Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Reasons I said no to 25 queries (and how to avoid being one of them)

1. Memoir: no overarching theme. The memoir was largely "this terrible but interesting thing happened to us" but there was no sense of how that would resonate with readers.

How you will avoid this: if you're writing memoir, you MUST answer the question "why would anyone else care about this." Your story must have utility for me. I'll read about sad stories on the internet but I'm not going to pay $25 for a hardcover book if the only thing it's about is your struggle with cancer.

2. Description of the novel is so abstract as to be meaningless. If your query doesn't have character names you're in danger of this.

How you will avoid this: Read QueryShark. Or any other query critique site. Apply what you learn.

3. Description of a novel I don't want to read. Ever.
How you will avoid this: you can't. Sometimes you're just going to query someone who doesn't want to read your book. Suck it up and move on.

4. Description of the plot made no sense to me (and because I was doing this list I was NOT skimming)
How you will avoid this: ask someone to answer the Who What Why questions about your novel based solely on the query. If they can't do it, it's time to revise.

5. One-dimensional characters and a plot that sounds so far fetched I actually laughed.
How you will avoid this: write better. This is text book bad writing. 

6. A juvenile book that seriously misunderstands what kids like to read
How you will avoid this: know the market. If you're writing books for kids, it will help if you've read a lot of them. Also, anything that smacks of "should" is generally a non-starter with kids.

7. All set up (which was rife with stereotypes) and no plot
How you will avoid this: get plot on the page. There's a formula for that at QueryShark. Go find it. Use it.

8. All character described in sexual terms. Profoundly boring.
How you will avoid this: don't do it. If you don't see this problem, you need better beta readers. Yes, beta readers for your query is a good idea.

9. Writing is not publishable: Confusing query, pages over laden with adjectives.
How you will avoid this: write better.

10. Leading with themes that I am not much interested in; what description of the plot that follows can't save this
How you will avoid this: you can't. Sometimes you just have a book I don't want to read. Query onward.

11. No plot of any kind.
How you will avoid this: See #2

12.Unenticing, but decent writing
How you will avoid this: See #10

13. Uninteresting premise
How you will avoid this: See #10

14. No plot.
How you will avoid this: See #2

15. I don't understand the premise of the novel.
How you will avoid this: See #4

16. Over wrought descriptions lead me to suspect overwrought prose. Yup, I was right.
How you will avoid this: Write better.

17. No plot. Events but no plot.
How you will avoid this: See #2

18. The question of who would want to read this book is "no one I know"
How you will avoid this: You can't. Query others.

19. The premise of the novel is just wildly clueless.
How you will avoid this: Read more. Watch how other writers successfully introduce things that may not be  realistic but feel authentic in the book. It's harder than it looks.

20. A query that is textbook illustration of what not to do, including answer the question "what is the story about"
How you will avoid this: Read QueryShark

21. Does not understand what "a novel" means.
How you will avoid this: I don't have a single clue here other than taking your query to a writers conference and asking an agent what's wrong with it.

22. Category is one I do not represent.
How you will avoid this: Don't. Better to query me and hear no than miss out on me saying yes.

23. "Write what you know" assumes you lead more than a mundane day to day. Not a good assumption for most of us.
How you will avoid this: thinly disguised authors-as-protagonists are often hampered by reality. "A real doctor would never behave like House." That is indeed true but this is a story, not reality TV. The whole reason for novels is to transcend and illuminate  reality, not endlessly repeat it.

24. Like #1, a memoir with no effort to answer the larger question of why anyone would want to read this.
How you will avoid this: See #1

25. Query letter is entirely about my submission guidelines.
How you will avoid this: tell me about the novel. (I've read my submission guidelines. More than once) 

The good news: four queries were not rejected in this first round but flagged for a closer read later on.


DeadSpiderEye said...

Firm insight related there.

nightsmusic said...

Copies post. Inserts in Author Book on What Not to Do. Studies list and is convinced list is written about me even though I do not write memoirs.

