Last Thursday on Twitter, two agents (Sara Megibow and Ann Collette) looked at queries, and then tweeted their first reactions. It offered a fascinating view into what and why agents reject or ask to see more--on a speed round basis. I've copied them for you here so you can see.
Sara Megibow of Nelson Lit did 10 queries in 10 Tweets, with the hashtag #10queriesIn10tweets.
Her first tweet started with:
I have high hopes - we've seen some great queries so far this January! *dives in* #10queriesIn10tweets
#1 = pass. Poor writing. The opening pitch paragraph was one long run-on sentence.
#2 = pass. Some interesting elements, but strung together awkwardly. Awkward query means awkward writing in book.
#3 = pass. Again, weak writing. Long awkward paragraphs that aren't succinct and don't clearly explain the story.
#4 = pass. We dont represent nonfiction. Kristin repped one memoir (won the CO Book Award) Memoir maybe/other nonfic no
#5 = pass. Too generic. The pitch reads like this (NOT quoting here): the hero has many adventures.
#6 = pass. Writer claims this book defies genre. If bookstores can't shelve/market it, then publishers can't sell it.
#7 = ACCEPT! Not the most unique concept, but very solid writing (writing wins every time). Young adult paranormal.
#8 = pass. One of those rare cases where I pass entirely based on concept. Brutal (disgusting) and violent. Not for me.
#9 = pass. Cancer story. I've seen a lot of these. TONS of heart, but not well enough written to stand out. #sad
#10 = pass. Self pubbed trilogy wants agent to shop to NY. I don't do this (someday maybe). Other agents might.
Ann Collette of the Rees Agency did 12 queries. Her request rate was the same.
#1 Vague statements, cliches, a saccharine tone, and no writing sample all added up to something I knew wouldn't suit my edgy taste. Pass.
#2: Mystery. Author's trying too hard to pull off a tough guy voice, but it backfires. Instead, it reads artificial and overworked. Pass.
#3:Mystery.The first few sentences reveal this is a new author who has yet to learn how to show vs tell. Leaden prose sinks this query.Pass.
#4: Mystery. Author made mistake by starting query w/ generic statements; hook came too late. Writing sample confirmed lack of focus. Pass.
#5. Cozy Mystery. A careless quality to the prose (same words used repeatedly in the first paragraph) signals sloppy editing. Pass
#6: Horror. Author tries hard to be mysterious, but is vague & confusing. He doesn't understand what to hold back & what to reveal. Pass.
Not sure what happened to #7. Sorry.
#8:Thriller. Arrogant protagonist is alienating. Arrogance can be compelling, but when it starts a book, it's not engaging for readers.Pass.
#9: Horror. Query contains misused words -- author clearly doesn't understand what they really mean. There's no need to read further. Pass.
#10: Family saga riddled w/ random capitalization, misused apostrophes, awkward description, and characters that you can't tell apart. Pass.
#11: Impact of an arresting first line diluted by sloppy, repetitive language in rest of query; no sample inc & I won't ask for one. Pass.
#12:Women's fiction.Told right away character must undergo major surgery, but I need to care about her before this can have any impact.Pass.
And her final tweet on the matter: Even though Today's Twelve is done, we just opened a query where the text of each paragraph was a different color. NEVER, EVER DO THIS!