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Why We Don’t Give Feedback on Queries

In a perfect world, professional feedback would be a given. We would know exactly why our queries are rejected, how come we didn’t get the job or weren’t asked on a second date. And that feedback would always be useful and help us grow and improve

But we don’t live in an ideal world. Even if we are given feedback, it isn’t always helpful and doesn’t always help us grow. There’s nothing I can do if you thought I was too tall. Or if the other candidate went to the same college you did.

There’s also nothing you can do if I just am not that interested in the book you wrote. Even if the query was amazing.

We recently did a YouTube video on this very topic and not surprisingly, not everyone was happy with our response (albeit I do wonder how many commenters even bothered to watch the video).

While BookEnds does have a policy of responding to all queries, we can’t promise feedback. I do have a few different forms. You will be alerted if your word count is too far off or if the query itself needs help (although I don’t give revision suggestions). I will also tell someone if it’s a genre I don’t represent and point them toward other agents at BookEnds who might.

Query advice opportunities are plentiful. Paid services are available, but so are critique groups. I recommend you work on that query as much as you work on that manuscript. But understand, an agent’s job isn’t to provide free editorial advice to writers. It’s to represent writers and manage their careers.

Category: Blog

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8 comments

  1. Fair comments. Life is not always fair. I considered using a professional to help with the Query, but at some point the work is your own. Then again, I am new to writing and perhaps naive…

  2. I totally get this. I mean, if you were to give feedback saying X, but the next agent said the opposite of X what’s a writer to do? Yes, we’d all love feedback, but if you’ve done the hard yards you just have to have faith in yourself and your writing.

  3. I know a lot of writers. I am a Writer myself. My job is to write the best possible book that I can write. Your job, in my view, is to find me a Publisher: You do the PR. You do the Marketing. I am the Writer. I should not be required to produce, or even know how to produce, a “query letter”. A query letter, and for that matter, a Query Form, is a Marketing thing. A “query” falls into your domain. But, apparently, Agents, according to what you have posted, are lifting Writers “queries”, using Writer’s queries verbatim when approaching Publishers. Once again, PR, Marketing, etc. is not the Writer’s job. This all speaks to an industry gone incestuous, and lazy, and completely divorced from what defines and nurtures true creativity. An Agent should ask a Writer for just one thing: a sample from their MS.

    1. Clare: Thank you so much reading the blog. My job, in my view, is to work on the author’s team to assist in growing and building a career. To be honest, finding a publisher is the tiniest piece of that. The much bigger pieces are negotiating contracts, managing the author/publisher relationship, helping to plan for the future. Agents are not, in fact, in the business of PR and marketing.

      I do understand why query letters are so overwhelming to authors. They aren’t easy to write. I know. I write pitches (you can see them on the blog) almost weekly. And as a team, we work together to critique and evaluate each other’s pitches. When you start out as an author you are starting a business and knowing and understanding every aspect of the business is what makes a successful author.

      Imagine if, as an agent, I said I only want to read books. It’s not my job to understand contracts, review royalties, or edit. That kind of agent is not the agent for anyone.

      If you want an agent whose job is only to find a publisher, I’m not the agent for you.

    2. Hi Clare, like you I’m a writer, but I have a very different view point on query letters.

      Think about going for any job, you have to write an application – the better the application, the more chance you have of getting an interview. I see query letters as our job application, our manuscript pages as our interview. Write a good query and an agent will read the pages.

      Yes, as authors we’re creative. But this is still a business (and I want my writing to be a career) and as a business we have to understand that being creative isn’t all there is to being a successful author.

  4. Jessica, thank you for responding. Redefining what it means to be an author is a very unfortunate trend in today’s publishing world. Not only are we required to be creative writers, but now we have to be conversant with “growing our business”. Creativity is right-brained. Business acumen is left-brained. Frequently, the twain does not meet. The result is often pedestrian writing and pedestrian published books. My comments address the industry at large, and are not specific to your agency. I harken back to the long-gone days of a Maxwell Perkins.

    1. Clare,
      what it means to be an author has not changed at all. You sit down, put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and write. The methods may change, but the basics remain the same. Millions of people have done it, are doing it, and will do it until the sun burns out.

      But you don’t want to be “just” an author. You want to be a PUBLISHED author, and you put stuff up on amazon and B&N. So far so good. But just looking at those pages I can tell that you have not spent a single minute finding out what it means to be a published author. You simply want TO BE, and are not willing TO DO anything to get there. This is why you’re in that hole treading water, not getting anywhere. And you will stay there unless you’ll change your attitude.

  5. Iris,
    I AM a published author.
    A self-published author.
    For all the reasons I already stated.
    Building my “brand” – horrible word – one sale at a time.
    If you think that’s not doing anything, then you have never done it.

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