Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Query Letter Diagnostics update

First, I hope all y'all are doing ok.
I was sorry to see that late last night blog reader Laura Stegman got herself sent to Carkoon from the comment section on yesterday's blog post. It was nice knowing her. I hope she has something good to read in her handbag. I hear the library on Carkoon specializes in Kale-porn.

Now, to today's topic.

I've been working away at my incoming queries and realized that the form letter I use most implies that I've read the pages with the query.

Here's what I send:
Thank you for sending me your query.

I'm unable to take on every project that appeals to me. The harsh reality
of a 24-hour day gets me every time.

Like all agents, I've passed on books that went on to do well.

I strongly encourage you to query widely.

Please think of this as redirection to another agent, not rejection.

Very best wishes to you!
Which is a problem if I have not READ the pages.

I think my submission guidelines are pretty clear and consistent (include pages) and responding personally with "send pages" rewards carelessness, I decided to add #4: failure to send pages to the reasons I don't respond.

I also added the first line: if you queried before 11/20, and haven't heard back, resend. All my unanswered queries sent before that date are gone.

Here's the revised QLD. Let me know if anything isn't clear, ok?

I respond to all queries. If you sent a query and did not receive a response, go through this list to see what went wrong:

1. Did you query before 11/20/19?
YES: Resend your query. All queries sent before that date are gone.
NO: go to 2

2. Have you waited thirty days?
I ask for 30 days to respond to queries. In addition, there is a place on the blog that shows how caught up I am. Make sure you're not jumping the gun.

NO: Simmer down and wait.
YES: Go to 3

3. Did you address it to Janet@JetReidLiterary.com?
NO: resend it to that address
YES: Go to 4

4. Did you include the requested 3-5 sample pages in the body of the email?
NO: resend, and this time include the pages
YES: Go to 5

5. Did you send the email to more than one person at the same time as a cc or a bcc or on the TO line?
NO: go to 6
YES: resend it to me, and do not include anyone else, including yourself in any address line

6. Did you include an attachment of any kind?
NO: go to 7
YES: resend it to me without any attachments. Pages are pasted into the query itself

7. Did you query for more than one project in the query letter?
NO: go to 8
YES: revise your query. Query for ONLY one project at a time.

8. Did you query by post and fail to include an SASE for my response?
I do NOT send email rejections on queries received on paper.

NO: Go to 9
YES: Requery and include an SASE OR requery by email. (email is preferred)

9 Are you someone other than the author of the book?
NO: go to 10
YES: Your query was deleted. It will not help to resend it because I do not respond to queries from anyone other than author.

10. Have you sent me email in the past, such as newsletters, cute pictures, signed me up for your mailing list?
NO: go to 11
YES: your email is likely now blocked. Resend the query from a new email address.

11. Have you queried me more than twice this year for the same project?
NO: go to 12
YES: your email has been flagged as junk or spam. Stop querying.

12. Have you checked your spam filter for my reply?
(if you have one of those "please click here to be on my approved sender list" barriers--I didn't)
NO: go check
YES: go to 13

13. Does your query letter contain any phrase or word that would trigger MY spam filter?
NO: go to 14
YES: rewrite your query letter, resend

14. Does your email address resemble your account name closely enough?
My spam filter sorts those mismatches as spam.
NO: change your account name to match your email, or get a new email address
YES: go to 15

15. Does your email address provoke my spam filter? (ie is it not your name, but a description of body parts or lifestyle or stamina)
NO: go to 16
YES: get a professional email address.

16. Have you included an actual query, not just pages from your novel?
NO: Resend with an actual query (250 words approx) and the first three to five pages of the novel.
YES: Go to 17

17. Have you sent an actual query, not something you think is "better" "improved" or "more helpful" than a query? [Examples so far: an Excel spreadsheet of blog posts that comprise your novel; a published copy of the book you're querying on; a CD rom; a USB drive.]

NO: Resend with an actual query (250 words approx) and the first three to five pages of the novel.
YES: Go to 18

18.  If you've gotten all the way down this list and nothing has been a do-over, try again. Pay attention to the things that trigger my spam filter, and the things that trigger my delete key.

Also, stuff happens. If you haven't heard back, and you haven't done anything wrong that you can see, just query again. If it happens a second time, drop me a note on Twitter: @Janet_Reid.

Questions? ...well, I'd tell you to email me, but clearly that's a problem. You might try reaching out via Twitter: @Janet_Reid


Lennon Faris said...
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Lennon Faris said...

Ah, if only all agents were so clear and conscientious. Gotta love a good list.

Laura, drink a kale-garito for me.

Colin Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Smith said...

Janet: Looks good to me. Very helpful.

Laura: As someone who has spent more than his fair share of time in exile on Carkoon, let me offer you a couple of assurances:

1) There is no COVID-19 on Carkoon. No self-respecting virus would be seen dead on Carkoon.
2) The locals are well-versed in social distancing. Trust me, you wouldn't want to get too close to them anyway.
3) As long as you do daily homage to QOTKU (Queen of the Known Universe, i.e., Janet) you should be fine. Pictures of our beloved Royal Sharkiness are located in most government facilities. If you cannot get to one, you might get away with lying prostrate and saying "Idris Elba" twenty times.

Have fun! :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Oh come on young'uns. Idris? Really?
OK I get it but for me...
Harrison Ford, Sean Connery and every woman's dream Danny DeVido.
Ok, so Indiana Jones and James Bond is a stretch but Louie De Palma now that's a man.

Theresa said...

I'm very relieved to know that Idris is safely (!) quarantined with Janet.

A very minor suggestion for #6: Change "Pages are pasted into the query itself" to "Paste pages into the query itself."

