Not sure what’s in the water lately, but I’ve heard both directly and indirectly from authors who are suddenly extremely worried about posting their queries in forums to get feedback.
I’m sure, somewhere, there are actual horror stories of people having their ideas pilfered and profited off of based solely on a query, but I’ve long felt this is kind of like getting struck by lightning while breaking a mirror as a black cat walks by.
Here’s why I wouldn’t personally be paranoid about sharing your query:
1) The success of your book will hinge on the quality of its execution, not on the originality of your idea
High concept is great and everything, but whether your book succeeds or fails has a heck of a lot more to do with your execution than its premise.
When was the last time you read a book solely and entirely because it was describable in a sentence? Probably not often.
What’s more, there are often books with very similar ideas that are published around the same time. Same thing happens in movies. Even if (extreme hypothetical) someone does steal your idea, goes and writes it, and gets it published, that doesn’t even mean yours won’t work too if it’s really good.
2) Posting your query online does not count as first publication or anything that will hinder your chance at successful publication
No agent or reader that I know of is going to freak out if you posted your query online. It’s not going to mess up your shot at getting your work published elsewhere
If you’re worried about showing how the sausage is made and don’t want your query Google-able later, change the title and identifying details.
3) You’re helping fellow writers by posting your query online
Not everyone is brave enough to post their query online – not because they’re afraid of having the idea stolen, but because posting your work is a bit scary. If you are the type of person strong enough to weather public constructive criticism you can do a world of good for your fellow writers, who can observe the feedback process.
If your book is so ground-breakingly high concept and the world hasn’t ever heard your idea before and you can’t possibly bear to share it…. okay. I won’t judge. But my guess is that somewhere in the world someone with nearly your exact idea is online getting feedback on their query as we speak.
All that said, I would be careful about posting too much of your actual work, and make sure you always possess all rights. I personally believe submitting short excerpts for critique is totally fine (and I promise to do an opening critique soon!), but I wouldn’t post more than a brief chunk.
And if you do wish to get feedback on your query, check out the query critique forum associated with this blog. You can both give query help (which helps you spot what works and what doesn’t) and submit your own query for critique.
Art: The Cunning Thief by Paul-Charles Chocarne-Moreau