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Old 12-09-2012, 04:48 AM   #1
Calliea
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Question Few nagging questions about Queries

So since I've learnt that I will have to write a query, I've been browsing the internet looking for how-tos, dos and donts. I've found tutorials, guides and hints and I have composed a query according a mix of the knowledge coming from both agents and authors. And yet everywhere I look, I find things that contradict each other, eventually leaving me at loss.

Hence I come bearing questions that I can't ask the respective authors, but can, hopefully, ask here.

I have seen your threads on queries and I've browsed the query SYW forums. They spawned more questions

1. Personalization towards the agent/agency

In most places, I've read that it's nice (and sometimes pretty vital) to add a personal tidbit about the agent/agency. Just a sentence, two tops, but add it.

Then I've read that it's actually sucking up to the agent and it should not be done.

2. How to address a query to an agency with more than 1 agent?

I haven't found an answer to this even though I looked. Everywhere they say to address the specific agent, but on many agency sites there's just 1 e-mail for queries. Do you address such query to an agency or some agent you pick from the list?

3a. When a story is a part of series, do you mention other books?

Yet again, some say: yes, write a sentence or two about the next books in the series to show the connections and sense.

While others say: don't ever do that, your story must be a stand alone.

3b. Book series - what do?

What to do if your story makes little sense as a standalone? I don't mean, makes no sense. I mean it closes up some plot parts and is a complete novel, but it REALLY would make NO sense to publish that one without the rest of them. It doesn't seem fair to omit such fact.

Some stories are way too big to fit them in one book, even if they flow naturally and are not divided into simple arcs (villain 1, villain 2, villain 3).

Think what was done in SoiAF. There are no such arcs.

4. Personal info about the author

Many say that an author should write a paragraph about themselves even if they have not been published before and have no credentials. They should write about their writing experience of any kind and why they chose this genre and not the other. Mention education, something, anything.

Today I've seen (around here) an opinion that this should never be done. Don't mention schools, writing unpublished stories or winning school competitions.

A complete contradiction, yet again.

5. Length

Then, length. I've read that there should be 2 paragraphs about the story. Not much more. Then the word count, genre, etc. Then something about you and the other parts of the cycle, if applicable.

As a contradiction I've seen queries that had 5, 6 or more paragraphs describing the story and nothing about the author.

6. Bonus question: book length

I know that an average book is 100k words long. What if a novel is twice as big? Does that warrant an automatic rejection, provided the author has not been published before? I've heard someone say that, but it sounds ridiculous. I wouldn't think publishing world is some kind of Harlequin factory with strict demands about the books lengths?

I always preferred LONG stories to short ones, no discussion. I really don't what I hear and I want someone to tell me it's no true Haha.


Alright, I think that's all for now.
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:03 AM   #2
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1. Dunno.
2. Dunno.
3. Add: "Has series potential". And it will have to be a stand alone, or very close to it. Otherwise, you're writing volumes, not books. If your trilogy is one continuous story, it'll be 300K words, not 3 books of 100K. Round and shape the book's ending, the goals and story to act as stand alone as much as possible. This helps massively for marketing them.
4. Dunno.
5. As concise as possible.
6. A good story will be picked up no matter what. But, as I don't know your writing but many experiences with 'inexperienced' or 'budding' writers, I will say that you could/might be able to cut down the book quite a bit. I've seen people with 300K MS completely cut them down after being poked in the SYW section. 200K is very long, but I've read equivalent of recent releases. A good story, that needs 200K to come out, will still grab a agent's attention, but don't hope for too much, some just can't try to sell that length.
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:25 AM   #3
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1. Depends on the individual agent. This is why you do homework for each agent. Some just want professional, straight up. Some want to know you've researched them and think they will be a good fit. No straight answer to this.

2. You query individual agents. So send it to the agent you think best fits the story. The email address is just where you send it, not to whom.

3. Stand alone with series potential.

3. It should stand alone.

4. No personal info unless extremely relevent to the book (previous publishing credits, etc.) If you have no experiance, nothing is required here. Don't fill it with fluff.

5. the query portion itself should be 250 words tops. Some of your information is old and out of date.

