Monday, August 21, 2017

For the love of all things holymoly, please send me what I ask for

I'm on the hunt for good material, so I'm in my queries regularly, and requesting a lot more material than usual.

This is really good news for you since projects I might have previoiusly passed on at the query stage are now getting a longer look.

Some of you are shooting yourselves in the foot with an elephant gun. Stop it.

Here's what you're doing.

You've got an ok or so-so query. It's not bad, but it's not grip-the-lapels compelling. I think "hmmm, let me check the pages. And you don't have them, or you included a synopsis, or worse a brief synopsis.

It's 7am when I'm reading your query. I've got another 20 to go. I'm just as likely to hit the pass button as dig around for the pages.

There's a reason I ask for pages and ONLY pages. I want to see how the story starts. I want to see what the story IS. I want to hear the voice that's in the story.

A synopsis is by definition pretty dull. It's about the elements of the book, rather than the narrative. It doesn't have much voice. It's certainly NOT what I'd give someone to entice them to read the book (after all, that is exactly what a query is supposed to do.)

When an agent asks for pages include them. It's not a trick, it's not intended to see if you can follow directions, it's not a test. It's the only way I can see what your damn book is going to be.

If an agent wants a synopsis send that. Not all agents want the same thing. Sorry about that, I know it's a pain in the ass, but it's just one of those things you have to deal with.

PS: If any of you clever readers out there want to check my website/s or other online sources that reference my submission guidelines and verify that I ask for 3-5 pages in the body of the email, please go ahead.  If it's not clear I'd like to know, and a second hundred set of eyeballs on something seems like a good idea.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Am I bad? I always want to include more pages, just to show how brilliant I am.(I'm humble too.)

OT, is anybody as sick of hearing about the eclipse as I am?

Theresa said...

While it's not a test about reading instructions, Janet's post is a sharkly reminder of the importance of reading instructions. Always know what you are supposed to do, what is expected.

2Ns, I have "Dancing in the Moonlight" playing in an endless loop in my head, and that's okay with me.

Colin Smith said...

Stands to reason the best time to query is now... when I don't have something to query!

One day I'll have something worthy... I hope! :)

2Ns: I have no idea what you're talking about..." ;)

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

The instructions on your website are cristaline. Not smokey quartz, not smokey at all.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

The instructions are pristine. Perfect, my queen. I am not sure why anyone would fail in following these instructions.

By the way, I had such a wonderful time at the conference this weekend. Janet is truly a force of nature. I was such a nervous little fan girl - and I blabber incoherently when I am nervous.

I am a total social disaster. Despite myself, Janet was so kind (meaning I still have a couple of my limbs). And Jeff Somers is totally cool but don't tell him I said so. I will be blogging about all this within next couple of days, but still in recovery mode.

Hi Reef. I wish all of you had been there. Can we have a Reef conference some day? Although, virtually speaking, I suppose we have one near everyday.

Colin Smith said...

Elise: I'm glad you had a good time, though with Janet and Jeff for company, how could you not have a good time? I truly wish I could have been there.

I look forward to your blog article(s)... :)

As for a Reef conference, yes, we do sort of do that every day. But nothing beats face-to-face. One of the sad facts of life my reclusive self has had to come to terms with over the years.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Instructions are perfectly clear. I always write down the individual guidelines of each agent in my query list. And check/double check before I hit send.

Elise, I was attending the conference vicariously through you. Can't wait to hear all about what I missed. Get blogging, my friend!

Colin HA! *best time to query is now, when I don't have something... You crack me up.

2Ns, Nope. Not tired of the eclipse frenzy, at all. I love this stuff. The sanctuary is *almost in the path of totality. We're just a tiny smidge off the line. We'll be watching from the pasture, surrounded by horses. C'mon over, everyone! We'll have a REEF party - if you can get here before 2:40pm. :-)

nightsmusic said...

Instructions are clear and precise. There's no questions as to what you expect with the query. I do find a lot of people just don't bother to read them though. Either they think instructions are for the weak or, like my husband, they figure they can get through it and find out after they should have read them. I can't tell you how many instructions I've had to retrieve from the garbage for him...

