Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On the Quality of Queries

Hello to everyone visiting the blog for the first time! If you haven't already entered, please post your first paragraph in the official contest thread.

While I was away last month, Stephen Barbara, promising young Donald Maass Agency agent and contracts director extraordinaire, published a somewhat tongue-in-cheek article in PW about the writing world's obsession with the "perfect query letter" and the accompanying rise in query quality, and how in the good old days two or three years ago things were easier because "bad writers wrote bad query letters," whereas now the obsession with queries results in higher quality queries from mediocre writers.

Several people have asked me about the article, but even before then I have heard loud whispers about whether I'm concerned about the fact that (hypothetically), if everyone writes a good query, doesn't that make my job more difficult? Am I bringing on my own ruin? (Well, besides this contest)

Nope. Good queries make my life far easier. And in fact, I am pleased to report that query quality, personalization, and professionalism have been dramatically on the rise lately, and I'm extremely excited about it. Why?

Let's go back to the archaic days of five years ago, pre-Miss Snark, other agent blogs, and before the birth of so many writing websites devoted to quality queries and the publishing process. In other words, Mr. Barbara's query utopia. In this time, did the best writers really write the best queries? Did they divine the format and spill their talent onto the page?

Or did the writers who had enough (at that time very hard-to-come-by) information to grasp the purpose, intent and proper technique of query letters still write the best ones while some perfectly good and talented writers stubbed their toes because they simply didn't know what they were doing? I think it's the latter.

Here's why today's brave new query world is good for me. A couple of years ago, as I was reading queries I always had to wonder if the author was a good writer with bad query technique or a bad writer with, uh, bad query technique. I requested a lot of manuscripts that turned out to be subpar because I didn't want to miss out on someone whose idea I liked but who, I had to assume, just may not have known better.

And in fact, in years past it was very, very difficult for the proud residents of Nowheresville, Indiana to have access to the publishing industry because they lacked the connections, information, and network to penetrate what was then an extremely opaque and insulated publishing world. Well, that opacity had a big ole stiletto punched through it, and the rest is history.

Now even writers who do even a cursory amount of research on the Internet are besieged with techniques for writing queries and guidelines for conducting themselves professionally. This hasn't tilted the playing field in favor of the mediocre, it's leveled the playing field for everyone, the talented-but-far-flung particularly. Now that I'm getting almost uniformly good queries it's much easier for me to spot the best ones without worrying I'm missing out by passing up on the bad ones.

Trust me. It's still relatively easy to spot the ones with a special zing that, for whatever reason, connect with my interests and taste.

And as for the people who think the query system isn't worth following, just talk to the scores of published writers who started off writing bad letters, got nowhere, found some information on how to do it the right way, and are now very successful. All that was standing in their way was equal access to the information that is now readily available.

I have no regrets! I am not worried about bad authors writing good queries. There's no formula for the best ones, and truly good writing can't be imitated or faked.






68 comments:

The Pearl Poet said...

Hey, I'm from Nowheresville, Indiana! So thanks for the help!

Crimogenic said...

Nathan,

On a similiar topic. I've heard other writers (and agents) say if you can't write a good query letter than there's something wrong with your story. Do you think that's true, 100 percent of the time?

Query writing like novel writing seems so subjective, and a general statement like the one above leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Nathan Bransford said...

I think someone who has a publishable work should be able to write a good query if they have the right information.

Patrick said...

I'm from nowheresville, Illinois (that's correct, there is MORE to Illinois than Chicago), so thank you as well.

I do not believe I'll have a problem with the professionalism aspect, but not having much knowledge (yet) scares me.

By the way, I love your sight and thank you for all the help.

Kat Harris said...

Nowheresville . . .like Springfield only less populated.

Hypothetical question Nathan.

What if you ran across a brilliant query from a brilliant author who wrote a brilliant story about a topic that isn't exactly up your alley?

Would you still consider taking it on?

Good to see you haven't drown in all of those contest entries yet. Have a great day.