6. There is a lot of info about this out there. Simply not liking the answer doesn't make it less true. It's going to be hard if not impossible to sell a book that long. Find another way.
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Old 12-09-2012, 06:08 AM   #4
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Most of these are subjective and what works for one agent won't work for others.

A couple of your questions do have fairly universal responses, though.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Calliea View Post
3b. Book series - what do?

What to do if your story makes little sense as a standalone? I don't mean, makes no sense. I mean it closes up some plot parts and is a complete novel, but it REALLY would make NO sense to publish that one without the rest of them. It doesn't seem fair to omit such fact.

Some stories are way too big to fit them in one book, even if they flow naturally and are not divided into simple arcs (villain 1, villain 2, villain 3).

Think what was done in SoiAF. There are no such arcs.
As a debut author without a sales record, you will have a very, very hard time attracting an agent with a first book that can't stand alone.

There are no guarantees. It's possible you have some insanely high-concept series that some agent is willing to take a risk on. But the odds are stacked heavily against you. It's best to query a first novel that can stand on its own, but has series potential, depending on genre.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Calliea View Post
6. Bonus question: book length

I know that an average book is 100k words long. What if a novel is twice as big? Does that warrant an automatic rejection, provided the author has not been published before? I've heard someone say that, but it sounds ridiculous. I wouldn't think publishing world is some kind of Harlequin factory with strict demands about the books lengths?

I always preferred LONG stories to short ones, no discussion. I really don't what I hear and I want someone to tell me it's no true Haha.
Yes. In many cases a word count that is WAY above the norm for a genre will elicit an automatic rejection. If the agent likes the query but finds the word count troubling, they may offer a personalized rejection explaining why.

Again, there are exceptions. Maybe you wrote an epic 200k novel about depressed teenage unicorns in love and Uber Agent has been dying for a good meaty novel about depressed teenage unicorns in love because she knows Awesome Editor at Major Publisher is ready to drop everything to acquire the next epic saga about depressed teenage unicorns in love. It could happen. But again, the odds are heavily stacked against you.

No one can tell you that any of these things are for-sure dealbreakers. What you need to consider is that all these little red flags you're putting up will likely culminate in a rejection.
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Old 12-09-2012, 08:58 AM   #5
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Keep in mind I have not queried and everything I say is based off the few months I have spent researching.

1. Be aware of they agent you are querying. If they suggest it, then do so. If not, then skip it. If you really admire the agent go ahead, but remember it is eating up space you could use to talk about your novel. You are more likely to be knocked for personalizing wrong, than leaving it out.

2. Check the guidelines. Many times they say to add the name of the agent to the subject line. Other times you don't. Let them handle it, they are professional and likely have a system.

3a. Just say it is a standalone with series potential. If you get beyond querying stage you can discuss with your agent what your intentions were and together figure out a game plan.

3b. Now this is entirely opinion, but if your piece can not standalone, if it is accepted I would expect you would face many revisions. The point of a series is there needs to be resolution to the immediate problem. Beyond the first piece more issues can arise or the ultimate goal takes a step closer to completion. But each book in a series needs to solve its problem, good or bad outcome. Just my opinion.

4. Unless you have something worth noting that relates to fiction, such as being published in a competitive market, leave it out. Agents understand new writers without credits exist. If the agent does suggest you put at least something down, then do so.

5. Think one page or up to 350 words. However many paragraphs it takes just hook the agent.

6. Follow word count guidelines. It doesn't mean there are never exceptions, but they are exceptions for a reason. Chances are if you have 200k words you can trim quite a bit down. Editing is key, get the manuscript tight and compelling. If after all the editing that you can do just look at your story. If it is the best it can be, then don't worry about it. Some agents will pass, but there are bound to be some who will give it a chance.
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Old 12-09-2012, 01:49 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calliea View Post
1. Personalization towards the agent/agency

In most places, I've read that it's nice (and sometimes pretty vital) to add a personal tidbit about the agent/agency. Just a sentence, two tops, but add it.

