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Query Right or Expect Rejection

I’m not sure what’s going on out there or on what list my name has been placed, but the queries I’ve been receiving lately are absolutely horrible. I’m not talking about the books that are being queried, but the queries themselves.

For some reason no one wants to write a blurb, feeling instead that cutting and pasting a 2-5 page synopsis is a better idea. I’m getting details about the writer’s path to writing (I don’t care that you started at 13 or how old you are now). I’m even getting details of the person’s family life.

Queries are really very simple. Just as simple as a cover letter. I need you title, your genre, your word count and I need a brief 2-3 paragraph blurb about your book. Essentially the back cover copy for your book.

If you can’t put that together I am going to immediately figure that you couldn’t write the book either or are too lazy to do the many rounds of revisions you’ll likely need prior to publication.

The only thing these poor queries do are irritate me and make it easier for me to empty out my inbox.

–jhf 

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8 comments

  1. I'm working on a query right now and plan on following your suggestions. The last thing any debut writer needs is to irritate an agent. Thanks for the feedback!

    BTW: Your site's Must-Read Posts are very helpful.

    Julia Ash

  2. "Queries are really very simple. Just as simple as a cover letter." – Yeah, and I hate writing cover letters, too. I'd rather write an entire novel than a single cover letter or a query, honestly. Just the thought that somebody on the other end is going to read my attempt and, quite likely, disregard it as not meeting their standards — or giggle, or worse, print it out to show their kids just how rough their job is for putting up with people like me — well, that's pretty soul-shattering.

    It's weird. I don't have any real self-esteem issues otherwise. I'm a successful college dean, have stood up in front of thousands of students over my professional lifetime, and have not only written but also defended and then published a dissertation (as well as four fantasy novels). But a cover letter/query? *shiver* Too much judgment there….

  3. I find synopses even more pernicious than queries. I can't imagine sending one to any agent that doesn't require them.

    I do wonder where some writers get their information. It doesn't seem at all hard to me to look up agents and their posted guidelines. Many, many agencies offer query tips. I don't know why anyone would want to make the process harder than it needs to be.

  4. A query letter is all I would be able to offer you at the moment.
    I've learnt so much over the last few months that now I know I have lots of editing to before anyone gets to read more than a blurb.
    The slightly scary thing is, if I keep learning (and I belive you should never stop) at what point do I say okay this needs a fresh set of eyes and send it off to someone else?

  5. I find writing query letters quite scary. So much hinges on them! It doesn't matter how brilliant your book is if you can't nail the query. So while your recent queriers are frustrating you, Jessica, it's good for the rest of us because they make ours look much better =)

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