I tend to be an overly logical person. I can’t listen to the song “Whoomp! (There It Is)” without cringing every time Tag Team raps, “These three words when you’re gettin’ busy/Whoomp there it is.” It’s four words. FOUR WORDS!! 1) Whoomp 2) There 3) It 4) Is. Geez. Come on, Tag Team. Get it together.
And yet every now and then I like to shock my fiancee by buying a lottery ticket, such as when I spontaneously bought a Mega Millions ticket even though I had a better chance of being immediately beamed to Pluto by space aliens — someone has to win, right? There’s something about beating the odds that appeals to me.
All of this is to say that I really like queries. I like them a lot! Yes, I have to reject virtually all of them, it takes a huge amount of time, and the odds aren’t good. But I really enjoy reading them. I like the good ones, I like the bad ones (except these), I particularly like the ones that don’t make any sense whatsoever. It’s anything but a drag, and I swell with a rosy hopeful feeling every time I start to read a query. I’m always hoping someone is going to beat the odds.
I’m telling you this because lately I have been receiving quite a few queries where the author thinks it best that we both first acknowledge how horrible the query process is and how much time we’re wasting before we get to the actual part of the query where the author tells me about the story.
Things like: “I know you’re probably slogging away and it must suck to read all these queries, believe me, this sucked to write too, but anyway, here’s my story, not that you’re probably reading past this because reading queries is so boring, but hopefully since I’m acknowledging how horrible it is to read queries and demonstrating my self-awareness about how much this process is ridiculous you’ll actually read my story.” (I made that up, but it’s not far off)
Look: no apologies necessary. Maybe people have gotten the idea from some blogs that we literary agents sneer at every hopeful author who crosses our desk, love to skewer the bad ones and laugh maniacally every time we press the reject button. But I’m here to tell you: queries are not unpleasant to read. You’re not going to find a sympathetic ear with me if you want to complain about the query process, because I find that it is an incredibly effective mechanism for weeding through submissions, and I don’t mind the time I spend reading them. Respect the process, people.
If you want to sneer at someone, I have three words for you: sneer at Tag Team.
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I really like the statement you made toward the end of your initial post:
“Respect the process, people.”
That says it all.
Now back to combing through your archives. Maybe those old posts will start to calm down a bit.
“If you love somebody, set them free.”
This one has always driven me nuts because Sting was an English teacher. He should know better.
The lyric ‘we sacrifice like lambs’ only works if you think of it like ‘we GET sacrificed like lambs’, as in, they’re being acted upon, not doing the acting/sacrificing.
In other words, if they said we tasted like chocolate, you wouldn’t think they were implying chocolate goes around licking things, right?
Danette Haworth says
I’m like terr-o. There’s a U2 lyric, I forget which song, but it goes like this:
God made the world in seven
which then rhymes with the next verse ending with “heaven.”
But God made the world in six; he rested on the seventh.
Anon of 7:24–
Of course I understand what they meant by the lyric, that, as you say, the lambs are being acted upon. This is why it’s grammatically incorrect. They used active voice when they should have used passive. It would be correct to say: “We’re sacrificed like lambs.”
The second example is not comparable. The intransitive verb “taste” has the meaning “has the taste of.” There is no such usage for the verb “sacrifice.”
Jaye Wells says
Come on, Nathan. You know that song makes you want to shake your “bee double oh tee why oh my.”
Also, it’s “Whoomp! There ’tis.” Obviously, Tag Team was kicking a shout out to Will.I.Am. Shakespeare.
What a fun blog!
The most antagonizing lyric that comes to mind for me: “time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin, into the fuuuture…”
ooo! how weird and mysterious time is!!!
And that idiotic song was so popular, too…ugh.
A Paperback Writer says
Hey, this is a useful blog–I love the list of queries by genre, Nathan. I’ve just stumbled upon it (the blog) as I prepare another run of agents to query, and I guess I’m in the group that thinks querying is fun. Okay, some days it’s fun like going to the dentist fun, but there is that little thrill of sending out a letter into the void and waiting to see what happens.
I do want to point out my “outside da box” reading of the 3 words question: are the lyrics referring to “those three little words” that “she” says just as the speaker is “getting busy” ie: “I love you”? Cause we all know that ruins the mood! That’s my thinking, anyway.
Mary Witzl says
I love Smoky Robinson and the Miracles. But I grind my teeth every time I hear:
Just because you’ve become a young man now / there’s still some things that you don’t understand now…
Please! ‘Just because’ ought to be ‘Even though,’ and ‘things’ requires a plural subject.
Being an English geek somehow ruins one’s appreciation of modern music. But up until now, I assumed I suffered alone. Now I see that I can come out of the closet.
This comment is most definatley for you to read!
Nathan: I’m really old fashion mostly because my parents dont like me to use their e-mail because they dont want spam. Therefore I mostly use the postal service. I sent you a query, at the time I really had no idea who you were but I was( am still am) desperete to get an agent because I’ve learned that getting a publishing company to accept a manuscript from an unknown author without an agent isnt likley.
I’m coming to terms with the fact that because I havent heard from you even though I sent a s.a.s.e. that probably means I wont because I seem to remember you saying something on this site that e-mail query are sometimes replied to in the same day. Should I resend it as an e-mail or is their still hope for my printed and mailed query to get a reply even after a month has passed? Another question: when should an author give up all hope on one manuscript to focus on their other ones when their current manuscript isnt getting any replies? Should the author work on their query or move on?
Thanks so much for your site. I have learned alot from it.
Check out Google Deanna Enos Nobody Left Behind One Child’s Story About Testing. I’m looking for an agent for this or another book completed about a Folk Artist, Romano Gabriel.
