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Viewing Blog: Janet Reid, Literary Agent, Most Recent at Top
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I'm a literary agent with FinePrint Literary Management in New York City. I specialize in crime fiction. I'll be glad to receive a query letter from you; guidelines to help you decide if I'm looking for what you write are below. There are several posts labelled "query pitfalls" and "annoy me" that may help you avoid some common mistakes when querying.
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1. Have a blessed Holy Week



I'll be off work from Thursday-Sunday. I'm hoping the Lamb of God thing remains a metaphor, cause I've already had a problem with sheep in church.

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2. Query Question: can I lie about the book in my query?

How close must the query match the manuscript? I know this must seem like a stupid question, but I've been receiving query assistance from a literary intern (1), and he gave advice that I haven't seen elsewhere. I need to confirm it before I start sending out my query.

My manuscript mostly stands alone, but is the first of a potential series. Because of this, the plot of the sequel is *vaguely* hinted at in the stakes of the query. I asked the intern if an agent would be PO'd if something I mention in the query doesn't show up in the manuscript. He told me that things can be fudged in a query,(2)  and mentioned that one thing in his own query was an outright lie(3). He had revised and didn't bother to fix the query to match (he was signed by an agent). He said if the query is good and clearly for the same book, and if the book is good and similar to the query, no one cares about specifics. I'm hoping his advice is correct.

Can you "fudge" a few specifics in a query?


you can do anything you want in a query up to and including query for a fiction novel. The real question is what's at stake when you do something idiotic like...lie?


The purpose of a query is to entice the agent to read the manuscript. If an agent reads the manuscript thinking one thing is going to happen, and it doesn't, that's a pretty big thud.  Is that something you want to risk?


On the other hand why are you vaguely hinting about anything in a query? The stakes in your query are the stakes in this novel, the one you're querying. Not any other.

If you think you need to fudge a few specifics in your query, you need to fix the novel or the query or both. 


And I've got a few questions for you:


(1) what the hell is a literary intern? An intern at a literary agency?  This is the least informed and experienced person at an agency. I'm pretty sure it's the least right person to be asking for advice.


(2) Unless he's making the decisons on what's signed to the agent's list, he's not in a positiion to tell you this.


(3) oh great. Insert image of eye-roll here.  Even if this is true, it's absolutey TERRIBLE advice. He's mistaking HIS experience for the universal norm.  Well, that's typical of interns which is why (see #1)



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3. Query Question: My comp is DaVinci Code

I'm querying a mystery/thriller MS and I'm having trouble finding comps because my real comp is The Da Vinci Code. I bet you just cringed. But the truth is that I was inspired to write my MS after reading Da Vinci Code.

Specifically, I loved the chase through Vatican City, Rome, and the surrounding countryside. I loved solving the clues and exploring the merits of a conspiracy theory. I wanted to mirror these same aspects in my MS. So I found a different conspiracy theory and spent several years researching it. I've made up my own math and science clues and run them past multiple co-workers who hold PhDs in math. I set my story in a foreign country and traveled there myself as well as spent days researching satellite maps and interviewing people from that country.

Knowing we aren't supposed to compare our work to a bestseller like Da Vinci Code or Twilight or Harry Potter, I searched high and low for a different comp. I've spent days on Goodreads creating shelves and looking for recommendations that are similar to Da Vinci Code. I've gone through half a dozen library sites where librarians suggest books similar to Da Vinci Code. I've ordered and read books that seem like a promising comparable because it was a thriller set in modern-day with realistic historic/scientific clues to solve, but inevitably find the book is derivative of other Templar/religious conspiracies (my MS's conspiracy is neither) and/or the quality is just not as good as Da Vinci Code.

So for the sake of having a newer, not-as-popular comp, do I compare my work to a substandard derivative? I've sent out a dozen queries that uses the Da Vinci Code comp, and gotten 6 rejections within a week. I'm afraid agents are writing off my query as soon as they get to that comp.


Your problem isn't that your comp title is The DaVinci Code. It's that your book sounds like a knockoff of one of the biggest bestsellers of all time from TEN YEARS AGO.  Agents were looking for DVC knockoffs in 2002, when the publisher was inundating the world with advance reading copies of DVC and everyone knew it was going to be huge.