Nathan Bransford said...

kat-

If it's not for me it's not for me, although since my interests run very wide it's not a situation that comes up often.

R. Battles said...

Nathan,

Where in the world do you get all of your energy?

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan,

That was really interesting, hearing about how the Internet has leveled the playing field for writers and made it easier for agents to evaluate their query letters. I love the Internet, despite the infinite amount of material to wade through. I think that, after a few years on the Internet, a writer learns how to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of writers’ groups and writing advice. It’s also a much better way to find agents. Years ago, I bought a reputable book that listed agents, and sent a letter to one of the “highly recommended” agents. She loved my work and offered me contracts to represent two separate books. I was thrilled! One year later, she hadn’t sold my books to a publisher. I was dismayed...until I found the Internet! On the grand old interwebs, I discovered the agent’s name and found out that publishers were throwing her manuscripts in the garbage, unopened, because her method of business was to simply mail huge piles of manuscripts to them without any other type of contact. The Internet picks up and distributes information so much more quickly than published books. Eventually, the next installment of the book on agents was published, and the agent who had once been “highly recommended” was no longer recommended. Had I gotten onto the interweb highway sooner, I would have saved myself a lot of wasted time.

Dan said...

Nathan,

I believe yet again, you've made another addition to our EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT PUBLISHING, I LEARNED FROM SPORTS:

"Trust me. It's still relatively easy to spot the ones with a special zing that, for whatever reason, connect with my interests and taste."

This is essentially the same thing as a GM saying, 'I like this player. He has the X-factor.' Even though no one really knows (including the GM) what precisely that X-factor is.

Elyssa Papa said...

Such a great blog. I'm from Upstate New York, so I should know what to do and how to write a query . . . but it really wasn't until I came across blogs (like yours) that I had a grasp on it. Plus, the advice found in here is immeasurably awesome.

MzMannerz said...

As I learn more and more about the query process, it reminds me of golf. You can have a fantastic drive, but your short game had better be on point, too.

Becky said...

I don't know...so much of the information contradicts info from other sites that I feel more in the dark after researching how to query than I did to start!

7-iron said...

I appreciate that analogy, mzmanners.

Zoe Winters said...

I read that tongue-in-cheek article, and thought it was hilarious. I'm done with queries. Somewhere along the line, very early on, I lost sight of what I wanted.

I wanted to be read by readers. I didn't care if it was a LOT of readers. I just wanted people to read my stuff and in some way respond to it. That's what all artists want. And writers (no matter what genre they write in) are artists.

Now yes, some are better and some are worse. But all art is subjective. Most writing that isn't complete drivel has SOME audience. I decided I wanted to find those people, whoever they were, wherever they were.

So I stopped writing for agents and editors and "the big publishing contract."

The odds suck, and there isn't a lot of money in fiction for almost every writer (even published.) I've made peace with that, and decided not to write another query letter, or synopsis.

I respect those for whom this is what they want to do and go after, but I can't tell you how relieved I am to be off the treadmill, making my own "art" and just putting it in people's hands.

Other people can write "The Great American Query Letter," I'm done.

Crimogenic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crimogenic said...

I think someone who has a publishable work should be able to write a good query if they have the right information."

Yes, but is there a uniform criteria for what is considered a good query? I mean besides the obvious bad 'things' that make a query bad. :)

_
Also wanted to echo that this site and your inside scoop is very valuable for us! Endless thanks.

GirlWithPoisonPen said...

Another day, another rant from Zoe about how she has no interest in big publishing--and just wants people to read her. And yet, she reads Nathan's blog. Contradiction anyone?

Anonymous said...

LOL
The first on-line set of guidelines and instructions I ever read for writing a query letter
SAID:
"Begin with a rhetorical question!!!"

HAHAAHAHAHAHAHAA

Little did I know.

(twas true and I wrote my queries with... YES. RQs -dreaded RQs.)