Note to self: Learn more, write better, query widely.

Julie Weathers said...

Typo I believe: The whol reason for novels

Unknown said...

So, read more, write better, and suck up the fact that not everyone will love your story no matter how good it it. Would that be a fair summary?

Julie Weathers said...

I love this.

I'll probably be pitching The Rain Crow at Surrey and I've wondered how I'm going to approach it. Now, I realize it's still got revisions and resting and reworking to go, but there's a good chance it may be close enough to pitch.

That also means thinking in terms of how I would query it. That means haunting Query Shark for days and probably weeks again. No matter how many times a person has queried. Every new project is a whole new ball of wax with a new set of problems.

Writing a query letter is worse than writing the book for me, it seems.

Colin Smith said...

This is shaping up to be another Treasure Chest article. Thanks, Janet--very interesting. I LOVE #22. You don't know how much worry that takes out of querying. Not ALL the worry, but, at least for me, a significant part. It's not the fact that I might get a form rejection for querying something the agent doesn't represent, it's the fact doing so might annoy her and blacklist me. It's nice to know that at least with you, that won't happen. You'll shed a tear of regret, hit the "form reject" button, and hope everyone else says "no" so I'll go back and write something you DO represent. Hey... I can dream, can't I? :D

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I don't know why, but I love reading lists like this. I think I just never expected to see a Sharkly one, so it was an extra treat on this, the first morning of my workweek.

Donnaeve said...

I love lists too.

I'm picturing all writers who've recently queried you reading this and trying to read between the lines here. Is it mine? Is it mine? Am I one of these 25?

Julie Weathers said...


Everyone always thinks they are on the list. I watch the #tenqueries on twitter from time to time and writers drive themselves nuts saying this is mine, I know it is. I wonder how all of the comments can apply to them. Much of the time I wouldn't fess up if it were mine. I don't know why they do this.

"Pass, I don't rep dino porn vampire spy novels. I say that in my guidelines."

"OMG That's mine, I know it is! I just got rejected."

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Yes, Colin, do Treasure Chest this. And I am all about #22.

Happy trails everyone. I have a book to write in a genre Her Sharky Majesty does not represent. I plan to frame her rejection and treasure it forever. I have a space on my wall in my padded cell all reserved. So first things first. Write book.

Claire said...

This is my favourite sort of post, I love the insight into how your job really works.

I'm about two months off being ready to query for the first time. I think. But then, I thought that back in March, and look how wrong I was.

Writers plan, God cackles maniacally from behind his computer...

Karen McCoy said...

Bookmarking. For life. I especially like the "Who What Why" tip (#4), which I will now be asking my betas when my query is ready to be critiqued.

Re-scouring the QueryShark archives, I saw a novel that passed my desk as an ARC that I still want to read: The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. QS Entry #246!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Hilarious and helpful. :) Lists are often very helpful, although I feel like every solution could have been just "Read QueryShark."

Celia Reaves said...

Thanks, Janet, for this peek at how things look from your side of the monitor. It will be one more important thing for me to review before I finally think I'm ready to hit SEND. Beta readers for queries - what a great idea!

Colin Smith said...

Claire: One of the things that surprised me when I first started learning about publishing and what agents do, is the fact that this isn't actually part of the agent's job. Agents don't have to take unsolicited queries if they don't want to. There are those that don't. There are agents who only look at manuscripts that are recommended to them, or that they request from writers they meet at conferences, or via some other contact. It seems to be standard practice now for agents to accept unsolicited queries, but they tend to wade through the query slush off-hours. Their regular "office hours" are spent on their clients, and working with editors and publishers, negotiating contracts, figuring out taxes and royalties, etc. Clearly, accepting unsolicited queries is good practice because so many agents do it, and have benefitted greatly from it--otherwise they wouldn't bother.

I'm sure you appreciate this, Claire. Your comment just presented the opportunity to make the point.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

26. Don't be an asshat.
27. No queries regarding kale or lima bean plots.

Craig F said...