Two years ago everyone wanted the next 50 Shades of Gray.

Two years from now everyone will want the next Patrick Lee. (I devoutly hope!)


In other words:The DaVinci Code ship has sailed and you will never row fast enough to keep up.

The good news for you though is that you are no longer limited to the narrow visioned agents and editors who want the Next Big Thing.  You can publish this on your own, find an audience and make us all look shortsighted.

Or you can write your next book, pop this one in your steamer trunk for later when you're a famous writer and your publisher will be glad to publish it.






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4. Query question: link or list?

My question - I won a national Canadian fiction award for a book published in 2012 by a small press. (It was actually the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction <http://canadianauthors.org/conference/caa-award-for-fiction-2013-shortlist/> ).

The award is not well known in the US, but it's totally legit. Is it okay to include a hyperlink to the award in a query? Or should I just list the award in the second to last paragraph and allow the agent to look it up?



First, congrats!

Second, I'm not a huge fan of hyperlinks in email for two reasons: 
1. my email management program finds them too spicy and often spits them into the spam filter (Priscilla eats anything) 
2. it offends my sense of aesthetics (this is just me, and clearly I'm deranged from paint fumes)

I'd list the award but not the link.  Remember though: that's my opinion not an ironclad publishing standard.

 

 

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5. And you thought *I* was harsh!


Gossamer the editor cat renders his opinion


Herewith the novel you sent me for consideration:

Not enough cats.
Too many dogs. 

Revise. Resend. 

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6. Have a great weekend!

This map of the Imperial History of the Middle East is endlessly fascinating.  You might have to log in to StumbleOn to see it, but it's well worth it.

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7. Query Question: More on comp titles

I've seen some agents say they like to see TITLE meets TITLE or "this would appeal to fans of ..." and some who don't like comparisons at all. When I think of my MS, immediately two things come to mind, a book and a TV show. What do you think of using both to show that I know who my book would appeal to? Or would using a TV show be a big no-no?

I have a real aversion to using film and TV shows as comps. This is particular to me I know. The reason is that I don't have TV so a lot of times the comparison is useless to me. On the other hand I haven't read every book in the world (not for lack of trying) so sometimes those comps go over my head too.

I don't think it's cause for setting a query on fire to use a TV show as a comp, but I think it's smarter to use books.

The only big no-no in queries is bad writing. 


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8. Query Question: voice



Over the years I have seen incredible queries on your other site.  (A Comedy of Terrors. Worst case scenario.  Everyone's favorite, Premeditated, still gives me goosebumps.)

The voice has always kicked the query to the front of the line; I have a query for my very soon to be query-able ms.

I actually have a few queries; my favorite has what I feel might be a problem.

It is written in a slight Maine accent...there is only one character in the story with that accent, but I feel it gives the query a certain edge.

Port Templar, 95,000 words Sci-Fiction

“Hello there, my name’s Gubby I run the garage up ta Port Templar. She’s a gorgeous Maine town that’s got everything; lobstah rolls, steamers, even sells lobstah magnets to them damn tourists.


I didn't know whether to include it as an example, but wanted to illustrate the effect I was going for.


No no no.
Do not write your query using the voice of a character. That is NOT the same thing as your "voice"  as an author. What you've used above is vernacular and style particular to a character.

All the words in the query; which ones you choose and how you string them together: that's YOUR voice.

Here's voice: And so it came to pass that the writers found their way to a cave, rough-strewn with artifacts perhaps from those who had came before, decorated with odd markings on the wall, dimly lit by the sun dropping in the east. They decided, not without some bickering, they were writers after all, to tarry here for a while, hoping to find shelter and maybe a well-mixed martini.


It's the choice of words and phrases: "And so it came to pass" could have been "then" or "now" or any number of other choices.

"rough strewn" could have been "littered" and so on.

And it's not just diction (word choice) it's the rhythm of the sentence.  And the twist at the end.

