Reading Between the Lines in Queries

Agents reject books all the time and with each rejection we try to send some sort of helpful feedback on why the book wasn’t working or what we loved about the book. We also tend to give some feedback on what we liked about the book. While we hope this feedback is helpful, we also know that it tends to be somewhat generic. Which is why never recommend that authors include these sorts of quotes in query letters.

While it hasn’t happened in a long while, I used to get queries that quoted rejection letters from agents. So many reasons why that’s not a good idea. These days the quotes tend toward those given by paid editorial editors. Editors the author will pay to review and help revise the work. Also not a good idea.

Anytime I see quotes like that I immediately read between the lines. Sure the characters were great and the ending was a shock, but you’ve said nothing about whether the plot worked. Call me a skeptic, or a cynic, but I tend to read more of what’s not printed when it comes to quotes and it’s never good.

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5 comments

  1. This reminds me of a blurb I saw on the back of a published book: “…the pages turn easily.”

    Well, I should hope so. It’s been a long time since people had to cut the pages of their newly purchased books before they could be read.

  2. I didn’t realise people put quotes in query letters. But why would they think putting a quote from a rejection letter would be a positive thing?

    I imagine the only time to quote would be if you were recommended by a fellow agent who rejected, eg Amazing Agent said “while this isn’t my cup of tea I recommend you send to Awesome Agent who loves this kind of thing”.

  3. I agree with AJ. I don’t understand why an author would think including a quote from a previous rejection is ever a positive inclusion in a query. It serves to highlight the fact that the project has been, for whatever reason, passed on. Thinking further, it seems if a book is well written, has a good solid plot plus interesting characters and the word count is in the ballpark, then you’re interested in it. You haven’t stated specifics on why you would reject a MS, but logic dictates it’s anemic writing in one or more of the above-mentioned areas. Or possibly not a genre you accept. You have stated the best reason for accepting: you want a compelling can’t-put-it-down story.

  4. Does it help for a writer who’s worked with a well known agent/writing coach to mention the very positive things she’s said about the work, and to the point of requesting to be added to the query list? Or does that seem like name dropping?

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