Some days I feel that I personally very much resemble bullet point number three. Then I get down to the queries and my resolve tightens.

I know I played the fool the first time I halfheartedly queried. I am sure that some will hold that against me but I hope to get a query good enough that even those who pass will know remorse from it.

I have met people who have reduced queries to a science. They can tell you the difference in nuance between literary works and commercial works. They can see a difference in how to query different genres. Most of them are unpublished because they have lost the thread to the art of a query. A query needs to have emotional impact.

Not understanding what a novel is. I know that I don't. Closest I can come is that it is more than the sum of its three parts. It is more than a beginning, a middle and an end. There must be the synchronicity of a gestalt that makes it more than words in a row.

Susan said...

"The whole reason for novels is to transcend and illuminate reality, not endlessly repeat it."

This is my favorite line of this post. It goes to show why fiction is so powerful and why the well of creativity will never run dry.

Jerry said...

27. No queries regarding kale or lima bean plots.


Kara Reynolds said...

I read the description of her book and realized she and I both entered a query letter feedback forum waaaaay back in 2013. So cool to see her published now!

Sherry Howard said...

Posts like this are illuminating and encouraging. Common sense dictates that if you're a watchful woodland creature you have a better chance of not landing in a sandtrap when you blast that query into the world.

Unknown said...

Category 22. Oh man, this is the story of my life. Heading back down to my hamster wheel for a few hundred thousand more laps!

DLM said...

I failed to congratulate Donna sooner, but wanted to throw a virtual high five your way Southern Lady!


#24 wins my writerly heart. Reading and writing are, for me, the very way to EXIT the world I already know. Why would I want to stay in the place I live and work and breathe anyway? I want to learn, I want to see worlds unknown, and build them. Meh to what I know. Show me something I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. All my rejections on my first novel I queried (that I got feedback on) were about "not connecting to the story" and "the voice wasn't for me." I'm currently revising that one and hope to get a bite next time!

Joseph S. said...

The query wall just got taller and thicker and wider.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey Jerry,
29. No crap either.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

What a generous post.

Unknown said...

#2 don't think so
#4 maybe, a little
#5 uh, oh

Back to the writing cave - and not the kind Batman uses.
Fortunate we woodland creatures are to have reality checklists ahead of time.

Janice Grinyer said...

" but I'm not going to pay $25 for a hardcover book if the only thing it's about is your struggle with cancer. "


Having JR as your Agent must be AMAZING. That level of a truthful but awkward statement that I would not repeat at the Cancer Clinic I go to is something I totally get. You sit next to a person who goes on and on, and then a little boy in a good mood with no hair walks by, smiling at you with the kind of grin that warms your heart. You just kind of make an excuse to get up and get coffee... Sometimes it is what it is.

Not only that, I now am sitting better on what I have done. I wrote the initial chapters of my fire memoir with factual evidence on what a person can do when a wildfire threatens, intertwining our story in the process. Not only have I had training, but I have colleagues in the field, respected for their knowledge. Though that could be why we survived...Here I was fretting that you shouldn't do that unless you had a Ph.d. I was wrong, but right. Don't worry; that last sentence was for me.

DANG. I'm going to be just fine! Time to ship this puppy out to the Beta readers.

Hey, thank you, BJ for the offer of Writer's conference handholding. I may take you up on that- Surrey is nearby (well, close enough) and you might have won me over with the dollar exchange rate. And thank you Joseph Snoe for your willingness to talk to me at a conference. You may regret that I have stories... Just yesterday I took a day hike in the Bighorn Mts and flushed a small Bighorn Pika out of a small rock field- at 9500' ft only! No wonder they have the latin word "Obscura" in their sub-species genius name.

Yep. Awkward. Just go and excuse yourself to get coffee and I'll understand.

Timothy Lowe said...

Great list - especially the emphasis that not all books are for all people. A good thing for all writers to be reminded of!

Donnaeve said...

Julie - I'm not even querying and I was trying to see if I fit some of these. That's how bad a writer's head gets.