That's voice. That's what you're trying for.  That's why you revise. Voice is found in revision. It's found in saying the sentences out loud. It's found in the first million words of practice. It's found in knowing the rules so you can break them with elegance and beauty. It's found in knowing a lot of lovely wonderful words so you use the perfect word, not the almost-right word, or worse: the over-used word.

Voice is who you are. Not who your characters are. 



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9. Agents going off the rails



A while back I posted a question from a writer who seriously wondered if her agent was dead or abducted by aliens (no contact for months on end.)

In my reply I mentioned that kind of thing has been happening more often. That observation sparked some interest and some requests for elaboration.

Herewith.

Back in the day, and I mean back before email, the internet and Twitter and, let's face it, transparency, the career path for becoming an agent was starting as an editor at a big publishing house, and learning how the biz worked. There are those who traveled a different route of course, but they were the exceptions, not the norm.

That has changed almost completely.

Many younger agents are starting as agents. Or assistants who are allowed to sign clients. Or interns who are sure they learned everything they need to know and set up shop as agents when their internship is completed.

And when the shit hits the fan, as it does every single day of the working year, and twice on Sundays, and always when you're on vacation, these young agents are often overwhelmed.


And they're often alone and unsupported. By alone, I mean they work as sole proprietors or in remote offices from the main agency. By unsupported I mean they do not have someone sitting five feet away who can help them get out of trouble or stop them from getting in to trouble. Of the five cracker jack young agents I know best, ALL started out sitting close to an agent with more experience, an agent who considered it his/her job to guide the younger agent.


And there's another component to consider. Recently I tallied the lists of tasks I had for each client in 2003. Then I tallied the tasks I had for clients in 2013.

By my count there is three times the work now for each client/book that there was in 2003.

What that means in hard terms is even experienced agents are having to learn to do new things and to stay on top of things they didn't have to before. Of course, there's no additional money for this.


So if you're an agent who's been doing this forever, and in the last ten years your job has tripled, and your income hasn't, and all of a sudden there's this new transparency and people are talking about you on the Internet like you can't see it, well, sometimes just not dealing with the problems seems pretty much like the avenue of least resistance.

I don't say this to excuse the behavior. It's bad behavior. It's very unprofessional. I'd like to say I've never been guilty of behaving this way, but it would not be true.


But what this is has a name: burnout. Agenting is a job that's ripe for burnout for two reasons:

1. Almost nothing is under our direct control
2. Almost nothing is ever finished

When I say almost nothing is under our direct control, I can hear you non-agented, querying writers gasp with disbelief. To you it seems like agents control EVERYTHING. Nothing could be farther from the truth.


I can't control who queries me or doesn't. I can only control who I OFFER representation to. I can't even control who accepts.


And I have almost no control with how a book is published. I can advocate for the author. I can explain how things work to the author. I can build good working relationships at publishing houses so my calls and questions get answered but if I hate a cover and the publisher loves it, well, the publisher gets to decide.

Not having control of your job that has an increasing work load and an increasing number of people looking over your shoulder and commenting on how you're doing (this blog included among those people too) is a recipe for burnout.


When I say nothing is ever finished, let me just illustrate that with an example from this weekend: I read a manuscript (which was very good) and sent the author (my client) a series of notes. He'll make changes, then send the ms to his editor. Done? Not even close. When this goes to edits/copyedits/production/publication there will be lots of things to do and problems to address. The work is never ever done and that can be daunting because it's really hard to take time off, or even step back sometimes knowing that the work is just going to stack up.

Not taking time off is another one of the classic ways to burn out, and given that agents are already working nights and weekends as the norm, it's a wonder more of us don't flip out completely.


I've learned to recognize when I'm heading the wrong way on Burnout Avenue. And I know what to do now to head it off. But those are skills and tricks I learned the hard way. I burned out on a previous career so completely and so suddenly I couldn't even pick up the phone.


If you're an author you'll want to avoid signing with an agent who is headed down Burnout Ave. How to tell? You ask her clients. Not "is s/he burning out?" but "how's the communication?" Agents who are burning out generally aren't communicating well.

Find out how much support an agent has. If things go south, is there someone there to pick up the pieces? A sole prop who goes off the rails leaves her clients in a bigger mess than someone backed by an agency with people who know where the files are.


