Today we'll get back to what this blog is all about: Queries.
I'll post another early query here that garnered a rejection, but before I get to that I just want to thank everyone who participated in yesterday's discussion. It was informative, opinionated and even entertaining at times but what I really appreciate is everyone's honesty and willingness to share what they thought or felt about the issue.
I've decided (at least for now) not to continue with the "shameless self promotion" addenda to my comments on other blogs. I really do want to promote somehow when I have guest bloggers on Fridays so I'm not sure what I will do yet but I will probably try to find a way to make a more clever link in my comments a bit like Southern Princess's kingdom links (which I find cute AND clever, personally). Or perhaps I'll just stick to mentioning it only if that person's blog post is actually relevant (like when Elana Johnson posts about blogging). I may also ask some of you loyal followers to simply mention it on your blogs on Friday in return for links back, we'll see. Anyone have any other suggestions?
Anyway, on to the query:
May 11th, 2009
Dear Mr. REDACTED,
I'm not sure why I addressed this agent by his last name. I'm sure each agent has their own preference for this kind of thing but based on what I've read using first name only is usually better. That's what I normally do.
I am writing to you seeking representation for my young-adult fantasy-adventure novel which has the working title, Warrior-Monks, and is complete at approximately 475,000 words. The sequel, which is untitled, currently exists only in outline form. I am including a synopsis as well as the introduction/prologue of my book because your website does not advise against sample chapters and so that you may get a glimpse of my writing style.
There are no rules (well very few) to query writing but here are a couple of suggestions: Title, Word-Count and Genre ought to go at the end, unless somehow otherwise specified in the agent's submission guidelines. Query one project at a time, in other words don't mention sequels. If an agent is interested they will ask as we saw in Cole's guest post last Friday. Finally as I've pointed out several times before and wish I had realized for myself back then, don't tell the agent why you are or are not including a synopsis, sample pages, map, table of contents, cover art, gifts, whatever; just do it. They know their own guidelines and don't need their hands held while you prove that you followed them.
I love Eastern Cultures and the many art forms they incorporate such as – Martial Arts, Calligraphy, Japanese Swords, and the Tea Ceremony as well as all the traditions and high level of art that go into them. I also love Magic and Fantasy and Eastern Religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism. Warrior-Monks incorporates all of these themes in a fantastic way which has never been done in young adult fantasy to my knowledge.
I so want to delete this paragraph from each of these old queries before I share them with you. It's not terribly written. It doesn't cover lame or boring topics, but it also does not really serve the purpose of the query. The last sentence here is really the only one that matters but again, it's all tell and no show.
I have never been published but I am confident that many authors like Christopher Paolini and Brunonia Barry have proved that you do not have to be a highly experienced or best-selling author to write an incredibly entertaining book. I also do have some personal qualifications to write this story. For example my own mother died when I was eleven years old and I was then sent to live with a cruel aunt and uncle and eventually did end up at a reform school in Northern Idaho which although strange, was not nearly as fascinating as the place in which my characters find themselves within this book.
Blah, blah blah. This kind of lip service is embarrassing. It's okay to compare your project to other author's books IF you do it in a way which tastefully shows how your novel is similar (will appeal to fans of) but also unique. Using these other debut authors as evidence that debut authors can write good books is ... well probably kind of insulting to an agent's intelligence. As if they didn't already know that first time authors can write great books. Would they really accept unsolicited submissions if they didn't believe that?
Also the "personal qualifications" in this instance are entirely unnecessary. Rarely is such information pertinent to fiction. If you wrote a political military thriller in the vein of a Tom Clancy novel it might make sense to point out that you actually did serve in the navy. If you're trying to get representation for Harry Potter, it doesn't really matter whether you went to boarding school as a child.
Please feel free to reply to this email, or to call me on my mobile phone at any time at 206-555-1212, or even to write to me at home at:
I'm not sure why I always made sure to put my phone number in. It's fine, no big deal, but usually the ability to reply to your email will suffice. I guess maybe I was holding out hope that someone would love my novel so much they'd just have to call me then and there. Not sure how I figured that would happen since I rarely sent pages.
Thank you for your consideration of this proposal.
Matthew M. Rush
Dear Mr. Rush,
I wonder if my addressing his last name prompted this? No idea of course, but it is curious.
Thank you for your recent query regarding representation, which we have now had an opportunity to consider. Unfortunately, I don't think our agency is going to be the right fit for your manuscript.
Tastes and areas of specialization vary widely from agent to agent. If you haven't already done so, you may wish to consult a directory such as Literary Marketplace (www.literarymarketplace.com) for the names of agents whose interests are more compatible with your work. We wish you the best of luck in finding representation.
It was not even signed by the agent I wrote to, which is fine, but I'm not sure if it was an assistant or what.
So this is most likely a form rejection. No surprise based on the quality of the query, but there is one curious difference here compared to many of the other rejections I received back then. The assistant or whoever took the time to direct me to the literary marketplace to research the genres agent's represent.
I will admit that I was overzealous in my blanket querying back then but I'm pretty sure I didn't query agents who clearly stated that they did NOT represent YA. I may have written to some who did not state one way or the other but ...
No matter; it's still good advice. Make sure to research any agent that you query as much as possible before you write to them. Querying an agent who does not represent your genre is not going to hurt your chances with other agents (it's not like they have a newsletter where they tell each other "look at this idiot") but it will be a waste of your time.
News: I sent the first 30 (actually 25) pages of my MS to Marietta yesterday and I'm still waiting to hear back from her, but she did email the 3 winners to let us know that she is offering to give each of us a 30 minute consultation over the phone after she has returned her critiques to us. This is amazingly generous of her and although I am looking forward to it I have to admit I'm very nervous.
Oh well, this won't be the last time I have to push through some fears if I want to end up getting published.