I love astronomical events. And I've missed every single one in the past three years! One of the things I was looking forward to when we moved here is how rural it is and how little artificial light there is to get in the way and every single event has happened when it's overcast. Or raining. Or trying to rain. Or snowing. Or any number of things that obscure the sky. The space station went over not too long ago and we were the only little spot for miles around that had cloud cover and I missed it! Today it's pretty hazy so unless it clears up, the glasses I bought weeks ago at a 10 for $10 price, which were selling for $60 for the same thing on Amazon last week until they sold out, will be moot. :(

MA Hudson said...

EM - sounds like you had a wonderful time. I bet you've come back super inspired. Hold onto that feeling, or better yet; write it down!

Now that I've started querying (woohoo!), I've made a spreadsheet of all the agents whims and whimsy's so I won't stuff up. I still stuffed up - sent a query without the pages included (doh!). Oh, well, I re-sent a minute later with the right content and just hope the agent doesn't strike me off because of my transgression.

Unknown said...

The synopsis is a tool of Satan designed to plunge authors into the depths of Purgatory and pour ice water all over agents who might otherwise have any enthusiasm whatsoever for a potential new client. Just my two cents.

Kregger said...

Your requirements are crystal clear.

But...if I apply an anagram analyzer to the names of the seven clients listed on your page, I get:

Drop by,

Do not call,

Bring some beer. (Not enough letters for "single malt."

I don't know. Must be my imagination at work.

OT--What is the difference between a boutique agency and a full service?

I see these and possibly other descriptions of agencies and I do not know if I should relegate boutiques to a lower ranking on my query list.

Not that I've had a ny bites on my previous novel, but I'm hopeful for the next.

Joseph S. said...

The query instructions on Janet Reid's page are very straightforward and clear.

Now, if she only wanted pages and no query letter, we'd be in business.

BJ Muntain said...

Hi Janet. Your own page is clearly worded. As is the Query Letter Checklist on the blog.

Did you know that on the New Leaf website, for submissions, it says, "You may include up to 5 double-spaced sample pages within the body of the email"?

And a question:

New Leaf has this on their submissions page: "Do not query more than one agent at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc."

Does this mean one at a time? Or ever?

Oh wait. Just read your Query Letter FAQ, which says one agent at a time. Could be clearer on the New Leaf page, though - you know how well-oiled our hamster wheels are. :)

Colin Smith said...

Kregger: A boutique agency will do your nails and hair, whereas full service will fill your tank and change your oil.

I'll leave now, ok... ;)

Craig F said...

Got the instructions, got a query, got pages. In fact I have made packages with query, 5 or ten pages another set includes an odd synopsis for an oddly laid out book.(high concept with first half action based with some backstory sprinkled in, about a third is world building as documentaries are developed to counteract the political spin against my protags, last is more action.)I have sent them to myself and have them formatted to show up as I wrote them.

Only one problem, it is sci-fi and my Queen has often said that she doesn't do sci-fi.

Susan said...

I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love it--because technology, yay! I hate it because of our dependence on it. Sometimes I long for a life at Walden Pond.

But then I think I'd never survive that, so I'm back to "technology, yay."

Today's eclipse is one for the technology, yay list, too. I'm curious to see the landscape grow dark in the afternoon--it feels like there's some kind of cool energy associated with that. But as for the actual viewing? I mostly want to see the visible UV rays, so I'm grateful for video time lapses and photographs.

What a cool time we live in.

As for staying on-topic today: I've decided to jump back into the query trenches in October with this next book. Because I'm a masochist, that's why. A little nervous about shark-infested waters, but I'll have my life raft (i.e.: plenty of chocolate) at the ready.

Kregger said...



How are they going to do my hair and nails over the internet?

I'll just go back to my vet. He's full service.


Ardenwolfe said...

Wow. Personally, I'm glad. Any of my peers who can't do what's asked increase my chances to see publication. So thank you. :)

Harsh, yes, but that's the game we play.

