Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Right Amount of Enthusiasm

Back to work, back to business. Tomorrow I'll probably write about Glee again, because it's so much fun. So today I figured I'd better bet back down to brass tacks and the point of this whole "bloggish blog thing" (to borrow a fun title from my friend Josin and her blog): Queries.

With all the success the guest posts have been having I don't want to get into my own successful queries yet. So here is another bad one. Keep in mind that this letter is from nearly a year ago and does not represent my current query or even the status of my manuscript.


May 8th, 2009


I am writing to you seeking representation for my young-adult fantasy-adventure novel which has the working title, Warrior-Monks, which 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 first two chapters of the book because the REDACTED Website specifically asks for no attachments to be sent.

Boy. I'm not going to go over this all again but this is pretty bad. See like 10-15 previous posts labeled Queries/Rejections if you don't already know why - you should though.

I love Eastern Cultures and art forms – Martial Arts, Calligraphy, Japanese Swords, Tea Ceremony etcetera and all the tradition 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.

Yep. I was apparently really attached to this bit. I guess I thought it summarized what set my project apart. It's not a horrible idea it's just not done very well here.

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.

And here begins the query. This is actually a lot better than some of the others queries (of mine) we've examined. The query should have started here. With a better one sentence hook/pitch before this it wouldn't have been half bad ... okay well maybe half but not three quarters!

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.

And then we sink right back down into the muck of lazy query writing. I mean these are all great ideas and of course these themes do exist within the novel but to spell them out like this ... not good. I'm shaking my head here and picturing some tired old drunk of a magician playing a kid's birthday party and giving away the secrets to all his tricks. This isn't even show and tell; it's just tell.

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. 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:

Email address is sufficient.


Right, see above.

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

Matthew M. Rush

NOTE: I then for some reason pasted, single spaced, the first like 40 or so pages of the book (2 chapters). I guess their guidelines said to do that, but I'm pretty sure she didn't read them.

Her reply:

Dear Matthew,

Thank you for sending me your query letter. Unfortunately, I do not think it is a good fit for our agency. Since we are a very small staff and take on few new clients, please do not be discouraged by our response. I'm sure you will soon find an agent with the right amount of enthusiasm for your work.

Thank you for considering us. Best of luck with your writing.

Best wishes,


I like this rejection. Okay, I mean I don't actually LIKE it, but I respect it. Yes of course it almost certainly form, but I find it to be kindly worded, and perhaps ... it makes me feel better to critique the rejection a little bit.

I especially like the phrase: "soon find an agent with the right amount of enthusiasm for your work".

Anyway it's another understandable rejection. I wish I had a new and different example to show you all of things that DON'T WORK, but I'm going through these old queries chronologically so ... I don't. Not yet.


So, this week's (and possibly next) guest blogger is Michelle McLean. Please visit her blog to learn more about her. She's given us an interesting option for her guest post this week.

Michelle is published in Non-Fiction. Well that is her book has been sold and will be published in 2011. Again, see her blog for more info. She is also a writer of YA fiction though she has not yet been published in that genre, and like many of us still seeks an agent.

Anyway she has offered to share with us both the query/proposal that landed her her agent for the non-fiction book and a query she has used for one of her fiction projects that has garnered her a request for a full or partial manuscript. I think they're both pretty interesting and will eventually share them both with you but I would like to know: which one do you all want to see first?

I don't know how to set up a poll so please make your preference clear in your comments. As always thanks for visiting!

P.S. Michelle is the last guest blogger I have lined up. I'm still looking to schedule others after we are done with her two weeks. If you have ever written and sent a query that earned you at least a partial MS request please let me know if you are interested in sharing it.

My email is on my blogger profile.


MissV said...

oh man, I hate making choices. It means I gotta say 'no' to something.

On the one hand, the non-fiction could be interesting because I don't think I've seen one of those before.

On the other hand, I don't write non-fiction, so I'm not sure how helpful it would be to me personally.

Okay, okay, I can do this! I vote non-fiction first -- going out of my comfort zone, see? Or, you could just do whatever everyone else says....

Slamdunk said...

That was an encouraging rejection letter. I think it shows compassion from the agency reps involved (even if it was somewhat of a form letter)--which would be the type of organization that writers would want to sign with.

Bish Denham said...

I think I'd like to see the non-fic query because like MissV I've never seen one or attempted to write one.

Sheri Larsenッ said...

Thanks for sharing again. Non-fiction sounds interesting.

