It’s that time again! Yes, it’s that semi-regular blog feature wherein I ask people to rule on the pressing questions of the day, or at least the questions that I have randomly alighted upon and deciding they are pressing.
This question is a simple one. I thought I would poll the authortariat with a rather basic question. Agents across the land have decided upon a system whereby authors may send a brief description of their work to agents, who then decide whether or not they would like to see more.
No one much likes it, nearly everyone, at some point, has to go through it if they want to be published (including me).
Do you ultimately have faith in the query system? Do you think it works? Do you think it succeeds more than it fails? Do you think there is a better way?
Here be the poll (e-mail and feed reader subscribers will need to click through to see it):
Works about as well as my car used to work with a clogged fuel filter. It would run – sort of – as long as you were doing low-speed driving around town with plenty of stops to keep the carb resevoir reasonably full. But try to take it on the highway and you would burn gas faster than it could be delivered to the carb, and you would stall out – repeatedly – and need to restart every time. Not good!
With some care it was possible to sustain a speed of abour 45 mph on back roads.
Did this car "work?"
You tell me.
Angela Dove says
If an author does his or her research before querying, I think the system works. I did for me. 5 targeted queries netted me an agent within a week; we placed with Penguin quickly thereafter. And it was my first book.
Susan Quinn says
How about requiring writers to submit their queries via a Google Search Story?
Byrne Risk Google Story Query
You'd have no idea if they could write, but you in only 35 seconds you would get the essential info, a feel for the tone of the book, and some idea if the writer can tell a story.
Troy Bierkortte says
It's archaic. Sure, when manuscripts were mailed in boxes or big, brown envelopes, the query letter cut down on the mass of the slush pile. A good query letter even got you a ticket to bypass the slush pile and get your story right onto the desk of the agent or editor. Now, a full novel can be attached to an email. Nothing to mail. Nothing to store. Nothing to haul around the office. You open the attachment (after scanning it for viruses, of course) and read until you can't stop or can't stand to go on. No good book will need to go unpublished simply because its author couldn't write a catchy enough query (or made the un-pardonable mistake of having not read the biography of every agent on Earth before submitting one). For all the bitching that agents do about the query process, you'd think they would have done away with them by now. How many times have I heard the complaint that a wannabe author got your name wrong, or submitted to "Dear Agent", or didn't know that you were only considering werewolf love stories this month and submitted a zombie comedy to you in strict violation of your submission guidelines.
Every agent in the world ought to have the following as standard submission guidelines without exception:
1. Write a good story really really well.
2. Polish, edit and revise it until it gleams.
3. email it to me in MSWord format.
4. There is no 4.
So, stop being afraid to open attachments. Invest in a decent anti-virus package, and read the submissions already.
Nick Saw says
I believe the query process works. It is how the majority of books reach publication, BUT it only works if it is done properly. First off, many debut authors don't even know how to write a query and just spit something else, or just send the whole manuscript, or whatever. Obviously that does not work. Then there are the ones who have an idea of what a query letter is BUT STILL do it wrong by sending mass letters, letters with the wrong info in it, letters that do not specify wordcount or genre, etc. Also, every agent is different. Some want a synopisis, some want a sample chapter(s)/pages. So many authors do not take the time to find out the needs of each individual agent, and just copies/pastes their query into a new e-mail, changes the name, and ships it off. Changing "Dear Smith" to "Dear Brown" is not all that personal. By studying the agents website, a querying author will find all the needs of that agent. If we all followed this process, there would be alot more success.
While on the subject of queries…
I have some books from a few years back that suggest that in a query, or possibly a synopsis, I need to include who my market is. Who will buy my book and why. Things I’ve read more recently don’t mention this at all. Is that something that is a thing of the past or should it only be used for non-fiction?
I think it plays a role in the process of publication, but I don't think it should be considered the end-all to having your work read & or published. As it can be too selective as it depends on what they think the market will bear thereby eliminating some great work.
I also think the work should speak for itself.
Be to the point.
I AM A NEW AUTHOR OF A BOOK CALLED A MAOTHERS WORST NIGHTMARE. IT IS A FAST PACE AND ALOT OF ACTION IN MY BOOK. ITS ABOUT A MOTHERS SEARCH FOR HER DAUGHTER WHO HAD BEEN TURNED ON TO HARD DRUGS THEN FORCED INTO A LIFE OF PROSITIUTION, HER MOTHER TRAVELS TO ANOTHER STATE TO FIND DAUGHTER AND FINDS HERSELF IN MANY SITUTATIONS SUCH AS BEING RAPED AND BEATEN UPTHEN SHE STARTS THE REHAB OF A BUILDING THAT WILL OFFER MANY PROGRAMS TO HELP THESE PEOPLE, IT TURNS INTO A GANG WAR OVER THE CONTROLL OF THE DRUG AND PROSTITUTION RING WHICH RESULTS IN DEATHS OF PROSTITUTES THEN PROSTITUTES REVENGE, TO A MAJOR DRUG STING THAT RESULTS IN THE LARGEST DRUG BUST IN THAT STATE. TO A MAJOR FIRE THAT RESULTS IN MANY DEATHS ENDING WITH THE NEW BEGINNINGS IN MANY LIVES. PLEASE CONTACT ME @ email@example.com or 815-540-7037 with your email address so i can email you my manuscript thank you so much bonnie
Rachel Hamm says
I didn't vote because my choice wasn't listed. I'd vote: the query process doesn't work but I can't think of a system that would work any better unless I expected every agent in the world to never sleep and have the ability to read a bazillion manuscripts and get back to just as many aspiring authors within a reasonable time frame AND continue working for their existing clients. And since I wouldn't be able to do that- I don't expect any agent to.
Email Queries, where I can also include my first 5 or 10 pages – I believe in that! A query is OK, since it proves that I can write, but I'm much more confident including some pages.
HOW CAN I SEND PAGES OF MY BOOK SO IT CAN ALSO BE READ.WHERE WOULD I SEND THEM CAN I EMAIL THEM
can you help a new author out PLEASEEEEEEEEEEEE
can you help a new author