Diane - mwah! (that's supposed to be a kissing sound) I have to admit, when I saw the link you supplied, I thought, oh sh*t, DIXIE's on Youtube somehow? Ha! Thank you for that.

(Just so's ya'll know...there are sites that will claim to have your book for a free download. I speak from experience - but they don't. It's just a way to infect your PC most likely, or steal your personal data)

I saw a shirt I want. "Being a writer is easy. It's like riding a bike. Except the bike is on fire. You're on fire. Everything is on fire, and you're in Hell."


BJ Muntain said...

Thanks, Janet! I think this sort of thing is very useful for queriers.

Colin: I don't understand the 'omg if I make one little mistake I'm going to be blacklisted forever!' that so many writers believe. No one is going to be blacklisted for sending a query for a genre the agent doesn't rep. I'm pretty sure that many authors published today would never have found an agent if this were the case. As Ms. Shark herself has said, more than once, the one thing that WILL get you on a blacklist is being an asshat. And querying an agent who doesn't rep your work does NOT make you an asshat. Unless you try to tell her why she should really be repping your genre and how stupid she is if she doesn't. But you wouldn't do that.

Janice: YES! And if you need a roomshare at Surrey and don't mind sharing with a couple of talkative ladies, you're welcome to join us!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Being A Writer Is Easy It's Like Riding A Bike T-Shirt - Female XL - Asphalt https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01AN2EQRC/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_mqxAxb8QJBZZZ

For Donna...

E.M. Goldsmith said...

If someone could link that pathetic attempt I made to share a link, Donna can get her T-shirt

Lennon Faris said...

Thanks for this post, Janet! I do love reading these kinds of things.

It's interesting that three out of 25 had no plot. What were the queries about? Just events with no direction?

#20 confused me. "textbook illustration of what not to do, including answer the question "what is the story about"" - meaning, the query did not answer that question? Or they answered it in a textbook illustration bad way?

#22 Surprised me. I knew you would read queries for genres you don't represent, but I didn't know you encourage that. Strangely I would feel inexplicably nervous querying the QOTKU! Oh wait, not so strange. This agent has rows and rows of teeth!

DLM - did you mean #23? I had the same reaction reading that :)

Jerry said...

Hey Jerry,
29. No crap either.

Then how will my kale plot grow?

Not that it matters, since my trilogy about kale trapped in a plot will never find an agent.

(It's a romaine à clef.)

julieweathers said...

Joseph, the query wall didn't move, you just sighted in on it better.

There are always going to be agents that simply are not a fit for what you write. However, there are other agents who are looking for different genres and styles also.

There was a discussion about the viability of werewolves and vampires the other day. I'm not sure there's a market for Rain Crow, but it's the worm eating its way through my brain right now. Every kite flier knows it's all right to chase the wind, but that doesn't mean everyone is going to love your kite. You have to fly that purple dragon because you love it.

Janice,if you come to Surrey, we'll suck you and BJ into the B&W crew. You won't be alone. Of course, you may wish you were, but that's another matter.

" "but I'm not going to pay $25 for a hardcover book if the only thing it's about is your struggle with cancer. "

Someone tried to convince me to buy a book that was "beautifully written literature" I needed to read the other day. It was about a woman who had been through a really traumatic childhood and become a writer. "I thought about you and some of the things you've been through and thought you'd identify with this. I know you'd love this book."

Umm, yeah. No, I don't rake up stuff like that for entertainment, but thanks. I'm sure a lot of people loved it. It's a best seller, but therein lies the rub. It's literary, not memoir.

If it's going to be a memoir it has to be not only a fascinating story, but also well written. It can't be just a singular or sad event.

I wonder how many 9-11 stories hit the query boxes after that event. How many are still popping up? How many got published?

Lennon, from working on a lot of queries in the query workshop on Books and Writers, people have a bad tendency to list a string of events on their first try. There's no what's the mc after and what's keeping them from it?

julieweathers said...

EM's Link

Beth Carpenter said...

