There is something about blogging and advice-giving that tends toward the negative — frankly it’s easier to explain why a query doesn’t work than it is to explain why one does. The do nots are easier to list than the dos. And so, after reading this blog for a while, you might think I’m just sitting here getting all these bad queries and gnashing my teeth and banging my head on the desk.
Well, not lately.
I don’t know what in the heck is in the water, but I have a new query complaint: PEOPLE ARE WRITING TOO MANY GOOD QUERIES.
I’m totally kidding about the complaint part — by no means is this a bad thing, and it’s really exciting to notice a serious uptick in quality query writing. I’m very happy about it. However, just to put this in perspective, in the last two weeks I have requested 50 partials. 50 PARTIALS!!!! In two weeks!!! That’s 1500 pages!
And that doesn’t even include a whole lot of other good queries, especially the ones from blog readers, that were totally fine and solid, but just weren’t quite for me.
Add in the fact that I’ve been working on three separate manuscript revisions and the other day-to-day tasks I have to take care of, and it will explain why the timestamp on an e-mail I send you just might say 11:24 PM. August in publishing…. not so slow.
But really — give yourselves a round of virtual applause. It’s been an impressive month.
The penalty imposed on a good teacher — your students learn — and are grateful
Better to have too many than not enough.
Pierre Roustan says
You know, Nathan, it’s kind of like going into a Gap and having every single piece fit you perfectly, not to mention everything in the store just happens to be free :-). Got to be a good feeling.
Now all you got to do is make sure you have a big enough closet (translation: time and sanity)
It sounds like you need to add ‘post slightly less depressing query stats’ to your to-do list!
And assuming some of those partials warrant requests for fulls – and then maybe the fulls are spectacular…
At what point do you decide you have TOO many clients? It would seem possible on some level (because it happens with other professions) – so what happens when this situation arises? Does the agent refer the author to another agent or does the author just start over (or probably have other options since he/she has clearly written something pretty damn good?)
Margaret Yang says
Wow…I never thought I’d see this day. We always joke that you give such good advice that all the queries you receive will be great, but I never thought I’d actually see it happen.
I’m happy for you. You and your blog, you did good work.
Wanda B. Ontheshelves says
A very simple explanation – it’s August – a lot of people (including writers) are on vacation! So there they are, in some wonderful vacation spot, relaxed, well-fed, with all the time in the world – why not polish that query and send it out?
Rather than: On their lunch break, on the company computer, the boss sticking their head in the door, “oh, I didn’t realize you were on break,” the phone ringing, etc., and composing a query.
Or maybe at the end of a very long day, including a long commute, shuttling kids around, going to meetings yourself after work…then composing a query.
Or maybe it’s because you’d mentioned you don’t require a synopsis (if memory serves me) – that’s definitely a plus right there!
Dave F. says
You might spread the wealth to other agents.
And what if inquiring minds want to know how many of those partials have been turned into requests for full manuscripts? I’m thinking that would be another chunk of reading on your plate…
Yanno…we can change that…
I’m thinkin vampire space monkeys in regency London…
Did I tell you it’s a memoir?
Of course, I guess from an agent’s perspective, the important question isn’t the raw number of good queries. It’s the proportion of the good queries resulting in good partials. 🙂
(If you know what’s good for you, you won’t turn to advising us on how to improve the partials, too. Slippery slope, Nathan, slippery slope!)
Furious D says
Use this as an excuse to get head office to hire you some minions. 😉
Because if you want to get ahead, you gotta have some minions, toadies, or gofers. 😉
Kate Lord Brown says
As furious d points out ‘help’ or associates always a good thing (in England at school they used to call it ‘fagging’ but I think that should have been outlawed with Flashman). Bravo – it’s a good sign: mission accomplished sensei.
Elyssa Papa says
Awesome news! Hopefully the queries will keep getting better for you.
Nathan to make you feel better I just sent this query to you:
dude don’t you think you should be representing me?
my totally rocking collection of short stories all written as rap songs i texted on my razr while working out
you know its awesome dude because i like haven’t read it myself but my cuz read it and he thinks it rocks
the main dude is a lesbian detective who has like to prove she rocks like other dudes but she is like all soft and stuff and has feelings
call me at (301)555-1212 because this is my moms puter and she left it on but i dont know her password and stuff
yeah and don’t try to steal my idea or i like sue you and stuff
Prince Balthazar says
Ilyakogan,that is hilarious.
1500 pages, good lord, what’s your turn-around time on a partial like?
Nathan Bransford says
Usually less than two weeks.
Wow…that’s a lot of partials, N, and a lot of potential clients to add to your (no doubt) long list…is there a point where you have to say no, even if you like something/someone? Or do you just work harder and harder and harder…
(BTW, love your blog. It’s a great find. Thank you.)
Deborah Blake says
Speaking as someone who had a fine and solid query that just wasn’t for you (sob!), do you ever point an author in the direction of one of your fellow agents who you think would be better suited for their work?
Congrats on raising the bar and still getting people to jump over!
Adaora A. says
Ha! Congrats on the multitude of good queries. You might pat yourself on the back too because you’re such a good teacher. Honestly this blog is chalk full of so much information that even Writer’s Digest mentions it. It’s no wonder that so much good stuff is coming your way recently.
I feel your pain but must note that you brought in on yourself. Stop giving away great advice! We *can* drown you in paperwork, even if electronically received. Congrats!
Wow! That’s awesomely cool!!!
You make me cry. I thought only 17-year-old girls went into the Gap and left with a smile.