Those jealous writers, guarding the secrets of how to get a manuscript before the still young, but one day to emerge, Nathan Bransford!

--
On another note, I needed to hire a publicist recently and you wouldn't believe the grammar poor replies. Yikes.

I realize that typos sneak into every on-line word they can, but some things...

give you away...

Tell Tall Tales.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Now that the Query Letter has been conquered, next up... sites teaching, "HOW TO WRITE AND HOOK AN AGENT IN THE FIRST FIVE PAGES!

Then, FIRST TEN PAGES!

Then, DON'T LET YOUR MIDDLE SAG!

Then, ENDINGS THAT GUARANTEE SATISFACTION!

We've got a lot more to cover kids, so stay tuned! (And by then, maybe, just maybe, we'll be done with VAMPIRES and on to NUDIBRANCHS)!


Haste yee back ;-)

Ulysses said...

In the middle 90's, I queried my first novel. In doing so, I made three mistakes:

1) I queried publishers and agents indescriminately.

2) I wrote a terrible query: overwrought, short on plot and character information, non-personalized (I had a uniform "package" I sent out to everyone including query, synopsis, and 3 LONG chapters).

3) I wrote a terrible book.

In mid-2007, I discovered Ms. Snark through Writer Beware, and this blog through Ms. Snark. My eyes have been opened. I've learned to recognize at least some of my mistakes. I feel I can now competently address #1 and #2.

As for #3, that remains to be seen.

I'm glad to hear that you appreciate the increased quality of queries as much as I certainly appreciate the sharing of information that led to it.

Zoe Winters said...

Hi, Girlwithpoisonpen! :D

I read Nathan's blog, because I think he's smart and funny and I like what he has to say. (Which is why I read most of the blogs I read.) Just because I'm not interested in being published by NY doesn't mean, as an indie, that I'm not paying any attention at all to what NY is doing.

You know, believe it or not, some people read Nathan's blog without an ulterior motive.

I think it's sad that you think the only reason someone would read his blog is if they wanted something from him.

How cynical is that?

I also didn't realize I was "ranting" only expressing an opinion, as everyone else here does.

Z

Anonymous said...

LOL Ulysses!
I think I was guilty of the same three (and even countless other things).

(Still not sure when I ought to be looking over my shoulder for that tomato hurling my way.)

Blogs like this help!

Thanks, Nathan!

Emily said...

Nowheresville, Indiana is a booming city right now, complete with million-dollar mansions and private golf courses. What was cornfield a decade ago is now a hangout for executives. Hey, and Sarah Palin visited (ick).
But what am I saying? Me from Indiana. Me no write query good 'fore you tell how!!! :)

MzMannerz said...

MzMannerz is googling NUDIBRANCHS.

GirlWithPoisonPen said...

Zoe,

Nathan is smart and fabulous company. I'd love to have dinner and talk books with him. (Nathan, please don't take that in a stalkerish way.) I also learn a lot from his blog.

I just find it really funny that you continually use the comments section of a blog run by an agent to deride the industry that he works in.

GWPP

Ryan Field said...

I was hoping you'd address this. And you did a wonderful job.

Kylie said...

While my first query letter had no rhetorical questions, it was absolutely horrible, and I should probably send a fruit basket to the poor agents I queried, in retrospect.

I would agree that the internet has made it much easier to get information on how to write queries (although some, like the poster's above "Use rhetorical questions," may not be actually helpful). The bad writers who still don't feel like researching agents and publishing will still have a poor query letter, though, unless they have an inborn query-writing skill which I would envy. In that case, I suppose its mainly about effort today.

Anonymous said...

Hold up now...
GRRLLL, you want to have dinner with him and "Talk books" and he just got married? His wife thinks he's smart and fabulous company too, so there'll be none of that there :)
Nate... call me LOL have eggnog, will travel. (I kid! I kid!)

Zoe Winters said...

GWPP,

I don't feel like I'm deriding the industry he works in. I feel that publishers and writers often have different wants and needs.

