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still alive
07-30-2009, 06:47 PM
I hope this question isn't just from self-pity: But how can you discover what agent wants what kind of query?

I've had two rejections (not total by a looong shot!) that appear to have come from agents who have differing--vastly--ideas of what constitutes a good query. They both have blogs that I apparently didn't read closely enough! :) And I sent the diametrically opposed query to the wrong one each time!

One wants a three paragraph description of the story/plot; the other wants a short concise description; (In fact, one agent wants a one-line description! almost forgot about him.) The second one wants three paragraphs like the first one does but he wants them to cover the entire query!

How are we supposed to know what's considered acceptable by whom? All agents don't blog and they sure don't mention it in their submission guidelines. It's gotten so I'm afraid to query because I'll have chosen the wrong one! And my novel will be a hard sell to an agent without starting out wrong.

Any HELP??

Thanks,
Still Alive
PS. Also may as well ask ya'll this: if my age would be a marketing tool for a publisher; but shunned by an agent, should I be upfront about it? Kinda hate for an agent to want to rep me and then run when my age comes up.

auntybug
07-30-2009, 07:33 PM
You've answered your own question. You just need to read everything they have to offer about what they want. Agent Query & Query Tracker are excellent. I have gotten into the habit of reading a lot of the agents blogs to pick up on tips. To hear things they dismiss for are frustrating & sound "anal" at times - but at least they are honest!

Good Luck!

still alive
07-30-2009, 09:07 PM
Thanks for answering, Auntybug, but you missed my point entirely.

AgentQuery and Query Tracker sbmission requirements in a general way, but NOT what is expected in those query letter paragraphs. Short and sweet, more detailed info on plot conflict and advance, ending left off for suspense or put on for the agent's knowledge? That's what I'm trying to discover for individual agents.

So I can craft my query individually or just broadly.
Still Alive

Smish
07-30-2009, 09:20 PM
Thanks for answering, Auntybug, but you missed my point entirely.

AgentQuery and Query Tracker sbmission requirements in a general way, but NOT what is expected in those query letter paragraphs. Short and sweet, more detailed info on plot conflict and advance, ending left off for suspense or put on for the agent's knowledge? That's what I'm trying to discover for individual agents.

So I can craft my query individually or just broadly.
Still Alive

Maybe I've missed your point, as well. Agent Query actually does have a pretty decent "How to Write a Query" section. I'm not sure about Query Tracker, but it may, as well.

The bottom line is that you have to hook the agent. Follow their submission guidelines as closely as possible and craft your query letter according to their wishes (if they've given hints about what they like to see). If your story sounds like a "must read", they'll request pages even if you haven't crafted your query exactly how they would have liked.

And you don't have to mention your age in your query. If you're under 18, you'll have to tell the agent before signing a contract because you can't create a legally binding contract.

suki
07-30-2009, 09:38 PM
Personal opinion that is somewhat supported by reading agents is that how you structure your query is less important than it's substance. That doesn't mean you ignore every opportunity to make it as strong as possible, or that you don't bother to research a prospective agent's preferences. But when you can't be sure of the agent's preferences, you make risk assessments on what to include in and how to structure your query.

But too often I think we mix up submission guidelines and query preferences.

For example, a submission quideline is mandatory. The agent will reject if you don't follow them. And they can be as easy as query and up to x pages, or as specific as one sentence pitch and detailed bio and first chapter in a specified format, etc. What genres the agent reps. Whether they want email or snail mail. All quidelines are to be strictly followed.

Query preferences are less stringent. Even an agent who prefers a specified format, like those you referred to, will not auto reject if your otherwise interesting query follows a slightly different format. You see it in query contests all the time - agents saying, yes, this query isn't perfect but...and requesting pages anyway.

Many agents have said/written that if the query is clear and engaging, and appears to substantively be an interesting and marketable story, they will read on despite imperfections or not exactly the format they prefer.

