Thursday, May 6, 2010

Intrigued by the Setting

Here is yet another example of a bad query. This one is much better than the others, as you will see. That's great because we have Lisa and Laura sharing one of the most awesome queries ever tomorrow and I don't want to look like any more of a schmuck than I already do.

So without further ado on to the query:

May 29th, 2009


I am writing to you seeking representation for my young adult novel, which has the working title WARRIOR-MONKS and is complete. Warrior-Monks is intended for young adult readers ages 13-17, who are buying books in droves these days, but I am certain that once you read the manuscript you will find that it is mature and compelling enough to enthrall even the most discerning adult reader as well. I also feel obligated to inform you that this is not an exclusive submission and although I do not yet have an offer of representation there are several other agents who have requested and are currently reading full or partial versions of the manuscript. That being said I really liked what you had to say about yourself and your representation on the about page of your website and I imagine that I would love to have you represent my project.

Hi Ms. Agent lady. Do you have a Master's Degree? Yes? Okay. Have you been working in the publishing industry for years? Yes? Okay. Have you represented dozens of authors before and have a pretty good idea of what you're doing and where the market is going? Yes? Cool. Would you like to be told how to do your job by a first time novelist?

That is basically what that part about YA readers buying books in droves says. This is BAD BAD BAD. Of course she already knows that, it's probably why she represents the genre. In fact it's probably why almost every agent out there reps it right now.

Anyway take that one sentence out and you've got a half way decent paragraph. This business stuff can and should go at the end but some agents don't mind it first and a few prefer it. The admission of non-exclusivity is not really necessary but it is polite and professional to let them know if your MS is already on request to other agents. That way they can decide if they have the time to read a little more quickly.

Mentioning her website is great. Agents love it when you actually take the time to research them. I should have been more specific though.

Wow that was a lot of analysis for one paragraph. Whew.

The book is about a young man named Lee, who is from a broken family and who eventually ends up being sent to a unique reform school in Northern Idaho after he is expelled from a normal boarding school and kicked out of his aunt and uncle's home. He is very worried about what will go on at this school but eventually discovers that he enjoys the curriculum. They teach him things like Aikido, Meditation and Calligraphy and take him and several other students camping and backpacking in the mountains in Montana as he grows and puts his self-conscious and shy tendencies behind him. It is an introspective and character driven novel.

Hmm. This is not horrible. Actually it is pretty bad but I say not horrible because you should have seen some of the earlier versions. What this lacks is voice, conflict, more of what happens, and a reason you would give a shit about this character or his choices.

I wonder if she would have read more if this had been a better query.

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.

This is crap. Again: the agent knows that first time authors write great books, in fact if an agent takes unsolicited submissions they are probably counting on it. Don't insult their intelligence. Instead compare and contrast your project to something similar that has found success.

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. The rest is only necessary if representation is offered.

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


Matthew M. Rush

P.S. Here is a sample of the intro/prologue chapter of the book which is honestly just slightly over ten pages long:

She requested the first ten pages in her guidelines.


Her reply:

Dear Matthew,

Thank you for your query. Warrior-Monks sounds extremely interesting and I am very intrigued by the setting of Montana.

Unfortunately, I need to focus all my time and energy on my current clients. I wish you the best of luck in shopping around your project.



This is awesome. I know, I know, it's a rejection. But there is proof that it is not form! I bet if the query hadn't been so suckalicious she might have requested more pages. The opening chapter wasn't great then, but it was good enough that if she liked the premise and the setting she might have wanted to see more.

Or maybe she really did have a client list that was that full. I suspect that she was telling the truth. If not why write a personalized rejection? We'll never know of course, but this one did give me hope at the time. And of course I had another agent reading a partial so that helped too.

So that's it. Hopefully you can see some improvements even though this is still nowhere near good enough. I promise we'll get to better queries soon but I have to do at least one of these bad ones per week until they've all been thrown kicking and screaming into the digital graveyard of the internet ... uh yeah, anyway.

I hope you are as excited as I am for Lisa and Laura's guest blog post tomorrow. They are going to be sharing the innovative query that landed them representation for LIAR SOCIETY so mark your calendars and be sure to come back!


Candyland said...

At least the time was taken to personalize. That's always nice.
Yeah for LiLa tomorrow!!!!!

Beth said...

Any friend of Alex is a friend of mine. :) Delighted to meet you!

Old Kitty said...


Thank you so much for offering your query letter for self-analysis!

And I think the personalised "rejection" letter after sounded really positive - I hope that your next query and submission will succeed - I think with a little luck and a lot of push, you will!!!

Good luck!

Take care

Vicki Rocho said...

What a nice rejection. I'll be back tomorrow for more!

Any word on your 30 pages?

Matthew MacNish said...

No word back yet MissV. I promised myself not to email her to check up on it but I am starting to wonder.

Shannon said...

Hi Matt,

Thanks for sharing another query. Looking forward to getting to the new one! And to tomorrow.

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

A personalized rejection letter seems like a good sign to me! Thanks for your analysis. It think it pointed to some issues a lot of writers have when they write their queries.

Jaydee Morgan said...

Personalized rejections over form letters show you're learning - and so are we from your posted queries.

Sarah Ahiers said...

ooh, nice personalized rejection.
This query is much better than some of the older ones and i'm looing forward to seeing even better ones later

Anne Gallagher said...

Interesting analysis Matthew. Nice that you got a personalized rejection. Mine have all been form.

Emily White said...

It's nice to see how your queries are transforming. Though I agree with you about the bits where you were telling the agent about the industry, I don't think this query was half as bad you seem to think. I can already see a marked improvement from your first few versions.

It's easy to see why you've gotten requests for partials and fulls.

Good luck, by the way!

About Me said...

Personalized and at least you know either way versus waiting months.

Slamdunk said...

Good point about including website or other information about the source--showing that you did homework and are willing to take extra steps before writing as opposed to being a machine gun marketer.

Lindsay said...

Yay, the agent personalised.
Looking forward to tommorow. :)

Joanne Brothwell said...

Hey Matthew,
Getting a personalized rejection is so much better, I agree. Thanks for sharing.

Tracy said...

What I liked best about this entire post was the way you totally got snarky with yourself for your first paragraph.

That had me smiling, in a good way!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Thanks for sharing your query and for the analysis to go with it. It's so nice when we receive a personalized response, isn't it?! :-)

Hurray for LiLa!! :-)

Creepy Query Girl said...

Thanks for sharing this matt. It's good to see how much you've grown in so little time and that agent was pretty nice with her personalized rejection.

Shelley Sly said...

Yay for a personalized rejection! That's awesome!

Unknown said...

Way to get a letter personalized, I suppose that's a pretty damn good step in the right direction!