Then I've read that it's actually sucking up to the agent and it should not be done.
It's only sucking up if you do it in a sucking up way, as in "I'm querying you because you are the best agent in the woooorld." Otherwise, if you've done your research and find that your work fits what the agent is looking for (say, paranormal furry romance), I don't think it'll harm you to say "I follow your blog and noticed that you're looking for a paranormal furry romance."

Agent Kristin Nelson gave an example of this here: http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2006/08...y-thomass.html

I guess it also comes down to personal preference. Just don't overdo the flattery and you should be fine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Calliea View Post
2. How to address a query to an agency with more than 1 agent?

I haven't found an answer to this even though I looked. Everywhere they say to address the specific agent, but on many agency sites there's just 1 e-mail for queries. Do you address such query to an agency or some agent you pick from the list?
You address is to the agent who you think will make the best fit for you based on their criteria unless otherwise stated.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Calliea View Post
3a. When a story is a part of series, do you mention other books?


You say it stands alone (I'm assuming it does) and has series potential.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Calliea View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Calliea View Post
Yet again, some say: yes, write a sentence or two about the next books in the series to show the connections and sense.

While others say: don't ever do that, your story must be a stand alone.
I've never come across advice to mention the other books in the series. My agent is currently subbing the first book in a planned trilogy and he says it stands alone but has series potential. He said he wouldn't mention anything about the other books unless the editor asks for it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Calliea View Post
3b. Book series - what do?

What to do if your story makes little sense as a standalone? I don't mean, makes no sense. I mean it closes up some plot parts and is a complete novel, but it REALLY would make NO sense to publish that one without the rest of them. It doesn't seem fair to omit such fact.

Some stories are way too big to fit them in one book, even if they flow naturally and are not divided into simple arcs (villain 1, villain 2, villain 3).

Think what was done in SoiAF. There are no such arcs.
Ermm...dunno. I have a feeling then the book will be a hard sell, especially if you're a debut author.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Calliea View Post
4. Personal info about the author

Many say that an author should write a paragraph about themselves even if they have not been published before and have no credentials. They should write about their writing experience of any kind and why they chose this genre and not the other. Mention education, something, anything.

Today I've seen (around here) an opinion that this should never be done. Don't mention schools, writing unpublished stories or winning school competitions.

A complete contradiction, yet again.
You should probably minimize this as it just bogs down the query letter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Calliea View Post
5. Length

Then, length. I've read that there should be 2 paragraphs about the story. Not much more. Then the word count, genre, etc. Then something about you and the other parts of the cycle, if applicable.

As a contradiction I've seen queries that had 5, 6 or more paragraphs describing the story and nothing about the author.
As a general guideline, the part of the query that tells the agent what the book is about should be no more than 250 words. Then a line about word count and genre and another line about your credentials.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Calliea View Post
6. Bonus question: book length

I know that an average book is 100k words long. What if a novel is twice as big? Does that warrant an automatic rejection, provided the author has not been published before? I've heard someone say that, but it sounds ridiculous. I wouldn't think publishing world is some kind of Harlequin factory with strict demands about the books lengths?

I always preferred LONG stories to short ones, no discussion. I really don't what I hear and I want someone to tell me it's no true Haha.
As a reader, I am not about to shell out extra dough to take a chance on a debut author's 200K-long novel. Even if it costs the same as the average book, I'd probably balk at the length.

You can hope to be the exception to the rule, but I think the assumption is that if you're a relatively new writer with a 200K-long novel, you probably haven't killed your darlings. Post some of your work in the SYW section and we'll help gun down those darlings if there are any.
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Old 12-09-2012, 03:46 PM   #7
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Thank you all very much for the answers, I highly appreciate them :hug:

As far as point 6 goes, I'm afraid I gutted it a lot already, I pretty much cut in half what was to be in there before and I sit at 174k...

Thinking about it, I can see this first book as a standalone because major plots and concerns either end or are a mystery revealed. There are just many hooks and things that have to be resolved later, but from what I've read here, that in itself is not a bad thing.