Lennon Faris said...

I think BJ brings up a good point. People may be getting confused because of the difference between the agency website and your website, Janet. I know when places say 'may include' and they are talking about a synopsis, my inclination is to not send one.

Personally though I can't imagine not sending pages if given the option. If your agent doesn't love those, then they'll never be your agent, right? Might as well find out now.

I am pretty stoked about the eclipse, even though I am a little tired of HEARING about it. I want to see it! Can you imagine what people would have thought about something like this, 500 years ago?

Susan said...

Lennon: one of the coolest facts I learned through all this eclipse talk was that Leonardo da Vinci created the projector that everyone is making to see the eclipse. I don't know if he experienced a total eclipse in his time, but I can only imagine what his genius mind must have thought.

Here's a link that shares his thoughts on the projector: da Vinci sees the Universe

Joseph S. said...

At the Lyle Lovett concert last night a band member introduced his guests who had come to the USA to see the eclipse. They’d drive to Nashville after they experienced the Lyle Lovett show here in Birmingham.

Lyle didn’t skip a beat.

He said he didn’t understand why so many people wanted to see something they weren’t supposed to look at.

For him it was biblical.

He was afraid if he looked at the eclipse he might turn into a pillar of salt.

His delivery made it funny.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Wait...there was an eclipse going on today? Had no idea... ;) Actually, I'm surprised I even knew about it, considering I'm doing final edits on my WIP. For like, forever.

Like Susan, I will be querying very soon. But, I'm not a masochist.

I'm just out of my freakin' mind. :)

Janet, I just checked the New Leaf website. Submission Guidelines look clear to me, although I noticed the "up to five pages" bit. To me, that means send five pages with the query.

And I'm listening to Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" on Spotify as I type this...

Dena Pawling said...

The judge this morning threw all of us out of the courtroom 10-1030 so he could watch the eclipse (peak 1020 here). Which means we all got to see it too. Although it was only 62% here plus cloudy. But was good just the same. Then when court reconvened the judge had fun a few times dimming the lights and saying "looks like another eclipse". Judge humor. But we laughed because that's what lawyers do when the judge tries to make a joke.

Unless the instructions specifically stated to NOT send pages, I sent 5 pages with my queries because I figured it couldn't hurt and might even help. This assumes my first 5 pages were good =)

Now that the eclipse is over, I suppose we'll go back to Trump news. Maybe eclipse news wasn't so bad after all.

Happy Monday!

Elissa M said...

Janet, I took a gander at the query instructions on your web page and found them to be clear and concise. The fact that you emphasize you're "NOT looking for" my genre is, of course, disappointing. However, I know that at least one of your sharky colleagues (Brooks Sherman) does represent my genre, so all is not lost.

John Davis Frain said...

Here's the New Leaf site:
"You may include up to 5 double-spaced sample pages within the body of the email."

Here's your site:
"Include the first 3-5 pages of the novel in the body of the email.
The first 3-5 pages are not the preface or prologue. They are the first 3-5 pages from chapter 1."

Nobody is confused about sending the first pages of their manuscript. Some people might be unwilling to do their homework where they'd learn that they should include pages. But don't confuse confusion with laziness.

You're just thinning the herd, although it sounds like you don't have that stipulation for herd-thinning. You have it because you want to see the writing.

OT: Just returned from the center line for the eclipse. If I was a judge scoring the outcome:

Hype - 1
Eclipse - 0

But it was a fun adventure and our family will now have lots of jokes in the future. ("Oh, that book was disappointing." "Like, solar eclipse disappointing?" "OMG, no, it wasn't that bad.")

AJ Blythe said...

I ponder on all the confused wildlife that coulda sworn there were more hours in the day...

Megan V said...

Your query instructions are crystal.


I only wish I had a reason to follow them.

Unknown said...

I queried you yesterday, before I read this post. Your instructions are clear, and I added my 5 pages in the body of the email.

That being said, I was told a few months ago to always add a synopsis to my query... so I sent you one. Bad advice, I suppose. Here's hoping maybe you won't read it?