And I'll be bold about self-promotion. My (Theresa Kaminski) book, Dr. Mary Walker's Civil War, is due out from Lyons Press on June 1. It's available for preorder at all the usual places, including IndieBound. In terms of the pandemic, June is not that far off, and I'm anticipating we will still be living in a world of limited social engagements.

Take care.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Man, I was so nervous when I started querying, I think I may have literally jumped the shark here. Ah well. Too late now.

Laura You are rather lucky. Carkoon was in full quarantine for ages but are fully operational now. You'll be full of mushy peas and kale. But do mind those portals. And don't take anything from Clem the Janitor. He hasn't washed his hands in over a century. And the red plants with green berries are poisonous. That's a rash you won't soon be rid of so tread carefully.

Claire Bobrow said...

I have a question about #5. At the risk of sounding like an idiot, why is it a problem to bcc yourself?

Laura: good luck on Carkoon. Kale is pretty good sautéed with garlic.

Craig F said...

Oh, goodness, I think that was a personalized rejection I got from you. The "I don't what to do with this" response left me with a new list of questions, But that is the query game.

Laura: The bistro, though it is as hard to find as Sirius Black's house, has finally developed a tasty brown ale. Don't ask what is in it though.

Best time to go is from 10-11 or 2-3. That is when the Rakshuran Temple Dragon is heating the pool and not on post as the bouncer.

April Mack said...

Claire, I can't answer that, but I have to wonder... why would you want to BCC yourself? It'll be in your sent folder already.

April Mack said...

Oh, and Janet, if you're up to date through November you may want to update the date on your mail badge in the left-hand column. That's where I would check first if I was waiting.

John Davis Frain said...

Laura, we hardly knew ye.

If you had to go to Carkoon, at least this is the worst time of the year to go. Well ... tied for the worst anyway. With every other time of the year. Like many things, once it's over (assuming you survive) it will make you appreciate the freedoms and liberties you have in the rest of life.

What was the topic? I'm completely distracted with Carkoon sadness.

Laura Stegman said...

Hi everyone! Thanks for all your concern, but Alan Rickman and I are doing just fine here on Carkoon, although the sun is awfully bright. Glad my handbag holds my hat along with everything I will need here (you know, like Mary Poppins' carpetbag). We've already set up a nice little flat. I appreciate all the tips, with special thanks to Colin Smith. Along with everything else, I seem to have developed an English accent, so ta for now. Alan and I are off to find Sirius Black.

Laura Stegman said...

Oh, and PS with regard to paying homage on a daily basis to QOTKN: have always done, am doing and will continue to do, with or without an Oxford comma.

BJ Muntain said...

Two things.

#9. Should that end with "the author", rather than simply "author"?

#14. It may be a bit unclear as to what account name you're referencing. It's probably the name on the email account, but to some, it may be confusing.

Thanks for being so thorough!

Brenda said...

I saw the news about Idris and immediately thought of you.
You’ve inserted yourself into our relationship.

Claire Bobrow said...

April: sometimes I bcc myself on correspondence because I find it MUCH easier to search that way. For some reason, wading through my Sent mail is harder than searching my inbox, especially on my phone. It sounds like other people do this, too, or Janet wouldn't have mentioned it? But there's also a reasonable chance I'm the only goofball! (Though as a picture book writer, I've never queried Janet and she's clearly seen it happen somewhere.)

Colin Smith said...

By the way, for any newcomers unfamiliar with terms like "Carkoon," "NORMAN," and "socialization," there is a link on the top right of the blog to a Blog Glossary. You will find these (well, all but the last one--we writers are still trying to figure out what that means) and many other terms defined for you there. :)

April Mack said...

Claire, fair enough. I use Gmail so I just search "in:sent" and the words I'm looking for and it pulls it right up. Maybe other mail clients aren't so simple.

NLiu said...

The comments thread on this completely cracked me up.

Have fun with Alan, Laura! I've heard if you want to get into the speakeasy, you mutter, "Normans are my destiny" into the howling void at the corner of Despair Lane and Rejection Street. But that might just be a rumour.

Alyssa R said...

...I feel so alone. Few people I know in real life recognize my favorite actor's name.

He is the incomparable...
...*drumroll please*...
...Danny Kaye!

First movie I watched (probably. My family adores Danny Kaye, especially this wonderful creation): The Court Jester. Literally the only movie where I knew the actor's name at 5 and couldn't remember the character's name until 15.

(If you need a laugh, try googling "Danny Kaye Russian composers". Or "Danny Kaye court jester the terms". :D)

BJ Muntain said...


I've always loved Danny Kate, though I think the first movie I saw him in was Inspector General (but that was a long, long time ago). I remember him more for comic performances on TV, on talk shows, comedy shows, even some of the Dean Martin Roasts, if I remember correctly. Very funny man. And full of heart.

Colin Smith said...

I wrote a flash contest entry one time that was an homage to Danny Kaye... :)

Claire Bobrow said...

I love Danny Kaye. I'm pretty sure if he'd had email, he would've bcc'd himself on all correspondence. (Kidding!).

One of my favorite routines of all time is the one from The Court Jester: "The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle, but the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!"

Alyssa R said...

Three people on here recognize Danny Kaye! That's more than I've met in my entire life who do, not counting my family. Clearly you all have good taste!

Claire, I legit used to think 'pestle' was spelled 'pessel' because of that line! Finally figured it out when I learned words don't need to look like each other to rhyme.

Colin, would you mind linking to that entry?

Colin Smith said...

Here you go, Alyssa. Just search on my name and you'll find it:


Alyssa R said...

Thanks! I almost tried to read it aloud, but that would've been like Fox in Socks. Or the pesly with the poisly...