Other responses are simply helpful and I'll adjust the query a bit more to follow the advice
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Old 12-09-2012, 03:55 PM   #8
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What the others have said is spot on. Some additions:

1. My approach to this is: if it's specific and valuable, add a line or two. "I truly loved BOOK TITLE by YOUR AUTHOR, and given the similar subject/style/whatever, it made me think OWN BOOK TITLE might appeal to you." or "I read your interview on BLOG X and was delighted to hear you're looking for MG sci-fi in the vein of ANIMORPHS, since BOOK TITLE fits that description with a T." That's not sucking up, that's stating the facts & doing your research. Most agents will appreciate that.

"I saw on your website that urban fantasy is listed among the genres you represent; here's an urban fantasy" on the other hand--no.

Basically, use your best judgment. The shorter the sweeter, so if you want to add a line like that, make sure it truly adds value to your query

3. What the others have said is true. Standalone is a vastly easier sell. However, in some genres, like urban fantasy, series are the norm, so it's much less likely to hurt your chances there.

The thing is, sometimes books genuinely can't stand on their own. Some stories just don't happen that way. (See also: my current WIP, which has to be a trilogy.) If you're 100% sure that's the case for you, and you're fully aware that you're making things harder on yourself, then just mention something like, "X is the first book in a projected series/duology/trilogy." I'd refrain from mentioning more than that in your query, since agents really care mostly about book one.

You could potentially add a line at the end of your synopsis that says, "X is the first book in a projected trilogy that chronicles Bob's journey from the Shire to the heart of Mordor" or "that explores the Sleepless' place in society--and outside of it" or whatever. It's not standard, but I don't think it could hurt.

6. As an unpublished author, toting a 200k novel that's the first in a series is absolutely going to hurt your chances. Some genres, like epic fantasy or hard sci-fi, are more lenient with word count, but even then I've seen 150k listed as a hard maximum for debut authors.

The problem is twofold: one, while some books genuinely need to be doorstoppers, a lot of the time it's a sign that the author needs to learn to edit better; two, it's a harder sell. It's an extra investment for publishers, and with debuts it's too big of a risk.

It doesn't mean publishing is a factory, but yes, it is a business. People need to believe they can make money off your work for them to take it on.

Your options:
1. (Line) edit your MS to cut to the heart of the matter. Years ago, a friend of mine wrote an 180k book and swore up and down there was no way to cut it down. Her author friends agreed--the book had to be that long. Right now, I believe the book is a trim 80k, and she thinks it's MUCH better for it. Sometimes, it's just a matter of having enough experience.
2. If the plot of the novel is such that it really can't be shorter, re-envision your plot. Outline from scratch. It's a drastic overhaul, but sometimes you need to go back to basics to build a tighter, better product.
3. If after that, you're still convinced that the book is better at its current length--which is sometimes the case!--query it as is. Some agents don't care one whit about word counts, and maybe your book is brilliant enough that agents will be able to convince publishers to take a chance on you.

Basically, you have to be aware of the risks. A long MS is a strike against you. It's up to you to decide if you're willing to take that bet, or if you're going to invest the time to making your book an easier sell. There's no shame in either option.
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Old 12-09-2012, 03:57 PM   #9
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Looks like we cross-posted!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Calliea View Post
Thinking about it, I can see this first book as a standalone because major plots and concerns either end or are a mystery revealed. There are just many hooks and things that have to be resolved later, but from what I've read here, that in itself is not a bad thing.
That sounds promising. When people say 'standalone' they do usually just mean that the major plots need to be wrapped up and the ending needs to be satisfying. It's fine if you set up things in the background that take center stage in sequels. In this case, the golden phrase is usually, "It's a standalone with series potential."
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Old 12-09-2012, 04:06 PM   #10
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@ Corinne Duyvis

I have already done that final "delete 80% of what I have and write it again, but better" revision that took me over a year (so it was not rushed at all). I've remodeled pretty much everything, changed main plots, changed focus, livened up important characters.

The thing is pretty much every chapter adds something that makes sense later. I sat and thought if I could just remove something entirely, but even if it wouldn't change the PLOT, it changes characters and character development is extremely important.

I need those little pieces so later it actually MAKES SENSE why X or Y does A or B. Without chapter 3, chapter 25 could theoretically happen, sure, but it would also seem like a psychological Deus Ex Machina.