I can understand and respect the wants and needs of those in the higher tiers of the publishing industry, but I can also recognize that it's "not for me."

Further, I do see problems in the publishing industry. And I will debate the issue with people. But that doesn't mean I think "the industry sucks" It means I think it has some problems it needs to fix. (But so does every industry.)

But the problems I point out, aren't just the ravings of some "disenfranchised writer" they're also problems that have been pointed out by people IN publishing. (And many of them are problems that are showing up very starkly in the current economic climate.) The other day Nathan pointed out that Bob Miller is trying to do something about the bookstore returns system.

So obviously people IN publishing, think these things are problems too.

At the end of the day though, I throw my hat in with writers. I care that writers get their wants and needs met. For some that means chasing NY, for others, it doesn't. But not chasing NY doesn't mean I think it's evil or bad, or anything else. It means it's not for me personally.

I think few can argue that NY has gone to a "blockbuster mentality" largely. That leaves a lot of writers feeling somewhat disenfranchised. I guess I just don't "get" why nearly everyone writing a novel feels like they have to be published by Random House, or someone like that.

That would be like everybody opening a restaurant deciding they wanted to franchise and be exactly like McDonald's.

Scott (Thinking Man) said...

Hi Nathan,

I just wanted to thank you for your dedication to the craft through this blog. I'm a newbie fiction writer and I'm learning lots just from this post. I hope one day to send you a worthy query letter.

Thanks again,
Scott

GirlWithPoisonPen said...

Anon, don't be reading anything tawdry into my comments. Nathan is like George Clooney: charming, engaging, and completely off limits.

Zoe, YAWN.

Kimberly Lynn said...

I made a really stupid mistake once in a query letter. I unintentionally limited my prospective story’s market. I cringe when I think about it.

Live and learn.

Julie Butcher-Fedynich said...

Well, I think some people need a cookie and a nap.

Sasayra said...

The whole query thing confuses me. Not the concept, but the reality. I sent 4 e-queries one Friday morning in June. Imagine my shock (panic) when I received 3 requests by nearly immediate return email asking for partials or fulls. Six months later I've been rejected nicely by one, and haven't heard from the other two despite short, sweet requests for updates. So, I sent out a dozen more e-queries. Not a single response. To me, the whole process seems random and mythical and not all that related to the brilliance (or lack thereof) of my query; I can't imagine I happened to luck out and hit the only 3 agents on the planet who might like my work in my first attempt.

Madison said...

I'm sending my query for my YA fantasy to my dream agent after the first of the year and it's the best query I've ever written. I hope it works! :)

Oh, Mr. Bransford, one question. There's no best time to submit queries, is there?

Ionafey said...

For those of use living in Nowhereville, USA and still holding down a full time job, anyone have suggestions on the best query sites? I have some books on them and have read countless websites, but I was curious to know what the masses think is the best and where a poor, struggling ;) writer ought to focus her efforts.

Off to work, I go!
Lynda

Anonymous said...

I think the query letter is harder to write than the novel. How do you condense 90,000 words into two paragraphs?

Maybe it's just me. I've tried summarizing my novel a thousand times and I just can't do it. It drives me completely batty!

Anyway, I lucked out and caught the attention of an agent through a freeland editor I hired. At least, she's agreed to look at my novel when I finish my final revisions.

But...what if she says no? What will I do then? I can't write query letters!

No seriously, if I have to write query letters, I'll be breaking lots of rules. I can see no way around it. It's hopeless.

Dan said...

I get the feeling that Nathan is busy somewhere reading entries... or drinking Maker's Mark.

Madison - I think Nathan's typical answer for the best time to submit query letters question is: "not around the Holidays" (immediately before/after). Also, if you *know* the agent is going to be out of the office (though that part is a little trickier).

Ionafey - Check out the Authors Resources links in Nathan's sidebar. Absolute Write has a 'query hell' section where people will offer whatever criticisms (harsh, constructive, etc.) you ask for on your sample query.