What do you do if your agent burns out? First, know that it's not you. S/he's not unhappy with you or your work. You didn't make her/him crazy. Second, get your ducks in a row cause you're going to have some interesting times coming. By ducks in a row, I mean get your submission list, and know where your manuscript has gone. Make sure you know where your contract is. READ your contract.


If all goes well your agent will avert burnout (most of us do) and things will be ok. If s/he does NOT, then it's back to the blog post that incited this one.


And if you find yourself annoyed that your agent is talking on Twitter or writing blog posts about books she read that aren't yours, well, remind yourself that breaks from work are a necessity not a luxury and the last, the VERY LAST thing you want is an agent who works all the time, right up until she's so burned out she can't even talk to you.


If you're an agent and you recognize that some of what I talked about here applies to you, remember burnout is not a character flaw or a lapse of moral fiber. It's the way your brain is telling you to make some changes in your life. Listen to yourself.










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10. Query Question: a rant from your blog writer

Questions: Is it to my advantage to mention that this is the first book of a five book series? (1)Or is this boastful, and ultimately harmful to my yet to be established reputation, since this is my first novel? (2) Also, I realize my email address is extremely peculiar. Should I make a professional email account so people take me seriously? (3) Or is it good to stand out?(4)



Ok, youze guyz. It's becoming clear that you're just firing off questions here and not reading the questions already posted.  I'm pretty sure I've answered all of these before.

If you don't know HOW to find all the other posts here's what to do:

Go to the main page of the blog.

See the blogroll on the right hand side, right below the sloth?



That number after *query pitfalls? 266? That's the number of posts I've written on ways to fuck up your query. Click on that link and ALL the posts turn up for your viewing pleasure.

I like getting questions.
I don't like repeating myself.


Here are the answers to the questions above:

(1) No
(2) That's not the reason it's a bad idea, but it's still a bad idea
(3) Yes
(4) The only thing that should stand out is your writing. 

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11. Query Question: University presses


If a university press decides to publish a manuscript, should the  author have a literary agent?

Remember that I am a literary agent so I think every author benefits from being repped by a good agent.

However. What you're really asking here is if you (or anyone) can navigate a contract or a publishing relationship without an agent and the answer is yes you can.

I've posted before about some of the things to do.

For university presses, you want to be VERY careful about copyright. Make sure they do not register the copyright for your work in the name of the university. I've seen this happen more than once and it seems to be the standard opening gambit on many contracts.

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12. What a week!

You want to find out how much work a guy does?
Wait till he decamps to The Bent Agency.

Then try to find an extra couple hours in the day cause you're gonna need it.
But at least you know HOW to do the work.

You want to find out how long it's been since you've done REAL work?
Have your chief minion go on vacation.

Then try to find envelopes and mail things.

Yea.

If Heather isn't back on Monday, I'm going to roll over and die.








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13. Call for cuteness!

XOXOAfterDark the website run for readers of good books is launching a new feature: pussy(cat) of the week!

Here's the info on it, PLUS they want submissions!

Bonus points if you recognize the cat shown in the photo!

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14. Query Question: so, I'm old

So, I'm old. I've written what I think is a very readable book, and have just started sending out queries and begun another book. When writing, I have readers of my age bracket in mind.

This week an acquaintance (admittedly a jerk but often right) advised me not to bother with literary agents, as they would not want a first time author of my age. They would be looking for novelists of an age that might promise a longer career and more market interest. (To me, this is counter-intuitive to the burgeoning senior population and many seniors living into their vibrant 90's, but those are other discussions.)

I accept the dauntingly long odds every writer faces with a first book, but I don't want to waste my time. Go straight to self-publish as this person counseled or file the advice under wrongheaded input and keep going?

So, this jerk acquaintance of yours, he's an agent? Cause that's the only way he's going to know what agents want. And then, only what HE would want.

And unless you're writing your query letters on an manual Royal typewriter and including the idiotic phrase "I don't do email" how the HELL is someone going to know how old you are?

So what if Abe Lincoln was your date to the prom?  I bet you've got some good stories about it.

