Happy Agent Monday, everyone! I don’t know about you, but I’m so relieved that it’s March. A definite sense of “phew we made it-ness” has pervaded my mind. A huge snow storm was predicted for today, so imagine my glee when I flipped up the shades this morning and discovered we’d gotten not 12 inches but barely an inch! HA! Take that winter. So instead of wasting time digging out mounds of white stuff I can devote a little extra time to digging for buried treasure. That’s right! It’s time to hunt through my inbox for that query that’ll tempt me to request a full manuscript. Wanna come along for the adventure? Pack your treasure map and your spy glass and follow me. Arrrrrr….
First query – science fiction. My guidelines say I don’t represent science fiction. Rejection sent.
Second query – non-fiction. My guidelines say I don’t represent non-fiction (aside from memoir). Rejection sent.
(Are you noticing a trend here? If so, here’s the link to my own treasure map, er, I mean submission guidelines.)
Third query – memoir. Something I actually represent. Yeah! Unfortunately, I found this one to not be unique enough, and the sample chapter was stilted. Rejection sent. (For what I think makes a memoir stand out, check out this post.)
Fourth query – YA, something else I actually represent. But this one is not at all ready for prime time. The writer needs to learn a lot more about the market and about writing before being at a professional level and ready to submit to agents. Rejection sent.
Fifth query – Women’s fiction, something I’m looking for. Length of the manuscript is right and the query follows my guidelines, but I’m not drawn in by the premise. I read a little of the sample pages pasted in below the query (something my guidelines allow for) and I’m not crazy about the voice or the writing. Rejection sent.
Sixth query – Category romance. My guidelines state I do not represent category romance. Rejection sent.
Seventh query – Women’s fiction. I found the query letter to be flat and it didn’t evoke anything for me. Rejection sent.
Eighth query – YA. The themes were cliché and the language used didn’t feel like it belonged to a teen. Rejection sent.
Ninth query – Middle grade fiction. Definitely looking for these. But this one didn’t sound unique, and the writing wasn’t up to snuff to me. Rejection sent.
Tenth query – YA. Strong query, except for a cliché tossed in. Opening pages have a nice voice. I’m still worried about the cliché, though. Hm… No rejection, but no request for more yet either. I’m setting this one aside to look at again later, maybe after another cup of coffee.
Eleventh query – YA. I like the query and the plot hangs on an interesting hook. Encouraged, I read the opening pages, but quickly find myself skimming. Lots of back story. Pacing is way off. Rejection sent.
Query twelve – Fantasy. While I like fantasy elements, full-on fantasy is not my thing (as I say in my guidelines). Rejection sent.
Feeling a bit discouraged here. Will there be any treasure in them-thar hills or not? Shall we shoot for lucky thirteen? Okay pirates, take a swig of rum (or coffee) and let’s journey on to one final spot.
Query thirteen – Horror. Guess what? I’m not at all into genre horror. Plus, I’ve seen this plot before in a very famous novel. Rejection sent.
Ah well, fellow treasure hunters. Be not discouraged. The majority of my clients have been found through the query process, so treasure hunting does pay off. And for you writers, know that crafting an interesting query plus a fascinating manuscript is what it’s all about. And here’s a takeaway that is simple, yet pure gold: read an agent’s guidelines and follow them!
Until next time, me mateys, Arrrr!
*Marie is an Associate Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s site here” link located on her page on the upper left margin.
You need some rubber stamp that say “Banal!” and “Cliche!” and “Typos!” haha
There are a ton of repeated errors in query letters. It’s kind of surprising what a difference just a little bit of research and proofreading, etc. would do to improve the fate of so many queries.
I’d love to actually need a stamp that said “New Client!” 😉
Thanks for sharing Marie! Always fun to see these, and what you encounter on a daily basis. Hopefully will help others in their querying phase. I’m with Kelly on the stamp thing!
I hope so too. Breaking through as a writer is tough enough without getting stuck unwittingly by doing avoidable missteps. And I think in the cyber world we call that stamp a form rejection email. 😉
Thanks for the post, Marie! It’s titillating to watch the other side of the treasure hunt. 🙂
It’s always an adventure 🙂
Hi Marie – great stuff as always! Quick question: your guidelines say “first 20 pages” for middle-grade fiction. What if a manuscript has a “natural break” at 18 pages or so, like the end of a chapter? Would you prefer to see just those 18 pages or have it break off in mid-paragraph at 20? Thanks!
Thanks! And I’d stop at the natural break. Makes more sense.
Thanks to this post, I looked at my word count again, did some research, and realized that (at 11,500 words) what I’ve been thinking of as “middle grade fiction” is actually a chapter book! Thanks to your post, I’ll be querying some OTHER agent on it! 🙂
So glad this was helpful!