If you need more resources than that, I think AgentQuery.com has some as well.

Heidi the Hick said...

"...equal access to the information that is now readily available."

You just nailed it. Before I discovered this whole internet THING (and Miss Snark) I was totally clueless, and I gotta say it, felt hopeless.

Now all I have to do is get it all together and make it work for me.

I came from Nowheresville Ontario and now live within smog distance of The City That Ate A Province. I try to avoid the Big Smoke. I really appreciate finding this valuable info from the comfort of my living room!

Scott said...

Always good stuff, Nathan. I actually forget the game is on when I read your entries. High praise, sir.

Lately, I've been meticulously crafting something that resembles a book blurb plus a dash of genre and author info all at the "sweet spot" length. This is in place of looking at a query as a "pitch" of sorts, that attempts to nutshell the reading experience with very little plot detail and hitting the essence of the story. Sometimes I don't know which is better. A blurb is what sells me; that and the writing itself. There's such a fear that you'll burn your bridge with a missed query and a book you're very proud of will be lost to that agent forever.

Funny: I was always drawn to the creative arts for their promise of expressive freedom, and ever since I've gotten serious, I've been doing everything I can to make it a science. :)

lotusloq said...

Those of us in Hicksville, USA really appreciate the new philosophy of making info readily available! Hail to Miss Snark! Hail to you!

I'd love to send you a first paragraph, but my ms. is not ready for a partial review and so my query isn't ready to be redone. I'm not ready to send out anything full just yet. I'm in rework and edit mode these days. Polish, polish, polish. So... considering the stars align and you are blinded by my brilliant prose and I win, I'm not sure what else I'd send you. haha! Do you still want it added to the plethora of entries you already have?

Paul Michael Murphy said...

Did Stephen Barbara just call Nathan a "smalltime agent?"

I declare a thumb war.

MzMannerz said...

"I think the query letter is harder to write than the novel. How do you condense 90,000 words into two paragraphs?"

Hmmm. Good point. In the marketing world, the skillset of the person writing small copy is considered unique. Indeed, aren't there folks who are hired to write copy for book jackets?

I believe there are writers who have mastered both skills, but I don't believe every strong novelist is also, by default, the author of strong query letters.
If so, we could stretch that to saying the essayist and the novelist have the same skill set - I don't think they do.

Anonymous said...

I feel for anyone having a problem writing a query because I've been there. I look at it just like the students who don't do well on written exams but orals are a breeze, or vice versa. Or the singer who freezes in front of a record producer, but can sing great in front of a large audience. Now, those aren't the best possible examples, but for some people, queries just don't come easy. Fear not, because there are agents who'll look at your pages also. Someone mentioned agentquery.com, and they do list agents who'll read pages and even chapters. However, you limit the agents you can apply to, but if you need to bypass the query system, then that's the price you pay. And there are publishers who'll look at chapters, but you already know your writing should be sterling by going that route. Oh, and Firebrand Literary agency is having a 1st chapt read instead of a query starting dec. 15th and ending on Jan 15th. And there are (if you have the money) writing seminars where agents attend to pitch your story, but if you can't get a query down it may also be difficult to nail a pitch. It depends on the individual. But for an enterprising writer, there are a few other ways. Someone will probably start a professional query writing business, if there isn't one already.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I hate to disagree, but I've never seen a situation where a published novelist could not write a query. Even if, for sake of argument, they got past the query stage without having to write one, they're still going to be asked to condense their work into a couple of paragraphs, whether it's for marketing/publicity, whether it's describing the book on their blog or to friends..... everyone has to learn to do it, and I just don't agree that someone can write a good novel and yet not write a good query letter.

Nathan Bransford said...

Paul-

Ha. I actually interpreted that "smalltime agent" dig as an inside joke, since Stephen's colleague Jennifer Jackson is a superstar agent blogger and anything but smalltime. (I'm also guessing she put some exlax in his coffee.)

Lydia Sharp said...

