Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Reasons I passed on your query


1. You're using the memoir format to make a political or domestic point.
I'm not interested in being lectured to in any form, and particularly not in 300+ pages.

A good memoir is so brutally honest that it's painful. That means you're exploring yourself, not pointing fingers at someone else.

2. Your premise and plot are utterly derivative.
If your book sounds like a 70's TV cop show, it's a pass. The world has moved on from Cagney and Lacey, and even Starsky and Hutch.

If your book sounds like something Michael Connelly wrote, it's a pass. I've read his books, and liked them. I'm not looking for you to reprise it.

3. Your query contains the words "it's a must read."
It's not.
That's marketing hyperbole. It's not the plot, it's not even a description of the book. If you don't understand that now, I don't want to take on the task of teaching you.

4. Misused/wrong words
I've steeled myself to overlook your almost universal inability to properly conjugate the verb to lie.
I've shut my eyes to consistent its/it's errors.

But honestly, words are your tools. When you get them wrong, it's just painful.
I love words.
Watching you torture them is something no agent wants to see.

1. The market for this kind of book is contracting not expanding.
It will take me more time and effort to find a home for this than I'll reap in commissions.

2. It's not a book I like.
That doesn't mean anything other than you think I have bad taste.
That's ok.
There are quite a few published books that I think are rubbish. And they're doing quite well.
You just need a different agent.

3. I tried to sell a similar book and couldn't.
I try not to do that same thing again.

Any questions?


E.M. Goldsmith said...

These are always my favorite posts.

Although, I feel in the future, I would love a post on how the submission process from agent to editor works. This is in hopes that our Queen will be selling so many books. So many. What are the steps? How do different agents manage their clients during that time? How are submissions prepared for fiction? I am told that is different from non-fiction. How does an agent decide which editors to submit to? Are editors similar to agents in how they respond to an agent submitted manuscript? How are offers made?

When does the agent finally get paid? How often do books earn out? If products like mugs and such spring up due to a book's popularity, does the agent get a take in that?

I am going to buy some books today hoping to help push up author/agent revenues. Can the group make recommendations of new fiction that might be fun to read? Nothing too dystopian please. I think we are getting way too real a taste of what dystopia looks like, and even if it has been less than a week, I find I am tired of it already. If that is too far off topic, please delete. But reading is the only thing that is helping me not go off the rails right now.

nightsmusic said...

I've been reading (and loving for the most part) police mystery/thrillers set in Scotland and Great Britain. There are many authors who can just bring the country to life and they write a bang up main character as well. But to speak to your comment #3 "it's a must read, I can't tell you how many of the genre I'm seeing that have "with a huge twist" or something similar in the title of the listing. Is this a new thing? Every one has some kind of twist or ending the publisher thinks the reader won't see coming so why is it there? Just like every author thinks their book is "a must read."

I don't get it.

JD Kirk's DCI Logan series
Anne Fraser's Body Reader series
Alex Smith's DCI Kett series

There are a few others, but these were excellent in their own ways. Just in case anyone is looking while we're all shut in :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Nightmusic. Perfect. I love things set in the UK. Especially Scotland. Thanks.

Alyssa R said...

Thanks, E.M.! Now I'm wondering if J. K. Rowling's agent earns anything from Harry Potter World...

Julie Weathers said...

How about, "It's a must, Reid!"

Sorry, I'll pack my bags now.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

I'm reading The Yellow House, memoir set in East New Orleans which won the National Book Award. And yes, Katrina blows in and knocks the house down and it is kind of political.
It makes me think of my family, our historical house falling apart on the inside looking fine on the outside, and the flood sure to come to the salt marsh just below it.
A great read.

Appreciate the book suggestions. Of course there is also Ann Cleese's and the Shetland series. I can read them again.

And I also have that autobiography of Mark Twain.

Timothy Lowe said...

Yes! on the book suggestions!

JD (manuscript) recommended Tim Dorsey a while back. He's a Florida crime writer with lightning-quick plots, funny twists, and a wicked sense of humor. If you like Hiaasen --

Anyone else finding writing hard lately? With all that's going on, I feel like a cat in a room full of yarn.

Stay well.

sophistikitty said...

I'm reading The Dublin Trilogy by Caimh McDonnell right now (the four and a halfth book in this 'trilogy' just came out) and it's great fun. Sort of private detective fiction set in Ireland (Dublin mostly, naturally) with quite a lot of violence and profanity.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Yes, Timothy Lowe, I am finding it difficult to write or concentrate for long periods. I keep bursting into tears and then calming down. And because I work in technology at school system, I am super busy trying to get all our students online and keep all our systems going so education can continue as well as food services so kids can pick up meals they might be missing. It's insane times. Normally, I would not mind working remotely but I find I miss my routine a lot.

And I am so worried about my daughter in Brooklyn. I want her here with me, but she thinks she would get me sick. So she won't leave.

How is everyone else doing? Please keep us up to date in this scary time.

LynnRodz said...

# 4, I think the culprit is lain, it sounds so archaic. Laid sounds better even if it's wrong. My solution is to substitute with another word.

