Monday, September 17, 2012

Query Roundup 9/14 part II

I finished all the queries this weekend. (I didn't do any queries that came in on Friday night, though, so if you sent something in late and haven't heard. That's why.)

I did find several manuscripts that I requested and am really excited to read. I would highlight them all below but it was a little of a whirlwind query weekend so I'm a little fuzzy on some of the details. I've gotten several emails with requested manuscripts though and have been downloading them to the ereader. It's very exciting.

In terms of feedback, my three most common responses were:

I'm confused by this query.
Hopefully I followed this up with a little bit of specific feedback. As a general rule, be careful about introducing too many things in your query. Leave the character's backstory out of. Don't mention the name of every character, just the main two or three. If it's a fantasy or historical don't throw out too many unfamiliar terms. Be concise. Use short sentences. Make it as easy to read as possible.

I'm just not grabbed. OR This isn't different/unique enough to stand out.
If you're writing a dead genre, there may be a problem with your concept, but it doesn't matter--you want your query to stand out to get requests. This means you need to make your character and your concept sound exciting. Most of my clients I find via the slush pile. Most of them wrote queries that made me sit up a little straight and lean into my computer as I read and I felt "I have to read this!" when I finished. Look at some of your favorite books and read the jacket copy, then use that as a model. Make your character stand out, use voice in your query, and be clear about the stakes. End on a cliffhanger if you can.

This isn't right for me. (or something along those lines)
Here's the thing. Reading is subjective and it's a matter of personal tastes. I don't read business books. I don't really find them interesting and I wouldn't pick one up off a shelf in a store, which means I wouldn't request one from my slush pile either. Now business books is a rather broad category, but there are other quirks that I have when it comes to what I like to read. Mermaid love stories or zombie memoirs--the manuscript could be awesome but it's just not for me.

If I thought the ms sounded awesome and I knew who to recommend it to, I made a recommendation. If I didn't, I didn't. (If you didn't get a recommendation, do your research. Querytracker.net and Agentquery.com make it easy).

One more note on this week's queries. I didn't say this often, but I did sometimes say it.
This just doesn't sound very commercial.
This is probably the toughest response I gave out and I did try to clarify why. Regardless, if you have a book that could be called "not commercial" you have an uphill road in front of you. Not only do you have to write an awesome query, but this is where comp titles are going to be so important.

On Comp Titles:
Think about what book buyers out there will want to buy your book. Don't choose a Faulkner as a comp title. Don't choose a book that only five people bought, but at the same time don't choose the Hunger Games either. Be realistic and stay in the right genre, and if you can't think of titles, think of authors.

For instance, recently I signed a new client for a YA contemporary, and she mentioned in her query that her manuscript would appeal to readers of Lauren Oliver, Courtney Summers, and Nina LaCour. I love all of these authors which means I was excited to read the manuscript, and then even more excited when I realized these comps were totally right.

My favorite response to my non-form response: lol

Thank you to everyone who tweeted or left a comment thanking me. I appreciate your appreciation and I'm glad this helped.

Thank you to everyone who didn't reply to my non form rejection.

Thank you to everyone who did reply to my request!



21 comments:

Matt Adams said...

This was a very cool exercise for you to do. Everyone should appreciate the fact that you took the time to give feedback. Seriously.

CallMeKarma said...

An amazing offer. Shows your teaching roots, no question! Hopefully you've recovered from your crazy query weekend.

Rachel said...

I didn't respond to you, but I did laugh out loud. :) Mine was the mermaid one. Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to our queries.

Reader said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzie Townsend said...

@Reader--I'm also looking for literary MG. It might not be for me, but it doesn't hurt you to query me.

Ella Schwartz said...

Suzie, I can't even imagine how much work this must have been for you. This was just the kick I needed to work up the nerve to query you. And I'm so glad I did! Hopefully your inbox is recovering.

jenniferpickrell said...

Thank you for the feedback :)

Sarah Seeley said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to do all those comments. Like everyone else has been saying, those two or so little lines of commentary have been very helpful! Consider yourself baked a virtual plate of chocolate chip cookies for being awesome. :-)

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for your comments, Suzie! They gave me a boost of confidence and a new focus for improvement. I appreciate your time more than I can even say.

Lexa Cain said...

Thanks for all the explanations and query tips. :-D

PBuff said...

As one of the "not commercial" responses, thank you so very much for the tips. I will try my best not to be disheartened by your comment that I have an uphill battle ahead. But as the old saying goes, anything worth having is worth fighting for. :-)

I hope that when/if I get my own agent, she or he will be as passionate and as helpful as you have been.

All the best - Patti

Elizabeth Naranjo said...

My feedback was my email font was too small. May I resend my query if you offer this deal again?
Thanks :)
Elizabeth

Reader said...

Thanks Suzie,

It appears I accidentally deleted my commeent - oops. Trying to navigate the commenting system is proving tricky for me :)

I'm still not sure that I would have something of interest since my current project isn't exactly literary. Much more of a David Walliams (the humorous children's author from the other side of the Pond) feel. Or perhaps something akin to "Milo" by Alan Silberberger.
Again, I feel foolish even comparing my project to those (brillian) authors, but I guess I'm "reaching" :)

Suzie Townsend said...

@Elizabeth--you're welcome to requery whenever, but I wouldn't wait for the next time I do this as it might be a long time.

@Reader--the only want to find out is to query. Put together a list of agents who do MG and query them. If it's not for them, they'll pass and you won't be any worse off. querytracker.net is a good resource.

Marsha Sigman said...

Thank you for doing this! It was great knowing exactly what you were thinking when you read the queries.

gailecn said...

Thank you for doing this. I can't imagine how much time it took for you to reply personally to each query.

White Gardenia said...

Thank you for the opportunity, Suzie, from one of the "I'm just not grabbed" recipients. Thank you also for the compliments on my writing.

I definitely hope to 'grab you' when I query my next project. Figuratively speaking, that is. ;)

Cat said...

Thank you for doing this despite the flood you usually get.

Martha Ramirez said...

Thank you again for giving me feedback on my query. I GREATLY appreciate it!

Meghan said...

Suzie,

If I didn't get a response and I sent my query on the Tuesday before you started checking your pile, does this mean I would have gotten a form rejection? I know you received a great deal of queries because of this offer so it's possible mine was looked over accidentally.

Thanks for the opportunity!

Suzie Townsend said...

Meghan you should have TOTALLY gotten a response. I'll check the spam and see if it got lost somehow!

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?