it if you did this weekly. No pressure or anything, I just liked seeing what I'd be against on a daily/weekly basis.

Having said that, I'm really sorry you have to get junk like that. That's the only word for it, really.