JustineDell said...

I agree with the non-fic query. I've never seen one either (except on Bransforums and those are few and far between...and confusing). I'd love to see it!

I think is awesome that's she switched YA. I've got a YA writer as a guest blogger today.

And...I'm still itching to see those new queries ;-)


Creepy Query Girl said...

Hi Matt! I wanted to let you know that I've had two requests for a full ms (that didn't prove fruitful in the end) and two requests for proposals or parials that I'm still waiting to hear on. I used the same query for each. So if you'd like to post it, let me know how to get in touch with you.

Candyland said...

I LOVE that you're brave enough to share your old queries. Mine make me cringe. You're too awesome for words.

Jaydee Morgan said...

I'll vote for the non-fiction (if only to see how its done). Of course, I don't write non-fiction but I'm always up for learning something new.

Tracy said...

Since I have a tendency to vote for the underdog anyway ... I'm going to say I'd rather see her fiction query. Non-fiction isn't something I ever see myself getting into, so I don't think it would be as fun to review. Great ideas either way!

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

I'm curious to see how the non-fiction looks too. Be interesting to see the difference since I write YA fiction.

Suzette Saxton said...

Some rejection letters are good. Actually, I'd say they're all good because it's at least nice to know it's a "no," you know? ;)

Matthew Rush said...

Hah! It is nice to know, thanks for that Suzette.

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Hey, Matthew! Great post. I'd want to see the fiction one first, because I hear that non-fiction proposals are a totally different beast. So if I had to pick one to see first, selfishly I'd pick the fiction one. But I do hope you'll eventually post both!

Kristi Helvig said...

You're very brave to post your queries on here - won't it be cool when you one day post the one that snagged you an agent/book deal? :)

Tabitha said...

The best part of your queries are the comments you include. :) They are both funny and insightful, and I think many will come away learning much. Your blog is great. :)

Anyway, I vote for the non-fiction proposal. I don't write non-fiction, so I'd love to see how that side works. :)

Falen said...

i'd like the fiction one first. but that's just me.
that was a nice form rejection.
I hope one day i can be a guest post for you, but first, have to finish up the revisions

Mia said...

Thanks for the query. I thought the rejection was kindly worded too :~)

Since you promised to show them both to us eventually I'm pretty curious to see the non-fiction one first as well. It'll be of little help but if I decide to branch out into non-fiction it could be and non-fic query examples seem pretty rare. ;~)

Shannon said...

Hi Matt,

Good to see you back again. Hope your daughter is feeling better.

I agree that the rejection letter was better from this particular agent, but I'm with Justine...I want to see the new query letter (when you're ready). :p

beth said...

I'd be interested in seeing the difference between fiction and nonfiction queries.

Talli Roland said...

I've said it before, I'll say it again: you are really brave to share your mistakes with us. Thank you, Matthew!

Mary McDonald said...

I think I got that same rejection letter. lol. Some agencies do a great job of rejecting, don't they?

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

I'd like to see a non-fiction query, and how similar and different it is from a query for fiction.

Thanks, Matt!

Jen said...

Still impressed with you sharing your queries with us! I'm glad to hear that you have learned and that this isn't want your current query looks like! What a relief!! With all the help out here on the blogosphere it's easy to get help!

I look forward to another future guest blogger, they are my favorite!

Courtney Barr - The Southern Princess said...

looking forward to the guest blogging!

I vote the fiction because I will probably garner more from it personally. ;o)

As always a pleasure to visit your blog!

Visit My Kingdom Anytime

Wendy aka Quillfeather. said...

Thanks for sharing this. As I'm currently putting together my query letter, this was really helpful :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

It's great that you can analyse your query and know what you did wrong. You've obviously grown as a query writer. And hopefully the length of your novels have diminished a teensy bit. ;)

Shelley Sly said...

I'd be interested in either the fiction or nonfiction query. Looking forward to the next post. Hope things are better for you today, Matthew!

Lisa and Laura said...

Thanks for sharing this Matthew! I think it's so brave.

And if you're interested we have a couple of queries we'd be willing to share. The first scored a crap load of full requests and partials, but no agent. (I blame the manuscript, sadly enough) The second actually landed us an agent. Let us know if you're interested!


That was a good response--offered in the spirit of kindness. And why not be kind? Why not earn some good karma? And she's right--you do want a highly enthusiastic agent anyway, and she wasn't the one. Thanks for posting--I admire your bravery!