Much of querying is conducted at a glacial pace, as is publishing in general. If you feel you're wasting your time by waiting, don't. Self-pub, and may you make a million dollars.

But, BUT I don't view it as wasted time, so much as time invested in your writing career. While you're waiting for those whippersnapper agents to get off their poorly punctuated asterisks and reply to your query, keep working. It's the WORK you love, right?

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15. Query Question: batch queries

When writers are often advised to send queries out in batches of perhaps ten or so at a time, it's unclear to me how long one should wait before sending out another batch. A few agents respond quickly (with a decline) but many say that they may be back in ten to twelve weeks - if they're interested.

So - that's a long time time (maybe 3 months) before sending out another batch - and we have to be open to the distinct possibility that there will be no response after that time, because the agent isn't interested.

What's the best timing on batch querying for a writer?


Ten to twelve WEEKS on a query?? Zoinks, that's really bad.  I thought 30 days was the time limit on queries and twelve weeks on a full (please do not look at my stack of requested fulls--12 weeks is just a fond memory.)

Truthfully, I don't know the answer to this question because I don't send queries like you do. I get them, read them, set them on fire, and talk about them, but I don't send them. (Well, ok, I do if you count editors, but I send all those at once and assume everyone will want to buy--different ball park.)

I think the answer is more likely to be found at the place where writers hang out: AbsoluteWrite Forums.  I'm not sure which thread will be useful for you, but I bet there's been a bunch of discussion about this.

And I'll also wager that the readers of this blog will have some ideas.

Readers? Let me know what you think about this.  (I'll be over here reading my queries and replying in 24 hours)

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16. Question: polyamory querying?



I'm wondering, if both projects were written simultaneously, and are completed and polished, if it's bad etiquette to query two manuscripts at once? One agent may have some interest in one project I've already queried, and I've been itching to begin querying a second project to a different group of agents.




I can certainly understand why you'd want to do this. With the glacial pace of publishing it seems stupid to just wait around on one manuscript when you could be querying two! Or Three! Or SIX!

Here's why you shouldn't.

You only get to sign with one agent at a time.  Let's say you're querying two or ten manuscripts, and they're all publishable and they all get offers.

How do you compare offers?  My enthusiasm for "Everything I Know About Sex I Learned from Tawna Fenske's Blog" may be much higher than my enthusiasm for "Everything I Know About Vodka I Learned From Barbara Poelle's Trash Basket"

But if you sign with me for Sex, you're also going to expect me to rep Vodka. So you tell me about Vodka, and I ask for the proposal, meanwhile you've got Agent Impatient waiting for an answer for her offer on Vodka.

This is NOT the time for something that would look like the second act of Noises Off! (and I mean the play not the dreadful movie version.)


The other reason that is if you query me on three "finished, polished" projects in a given year, I stop taking you seriously.  I know darn good and well how long it takes to write a good novel. I have 45 people writing now and I know their every anguished scream and cry. 

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17. Query Question: Revision after sending the query


I was convinced I was 100% done with a manuscript and started querying it. Then, after sending out several queries, I had an irresistible bolt of inspiration that would significantly change the main character's goal and require big edits... I know this is frowned upon, but the changes have to be made. What do I do if an agent wants to see a partial or full based on an outdated synopsis? 


The Gods of Inspiration and Revision are pranksters of the first order. They LOVE to visit about three minutes after you hit SEND on a full.

I can't count the number of queriers who've written to me in this same quandry.

Here's what to do:

You do NOT withdraw the query.  You've got time to revise the manuscript while you wait for the glacial responses to come in.

When agents do request fulls, you include a note that says just what you told me: you revised significantly betwixt Query and Full.

And don't worry. It's better to send your best work even if it's different from the query.

The worst thing that can happen is they say no. Get used to that one, writer friend. It's going to be a part of your daily life from now on. (But those yesses make up for that, oh indeed they do!)

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18. Query Question: AAR?

To what extent does it matter if an agent is not a member of AAR?
I always feel more comfortable if an individual belongs to the appropriate professional organization. Am I off base? Thanks!

I am a member of AAR and I always list it in the organizations brave enough to offer me membership cause I'm proud of being accepted to the group.  [I encourage our up and coming agents to join too.]