So I will have to take that risk and go with my fattie.

The biggest factor being, I write because I *have* to write and it's cheaper than anti-depressants (I need a creative purpose or I fall apart). So if agents won't take it because it's too long, okay, I'll publish it on the internet and maybe some people will like it. Sure, it would be GREAT if someone published it, but I'd rather not have it published than have my story destroyed.

It reminds me of what happened to my friend's friend's book. She wrote some controversial, gut-honest, blog-based book and pitched it, someone liked it, but then they told her: "Look, I like it, but it's too controversial. You have to add a sweet romance and change the outlook on X, Y and Z, because the public won't like your opinion on these topics, it's too politically incorrect."

Well I would pass. That's butchery!
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Old 12-09-2012, 04:50 PM   #11
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I personally hate the cold open, where you get into the pitch immediately following the salutation, so I try to throw a quick line or two to cover it. I try to keep it short and to the point.

As for question #2 - if I'm submitting via an agency's form, or to a generic 'submissions@superagency. com' address, then the salutation is where I say who this query is aimed at: "Dear Ms Super," or "Dear Mr Fantastic." I know some people suggest using full names, like "Dear Jane Super," or "Dear Robert Fantastic," but that always strikes me as odd, so I take my chances on the Ms/Mr thing. Making sure, of course, I get it right.

Regarding personal info and publication history: I keep the former to myself and don't have any of the latter, so it stays out. If the agent likes my writing well enough to offer representation, there's plenty of time for us to get to know each other.
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:01 PM   #12
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Calliea, getting an agent for a long book is difficult but not impossible. For some agents, the length would be an automatic reject, no matter how enticing the story, but there are those who have taken on debut authors with really long books. Why? Because the writing and the story were exceptional.

If you want to get your foot in the door with a long book, exceptional is what you have to aim for.
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:08 PM   #13
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Calliea, getting an agent for a long book is difficult but not impossible. For some agents, the length would be an automatic reject, no matter how enticing the story, but there are those who have taken on debut authors with really long books. Why? Because the writing and the story were exceptional.

If you want to get your foot in the door with a long book, exceptional is what you have to aim for.
Aim for the stars and you may end up in shit, but aim for shit and you will always end in it!

My school psychologist said that and that'd be pretty much the only thing I remember from there. Well, at least it's something.

Yet assuming that Some Guy writes an exceptional book (I wouldn't say mine was, so let's go with a fictional Guy) that is 200K words long and has a multi-character complex intrigue that would leave his reader with a jaw rolling on the floor after reading. Maybe he built an amazing word, maybe his story is so heart-wrenching that maidens will cry, maybe he put an idea in there that will change the lives of all tall men.

I still think his chances of pitching that thing wouldn't be big. Maybe his book is wonderful, but query can only reflect a tiniest bit of the plot and it would never show the true diamonds nesting in his work.

What could Guy do about it?
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:19 PM   #14
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Several things.

He can work on getting credits to put in his query letter so the agent knows he can write. If you write a 500K epic fantasy but you've had a short published in The New Yorker which that woman from the New York Times said was the best thing she's ever read, you aren't going to get the intern sending a form rejection.

He can go to conferences and events where agents are so he can start his query letter: Dear Agent Brilliant, We met at XXX ...

Most of all, he can post his opening in SYW so we can see if it's over long because he says everything three times, because he uses a heck of a lot of adjectives, or because he opens in entirely the wrong place.

We see a lot of people claiming that their MS absolutely CANNOT be cut down to normal length, and all that jazz - I've never seen anybody who was right about that.
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:42 PM   #15
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Alright, so my Guy's case is solved! You speak the truth, if he was brilliant enough, I guess he could even start from posting a blog or whatnot for some publicity.

My case obviously looks differently, because I'm not a genius that will change the lives of all the tall men or even the medium-sized ones or anything like that :<

But I am more than open to all of yours suggestions and critique, I just don't want to go and swamp you with my writing like that being a newbie here. I know it's not welcome. So for now I stick to asking some general questions that could help others as well as they help me
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Old 12-09-2012, 07:06 PM   #16
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1. Personalization towards the agent/agency

This is a double-edged sword in my opinion. It helps but it also takes away from those vital five seconds that the agent has to read your opening line. I would say do it, ONLY if you feel that it adds value to the query letter. I've been very selective where I add personalization, as to avoid making it seem like I'm sucking up. Usually I just stick with my normal query, and surprisingly enough that is where I get most of my positive responses.