-do the research
-be interesting
-write better

Simple. But not easy.

BJ Muntain said...

Off topic: (I've been doing that a lot today): Janice: If you want to e-mail me about Surrey and a possible room, bjmuntain at sasktel dot net.

I've just been talking to my roomie. She's booking the hotel room today. I am getting so excited! (Counting down 4 months now...)

BJ Muntain said...

Lennon: #20 basically means that the person did not send a good query. I'm sure you've read Query Shark and learned a lot there. Now, imagine someone doing everything they were told NOT to do on Query Shark. That's what it sounds like #20 did.

Textbook example on how NOT to write a query, #1:

Dear agent,

Please ignore all the other 376 names in the cc section. I really want *you* to be my agent. Not the other 376. Honest.

I really think you'll like my book. It's about vampires. Really cool vampires. They don't sparkle. Not really. So I think you'll like it.

I think, because it's got vampires, it will appeal to everyone across the spectrum - children, young adults, adults - and to all readers, so I'm not going to limit it to a specific category or genre. Oh, and it has THEMES. So it's also literary.

I figure it's going to be about 300,000 words long when I finish it. Attached is a picture my son drew for the cover. I just know it's going to sell a million copies the first day!


Aspiring Writer

Joseph S. said...

I started a nonfiction book yesterday about the tornadoes that swarmed over Alabama and other southern states in 2011. I’d read some very good reviews on it.

I was less than five pages into it (at Whataburger no less) when the memories overpowered me like a tidal way. I think it was more traumatic now than it was then. The shock of the events, the completely surreal atmosphere, the incomprehensible death and destruction all hitting at once back in 2011 must have set up a defense mechanism. All it took was the book’s foreward and five pages to unleash it all.

I read more in bed last night. It’s the pre-storm anecdotes section. I read those in a more disconnected, intellectual vein.

julieweathers said...

Totally off topic. Check your Amazon account and see if you have a credit. Apparently the class action came through today. Buy more books. Miss Janet can probably recommend some.

Joseph S. said...


You've got one page on a query. Maybe 150 words for the book itself. You must tell enough facts and events to get the characters and story out there, don't you?

You could do the what's the MC after and what's in his way, but then you'll cut back on character and the book's unique qualities.

I've got a few months to go before I give it another try.

julieweathers said...


You've got 250 words. That's plenty to introduce the character, what they're goal is, what's standing in their way, and what might happen if they don't succeed as well as put enough of your voice into it to make an agent want to read more.

I was going to put up a blurb for a short story I wrote, but I think it would just be irritating. It can be done. You can do it.

Kara Reynolds said...

For anyone looking for help with their query letter, I do query critiques for Operation Awesome twice a month as part of my Tuesday Museday feature. I have a few spots left open for this one! http://operationawesome6.blogspot.com

Stacy said...

Julie, just found $32.00 in my gift card total I didn't know I had. Maybe that's my "refund." Thanks! Now my head is on fire from trying to figure out what to buy. :)

Claire Bobrow said...

nightsmusic: you made me laugh - thank you!
I'm writing Picture Book manuscripts, so I guess that makes me an oddball here, but I find everyone's comments (and Janet's blog) immensely helpful. Will copy this post, and follow your note to self :-) Much appreciation to all of you writer folk out there.

Roslyn Reid said...

Agents luv my query.

OTOH, the book...

Panda in Chief said...

Dang, BJ, wish I could join the surrey slumber party. It's just over the border from me a couple hours. I've already spent my conference money for the year, but maybe next year. I'd love to hang out with you all.

Julie, I wish some agent and publisher would get on the stick and publish anything you write. I know, I know, you have to finish it to your satisfaction first, but I am ready to hit the pre-order button any time. I'd probably read your shopping list.

One of the unanticipated benefits of being in the SCBWI Nevada mentor program this year, is that now I have people to beta queries, synopses, and drafts. There were 22 people in the program, and we've broken up into age related writing groups, with a bit of crossover between the YA and MG groups. There are going to be more books on my must buy list pretty soon, I think.