I think AAR is an asset because it requires members to adhere to a canon of ethics and to meet a minimum standard for What Have You Sold (the first question you want to ask any prospective agent.)

That said, there are some very good, very reputable agents who choose not to belong to AAR.  Some are just recalcitrant old bears who dislike the idea of joining any group.  Some are agents who think it's just not an asset so why spend the dough.

The trick is NOT to limit yourself by querying only AAR members (although that's ok if you want to do so) but to ask an agent who offers you representation why they choose not to belong if they don't.


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19. Query Question: pending publication



I've recently sold a short story. Yay! Trouble is, it hasn't been published yet. I don't even know when it will be published, and given that publishing makes professional snail racing look brisk, the answer is probably Not Soon.

When it comes to the writing credentials portion of a query, what's a writer in this situation to do? I can say "my short fiction has been accepted for future publication by Cool Electronic Market and Established Magazine," but if an agent goes googling, there's no evidence out there to back it up. Should I say it anyway and hope they take my word for it? Or leave it out and hope (or not) that I'll still be querying when there is proof?

You don't need proof, not really. Trust me, we know about the glacial pace of publishing.  Here's how you do it:

My short story "Janet Reid's Shark Sox" is forthcoming from Mad Hatter Press (accepted for publication date/year)


The things I google in a query are:

1. My book (title) was published in (year): I google the publisher because this is often how self-pubbed authors mention previous work.

2. I was nominated for an Edgar (or any other big award): I google the award because it generally means the author was submitted for consideration, not short listed or made a finalist.

3. My agent died/fled the country: I google the agent because very often they are alive and well. And kicking difficult writers to the curb.

4. So and so recommended you: I google so and so because it's almost 100% certain I've never heard of them.








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20. Query: my zipcode is in Cyrillic

I am an American living in Finland, and, after completing my middle grade novel and carefully self-sharking my query, I'm ready to query agents. However, I'm concerned that when I include my contact details, seeing that I'm outside the US will be a showstopper.

We travel due to my husband's work, so while it is possible that I will be living back in the US at the end of the year, it's equally possible that we'll be in Beijing, or elsewhere in the world. I include this because I don't feel like I can just wait until we're back in the US to start trying to find an agent--it may be years before we go home.

So what I'd like to know is: Do I need to state in my query that I am a native English speaker and an American to remove that as a potential roadblock? And do you think having a foreign address will discourage agents from representing me?




First question: got a guest room?
Second question: are you planning to have people contact you by carrier pigeon?

Most of us recognize when we're queried by non-native speakers writing in English. There are interesting turns of phrase and often some very interesting word choices.  If your writing is of publishable quality I don't care if English is the seventeenth language you learned, and neither will anyone else.

Your actual physical address is the least important part of your query. Just don't mention you live in Finland, or China, or next door to me, and it's all good.

Here's how that looks in your query:

Thank you for your time and consideration.

AmazingAndAwesome Writer
(email)
(twitter)
(website/other electronic outpost)

 Because you're querying via electrons not post, right? RIGHT?

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21. Query Question: differing standards of what to include

I read your query shark blog often and I've noticed that many of the queries you post seem longer than many other agents seem to want (3 to 5 paragraphs summarizing the story rather than 1 or 2).

Is this more of a coincidence or is that length what I should be aiming for when sending you a query.

My query includes a one paragraph (4 sentences) summary that I believe gets to the point quickly and would leave the reader asking for more. I really want to do this right and send you a proper query letter that fits your preferences but I've been hesitant, fearing that I might not be including enough detail to peak your interest. Should I rethink or just bite the bullet stick with the short version?

For starters let's all remember that QueryShark is a blog with queries in the formative, not finished, stage.  You'll notice I howl a LOT about paring, trimming, slicing and dicing.

And when agents say 1-2 paragraphs summarizing the story, what they mean is NOT 1-2 pages.
Three paragraphs won't kill you. Probably not five either, BUT they better be short paragraphs cause the number you need to know is word count: 250.  A query should clock in at 250 words or fewer.

