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Tromboli
03-24-2012, 01:44 AM
I guess this is a pretty subjective question so I'm looking for opinions and/or quotes from agents about this subject.

I know for the most part it takes both to get a request but I was just wondering if one holds more weight.

Like, if an agent doesn't enjoy the query (within reason) would they still read the pages?

Old Hack
03-24-2012, 01:47 AM
They both have to be really good.

If your query is really good but your book isn't so much, you'll get lots of full requests but no offers; if the query isn't too hot despite the book being fabulous you'll not get as far as a full request.

kaitie
03-24-2012, 02:18 AM
I've also heard that great pages can save a mediocre query (if you have an agent who is kind enough to look at the pages and not simply dismiss it because of a crappy query), but bad pages can kill a great query.

Like Old Hack said, it's best to make sure it's all as good as you can make it, but I'd make damn sure my pages were insanely awesome and amazing. Then again, the whole book really needs to be awesome and amazing, but yeah.

Drachen Jager
03-24-2012, 02:18 AM
I disagree slightly.

If the query is good, but the sample pages are fantastic, and the manuscript is fantastic you'll do well.

The query only needs to be good, IMO. If it's great, you'll get more requests, but most queries have sample pages, and most agents will read the pages if they think the query is good.

However, the best way to make a great query is to write a fantastic story. If the story is 100% there, and you understand the narrative arcs within your story writing a great query is relatively easy. What's hard is to make a fantastic query from a mediocre story.

If you find yourself struggling overmuch with the query, you have to ask, is it the manuscript that's truly at fault?

Tromboli
03-24-2012, 02:35 AM
Believe me, I'm not looking for an excuse to go with a mediocre anything. I am just curious which one agents put more stock in.

Gillhoughly
03-24-2012, 04:50 AM
I write terrible queries.

Thankfully, agents understand that kind of thing happens and will read your pages.

When looking at subs for anthologies, I skip the query and go to the story.

san_remo_ave
03-24-2012, 04:57 AM
IMHO, pages will always trump the query itself. The synopsis will also have more weight than the query. The query is just the initial introduction. Unless you do something extreme to tick them off on the query, they will at least begin to read the pages or synopsis. If you hook them there, they will ask for more.

The story you tell is the most important thing. Always.

quicklime
03-24-2012, 05:53 AM
Believe me, I'm not looking for an excuse to go with a mediocre anything. I am just curious which one agents put more stock in.

well....the pages are part of what they want to sell, not your pitch of those pages, so the query has to at least be good enough to get them to look at the pages, but pages are gonna trump the query

DSA
03-24-2012, 06:45 AM
Last year, agent Michael Carr said he reads the pages even if the query is just so so.

Old Hack
03-24-2012, 09:56 AM
If the query isn't good, the sample pages often won't get read, though. So I still maintain that the whole lot has to be good.

mbowman
03-24-2012, 08:36 PM
According to the agent who is working with me on an R and R now, she wouldn't have accepted me from just the query. It was the sample pages that made her excited for the story (that's the word she used anyway).

To each their own, I suppose, since another agent who only asked for a query a while back loved it, asked for the first chapter as a partial, then rejected it pretty quickly afterwards.

But I think that while the query can be anywhere on the good--awesome scale, the sample pages have to be awesome or you'll get no sub requests.

bearilou
03-24-2012, 09:24 PM
Believe me, I'm not looking for an excuse to go with a mediocre anything. I am just curious which one agents put more stock in.

Seems to me the answer is 'it depends'.

What one agent would put more stock in may not be what another considers more important.

E. B. Pike
03-28-2012, 09:41 PM
I'm wondering something along the same lines.

Assuming my query’s in good shape, what if I haven’t published any short fiction or won any prizes? If the agent doesn't see prior publications or an awesome platform, will they even care to read the pages?

I've never been a short story/flash fiction writer, so I've never attempted to get anything published in literary magazines. Now, I'm wondering if that's going to sink my query...

quicklime
03-28-2012, 09:48 PM
I'm wondering something along the same lines.

Assuming my query’s in good shape, what if I haven’t published any short fiction or won any prizes? If the agent doesn't see prior publications or an awesome platform, will they even care to read the pages?

I've never been a short story/flash fiction writer, so I've never attempted to get anything published in literary magazines. Now, I'm wondering if that's going to sink my query...


you don't think anyone is born with a publication in utero, correct?

you also don't think nobody writes novels who doesn't also have a long and successful short story career, do you?



neither is flip, just an over-statement of the obvious: agents take new writers every day. to expand a bit, they may even MORE now, because short markets are contracting a lot since when King was writing horror shorts to sub to the titty-mags.

if the query and book are good, they'll want it--agents like money and good books sell....even when they say "debut author".

welcome to aw, EB--there's a lot to learn here so stick around. And don't let being a new author scare you away from trying, there is no 3-shorts rule.

kaitie
03-28-2012, 10:07 PM
I didn't give any personal information whatsoever in my query, just the plot summary and sample pages. I still got a lot of requests, for what it's worth (and an agent).

E. B. Pike
04-17-2012, 04:52 AM
you don't think anyone is born with a publication in utero, correct?

you also don't think nobody writes novels who doesn't also have a long and successful short story career, do you?



neither is flip, just an over-statement of the obvious: agents take new writers every day. to expand a bit, they may even MORE now, because short markets are contracting a lot since when King was writing horror shorts to sub to the titty-mags.

if the query and book are good, they'll want it--agents like money and good books sell....even when they say "debut author".

welcome to aw, EB--there's a lot to learn here so stick around. And don't let being a new author scare you away from trying, there is no 3-shorts rule.

Thanks for the response! (Sorry mine's so belated --the thread updates were going to my junk mail.) This makes me feels so much better. I appreciate you taking the time to help out a "newbie." :)

E. B. Pike
04-17-2012, 04:54 AM
I didn't give any personal information whatsoever in my query, just the plot summary and sample pages. I still got a lot of requests, for what it's worth (and an agent).

That's good to know, Katie. Maybe that's the best approach for me. Since I don't have any other credentials, just don't say anything at all.

Thank you!

M.T.Logue
04-17-2012, 05:57 AM
Most agent blogs I've read have said that a really good book will overcome a lack of credentials any day.

As for the actual question, I'd agree with everyone who said everything has to be amazing, the query just doesn't have to be as amazing.

lyrwriter
04-17-2012, 08:26 AM
The agent who has my full right now said that she always reads the enclosed pages first---and then if she likes what she sees, she goes back to look at the query to make sure it sounds like something she'd be interested in. I kind of wish more agents took this approach, but I understand why most start out with the query.

DennisB
04-21-2012, 06:39 PM
This whole issue has bugged me for some time. The reason is I was a program director in the golden days of rock n roll radio. When we would have a job opening, we'd get 100 or more tapes/resumes in.

The VERY first thing we'd do is LISTEN to the tape. If the jock sounded good, only then would we even read the resume. If the jock sounded BAD, it didn't matter if he/she had the greatest resume in the world.

And the cover letter was pretty much worthless.

If I were an agent, I'd certainly be turned off by a lousy query letter (because that would demonstrate that the writer is no pro). But I'd go straight to the mss sample to get an idea if the thing had legs. If the writing was decent and it appeared the writer could carry the project off, I'd get more involved, reading the synopsis and (lastly) things like bio or resume.