2. How to address a query to an agency with more than 1 agent?

I still usually address a specific agent, regardless of the fact that there are multiple agents. But this is also why I like when agencies with multiple agents have separate submissions for each agent

However usually when there are multiple agents involved and a single submission e-mail, there's an intern or someone of the sort filtering through the slush before it even reaches an agents desk.

3a. When a story is a part of series, do you mention other books?

I'm very subtle and just right "this is a standalone novel with series potential"

3b. Book series - what do?

It's a toughy - but if you find the right agent who is absolutely in love with your story, I don't think this would be an issue. My MG book COPERNICUS NERDICUS is "series based" but can survive just fine on its own. My other book however, makes no sense after book 1...hence I'm trying to re-write so it can make a little sense, but def relies on a series. All in all, it really depends on agents taste and dedication to signing you on with a series.

But if it doesn't make sense as a standalone, this probably needs to be addressed straight up to the agent.

4. Personal info about the author

I only add this if in the query guidelines they say "tell me a little bit about yourself". Otherwise I leave it out. I have no publication history, and the only thing I would remotely add is that I am a member of SCBWI.

Oddly enough, my latest full request came from a query that I straight up said I have no publication history, but am just an avid / serious writer who is trying to get my thoughts down on paper. Word it well and they'll respect your honesty and confidence.

5. Length

Hmm..are we talking about word count or just paragraphs? My current query is 4 paragraphs as it stands (1 hook paragraph, 2 story description paragraphs, and then a sign off paragraph) - add a 5th one if I have to add personal info about myself.

Regardless my query never went above 300-320 words (with the personal paragraph added). I always flounder around 250 words.


6. Bonus question: book length

I guess this really depends on your strength as a writer and your ability to wow an agent. Sure a 200k word long book from a debut author is very tough to get published, but hey it happens. You never know. If it takes 200k, it takes 200k. If it DOESNT take 200k, you need to sit down and re-work your book.

Book length is subjective. But it also depends on if you actually need that word count.


The answers above are STRICTLY my opinion lol. I'm still in the submission process, and just waiting on full responses. I am not signed. I'm just a humble struggling writer like everyone else
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Old 12-09-2012, 07:14 PM   #17
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Thank you very much for this reply I feel it completed what others said, and gave me the last bit of clarity that I needed, especially when it comes to the personal additions (about author and the agent).


Thanks a lot all of you, my questions have been answered fully and nicely!

I hope that there will be someone else lurking around that will find it useful as well
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Old 12-09-2012, 07:43 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calliea View Post

I still think his chances of pitching that thing wouldn't be big. Maybe his book is wonderful, but query can only reflect a tiniest bit of the plot and it would never show the true diamonds nesting in his work.
It can show glints of them. A published writer I know recently said that queries should be like a carnival barker enticing passersby to come inside the tent and see wonders. You've got to let the agent glimpse just enough of the wonder to make him want to see the whole thing. And any time you can get actual pages in front of the agent, so much the better.

Quote:
What could Guy do about it?
Guy can write an engaging, enticing query letter (and include some sample pages, if permitted) targeted at agents who have been known to take on longer works.

Guy can attend writers conferences and pitch his work to agents there. If he gets an invitation to submit chapters, this bypasses the query letter and the slush pile.

Guy can win a major contest (as Patrick Rothfuss did) that helps him make contacts.

Guy can do what most every other writer does: query exhaustively.

The common denominator in all of the above is that in the end, it's the story that succeeds or fails on its own merits.
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Old 12-09-2012, 09:02 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calliea View Post
@ Corinne Duyvis

I have already done that final "delete 80% of what I have and write it again, but better" revision that took me over a year (so it was not rushed at all). I've remodeled pretty much everything, changed main plots, changed focus, livened up important characters.