CynthiaMc said...

#22 makes my heart smile.

Joseph - when I was at Bama we had a tornado come right down the railroad tracks behind the bowling alley. My hubby was working there at the time. It threw the mammoth air conditioner right on the roof. It was common to see tornadoes on campus. We didn't even pay attention most of the time. That one got our attention.

Orlando is moving toward normal again - once the politicians quit parading through. Half the population is impressed. The rest of us want them gone so they'll quit screwing up traffic.

BJ Muntain said...

Panda, I would love to meet you at a conference!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I would love to meet all of you at a conference someday. Probably no conferences for me this year. But someday.

Colin Smith said...

Elise: You don't want to meet me. A couple of Reiders have, but Janet was there to rescue them from boredom. :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Oh, Colin, I do want to meet you. I trust you'll come with cake supplied by your various offspring :) And I want to find out if the rumors are true about the mutations that occur after so much time on Carkoon.

BJ Muntain said...

YES! EM, you must come to Surrey some time. Or any other conference I go to. Colin, you, too.

Maybe we'll have to have a Reider party that year...

BJ Muntain said...

(Yes, everyone should come. All the Reiders. Because I MUST meet you all.)

Julie Weathers said...


Well, we all know if I did a decent job on Cowgirls at least one agent would look at it.

Chunks of Rain Crow are falling into place. I finally know why there was a scene with Mrs. Lincoln bartering down the milliner in the hat shop. She actually did refuse to pay full price for anything when he first came to office. That is secondary to what leads to a later event, though and I didn't realize it until today.

So, as I said, things are falling into place, but as they do, new mysteries open. It appears the boys in the back know what they are doing, but I have no idea. I guess I'm just along to take dictation.

Julie Weathers said...

There's hope, my lovelies. I just got notified I too can have a copy of the brand new erotic of a beautiful young scuba diver who gets sucked through a portal and is now a slave to the shark prince or something. I want to see the query for this. Maybe not.

I wonder if Miss Janet is the agent. *pondering*

I'm going to guess the response would be #3

Anonymous said...

I love this post. Not just because of the 25 ways to get to NO (that's a common theme among agents willing to share reasons), but because there are suggestions for ways to avoid them. Also, there's no mockery or derision (another common theme among *some* agents).

I have to admit to feeling torn about #22. I don't doubt that you mean it, Janet, and this isn't the first time you've said it. But it would just feel so horribly gauche, like I hadn't researched an agent's genre preferences, or maybe had a severe deficit in reading comprehension. Ah, well. As my daughter recently said to me, "What have you got to lose?" I replied, "Other than fear? Not a damn thing."

Dena Pawling said...

This is totally off topic so feel free to ignore.

Janice I'd love to read your wildfire book. For the last two days I've watched massively huge water dropping planes (those suckers are LOUD) drop orange water on one of two fires in the hills less than 3 miles from my office and closer today than yesterday. We can see flames out our second floor windows. It started yesterday in 114 degree heat. Today only 92 and wind isn't strong so hopefully they can get some containment soon. My managing partner's house has an orange lawn......

Hot, dry, and nervous in SoCal

Colin Smith said...

kd: I respect and understand agents having preferred genres, areas they feel they can best represent. But I'm also aware that agents have taken on projects outside their norm (not NORM) because the writing and premise were too compelling to say "no." As Janet said, they'd rather get something a shade left of their wheelhouse than miss out the opportunity. As long as it doesn't get me blacklisted, I'll query anyone with whatever I've got. After all, I don't have a list... ;) (I'm sorry, I keep bringing that up, but that quote is engraved upon my heart.)

Dena: Since when does off-topic get ignored? Besides, that's good off-topic. Please stay safe. When I heard about the fires there in SoCal, I thought of co-workers and Reiders who live out that way. I pray for good firefighting weather. :)

Claire Bobrow said...