Nathan,
I agree with that last comment about condensing your novel into a couple of paragraphs. I first realized the importance of this before my novel was even complete, when friends began asking me, "What's your book about?", and I would stare at them blankly for a moment, only to respond, "It's a sci-fi, but the story is hard to explain."

That just won't do at all. I still kick myself for it.

For publicity purposes (or just to appease your nosy friends) you should be able to explain your book in a couple of sentences. Then, expanding it to a couple of paragraphs will be easy...sort of.

So here's my answer to "What's your book about?" --
"It's about a girl who's trying to improve the future generation of humanity through her medical research involving venom. She uncovers some family secrets, falls in love with someone seemingly wrong for her, and almost dies a few times, but in the end, she's better for it and reaches her goal. The end."

After that, I'm the one receiving the blank stare.

(Back to the query drawing board.)

Anonymous said...

Nathan, I completely agree with what you say about published authors, and I defer to your expertise. I can see why the precedure is necessary, and I should have added (but cannot edit, darn!) that with pages even to the very few publishers and agents that will look at chapters by unpublished writers, they still want a query with the package. But I must ask, if someone's query is weak, but you can see "The voice" as many agents say, do you still consider requesting pages, or must a voice and exceptional query go hand in hand?
Thanks in advance if you answer, because I know how busy you are.

Madison said...

Thanks, Dan! I plan on waiting till at least half of Jan. is over before I send it. Yeah, the holidays need to be 100% completely over.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Um, Nathan? Almost 850 entries. And today's Tuesday. And didn't you just get married?

Are you out of your freakin' mind??

(Probably, but we love you anyway.)

miss.Snark said...

What a nice surprise!

Anonymous said...

Silly question perhaps, but for the contest if you have a prologue set in the 1200's and chapter one starts in current time, which would you rather see, the prologue first paragraph or chapter one first paragraph?

writtenwyrdd said...

And thank you for being among those who, through enlightened self interest and general good will toward mankind, share the information.

BarbS. said...

LOL, I was saying something about query writing when the local utility's substation blew and left us in the dark for HOURS! No, I don't remember what it was, but I'm taking the hint and doing nothing more benign than wishing everyone well with their own queries!

I've found that query writing is not unlike news writing: You've got limited space to say what needs to be said, so you'd better say it clearly and concisely. Does THAT make sense? :0

superwench83 said...

Great post. Query writing and novel writing are very different, and without blogs like this one, I wouldn't know how to begin writing a query. So thanks for that.

And wow. I just got a look at the contest thread. 900-some posts in there. Yowsa! You're going to have a long weekend!

CindaChima said...

Personally, I think many writers spend way too much time on format and too little time on craft. It doesn't matter how stellar the query letter is if the ms is subpar.
Yeah, get the name right, yeah, avoid typos and mispellings. Don't tell the agent what your grandmother thought of it. But make sure that when the agent looks at your ms, it is the best it can be.
I had a pre-published writer harangue me one day about how no agent or editor would read my submission because it was in Times New Roman instead of Courier. I asked my agent and editor about it, and they said, Huh?

I. M. Bitter said...

I've been thinking a lot about Miss Snark recently. (Boy do I miss her. :( )

So happy that others remember her just as fondly.

Ryan Field said...

"Even if, for sake of argument, they got past the query stage without having to write one, they're still going to be asked to condense their work into a couple of paragraphs, whether it's for marketing/publicity, whether it's describing the book on their blog or to friends..... everyone has to learn to do it,"

It happens all the time, especially with marketing and publicity. And when you have the skills, it so much easier.

Kimberly Lynn said...

I agree that a writer should be able to come up with a decent query letter. I look forward to the day when I can . . .

HA! HA! HA! HA!

Meanwhile, I’ll substitute that accomplishment with a case of whatever is on sale.

Anonymous said...

