Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What's NOT a query letter

1. I have several projects in various stages of completion. I'll be happy to send you a list and talk to you about what you're interested in.

First of all, query your projects one at a time. And don't offer to talk to me. I don't want to talk to you, I want to read your work.

2. " Are you taking new clients?" or "Can I send you a query?"

Assume yes. Don't take two emails to do what one can accomplish. Send the query. If I don't want it, I'll say no. Rejection won't kill you. I know this for an ironclad fact.

3. A synopsis

A synopsis is like a recitation of facts in a lawsuit. It doesn't have much verve or style. The purpose of a synopis is NOT to entice someone to read on (which IS the purpose of a query)

4. A first chapter/first five pages

When included with a cover letter, no problem. Just by themselves, no cover letter, they're useless.

5. A copy of your novel, printed and bound, with an ISBN.

Do I really need to explain this?

These kinds of emails are deleted without a response. The reason for this is simple: right now I have 247 unanswered emails. This isn't some sort of months long backlog. I only had SEVEN right before BEA two weeks ago.

I'm trying VERY hard to clear my inbox. If I don't have to respond I won't. I'm committed to answering every query letter I get. But, it has to be a query.


Kristin Laughtin said...

#6 made my eyes bug out a little. The others I've all seen mentioned before, but not that one!


Oh ... darn it. Knew I forgot to include a something with my printed and bound, ISBN-ready novel ...

So yeah, please send that back at your earliest convenience, and I'll attach a synopsis, a picture of my family, a sheet of family's critiques, and a super stylish synopsis.

What was that other thing you mentioned--a kweery? Sounds kind of silly. How about I send you a basket of chocolate covered pretzels instead?


Unknown said...

*Headdesk* I thought your instructions were in English... maybe I just speak some ancient agent language that I thought was English but actually makes no sense to the majority of English-speaking writers.

Margaret Yang said...

Has it always been this crazy in queryland, or are things getting worse? Agent blogs are wonderful things, but it also means writers have a front row seat at the train wreck, whereas previously, it would be something that agents discussed among themselves. Does it just seem like it's getting worse because I'm hearing about it more, or is the wacky factor indeed rising?

Julie Weathers said...

Margaret, I think it's always been this crazy. I remember years ago an agent commenting about someone who sent some biological material to give the agent a sense of how bad this stuff stinks. It, apparently, was involved with the manuscript.

As my new favorite songs says, "God is great, beer is good and people are crazy."

Agents are intrepid explorers.

Rebecca Ryals Russell said...

You forgot to mention all those 'bribes', I mean, gifts you receive. Or do you keep them on the sly?

Becky Mushko said...

At least with e-queries, authors can't send enclose homemade goodies, arts & crafts items, specimens in a jar, livestock, or their first-born child.

But I wonder how often they attach jpegs of all of the above.

My Optifast Year said...

This question has probably been asked before and might fall into the part about you not giving out referrals, however, I'll give it a shot.

I find that I have an enjoyable hobby of coming up with ideas for stories without actually having written them into full length novels. I have at least 15 very good ideas for books (and/or screenplays) that I would love to read, but don't feel confident enough that I could actually do them justice in the finished novel. Do you have a list of authors who are great writers, who excel at the craft of writing but for whatever reason, they are crippled with writer's block or just can't come up with a good story? I would love to collaborate with authors in such a manner. (James Patterson seems to be amazingly successful with this approach, even though his co-written novels are highly annoying).

Please, could anyone let me know if such a practice or teamwork approach actually exists?


HANNAH'S DAD said...

> Do you have a list of authors who are great writers, who excel at the craft of writing but for whatever reason, they are crippled with writer's block or just can't come up with a good story?

Ideas are the easy part. Writers *joke* about being plagued by people who come up to them with a great idea they're willing to split with the writer.

I'm afraid the only way your ideas will get written is if you do it yourself.

AiringMyLaundry said...

Thank you for this.

Number 5 made me giggle.

Rhyanna said...

Hi Janet
I can say I've been quiltiy of including a synopsis with my query. Then I got a clue...if the sub guides say include a synop, then I write it after introducing myself and my manu info. Now I've been given another clue...can you tell that I am 'new' at this, totally. The additional clue that I've rec'd is that I need to include a 'pitch or as one author calls it a 'logline'.
So therefore, now clued in...I am sure that there will be more clues...
Thank you so much for posting this...Maybe someone should post for those others who ignore things, step by step instructions on how to query...wait..I think someone wrote a book on that..isn't it titled writing novels for dummies? Lol..
Blessings and thanks again. have a great weekend.