Dena - so sorry to hear about the fire. Please do stay safe and take every precaution. Our property got partly burned (thankfully not the house) in the Valley Fire in Lake County, CA last September. Our neighbor's land looks like a moonscape now.

Colin Smith said...

I have added this post to the Treasure Chest as a pdf file. If Janet should add to the list, I'll update the pdf.

I hope that makes this information easier to find when you need it.

Anonymous said...

Dena, you've been in my thoughts, along with others in the area. But YIKES, I didn't realize the fire was so close. I'l know you'll keep an eye on it, so I won't tell you to do that, but please check in occasionally (like, every day!) so we know you're well.

Colin, I know, I know. I've heard the admonishments not to assume an agent won't like something and not to self-reject. It's hard not to imagine an agent reading a query and thinking, WTF. Was I not clear? What part of *I don't rep this* did they not understand? Why would I want to work with someone so clueless? Actually, I've seen more than one agent say this on twitter. And there's really no gracious way to preface a query with, "I know you don't rep this genre, but seeing as how I'm a speshul snowflake and all, I knew you'd want to see this . . ." I mean, way to be an asshat. So when I say "I'm torn" on this topic, I don't do it lightly. *sigh* I'll just keep re-reading the Rules for Writers over there on the right-hand side until I convince myself I'm Bold and Brave and Confident. And Imperfect. :)

Colin Smith said...

kd: I hear ya. Hence my caveat: "As long as I don't get blacklisted..." We should add that to the list of things we want agents to tell us. So far, the list runs something like this:

1. Are you a NORMAN?
2. If you are a NORMAN, how long should we wait before assuming "no"?
3. Will you read queries outside your preferred genres?
4. Who's your favorite President, Jackson or Grant? ;)

Joseph S. said...


I had the opposite experience. I signed up to pitch to an agent because his bio said he represented books for men, including thrillers.

His first words to me were something like "I've not had good luck getting contracts for thrillers. I think I'll give them up."

Julie Weathers said...


I'm sorry, I missed the news about your wildfires. I've had the news off the past few weeks. I'm getting ready to shut cable off all together. I hope you get it under control soon.

Julie Weathers said...

I've been semi listening to a murder mystery on television. Three people are murdered to try and get their hands on a first time novelist's mystery because they find out she's just finished it. Ah, fantasy.

Dena Pawling said...

Thanks for the good wishes. This fire is really close to my office. Here's the fire map and evacuation zone. My office is approximately at the evacuation center [yellow house symbol].


You know you're in trouble when NASA posts a photo of the fire taken from space


The worst fire to get close to my HOME was in 2008, the Freeway Complex Fire [don't we have catchy names for our fires?]. My house was two blocks from the mandatory evacuation zone. I packed my car but ended up not evacuating, thankfully. Fire came to within a half mile of my house. Lost a few stores we frequented. That fire was large enough to get its own Wiki page


I guess this is what I get for living at the mouth of a canyon. Fires and drought don't mix..........

And no Colin, you don't have to linky those sites =)

Colin Smith said...

Dena: ... but I will anyway. It's a mad compulsion I have... ;)


Anonymous said...

Joseph, that's-- just-- I have no words. Did you wish you had a nerf bat at hand so you could smack him upside the head?

Dena Pawling said...

Colin you are too funny!

This just came thru my local RWA feed, and it's "mostly" on-topic


I saw this post couple times on my kidlit lists yesterday, so you might’ve seen it too. There is a teeny library in Northern CA in need of books.

They have almost no books and none new, and they are desperate for them. Books for women. Ya for teenagers. Please read the post. If you have a book or two you can spare, media mail is really cheap.


John Davis Frain said...

What an awesome post. I can never get to my computer on Tuesdays because of client obligations, but wow, was this worth waiting for. I've seen 10queries (and variations) on Twitter, but those so often don't tell you much. How much can a writer learn from "Q7: Not my genre. Pass. Q8: Didn't resonate with me. Q9: Info dump on first page turned me off."

But these samples here? The secret sauce is all in 5 words: "How will you avoid this?"

