Monday, January 30, 2012

Quick Query Responses

Hey! Hey!! How come only one person (well, two including moi) is signed up to show off that little used wedding china in my completely, totally, incredibly un-frivolous and fascinating wedding china blogfest? Get in there! Don't make us look sad and lonely! I shall be very upset if I have to feel sad and lonely.

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
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
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!


Laura Pauling said...

As helpful as these might be, I still don't think agents should do this. Instead write up a blog post not referring to your received queries. But you know these writers are watching the feed and possibly feeling humiliated when they recognize what could possibly be their query - even if no one else knows.

Linda G. said...

My wedding china is too boring for a blog post. (Plain white w/a silver rim.) Haven't used it in at least twenty years, and it's packed away. So it's a no go for me. Sorry. *grin*

MC Howe said...

I agree with Laura. I would never put my query out there for such abuse. It's fine if its kept private. And while it's helpful for the rest of us to see what makes these agents tick, some of this stuff is just cruel.

Cathryn Leigh said...

@Linda G. - My wedding china is probably just as boring! You should still join the blog fest. *grins*

@Sierra - don't worry if it's just us. We can still have fun! (besides I always do better in small groups. ) *giggles*

Having never querried before, but only read about the process, I'm guessing that the passes would get a form rejection letter, without any feedback such as what they gave here? You know if people weren't so touchy it could be useful information for them to get with a form rejection... it's so much easier to improve if you have a direction to go in... *sigh* (not that i still wouldn't cry if I got a rejection like those above.. but after my pitty party I'd have a direction to start walking - but that's just me.)

:} Cathryn

Sierra Godfrey said...

Laura and Matt-- I'm so glad you made that comment because I wondered if anyone would have that reaction. Does it matter if the agent did not identify the author or story--just genre? I've seen query responses on twitter from different agents (not these) that were very specific, and I felt a bit squinchy about that, but these being just genre (and Sara's didn't have any genre) I felt were fine--and instructive because they focused on problem areas.

More thoughts? What would be acceptable to you--if anything?

Sierra Godfrey said...

Linda-- I think you should get that china out and start using it everyday. Starting Wednesday :)

Sierra Godfrey said...

Cathryn-- thanks. We WILL have fun! (You hear that everyone else? WE WILL!)

MC Howe said...

You know what? I figured at least the titles and possibly author names were included. Without that, I think it gives even better insight into an agent's mind.

So there.

Carrie Butler said...

Sorry, I can't contribute to your blogfest. (Not married.) Good luck, though!

Thanks for listing the agent tweets! I'd missed those. :)

Travener said...

Given the heaps o' crap out there, it's amazing that it takes so much for even well-written queries to snag a "yes."

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I'd hate my query to be picked apart on twitter like this, but it's an interesting way to learn what to do and not to do. It looks like the first agent did a better job of keeping the story details vague and it's nice to know that solid writing trumps all!

Diane Henders said...

I'm still on the road this week, so I can't come and play at the china blogfest. Mine is plain white with a plain black and silver border (Wedgwood Charisma), and yes, I do pull it out whenever I'm making dinner for more than 12 people (which does happen occasionally).

I never actually wanted china at all, but my mother died when I was 19, and my mother-in-law-to-be was a total sweetheart with 3 boys and an uncontrollable craving to plan a wedding. For her, I wore a wedding dress lavished with ruffles (which is hilariously funny if you know me), and I registered for china.

The marriage is long over, but I don't regret letting her have her fun. :-)

Sherry White said...

As a writer, rejection is part of the writing environment. Writer's need to do their homework on how to write a good query letter. That info is all over the internet. No excuse's. Agents are very busy people. They don't have time to hold your hand. I received three rejects this past week. Suck it up. Rework you query and send it out to five more agents. Eventually, you'll get it right and an agent will ask to see your complete manusript. At least, that's my hope for my YA novel.


Anonymous said...

I don't have an issue with the agents' comments -- the queries were not described in such detail that the author could be identified (I wonder if even the authors would recognize their own query based on the descriptions). And I agree with Sherry White. If writers learn what to do from the comments above, they will submit a better query next time and that time may be the winner!

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