And the only preference I have is that you write well and have a book I want to read.  If you're trying to follow the directions you'll do fine. Try not to over-think things.  And it helps to spell all the words correctly.

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22. How to disappear forever

While sorting my incoming mail yesterday afternoon I found a query letter from someone we'll just call Felix Buttonweazer to protect the guilty.

Felix sent a query and I gave opened it for a quick glance to make sure it wasn't for a screenplay (I've been getting a lot of those lately and I like to reply quickly cause I don't handle them at all.)

The query was addressed to everyone at FinePrint in the To: line.  Of course that's not a good idea, but it wasn't enough to get Felix booted out of the query inbox.

Into the stack it went.

Five minutes later, a second query. For the same project. Also misaddressed. I deleted this cause email happens, and duplicates aren't always a sign of disorganization.

Five minutes later, a third. For a new book. Also mis-addressed. At this point I'm a tad impatient with Felix.

And then, a fourth. Incorrectly addressed, of course.

An hour later, a fifth. 

That was when Felix and email address went to the filter. His emails now go to the archive unread.

Here's your takeaway: I rant and rave that I'm looking for good writing and that remains true.  I am. But I'm only willing to work with people who set a high standard for themselves. That means you investigate how things work before the fact.  How things work like query one agent here at a time, and one project at a time (and that means you wait to hear from me before you send a query on a second book.)

I do not apologize for making assumptions about your level of preparedness from the behavior you demonstrate when querying.

There are more publishable projects out there than there are publishing slots, and once you're at that level it pays to be prepared.

If you're reading the blog, if you've actually read and followed the submission guidelines you're going to be just fine. Don't worry.

If however you're thinking what the hell just go for it, well, ok,  you're going straight there.

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23. Question: category roulette just might kill us all


I recently participated in a pitch contest and saw a lot of people pitching their novels as “Adult Sci-Fi” or “Adult Historical Romance.” Now, I was under the impression anything not labeled NA, MG, or YA was automatically considered Adult. Has that changed?

Second, the characters in my fantasy novel fall within the age range of NA. When I started the novel, NA didn’t exist. I can make the case, however, that the themes fit within the NA genre even though I consider it to be aimed at adults. I know it is ill-advised to put multiple age brackets in your genre (pick one, most would say). My plan is to list it as Adult but can I say “with NA crossover potential” without getting my query deleted?


The answer to your first question is No, that has NOT changed. Anything not labeled MG or YA is considered adult (notice I left out NA.)

The reason (I'm guessing here) that people said "Adult historical romance" was because of the forum. In a pitch contest (rather than a query letter) writers are not targeting specific agents so they need to quantify some things that would be obvious if they were querying one agent at a time.

Second, the advent of New Adult is making everyone crazy, not just you. No one really knows what it is for sure and a lot of things get called New Adult that are really just YA with sex. I've seen things that we thought were erotica called "New Adult."

Leave out the "with NA crossover potential" because no one really knows what that is yet.

Your plan should be to list it by category: fiction/crime/sf/f/western; and, time: contemporary/historical. Leave out the other stuff.

Remember, we're looking for good writing across the board. You write a good crime novel with a protagonist who's 17 or 77 and you've got my attention.


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24. Sox Knocker Saturday! Get Carter

I  love  micropresses!

I'm particularly thrilled when they are dedicated to publishing great crime novels.  This week I heard the news that Paul Oliver is publishing a small number of books, to be distributed by the Very Amazing and Super Smart Folks at Soho Press:

The newly launched, Brooklyn-based crime and mystery fiction publisher, Syndicate Books, has announced a distribution agreement with independent publishing house Soho Press. Through the deal, select print and digital titles from Syndicate will be distributed under the imprint name, Soho Syndicate, via Soho Press’s pre-existing relationship with Random House Publishers Services.

Syndicate publisher, and sole staffer, Paul Oliver, also happens to be the director of marketing and Publicity for Soho Press, and has no plans to leave Soho with the incorporation of his new micro-publisher.

--Publishers Weekly (March 18, 2014)

You can order the book here (it pubs in September)







What knocked your sox off this week?

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25. What are YOU reading this Sunday?

Manuscript for the win! 











all that reading requires just a little cat nap!

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