"I hate to disagree, but I've never seen a situation where a published novelist could not write a query. Even if, for sake of argument, they got past the query stage without having to write one, they're still going to be asked to condense their work into a couple of paragraphs, whether it's for marketing/publicity, whether it's describing the book on their blog or to friends..... everyone has to learn to do it, and I just don't agree that someone can write a good novel and yet not write a good query letter."

Nathan,

It's not that I can't write an excellent letter...believe me, I've written a thousand letters that would probably do just fine.

What I find challenging is successfully capturing the essence, the complicated world, the emotional themes, and touching on all the many characters contained inside my story, while following a "two paragraph" rule.

Anyway, I wouldn't send such discouraging remarks to an unknown writer. In fact, it's probably a good thing you didn't tell me this three months ago or I would have believed you.

Nathan Bransford said...

I don't see how it's discouraging! I never said it was easy to write a query, but writers find a way to condense their work into a few paragraphs. What's discouraging about that?

ChristaCarol said...

I'll agree, good post. And, Nathan, I have no idea how you find the time in your day to keep up with everything you have going on. *eyes the contest*

I will say, it truly stinks dirty socks when you DO come across a much better way to improve your query letter, but it's after you've already started querying with an older one and lost out on some perspective agents. I can't help but always wonder if the new query would've given them the interest the old one didn't, or if it was just the story concept and not exactly the query. It will forever bother me not knowing. one of those things in life. :)

Congrats on the marriage! I've been consumed with holiday things on top of everything else, I haven't been able to catch up on all my blogging until recently. Being married is grand... and adventurous in its own right :D

Ink said...

I'm with Nathan. It's a hell of a lot harder to write a good novel than it is to write a good query. I mean, it's not even close. It's a pain, yes. But if you can carefully craft 100,000 words to make a story truly work... well, two or three paragraphs isn't really that bad. And if you can't craft that hundred thousand words then your query letter doesn't really matter one way or another.

I always worry... and then write something in an hour and wonder why I was so worried. It's like people who hate needles... the thought of the needle is always worse than the actual prick.

Just my thoughts.

My best, as always,
Bryan Russell

word verification: rambl (how appropriate for me...)

Julie Weathers said...

This post prompted me to get out an old query I sent out for a suspense novel. I cringe now to look at it and had serious misgivings about publishing it on my blog. However, it did point up several important things.

Some agents, including one from Curtis Brown, were very encouraging even though the query was pretty bad.

Some agents, like Nathan, do look at what appeals to them and respond to that and not necessarily the perfect query letter.

Even several years ago, agents responded with form letters or not at all.

Today is an absolutely golden age for writers. There is more information about agents, contact policies, query letters, less than desirable agents, publishing, and just about every other item of interest to a serious writer.

Blogs from writers, agents and editors are a wealth of information if we just decide to partake.

Irene Eng said...

Nathan,
For the same true story, does the different format - a collection of vignettes or a single story – have advantage over the other to land an agent/publisher?
Thank you.

Marc Vun Kannon said...

>>It's a hell of a lot harder to write a good novel than it is to write a good query.

Not at all. In a novel you have room to spread out, use all the words you want to do what you need them to do. In a query, every word has to do triple duty. And that's only for the novels that can be queried. Some story structures are resistant to condensation and sexiness at the same time.

Ben Esch said...

Great blog!

I know when I was doing the agent search thing, I spent a good two weeks getting my query letter together. Granted, I probably should have used some of this time to make the plot a bit more cohesive, but everything worked out in the end.

Like term papers and high school dances, I'm really glad that query letters are behind me.

Ben Esch
"Sophomore Undercover" Disney-Hyperion, 2/24/09
www.dixienguyen.com

dana said...

I live in New Albany, Indiana, right next to Nowheresville and you will be receiving a query letter from me soon. You'll know it's me because we say "ain't" and "Ya'll" a lot.

My first sentence will tip you off:

"If ya'll ain't too busy for one more query: here 'tis."

p.s. my manuscript is 100,000 words long and I know that for a fact cuz all my cousins got together to help count that high.

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