Query Roundup 7/20


As of 5:09 pm (I know I was slow again today!), Friday, July 20th, I'm caught up on queries. That means I have gotten the query inbox down to 0. If you queried me this week and didn't get a response, double check the submission guidelines and send off the query again.

And let me apologize to anyone who got two passes from me on the same project today. I'm not sure what happened, but google bounced back over 14 emails and then said "Hey Creeper, are you a spammer, don't send anymore emails today from this address." I had to send out the rest of the emails from my own address and I tried responding to the emails that bounceback. I don't think I doubled up on anyone, but if I did, my apologies.

This week there were 178 queries in my inbox!

Of those...

The most common genre this week--Well, this isn't a genre per say, but I got a lot of queries for a series. Queries for trilogies and for even longer series are a little scary for me. I've sold some trilogies and I like to read them--and series, but here's the thing: not every book can--or should--be a series.

As an author it's important to have ideas for your next book. Even if your next book isn't a series, your agent and editor are both going to be interested in growing your career and hopefully working on a number of books. But it's also important for you to go into querying with a heavy dose of realism.

If you have an awesome idea for a series, that's great. But if in your query, you tell me this is book one of a seven book series, I'm going to worry a little about your expectations. I know that JK Rowling did it, but let's face it, most other people don't.

In terms of selling yourself, I think the best way to pitch a series is to say your project has series potential.

Why I rejected most queries--I'm not grabbed
Like the past few weeks, most of my rejections stem from not feeling grabbed. This doesn't mean it's bad, just that nothing stands out or really jumps out and says UNIQUE!

There was also one query in particular that I passed on because of length. I've been missing contemporary Sarah Dessen style YA and as I read this query that's what I thought of. And then I saw the word count. It was long enough to be an entire series of books, not just one.

The wonderful thing about ebooks is that they really do change the rules a little about word count. You can do books with a shorter length or a longer length than in traditional print, and you can do serializations too.

But as an agent, when I'm looking at queries, I'm still looking first for books that I can love and have the option to sell traditionally. A novel that's hundreds of thousands of words too long severely limits my options. At least, that's my first thought.

My second thought on a very long word count is that it usually suggests that the manuscript needs work. Not always. I've read some long books that were awesome. But I've also read a lot of long books that felt long--and anything over 200k words suggests there are some pacing and storytelling issues.

Queries I regrettably passed on--1

YA Horror--really great query, but couldn't get into the voice of the pages.

Manuscripts I requested--1

YA fantasy/urban fantasy--really interesting premise that I haven't seen before and good writing.

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HolaTanya said...

Thanks for keeping us in the loop about your process! Not only is it interesting, but, for me anyway, I get to feel how you think and care about us aspiring authors.

Leah said...

These posts are super-cool, not the least of which reason is because it's eye-opening to read how many queries you receive, and how many you request.

I mean, seriously. It's a great reminder of how tough this industry can be, but also...how much you care.


Unknown said...

I think my typing fingers would fall off if I even attempted a novel over 200k.
Too bad about the Horror pass. I love Horror. :-)

NYCgameguy said...

I really love reading your process as an agent. I especially love your query count (reminds me of my slush pile when I was an editor at HarperCollins), your "most common genre" summary, and the list of your offers. I don't think I'd be able to get through 200 queries in one sitting; I'd have to spread them out over several days.

Unknown said...

I like doing all my weekly queries on Friday because sometimes they can be sort of fun. I'm usually really hopeful when I start reading them. And any time I start to feel weighed down by them I pause and do something else as a break. I also really like being able to get them down to 0, then I feel like I've accomplished something.

Carrie-Anne said...

I actually think many books nowadays are far too short, and wish we'd see a return to the huge epics of yore. Writing long, involved, complex, multi-layered historical sagas just comes naturally to me, as does creating family sagas and interlocking series books. It makes me sad to think of all the great classics that would've had a hard time finding a publisher in the modern era, like Forever Amber, Gone with the Wind, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, Herman Wouk's novels, and a lot of the great Russian novels, simply because they were very long.

Unknown said...

There are always exceptions--even to word counts. I'm not saying epic books aren't a possibility. They're certainly easier accomplished for an established author than a debut. But that's not to say a debut author can't write an amazing but lengthy book.

I do have to say though, from experience, that when I had a little more time on my hands and was perhaps a little less jaded, I requested a lot of manuscripts despite the long word count. And a lot of them suffered from pacing problems--and that was why the word count was so long. Anyone who's got a long word count should trying to go through their book with pacing in mind and make sure it doesn't feel like a long book. (And then perhaps they shouldn't mention their word count in the query).