So, what you are doing is playing the averages.

When possible, you research what the specific agent wants, so that you can tailor your query as closely as possible to the agent's preferences. Then your query is ahead of the game, as being structurally pleasing.

But when you can not determine those preferences you use a query that maximizes the general preferencs of the industry and hope it is engaging enough, even if not exactly on target for the agent's preferences. Again, not submission guidelines which are not to be ignored, but their subjective and less dire (and often unknown) query preferences.

So, I will tailor my query down to one sentence, if the agent expresses that is his preference, or include a specific subplot if another agent expresses an interest in that kind of plot. But if I can't figure out another agent's preferences from research, I'm going with a slightly more "playing the averages" query - ie, not one sentence, and not including info most agents don't care about.

~suki

MsJudy
07-30-2009, 09:38 PM
Usually, the agents who care passionately about a certain format and no other DO have blogs and DO tell everyone exactly what they're looking for. For everyone else, stay within the general guidelines and you should be okay. One page, no longer, 2-3 paragraphs on the book, important bio information.

There are plenty of blogs and sites out there that can help you hone your query.

But remember: you can have a great query, follow the guidelines exactly, and still be rejected. A lot. You could give them just what they say they're looking for, but they may not be interested in the story you're pitching. All you can do is write the best query you can, and send out a lot of them. Getting rejected doesn't mean you didn't follow their rules. It means they didn't feel like reading more of your book.

auntybug
07-30-2009, 09:51 PM
Thanks for answering, Auntybug, but you missed my point entirely.

AgentQuery and Query Tracker sbmission requirements in a general way, but NOT what is expected in those query letter paragraphs.

So I can craft my query individually or just broadly.
Still Alive


Sorry I was so short - the down side to AWing while at work.
I use the sites to find the agents & utilize everything they offer. I read what they have posted there, click their website links and blogs if they have them. A lot of research is done before I send a query - afraid that I'll get it wrong. It is frustrating to have 1 say "do this" and another say "whatever you do - don't do this" & its the same thing. I have spend a full day querying & gotten 2 out. Both perfect by their "guidelines" - rejections nonetheless.

Long answer short - no - I don't believe there is one generic query you can do. Rarely have I sent the same thing twice without tweaking it somewhat. That's just my thoughts though - I'm still there with you.

still alive
07-30-2009, 11:55 PM
My thanks to all of you. I'm afraid JudScotKev hit the nail brutally on the head!:) They're just not interested in my book--or more likely find that it's going to be a hard sell (they think--I disagree. But that's what you'd expect, right?)

Since I'm being brutally honest in exposing myself: Smish, my age is on the other end..way on the other end!! Think Frank McCourt. I sorta felt that a debut novel--if it has any merit at all--plus my age would be a good marketing tool. AARP could make me their poster girl {well, not girl I concede but female..:) }

Also, I'm holding back on a big part of the MC's motivation because I think it works in the novel, but just sitting there on the page is too easily misinterpreted.

So in a way, I'm hobbling myself--still and all there's still a lot of other plot without it.

Again, my thanks.
Still Alive

still alive
07-31-2009, 02:14 AM
I just received a high class personal rejection so maybe it wasn't how I was querying but who I was querying!

I won't name the agency, but I wrote to one agent and she apparently passed it on to another who rejected it, but so beautifully done! Almost a pleasure to receive. Especially in contrast to what I'd been receiving. And they are agents for a very well known--household word--client. Encouraged me no end!

Still Alive

arkady
07-31-2009, 05:25 PM
But remember: you can have a great query, follow the guidelines exactly, and still be rejected. A lot. You could give them just what they say they're looking for, but they may not be interested in the story you're pitching. All you can do is write the best query you can, and send out a lot of them. Getting rejected doesn't mean you didn't follow their rules. It means they didn't feel like reading more of your book.

JudScotKev speaks the truth. It bears repeating that this business is entirely subjective.