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What Your Query Says About You–The Author

Your query says a lot about you, as the author and as a person, then I think most realize. When reading a query I definitely focus on the blurb. My first goal is a great book. In addition to that however, I also get a really good idea of who this author is to work with, which, in any business parternship, is as important at the product.

Recently I closed to fiction queries except for referrals. I’ve been busy with new clients, current clients and my work at BookEnds (watch for some fun new changes). So in an effort to continue to bring my best self to work (and not get overwhelmed), I am taking a break from fiction queries.

Any guess as to how many people still query and tag their book “fiction–referral only” without a referral? How about 3-5 every day.

The whole thing just irks me to no end. In my effort to be very clear and kind about my availability there are about 15-20 people each week who feel they’re above that. That they somehow are more special than everyone else who is moving on to another agent.

I have always been kind and generous in my letters, responding to every query I receive and these authors will get the same. A response, but not one that’s nearly as generous as those who show me the respect I show them.

In my response, I’m not offering that these authors query other agents at BookEnds and I’m not suggesting they query me when I’m open. To be honest, I’m not reading the queries at all and I don’t want to see them again.

What Your Query Says About You

If you show me that you have no respect for my time and my wishes with our very first interaction, I can only deduce that as we become more comfortable with each other you’ll also be more comfortable disrespecting my boundaries.

An author-agent relationship is a business partnership and as such there has to be a professional level of respect for the partnership to work. That means respecting boundaries, among other things.

Category: Blog



  1. Another possibility, other than not respecting you, might be that they’re just a few watts short of a bright bulb. I follow a website that lists a certain magazine editor’s “worst queries I’ve received this month,” and I would bet a very good dinner that the majority of them are from people who are functionally illiterate, literally eight years old, only just now starting to learn English as a second language, or all of the above. I wonder if the people who select “fiction–referral only” actually do not even know what that means? (In which case that’d almost certainly be an auto-reject, anyway, sure!)

  2. You are so right about the Writer-Agent Relationship being a Business Relationship first. After reading your blogs and watching your YouTube videos for months while I wrote my book, I was really disappointed when I learned you were effectively closed to submissions. I respect that. You have clients and a business to attend to. That’s why I submitted my query to Kim even when I really wanted to query you. It’s unfortunate that Kim rejected my query a little more than a week ago. Maybe the length of my novel (124K words) was part of the reason for the rejection, maybe it wasn’t; Kim didn’t say. I just wish I knew what to cut. And, as you have said in many videos, publishing is a very subjective business and hopefully someone will like what I have written enough to at least request my manuscript. And so, I keep plugging away. Maybe I’ll be lucky and find an agent who will help me reach the next level. I can only hope.

  3. Gosh, how annoying! Maybe a topic for a different blog entry, but I do wonder: what did the breakdown of queries entering your inbox really look like? Of the rejected queries, is it, say, 10% total garbage, 80% good-not-great, 10% excellent-but-not-my-type? Or is it more like 50% total garbage, 25% good-not-great, 25% excellent-but-not-my-type? Hard to know what kind of competition you’re up against if you think your bait is good but the fish aren’t biting.

  4. Ms. Jessica Faust, I was about to submit a query for my fiction novel today, when I read your blog article. I have to say that I looked at every page on the Bookends Literary website and if I had skipped this blog, I would have not known that you are currently accepting “referrals only.”
    I usually might find this info in the “About Us” or the “Submissions” page under your heading, and if I missed it, I am sorry. I did see the “Please note that I’m only taking on a very limited number of new clients at this time. ” statement on your query page, but that does not mention “referrals only.”
    I would like to suggest that you offer this information more clearly on the page that includes your Bio. Both you and I will save time, and love each other better for it.
    Looking forward to a time when I can submit my query to you, and hoping you have your socks on tight that day, Jerry

    1. Thank you Jerry for your comment. I experienced the same thing . . . was preparing to query her, but luckily saw this blog first.

  5. This will sound strange coming from an author, but it reflects what I’ve learned about people and their perceptions. When I worked at Capitol Records (eons ago), people would send their resumes in the most expensive of ways to garner attention to their resumes (one employee received a resume tucked into an empty champaign bottle with balloons and ribbons). She was not amused. In an industry where your (9:30 a.m.) mimosas were almost mandatory, attempting a trick like that showed that whoever sent its desperation. Another time, someone sent a singing telegram (LOUD singing). Both attempts at getting into Capitol were either desperate and/or having absolutely no knowledge of how the industry worked. I’m not praising the people who have approached you this way, I’m not.
    I know how hard you work, how precious time is to you, and how wading through manuscripts stresses you out, Jessica, but I’m just giving you an explanation what’s on the other end of the phone line sometimes. Keep in mind that many of these people have NOT worked in publishing, maybe they were cab drivers, waitresses, and have had a dream to write but never had the time or opportunity to actually write that story in their head. Now they have what they need…not always, however. How does this rambling tie in together?
    Yes, there is a point. Here it is: like the people who tried to get into Capitol Records either to be a contracted musician (hence the singing telegram) or an employee (empty bottle with resume), those people saw the tower and thought “it’s a MUSIC company, I’ll send them my music or my resume, they’ll remember me and I’ll get signed or hired, just like band ‘Whatever’ did to get signed! I read that in a magazine!” That’s all they can see–from the outside.
    In reality, on the inside, are bees humming around the persons in the offices getting work done that isn’t glamorous. It’s a job. As I said, I’m not praising them, I think that their attempts are ridiculous and unnecessary and offensive at times. They have not thought to learn what a referral is and what to do with it if they ever even get one!
    So, Jessica, the ones who are seriously determined to get an agent or get signed by an editor, will learn what they need to do and how to do it. Please keep that in mind whenever you feel like your head is going to fly off into the red, sandy desolation that is publishing.
    It’s late, I’ve got to go shopping in the morning, and am going to bed. And don’t go rushing about trying to apologize to everyone you’ve rejected. It’s their problem not yours.

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