I pray that you don’t let a jewel slip through your fingers because you are overworked. Forget about that amazing two week turnaround, those of us who are newbies and anxiously awaiting a response will gladly wait another week.
I have a question. A while back I sent you a pretty crappy query. You politely declined, go figure. I was a total newb. Now my manuscript is completely revised and practically a whole different animal, and I, like so many others, have learned so much more about good queries (in large part from you).
Do people ever re-query you? Would you even notice given the huge volume you receive?
Guess it’s a good thing you limit the partials to 30 pages rather than the first three chapters. 🙂
Kristin Laughtin says
I do offer my sympathies*, even though I hope to be one of those good queriers one day!
*Not because the queries were good, but because now you have to read so many pages on top of everything else.
J.J. Hebert says
50 partials? That’s a lot of reading!!! Good luck with that…
[Please visit my blog at http://www.jjhebertblog.com to read my current entry: You’ve Written A Great Novel. Now What?]
Mary Danielson says
1500 pages? Wow, I don’t envy your weekend! Congrats though – the war against the rhetorical question must be working!
As a newbie who really has no idea if her query is any good at all, I’m hoping that you truly did pass because it was just not right for you.Then maybe there’s hope, maybe it isn’t as awful as I worry it is! Thanks again for all the pointers, they are like little treasures!
I like Pat’s vampires space monkeys in regency London idea – I’d buy that. Bet that would be a great query. Especially if it started with a rhetorical question or one of those movie theater trailer voiceover styles “IN A REGENCY WORLD OVERRUN BY VAMPIRE SPACE MONKEYS ONLY ONE CAN SAVE THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE – A CHIHUAHUA NAMED PIERRE!”
but seriously, I would love to know how many fulls you end up asking for out of the 50 – cause that is a whole heck of a lot of reading! you may be needing glasses soon!
Nathan, are you going to post any of the really good ones?
Pretty please with sugar on top?
Yes, it’s true, you’re partly to blame…
And hey, Nathan’s turnaround time is wonderful. It’s nice to know within a few days, even if it’s a no to the partial. Trust me. That alone will guarantee I always query Nathan first for the rest of my un-agented career. I think it shows a huge amount of respect for writers and how hard this process is.
In short, Nathan rocks. Even if he passes ; )
Wanda B. Ontheshelves says
Re: “I have a question. A while back I sent you a pretty crappy query. You politely declined, go figure. I was a total newb.”
I did this too. I’m pretty sure I did – I was such a newbie, I wasn’t even keeping track! Or was I…check out querytracker.net if you haven’t already…it’s great for keeping track of queries. You can make a list of agents to query, even BEFORE you start sending out queries. Helps you be a little more deliberate and cautious.
Did you find my query humorous?
Nah, my real question is:
How many of the queries made you laugh?
and maybe you should check out my blog at https://freefelon.blogspot.com
YOU INSPIRE ME!!
Nathan, this is what you get for publicly announcing, “When it doubt, query me.”
Did you get any possible winners from the onslaught? I hope all the extra work turns up something fantastic that you just can’t wait to represent.
I’d like to ditto the anon request for you to post some of those effective queries. Bad queries and query critiques are easy to find online, and they can be educational, but queries done right are harder to come by. Pleeeeeaaaase?
I’m the aforementioned “newb” who asked about re-querying.
Thanks! Good tip about Query Tracker. It looks far superior to my cryptic notes scribbled on the backs on envelopes system.
Query Tracker looks interesting and is a good example of the glut of information now available to writers. Only five years ago, most sage advice was only available in a limited number of books.
Thanks to NB and other blogging agents, editors and writers, this kind of practical info is filtering through and some of us even read it.
Plus, of course it’s in the water.
Minions for Nathan!!!
(And if you have any leftover minions, could I borrow them?)
I’ll send you the worst query letter ever in the history of mankind and get your chi back for you. A good divergence of this theme would be predictable writing verses deliberate edge writing. Advice on how crazy people become literary pets.
How about; “Dopplegangers: The ups and downs of managing an out of control ID.”
I don’t know if this is something you can answer, but do you actually read every page of every partial? Or can you sometimes tell after a few pages that the work is not for you? For whatever reason. Say, absence of space monkeys when they were clearly indicated in the query, for instance.
Nathan Bransford says
I read until I’ve reached a decision, so sometimes that means reading all 30 pages, sometimes it means reading 2 or 3 pages. I won’t be reading all 1500 of those pages, but I definitely will be reading most of them.
I am wondering if it is ok to start advertising (creating hype for) your project (novel) ahead of it being out?
And would doing so encourage or discourage you, Nathan, from considering a project?
Sam Taylor says
Isn’t “too many good queries” the reson Ms. Snark quit blogging? 😉
Thanks for taking the time to read my query~ Even though you passed on it, it made my day to get a response! 🙂
Nathan, this is a great blog.
Do you think it is meaningful when an author gets requests for full manuscript right away, rather than partial?
Or can it just be a way for the agent to thumb ahead and see if the book works as a whole, rather than indicating more of a positive response to a query (that had a few sample pages)?
Oh, noes, you crazy person! 50 partials! I’m so glad I’m not in that pack. I could get lost in all that quality.
The one post I thought I’d never see . . . . This is the end of blogging as we know it.
Where’s Miss Snark when we need her.
Danielle Monson says
How do I erase my paragraph from your blog for the contest? Despite the preview, it got posted without the first few words included.
I would like to correct that.