What worries me is making a dumb mistake that I know is wrong but I won't catch until I already hit send when querying. Yes, I will proofread each word over and over, but there's an evil gremlin who blinds my eyes no matter how many times I go over something and then once sent...poof, the veil is lifted and I cringe. It happens all the time when commenting. Yes, not as serious as querying, but annoying nonetheless. A few days ago an 's' was there in my comment that didn't belong and even after rereading it, I didn't catch it until I hit publish and then I saw it plain as day. Which bring me to perhaps a dumb question, when we delete a comment, do you see that deleted comnent or just the last comment we post? I ask because I didn't want to give you extra work reading two comments almost identical, otherwise I would've deleted it.

(Boy, I hate typing on my phone.)

Richelle Elberg said...

OT, but cool! Silver lining? Cut/pasted from an email I received this morning:

I am pleased to offer free access to Publishers Weekly’s assets.

We will make the digital magazine available to everyone regardless of whether you subscribe starting with the current issue (March 16, 2020).

Everyone can now access the digital edition of PW from or from the PW app on iOS and Android.

Additionally, articles, past bestsellers lists and the reviews database, which includes a search feature and the reviews listed by genre, will be made available to all.

And last, I am very pleased to share access to our recently launched archive database. The archive includes 7,597 past issues, 676,133 pages, 400,000 book reviews, 5,000 author profiles and interviews and, beginning in 1895, bestseller lists.

Important links:
Access your digital copy each week on Saturday here:
Access the reviews database here:
Access the archive here:
For technical help:

It is our hope to stay closely connected to you and our readers and to continue to support publishers, booksellers, librarians, industry stakeholders and book lovers.

Laura Stegman said...

I loved Richard Fifield's The Flood Girls, and he now has another book just out, The Small Crimes of Tiffany Templeton, which I can't wait to read. There's also Tana French's Dublin series and of course Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series. MEANWHILE, this blog topic is interesting, and like E.M. Goldsmith, I would love to read about the steps of the submission process. I'm especially interested in seeing an example of an agent's submission letter and also the query letter that author used to interest an agent in the first place, if Janet would or could share that. Or, perhaps, she or someone knows where something like that is posted online?

Barbara Etlin said...

Thanks for the reading suggestions, everyone.

Here are two time travel novels I really enjoyed: OONA OUT OF ORDER by Margarita Montimore, and HOW TO STOP TIME by Matt Haig. I also really liked INDEFENSIBLE, a legal thriller by Lee Goodman (one of Janet's clients). Considering how much I like legal thrillers and legal tv programs, it's too bad I don't have a law degree so I would have the background to write them.

I blame Bob Dylan ("Lay, Lady, Lay") and Eric Clapton ("Lay Down Sally") for the disgraceful misuse of the verb "to lie."

Brenda said...

Tana French for Irish mysteries!

John Davis Frain said...

I'm laughing singing "Lie down, Sally." Maybe I'm just used to the other version, but I can see why Clapton went the way he did. Ah, creative license.

And honestly, I was already laughing thanks to Julie W. "It's a must, Reid." Brilliant, as everything from Julie W. seems to be.

You guys completely crack me up, and I just got off a two-hour conference call, so I was in no mood for laughter. Thank you.

Theresa said...

I second E.M.'s request about a post covering the agent to editor process. That would be fascinating.

Sharyn, I loved The Yellow House, especially because the politics was so very subtle. I mostly think of it as a story about family and place.

Right now I'm finishing up a novel about slavery called Remembrance by Rita Woods, which takes place across a few different time periods and has a bit of the magical worked in.

I've been pretty motivated to write lately (at least now that this stupid head cold seems to be on the down side) as a way to avoid consuming too much news that doesn't say a whole lot.

CynthiaMc said...

I envy you all getting time to read. We're gearing up at the hospital for whatever comes our way.

Anonymous said...

I have finally figured out "counsel" vs. "council," but I will never, never get lie/lay straight. Never.

Lynn/Rodz, yes! I have the same gremlin. Just checked my query for instances of said gremlin and for "it's a must-read." Came up with nothing, which must mean Janet just doesn't like my book. Or, perhaps she senses that I am a closet Alan Rickman fan. (That would come under "Things You Can't Control.")

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Julie... HA!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I always enjoy these posts about queries and why they do or don't work.

Timothy and EM, I've also found writing difficult. Too many changes to my work routine that drag my mind there instead of my story.

Nightsmusic, I've also noticed the emphasis on "twist" when books are talked up.

Here's an eclectic list of books I've read lately and enjoyed: The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata, Circe by Madeline Miller based on the Greek mythological character, The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon, and the book I'm ready now is The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George which has had some unexpected little pops of humor.

Craig F said...

Nope, no questions. I knew you didn't rep sci-fi when I queried you, so it was my fault.

It comes from how much I wanted to query you when I wrote a thriller. That damn query gremlin kept messing on my query and I farted along with it until the market for thrillers shriveled up and blew away.

I have just been reading Mary Wells almost pulp sci-fi, starting with the Murderbot Diaries.

Also dove into Kevin Hearne, starting with the Seven Kennings.

Have been in an escapist mood of late.

Donnaeve said...

Hello Reiders,

Dropping in to see how The Reef is faring in these extraordinary times, and I was happy to read comments from a lot of familiar "faces!"

I'm still on Carkoon - don't recall having been released, and I can't even remember my own offense. It's been years now. I'm on the other side now, still trying to find my way off, otherwise I'd say hello to fellow Carkoonian Laura Stegman.

Being sent here is like slipping on ice in the summer. Ya never know what might ruffle somebody until it's too late!