Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Form Rejection at its Best.

I wanted to write about Glee this morning, I really did, but thanks to heavy traffic after Kylie's Hapkido lesson last night we only caught about the last 25 minutes of it. I'll have to catch up on Hulu.

So anyway thanks to an I.T. snafu at work over the last day and a half I am currently barely able to do my job and will have to make this morning's post pretty quick.

I'll get back to bad queries because that was the original impetus behind this blog and I want to keep doing at least one a week (and because you all love them SO much).

So here's another bad query:


May 8th, 2009

Dear Ms. REDACTED,

Insert the standard first bad paragraph here.

You've all seen it before so I'm not going to subject you to it again.

Insert the standard second bad paragraph here.

Remember? That's the one where I talk about all the things I love about eastern culture.

Lee is a troubled young man from a broken family. After being expelled from boarding school and having experienced several brushes with the law, his adopted parents, who also happen to be his cruel aunt and uncle, decide to ship him off to a strange and distant reform school which is in the remote wilderness in the panhandle of Northern Idaho. He becomes a member of a group of 12 other students who arrived at the school at the same time as him. They are all very afraid and apprehensive about what will be going on at the school but they are soon pleased to discover that it is not nearly as bad as they had feared. After working in the Wood-Corral for several months they begin taking classes like Aikido, Kenjutsu, Calligraphy and Meditation. It is some time before they discover that through meditation they can imbue their calligraphic scrolls with ancient magic. The book consists of many themes such as the beauty of nature, the life-energy that exists in everything and the awkward struggles that teenagers go through as they grow into themselves and become adults. Lee’s coming of age and struggling with the loss of his mother and the breaking of his family form the core of this introspective but also character driven tale.

This paragraph is not terrible. If it were the only one in this query the letter would be almost serviceable. This IS an example of what a query letter needs to be LIKE. It is NOT a very good example of how to do it well. There is almost no voice to it but at least it does describe some of what HAPPENS.

Insert standard fourth bad paragraph here (the one where I say it's my first book and give my phone number - whatever).

ADDRESS

Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Matthew M. Rush

FIRST FIVE PAGES

Her reply:

Dear Mr. Rush:

Thanks for your query.

As to your material I'm afraid I must pass -- I'm just not enthusiastic enough about the premise of your story to feel that I'd be the right agent for the project. Our agency represents a very full list of fiction writers and we must be highly selective in adding to it. I realize it is difficult to judge your potential from a query; nevertheless please know that I give serious attention to every letter, outline, and writing sample I receive.

Sorry I couldn't give you a more positive reply. Thanks for thinking of me, though, and best of luck in your search for representation.

Sincerely,
REDACTED
REDACTED Literary Agency
Submission Guidelines: http://www.REDACTEDagency.com/submissions.html

This is form rejection at its best. This is a very professional reply. It's kind but firm and yet admits to one of the fundamental flaws of the query process.

If you've read their submission guidelines before querying (which I did, of course) you might be a little insulted to see them plug the link in the rejection but keep in mind it's a form letter and I'm sure there are people out there who query agents without reading the guidelines first.

I'm getting a little tired of posting the horrible queries and I want to start focusing on more positive things but there are not that many more to go and we do have the Friday guest posts to keep our spirits up for now. I promise that once I've bared all the terrible queries for the world to see (or at least the 100 or so people who read this blog) I will share my successful examples with you.

Have a great Wednesday.

21 comments:

Kris said...

Matthew - thanks for being so brave to share your early queries! It's such a learning curve and it's so helpful to see things that don't work AND things that do.

Glee was good last night - make sure you catch up!

salarsenッ said...

I agree with it being a good rejection letter. Why does that sound so odd???? Looking forward to your positive ones. ";-)

Emily White said...

It's interesting to see the way different agents word their form rejections. This one almost seemed like they get a lot of hate mail, so they purposely said they know the query process isn't perfect, yadda, yadda, just to avoid angry emailers.

I'm looking forward to the positive ones, and seeing what you did differently in your query.

MissV said...

I like reading the agent responses as much as I enjoy the queries themselves. Pity we can't see which agents are sending the nice rejections! I'd be making a spreadsheet...hahaha

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I've gotten to the point where I don't actually read the rejection letter, so much as skim it for the "sorry" or some variation of it. Okay, that doesn't always work. I once had a sorry response on a full. The agent hadn't rejected it. She was just telling me she was sorry it was taking so long to get back to me. Now I pay a little more attention to the wording.


This rejection isn't bad. I received one once that was over a page long, and it was a form rejection. It went on and on about the industry and how she has to be selective about who she takes on. At least I think it did. I didn't waste my time reading it. I read the highlights on some writer's forum. ;)

Empty Refrigerator said...

Matthew, It's truly amazing to see the evolution of your query letter - already, this one is so much better than the first ones, and I can see that they are going to keep getting better. I think the reason you're able to improve is because you have such ability to step away and get out of your head - thus viewing your own work with fresh eyes. Many of us struggle with this. I wonder if the fact that you're able to do this is in part due to meditation - do you meditate? I did it briefly last year and mean to get back into it. It helps with so many things. In any case, this is a great blog, and I respect you for doing it.

Matthew Rush said...

Empty Refrigerator - that's a great question. There is a lot of meditation in my novel.

I don't personally do it in the traditional sense but I do spend as much time thinking and soul-searching as I can. Between work, kids and pets, there isn't much time to sit down and concentrate on my breathing, but I wish there was!

Candyland said...

I still give you props (did I just say that) for putting yourself out there for all of us to see. Bravo, rejections or not.

Bish Denham said...

I agree with Kris. I would have to have nerves of steel to post my rejected queries!

Jaydee Morgan said...

Yes, you definitely have some guts putting your rejected queries up but it so gives us an idea of what to do and not to do. I think you deserve a lot of credit for doing this :)

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

That wasn't really that bad a query you know ...

Very nice rejection letter, I agree.

Matthew Rush said...

AA, you're right, and thanks for pointing that out. The important thing to me (and the reason I started this blog to try to help others) is that I have learned a lot from my mistakes - and I am still making progress.

This example is not nearly good enough, but it IS SO much better than many of the others before it.

Falen said...

OF COURSE the one time i watch glee on time, you don't do a glee post.
;)

That form rejection doesn't seem like a form rejection at all. it's awesome.

I don't know if i've said it before but i love the sound of your story. I really enjoy stories where kids go to school - ESPECIALLY boarding schools

Tracy said...

Don't forget, we also want updates on how things go with your first 30 pages crit, and all that good stuff.

Personally, I'm hoping this batch of queries I've sent out gets me a couple more requests for partials, and eventually representation. I want to be able to guest blog on a Friday!!

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Hi, Matthew! Don't be tired of posting these, it's lovely to watch your queries evolve and improve. Plus, it just whets our appetites for the successes that'll start rolling in for you - ones that, following such rejection, will be all the sweeter for it :D

Jen said...

Glee was very enjoyable so take time to catch up!

This was a very nice rejection letter, that sounds silly doesn't it?! It's true though!

Talli Roland said...

Thanks for sharing your querying journey, Matthew. It's really helpful and brave.

Palindrome said...

Thank you for sharing this. It helps with the learning process. I don't quite know if I'm ready for the rejection yet...I'm a pretty tough bird though.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Reading the submission guidelines on the website first really does help.

And thank God for Hulu!

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I think it is interesting how different agents respond.
Looking forward to seeing the positive ones too.

Natalie and Rick Nuttall said...

I think I got this exact same form rejection and I know who the agency is because they don't vary their form at all.

I feel better knowing I'm not alone!

Natalie