Janet, looked like between the lines you were kinda asking if we'd like to see a post like this again. You had to look really hard between the lines, but it was there. Anyway, I vote YES.

John Davis Frain said...

Joe Snoe, Names! We want names! That's just OUCH.

"Three people are murdered to try and get their hands on a first time novelist's mystery because they find out she's just finished it."

You must be watching the Sci Fi channel! I love it.

Janice Grinyer said...

Dena, one more link to add to your list is http://www.wildcad.net/WildCADWeb.asp
This link is all dispatches in major cities across the US. If you look up your area, you will have the latest on the fire as its updated- acreage burned, legal location, percentage of containment etc. Open incidents will let you know if the fire is still active or not. Hugs to ((you)) Keep safe!

BJ- I will be emailing you soon. I am standing on the edge of the Surrey conference cliff, about to bring out the credit card, but have some questions to help push me over the edge. You can be my pusher... :D

AJ Blythe said...

So glad I don't have a query with Miss Janet at the moment. But I do appreciate the insight here. It's heartening to know if you do the work (ie read and study Query Shark) there's reasonable odds the query won't stink.

Thanks again, my Queen, for what you do here for us mere woodland creatures.

Joseph S. said...

Kdjames and John Frain

It made the rest of the session awkward. Thinking back, yes, I wished he had rewritten his bio. This was a large conference in Texas. Somewhere around fifteen agents and five editors were hearing pitches. Attendees could sign up for no more than three. This fellow was my top choice that ended up on my schedule. Learning it was a fizzle was a downer, but those things happen.

The other two agents on my list wanted full manuscripts, and an agent at my lunch table passed me a note asking me to send her some pages (I forget exactly how many) without me mentioning anything about the book – must be my charm and good looks (which aren’t that great -I’m thinking of putting Colin’s picture on my novel’s back cover if the novel ever gets published). She didn’t represent my genre at all so she had not made my preference list.

I had a nice conversation with Karleen Koen (on writing) and her husband (on photography) at another luncheon table. I later read Karleen’s novel, Through a Glass Darkly, which I never would have picked up had I not met her.

Apparently my novel wasn’t as finetuned as it needs to be. I’m revising and adding ‘accessories’ to it now. My goal is to try again starting in early 2017.

Sorry, John, I wouldn’t feel right disclosing his name.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Dear Janet, thank you! Your 'how you will avoid this' is the reason why you are our Queen.

Dena, please stay safe! You seem quite calm; I'd be panicking like crazy were fires that close to me...

Colin, EM, BJ Muntain, Panda, you're making me jealous with this talk of meeting up. If tweeters catch up at a tweet-up, would Reiders catching up be a 'Reider-up'? And would Hubby survive with the three cherubs if I hopped a plane and flew twenty-odd hours and joined you? *sigh*

And BJ, your "Textbook example on how NOT to write a query" cracked me up - thank you for the laugh!

mythical one-eyed peace officer said...

#1 and #24 generate the same question so far as memoir...."why would anybody want to read this?" I get that but wonder how one would query something like the Chicken Soup books. These have obviously been quite successful commercially. I've never read one, just thumbed through at the bookstore and while after the first one I guess a readership was established I wonder how one would have queried the first one. (I think the first Chicken Soup was self published, no?)

A collection of memoir essays. The Chicken Soup series includes multiple authors in a volume but is that a significant difference? I would guess people buy them because they are just enjoyable to read for some people. So the answer to the question, "why would anybody...." perhaps is - because it is fun or enjoyable or interesting to read.

So how does one get that into the query?

Julie Weathers said...


Chicken Soup was rejected 140 times. It's one of the classic rejection stories. It wasn't self published, but it was turned down by nearly every publisher until the authors found a small health publisher at a publishing conference to take it on. Their agent hadn't had any luck at all, so they went booth to booth shopping it.

Claire said...

No problem, Colin :)

Linda Strader said...

I see many references to memoirs in your post, Janet, but the last time I checked, those aren't on your wish list...correct?