Finally! The Real Truth About Queries

 

Snoopy 2

Query. It’s the big F-word in the writer’s vocabulary.

It’s the ultimate eye-roll in the agent’s life.

Queries. They’re like taxes. A seemingly giant waste of time, but completely necessary to keep the world going round.

Writers don’t like queries because they take away from valuable writing time and it’s basically an email (or letter) that might as well just say:

PLEASE RESPOND TO THIS MESSAGE WITH A TOTALLY UNNECESSARY REJECTION LETTER TO BRIGHTEN MY DAY!!!! (insert: smiley face, smiley face, toothy smiley face)

Because apparently that’s what all agents read while glazing over your query letter while snickering and sharpening the spear on the end of their tail, right?

I’ve been writing queries for many years now and I’ve learned a few things not to do, and, having spoken with many agents, I’ve also gained insight on what they think about queries.

This post is to share thoughts on both sides of the battlefield. Just don’t shoot me, because I’m only the messenger.

What every agent wants to tell every to-be author:

Spell our names right

Don’t copy and paste your query – make each one personal

Get to the point

And stop saying you’re the next J.K. Rowling.

What every author wants to tell every agent:

Whether you like it or not, your message was copied and pasted and by the time I get your formal rejection letter 4-6 weeks later, I’ve already sent 200 other copy-and-pasted queries out. I’m an author, I don’t have time to write you a personal letter because I know you’re going to reject me anyway.

If you don’t want to read my book, don’t send me a rejection letter. I’ve moved on from you. I don’t need to wake up to your impersonal rejection letter to make my life as an author even more depressing.

And I would be the next J.K. Rowling if you’d just represent me!

What I want every writer to know:

Don’t strive to be the next J.K. Rowling. Strive to be the first you.

And what I want every agent to know:

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About Andrew Toy
I'm in the beginning stages of starting my own publishing company that's unlike anything you've ever heard of in the industry. The direction of AdoptingJames is taking a 90-degree turn and will be more writing/publishing-focused. Stay tuned for huge updates and exciting news!

22 Responses to Finally! The Real Truth About Queries

  1. Very true. Waiting for a reply to a query is not to be recommended either! Rejection slips are better than no reply.

  2. As an experienced rejection receiver and (October) soon to be published Author, this is what I would like the agents to know: Read the submission. Don’t have your just out of Dartmouth or Penn or Bucknell unpaid starry eyed intern who can recite Emerson read it, you read it. “It doesn’t fit our list” means not just that it reeks but also means that it is good work BUT you don’t have the ability to sell it to the big publishers who only want sure thing best sellers. I get it. But there are lots of publishers out there and even some not in (gasp) New York who have kids to put through college and sewer bills to pay. There is a world west of the Hudson.

    It is about the material. Agents are essentially salespersons. Yes, they help with the details of contracts and publicity and all that but it is still about the selling. Ask Simon and Shuster about how well they did (not) on Hillary’s book. Her agent made out on their cut of the advance but sales? 15% of nothing is still nothing. 15% of sales on 100 new novels might pay a lot more bills than waiting around for the next Tom Clancy to materialize and rejecting those 100 novels.

    I understand there are only so many hours in the day and agents “say” they are swamped dealing with an inbox stuffed with snappy queries or handling established clients but with so many alternative publishing options on the table, perhaps a modification in the entry requirements to their “list” is in order. 15% of something.

  3. Several years ago I wrote a faith-based book detailing how God had changed me and restored my family after I was essentially homeless and unemployed while my wife went through the last trimester of her pregnancy without me and ultimately delivered our first daughter without me in the picture as well. Now I have a blog and teaching and speaking ministry 10 years later…hence the desire to share the “rags to riches” story (at the request of many people). I am going to try AGAIN to get it published but the thought of time consuming queries and finely crafted proposals is not very appealing. I’m trying desperately to stay away from self-publishing, but I feel that my book would suit a specific target audience and help others even outside the intended target audience. I will keep following this post to see more comments…have a blessed day!

  4. curtisbausse says:

    Excellent post, which helps to keep one’s spirit up in spite of it all!

  5. Editor says:

    Enjoyable post. I have never strived to be the next J.K Rowling, thank God, but I can relate to several of your scenarios. One notable exception: when I take the time to draft a personal query, I want a personal response in return. Help me move forward agent (editor, manager, business owner…). I have always hated receiving a form response, or worse, no response at all.

  6. “Don’t strive to be the next J.K. Rowling. Strive to be the first you.” Thank you for writing that! (And I enjoyed the hilarious Abba selection.)

  7. Editor says:

    To faithfulfamilies: while self publishing doesn’t have the validation/professional acceptance that comes via traditional publishing methods, there are advantages. You retain control over your work and time. No whirlwind signing junkets taking you away from family or other important obligations. You also have control over the income generated and can say how the resources are designated and spent. No splits with publishers, agents, etc. If you are not adept at marketing, perhaps you can bless someone who possess the skills and experience you lack. Let God speak to you. It may be another opportunity for Him to receive the glory. Blessings!

  8. I am writing my first book and seeking for an agent. I would love to have my book traditional published. I am now acting out on faith. I believe that all things are possible through God who guides me. I am thankful for this blog and for the funny video.

  9. Be the first you…I have always thought of it like that. Lol….I just assume that im so far ahead of my time, the traditional publishers have just not caught up yet, therefore I keep getting rejection letters…one day, though….one day….

  10. Great info. I’ll bear this in mind when I send out queries for my next book. … And, thank you for following my blog “In So Many Words.” … Be well, Dorothy 😊

  11. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I think I saved this post more for the cartoon than the writing advice! As you may have noticed it’s 2 years old. I decided to share it before deleting it. Don’t think the advice is bad; it’s simply that I have several newer articles with the same advice. I did save the cartoon. I plan to print it and hang it where I can see it as I work. 🙂 ~ Connie

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