Mickie the Trigger says
With 62 comments to browse through and 3 minutes left on my lunch break, I’m not sure whether this was already suggested by another reader, but maybe Tag Team is slurring “free”? You know how sometimes people say “free” when they intend to say “three”… maybe it’s backwards…
“these free words when you’re getting busy…”
And that’s one to grow on.
Thanks to President Bush and his lack of any economic policy, we are now a SOCIALIST America.
The next stop is COMMUNISM, therefore, every American is looking for some answers. We have them and President Barack Obama is going to endorse them.
In America 2.0, Inc. we detail how to get to Condo Capitalism, which is Incorporating the United States Government and giving SHARES to all American citizens. This holds all executives to a higher standard of making money for the shareholders instead of constantly throwing our money down the drain, AND, more importantly, it allows us all to participate in the American Dream of Success using our shares to pay for new homes, Retirement, Health Care, etc.
This is completely ORIGINAL and a MUST READ for every concerned American who lives in fear of losing their job or their home or their country.
President Obama has endorsed this book by saying, “I’m asking you to believe NOT just in my ability to bring about REAL CHANGE in Washington. I’m asking you to believe in yours.” – Barack Obama, 2008
Already blogging and doing other online promotion. I plan to do more. I am committed to the eventual acceptance of these ideas and have been for some time. I’m getting indications that President Obama has read my work and is considering the concepts in this book for his endorsement some time next year.
I’m confident that I will eventually be on Oprah, Meet the Press, 60 Minutes eventually. Need publisher only for a few days. Then, it will take off on its own.
This is HOTTEST most controversial book of the century. AND, nothing will move it off this position for decades. The current economic crisis makes it important that everyone read this so that we can start considering all the ramifications and then proceed to implement it.
IF WE DO NOT incorporate American Government, they will continue to screw us into the ground. There is no accountability. There is no controls in place. There is no ethics or morals in place. There is no rewards or incentives other than survival for citizens. By Taking Stock in America as a Private Corporation, instead of the current welfare state for auto companies, banks, insurance companies as is ongoing today, we allow the citizens to shape the economy by allowing them to participate in their own fruits of their labors and join the success of the CEOs. In essence, we all become STOCKHOLDERS with enormous power and control over our own financial and political destiny. This also solves the current bankruptcy of Social Security, Medicare, Etc, by Capitalizing our Government for the first time with the private hard work and sacrifice of the American worker and makes this country suddenly competitive in the global economy again.
I am ready for the job of promoting this book. Trust me. I have authored 5 books with a combined sales of over 250,000 copies.
America 2.0, Inc. (Tm) – Take Stock In America!
Santa Cruz, CA
How many ‘do not do this in your query letters’ can you spot in the above comment?
I know I found a few.
i know i’m a year late to this party but there is confetti still on the floor, so i’ll comment anyway –
when i was a kid my dad always changed the radio station when diana ross would sing, “do you know where you’re going to?” – he had a thing about prepositions…
Clearly Tag Team was well-trained by Gul Madred in the art of torture, and if you would just admit that there are only three words, the pain will stop.
Don’t give in! There.. are.. FOUR.. words!
Lynn Steele Latson says
I'd love to have you be my agent. Look at the comments on B&N and Amazon.
Book title: The Oakhampton Comfort Society
Pen name: Roberta Hoy
A racy read written by a woman who has the same mastectomy pain issues as me…I'm the author. My husband thought it was a 'chick' book until he read all of it. Came and found me and said,
This isn't a chick book…this is a movie!
Rachel Hamm says
"I like the bad ones (except these), I particularly like the ones that don't make any sense whatsoever."
This really reminded me of Mr. Bennett's delight in the ridiculousness of Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice. It made me smile, so thank you for that.
Russ Josephs says
How about Sade's Smooth Operator, when she's like, Coast to coast LA to Chicago? Drives me nuts!
zone zero design says
First off, thank you for your offer to answer queries, I sincerely appreciate it. Now, to the point! I am completely green.
However, I'm narrowing in on the completion of a very unique and interesting jigsaw puzzle and I'm looking for information about how to get it published and manufactured. Do you have any tips on how to go about this? Or can you recommend a source of information on the subject?
This is, indeed, a puzzle in and of itself!
Thanks so much,
Mark D. Moore
John Kellermeyer says
Hello, Nathan. I'm not afraid of the query, I'm working on it now. My book(s) are autobiographical on healing from severe child abuse, and hopefully as timely, a book on pedophilia in the Catholic church as a former member of a Catholic teaching order in California and a former Catholic, for that matter.
Are these something you'd be interested in?
I hope so.
I always elide the "there" and the "it". I like to give rappers the benefit of the doubt.
WHOOP! There't is!
My book….’Sweet Like a Lemon’ is nonfiction about life and love…and then some….
It’s about two people who miss out on finding each other….because of stupidity….my own….It’s also about lessons I learned, as I learned not to be stupid….
….The setting is ‘now’….whenever ‘now’ is….and takes place wherever the reader may be….The story is contemporary….but there is some time travel….back to the beginning….and then returning to the ‘here and now’….with some stop over’s along the way….Promise; no close encounters or monkeys….at least I can’t recall any…?
I’m sure there are millions of books like it, but I haven’t come across one! So how about it….Come on….You may even enjoy reading it…?
I can send you the first fifty or so pages????
….I’d be really happy if you read through….I’ll be here imagining you reading it and coming to the last word on the last page….staring up….becoming very thoughtful….then shouting out as you jump to your feet…….”This is it, this is the one!”….”Stop the presses. This one’s next!”….
….I’m not really asking a lot after all….And just think how happy you’ll make me….A person you’ve never met….living in Africa, land locked and far away….I can imagine it even now….Being signed up by my favorite agent….Did I mention I don’t know any others…?
Best regards, John Gee