Thursday, August 26, 2010

My thoughts on Queries

Yesterday, Nathan Bransford asked how people feel about this site. I was actually quite surprised at how many people oppose the very concept. Some of the folks who commented on Mr. Bransford's post seemed to be afraid that their query would end up getting one of the sites that makes fun of queries.

I don't worry about that, and here's why. After reading through the archives of Slush Pile Hell, I noticed that each and every letter that ended up there tried to be memorable in the wrong way. The authors presented themselves in an arrogant, self-important, and sometimes creepy manner, as if their personality, writing background, or any number of other reasons entitled them to landing an agent. They didn't let the writing speak for itself.

The most important part of a query is the writing. What's your story about? Let your story stand out, present it in a way that makes the agent want - or even need - to read more. And failing that, hope and pray that they forget you before the rejection hits your inbox. If your book (not you as a person) doesn't wow the agent, then letting the agent forget who you are is your best chance at getting them to represent you later on down the road.

You see, if you make a bad first impression, even if you're just weird and unprofessional, they're less likely to take any of your projects seriously. They'll remember you as that guy who "received this story from the alien Rotnek, and it's not really a novel, but we should present it to the waiting masses in that form so that they'll learn to trust me as their new spiritual guide."

I write my queries to let the writing speak for itself. So far, I haven't wowed any agents, but if they remember me, I'd be shocked. There's nothing about myself that would guarantee good sales of my book, so I let the book do the work. I just try to present it in a way that makes the agent want to read it and sell it. And if you do the same thing, then there's no reason to fear ending up in Slush Pile Hell.


  1. I must say, those quotes from Slushpile Hell are pretty funny. And it's sad that the authors don't realize they're being funny.

  2. The oddest part is that Slush Pile Hell keeps the queryers' identities secret. They don't link to author websites, give out names, or even elude to the title of the project being queried. The only two people who know the identity of the queryer are the writer and the agent. Unless the writer tells other people about what the agent said.

    At the end of the day, if I DID end up on Slush Pile Hell, I'd laugh, use it as a learning experience, and then tell the world. It'd be funny.

  3. I agree--I think I made a comment on Nathan's post that it was essentially a victimless crime to post these queries--the writers clearly aren't reading industry websites or blogs, so won't be any the wiser that they're being laughed at.

    I'd be privately embarassed if my query ended up somewhere...but I'd have only myself to blame for writing a goshdarn awful query!

    (found your blog via Nathan's :) )