The thing is pretty much every chapter adds something that makes sense later. I sat and thought if I could just remove something entirely, but even if it wouldn't change the PLOT, it changes characters and character development is extremely important.

I need those little pieces so later it actually MAKES SENSE why X or Y does A or B. Without chapter 3, chapter 25 could theoretically happen, sure, but it would also seem like a psychological Deus Ex Machina.

So I will have to take that risk and go with my fattie.

The biggest factor being, I write because I *have* to write and it's cheaper than anti-depressants (I need a creative purpose or I fall apart). So if agents won't take it because it's too long, okay, I'll publish it on the internet and maybe some people will like it. Sure, it would be GREAT if someone published it, but I'd rather not have it published than have my story destroyed.

It reminds me of what happened to my friend's friend's book. She wrote some controversial, gut-honest, blog-based book and pitched it, someone liked it, but then they told her: "Look, I like it, but it's too controversial. You have to add a sweet romance and change the outlook on X, Y and Z, because the public won't like your opinion on these topics, it's too politically incorrect."

Well I would pass. That's butchery!
I think it really comes down to what you want for this book. If you want to have it published traditionally, you will probably need to cut it down a lot. If traditional publishing is not that important to you, that changes things.

I'm guessing, like others have said, there is probably a lot that you could cut and tighten up without losing your main plot or character development. Have you posted any of your work in SYW?
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Old 12-09-2012, 09:21 PM   #20
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I queried for the first time this summer and got offers from it, so here's my thoughts on the things you asked ...

1. Personalization towards the agent/agency
I didn't personalise at all in my letter, unless the agency had an author I thought was in some way relevant to mention - eg. my novel had similarities to theirs.

2. How to address a query to an agency with more than 1 agent?
Just address the letter to the agent you want, no matter if it's a general email address. They'll pass it on. This happened with the agent I ended up going with anyway even though it was a personal email as she was on holiday, and one of her colleagues was checking her slush pile in case he wanted to forward anything on to her.

3a. When a story is a part of series, do you mention other books?
Yes. But keep the synopsis etc to the one you're submitting.

3b. Book series - what do?
That's fine, don't worry about it. Publishers love series.

4. Personal info about the author
I wrote a little a paragraph about me, but with just a one liner about my recent history (graduated last year, worked here since etc). Then I talked a little about the books I'm writing and planning to write, which seemed a good move as many of the agents wanted to hear about my future plans just as much as my current novel.

5. Length
Mine was just three paragraphs (excluding the intro and sign off line) - what my MS is about, its market, and then a little about me and my other books. It was about 3/4 of a Word doc page.

6. Bonus question: book length
They have guidelines for a whole host of reasons. Cost of printing, market type, years of publishing experience ... if the book is fantastic, I'm sure an agent or publisher wouldn't worry about the size too much - there have been some hefty debuts recently - but make sure there's a good reason why it's so long. If you could cut the words down and still keep the story tight and true, then it would help.

Hope that helps! At the end of the day, I don't think you need to worry too much about the details. Of course there are contradictions in the advice you'll get - all authors and queries are different. But as long as you get your main points across in a succinct way, and your sample chaps are good, that's all that's important!
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Old 12-09-2012, 09:35 PM   #21
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On the length question:

Many times a writer can greatly reduce a novel's length without cutting any plot or characters. How? By attacking all those words, words, words.

How do I know?

I routinely cut a third out of my first drafts without removing a thing, sometimes while ADDING things.

A pass through SYW, with the request that the doctors look for wordiness, can tell you if you have this common syndrome.
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Old 12-10-2012, 06:17 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calliea View Post
I still think his chances of pitching that thing wouldn't be big. Maybe his book is wonderful, but query can only reflect a tiniest bit of the plot and it would never show the true diamonds nesting in his work.

