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I’m Not Always Excited About Your Query

Agents hear a lot of criticism after rejecting a query. Queries can’t tell you anything about the book. How can you possibly know if you haven’t read the book? You’re short-sighted. You’re only looking for something that’s been done a million times before…

The truth is that I request a lot of material I’m not really all that excited about. Occasionally there’s the query that makes me obsess over the manuscript, repeatedly hit “get mail” after requesting and drop everything to read. That’s rare though. For the most part, I request a lot of material that sounds like it might be interesting or has potential, but I’m not overly excited based on the query alone. I’m waiting for the book to create that excitement.

If I’m not excited what makes me request material? It could be a number of things; voice, the idea, one line that just grabs me (that happened just the other day) or the author’s track record. There is no one thing that gets my interest and makes me request more, but there’s typically one thing in each query. The queries that get me really excited are those that tend to have all of those things; track record, voice, and idea (not necessarily in that order).

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5 comments

  1. thank you for this information I received a rejection from you a few weeks ago now I can go back and look at my letter and see what the issue was or where I might improve.

  2. I can understand why a query can be the deciding factor. If nothing else it contains an introduction, to you and your writing, if it isn’t interesting or exciting, then what is a whole book like to read?

  3. Jessica, what do you mean by track record? Contest wins, previous publication or you’ve read queries/pages from them before?

    I request a lot of material I’m not really all that excited about… So there is hope =)

    1. A track record is basically your experience in publishing. Usually when people say track record they mean previous publishing sales.

  4. I am bemused when writers dis agents for making “snap” decisions about a book based on a query. How, exactly, do readers make their decisions? And I include writers as readers because certainly we are (or should be) both.

    When I walk into a bookstore, I see hundreds, if not thousands of tomes on the shelves. Even when I narrow my choices to the categories that most interest me, I can’t possibly purchase all the available titles. I also can’t read all of them, or even one of them all the way through, before making my decision. So, I have to winnow them down.

    I admit to caring about cover art and design (something we don’t have to worry about when trying to attract an agent). Then I look at the back cover blurb. This is essentially the same as a query blurb. If I’m still interested, I might glance at the first page to see if the writing draws me in. After this, if I’m still undecided, I might look at any endorsements. Is there a quote from an author I trust assuring me this book will be a good read?

    I defy any writer to tell me he or she ONLY makes a purchase decision after they’ve read a book in its entirety (though I’m sure many folks buy books they’ve first borrowed from a library or friend). I don’t blame agents for passing on anything that doesn’t at least pique their interest in a few short paragraphs. Life is too short, and there just isn’t enough time in the day.

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