I think we've covered the whole issue of a long book being a bigger risk and publishers being risk-averse, especially for new authors, but I just wanted to say I completely, totally, utterly disagree with what you posted above. You can't show every bell and whistle, but if you can't show that you can write, and show some personal style and character voice in 200 words, it doesn't matter if you have one 30-minute plot or a twenty-person, three-generation epic. A query can reflect a good deal, and that's why people are in knots over them--every word has to count, ideally doubly or more. But it shows more than you seem willing to give credit for.
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:48 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Calliea View Post
So since I've learnt that I will have to write a query, I've been browsing the internet looking for how-tos, dos and donts. I've found tutorials, guides and hints and I have composed a query according a mix of the knowledge coming from both agents and authors. And yet everywhere I look, I find things that contradict each other, eventually leaving me at loss.

Hence I come bearing questions that I can't ask the respective authors, but can, hopefully, ask here.

I have seen your threads on queries and I've browsed the query SYW forums. They spawned more questions

1. Personalization towards the agent/agency

In most places, I've read that it's nice (and sometimes pretty vital) to add a personal tidbit about the agent/agency. Just a sentence, two tops, but add it.

Then I've read that it's actually sucking up to the agent and it should not be done.


2. How to address a query to an agency with more than 1 agent?


3a. When a story is a part of series, do you mention other books?

Yet again, some say: yes, write a sentence or two about the next books in the series to show the connections and sense.

While others say: don't ever do that, your story must be a stand alone.

3b. Book series - what do?

What to do if your story makes little sense as a standalone? I don't mean, makes no sense. I mean it closes up some plot parts and is a complete novel, but it REALLY would make NO sense to publish that one without the rest of them. It doesn't seem fair to omit such fact.

Some stories are way too big to fit them in one book, even if they flow naturally and are not divided into simple arcs (villain 1, villain 2, villain 3).

Think what was done in SoiAF. There are no such arcs.

4. Personal info about the author

Many say that an author should write a paragraph about themselves even if they have not been published before and have no credentials. They should write about their writing experience of any kind and why they chose this genre and not the other. Mention education, something, anything.

Today I've seen (around here) an opinion that this should never be done. Don't mention schools, writing unpublished stories or winning school competitions.

A complete contradiction, yet again.

5. Length

Then, length. I've read that there should be 2 paragraphs about the story. Not much more. Then the word count, genre, etc. Then something about you and the other parts of the cycle, if applicable.

As a contradiction I've seen queries that had 5, 6 or more paragraphs describing the story and nothing about the author.


6. Bonus question: book length

I know that an average book is 100k words long. What if a novel is twice as big? Does that warrant an automatic rejection, provided the author has not been published before? I've heard someone say that, but it sounds ridiculous. I wouldn't think publishing world is some kind of Harlequin factory with strict demands about the books lengths?

I always preferred LONG stories to short ones, no discussion. I really don't what I hear and I want someone to tell me it's no true Haha.



Alright, I think that's all for now.
1. I was told by a literary agent that you should mention something about the agent, even if it is just a brief mention about something on their blog or what they said at a convention. Better yet, an author with a novel that is similar to what you are trying to sell.

2. I haven't found an answer to this even though I looked. Everywhere they say to address the specific agent, but on many agency sites there's just 1 e-mail for queries. Do you address such query to an agency or some agent you pick from the list?

I'm not an expert but I believe you should- look for an agent that seems like the best fit for your novel. Sometimes there are multiple agents. Choose one and address the letter to them, but send it to the generic email address.

3a. This is confusing, and I still don't have a solid answer. But what i believe is commonplace, don't mention other books. Try to sell the one you have and the other projects can be discussed with the agent.

3b. I read in an article somewhere, that if your novel cannot be completed without mentioning the others, then their is something seriously wrong with your story. For example, Harry Potter series, I believe most of them ended as if they could be a standalone novel. Yet, the underlying theme connected all of them. Just something to keep in mind.

5. I have also heard contradictory comments about this as well. I think 2 paragraphs about the meat of story is acceptable. I have also heard that if you do not have any pertinent information about yourself that will be helpful to your story or worthy credentials, don't put anything. The long query letter that I have come across are from published authors who have a long winded rap sheet.

6. I have also heard that super long novels by someone who hasn't been published before is bad. But look at Stephanie Meyer. Her first book was around 130,000 and YA novel at that. I think it depends on the story. I wouldn't rule out everything.

Hope this helps. Good luck on your query letter. I am going through the painful experience now!!!
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