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DennisB
04-30-2012, 12:09 AM
... proposals that don't have a perfect query?

Let's say you have a dynamite book. Your first couple of pages jump off the page with crisp writing. Your MC is compelling. You introduce tension or conflict within a couple of graphs.

But you don't have the query formatted just so. Maybe instead of starting with the log line, you start with something lame like... "I'm seeking representation..."

Or you spend one sentence outlining your bio. Or your log line is 120 words long.

Would an agent really take a flier, without peaking at the first three or whatever?

kaitie
04-30-2012, 12:18 AM
I didn't include a bio at all, for what it's worth.

Different people have different statements on queries. Some say you should begin with information about why you chose the agent, others say to put that at the end, if at all (I didn't include it).

Now, from what I understand, if you have a mediocre query, having some really amazing sample pages attached will help. The challenge, of course, is getting them to try out the pages, but I think there's a difference between a bad query and a mediocre one.

A bad query won't follow the rules, or won't give any information about the book, or might be riddled with grammar errors. Other elements that count against you: writing in overly complex sentences (especially if it's followed by "my book is 200,000 words ;)), writing a synopsis of your book that is so confusing the agent can't figure out what it's about, or telling instead of showing ("My book is filled with drama and emotion").

That being said, personally I don't think there's such a thing as a perfect query. If it's clear, has no grammar or structure problems, and follows the rules, you're already ahead of most of the people submitting. You obviously don't want to use this as an excuse to say "I'll just do whatever I want without a care," but I also don't think it's good to obsess over getting the perfect query too much. Very few people are capable of one.

My aim was for good enough to make them read the sample pages. I tried out three different versions to small groups and kept the one that had the most requests, though even my crappy version (which had a mistake in it, too, if I remember correctly) got a request from a major agent.

So I guess my point is: great pages can save a mediocre query and you shouldn't stress too much over being perfect. If you submit to twenty agents and don't get a request, something is obviously wrong and then it can be reconsidered.

Taylor
04-30-2012, 01:11 AM
... proposals that don't have a perfect query?


Would an agent really take a flier, without peaking at the first three or whatever?

Who knows? Everyone varies as far as how open-minded they are.

But you might as well make the query as perfect as you can. It's a drag, I know. But it'll only hurt your chances if you are lazy with the query.

leahzero
04-30-2012, 01:19 AM
I think it's important to keep in mind that agenting is not some kind of mind game where they're hoping you fail some secret test so they can mock you on Twitter.

Agents want to sell your book. Otherwise they don't get paid. Everything they do is geared to selling books.

Are some agents exceptionally anal about queries? Probably. But they probably also have big client lists and aren't as eager to sign new talent. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

JanDarby
04-30-2012, 01:32 AM
There is no perfect query.

OTOH, if the query isn't basically competent and compelling, the agent is unlikely to read any pages of the manuscript. And that's assuming the agent accepts pages, rather than specifying only a naked query.

triceretops
04-30-2012, 01:55 AM
Put that sucker through hell fire in the SYW forum. It can sting, but it sure can improve on something that totally needs it. All my queries are crafted from SYW. Never had a problem with them.

tri

Drachen Jager
04-30-2012, 03:41 AM
This has come up a lot recently. I don't know if this applies 100% for non-fiction, but AFAIK agents will look at the sample pages if the query seems interesting to them. It doesn't have to jump off the page and pull them by the nose, as long as the query is competent and their kind of thing they'll read the pages.

It's the pages that matter.

maybegenius
04-30-2012, 04:01 AM
If you're asking if some agents will reject something out of hand if you don't format it exactly the right way (which completely varies from agent to agent), I'd say I doubt it. It's possible to catch an agent on a bad day where they're just saying no to everything, but I don't think that happens often, honestly. No agent is going to turn down a book they think sounds great just because the author said "I'm seeking representation for..."

It doesn't matter how amazing your query is... some agents are still going to say no. It's not because your bio sentence was a hair too long or you put your reasons for querying them in the "wrong" place. It's because they just didn't click with the query/pages. Nothing any of us can do about it.

You can usually tell if your query is "good" if you're receiving a fair amount of requests. If you're querying widely and getting very few or no bites, something's off. If you're doing okay for requests, just keep doing what you're doing.

Cyia
04-30-2012, 05:52 AM
This is why a lot of agents ask for included pages - they know query writing and novel writing aren't the same skill. However, if you front-load the query with non-plot contact information, bio, etc, then some agents WILL move along to the next one. They read on their phone or in a small window on their computer, so only 12 or so lines show. If they're not hooked by line 12, they pass.

third person
04-30-2012, 06:45 AM
You should already know the answer to this. Because you should be Twitter-stalking every agent on your list. You can really get a sense of their personalities keeping up to date with their posts, and they often make comments about what they're seeing (and liking and not liking about it) as their workday goes on. You couldn't ask for a better resource.

waylander
04-30-2012, 01:11 PM
go read Queryshark

tko
04-30-2012, 07:25 PM
There can be no perfect query because it varies from agent to agent. Some agents want comparisons to other published works. Others hate that. Some want a short bio so they can "know" you. Others could care less if it's not relevant. Some want the title and word count at the top. Others at the bottom. Some want it to show off your style. Others want it dry and to the point.

Just do the best you can. Vary the query every 10-20 or so submissions.

quicklime
05-01-2012, 12:34 AM
This question reminds me of the old joke "Do you walk to school or carry a lunch?"

There is some sort of implication you can only have one which is stellar, the query or the 'script, and I think that's crap.



You won't sell a flawed book on a great query.

You will have considerable difficulty selling a good book with a horrible query, because you will turn away some agents, and leave others with difficult prejudices about the work they are considering.



Make both great; the book is ultimately what an agent buys, but as far as "which is more important?" i think that's an utterly false question. They both should shine to the best of your ability.

HoneyBadger
05-01-2012, 12:45 AM
Not adhering to an agent's guidelines can indeed result in an unread deletion.

Just, you know. Throwing that out there.

Ken
05-01-2012, 02:23 AM
... there is an agent who's a member here. He said in his thread to always send sample pages so that if a query wasn't all that impressive he might still take a look at the pages and get an opinion from that. So for him at least an imperfect query wouldn't necessarily mean an instant rejection. G'luck. And if I were you I'd take the advice above and get your query in better order before sending it out. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it should be at least good and give an adequate representation of your work.

Katrina S. Forest
05-01-2012, 06:01 AM
Janet Reid I think claimed on Query Shark that the phrase, "fiction novel," is an instant turnoff for her.

But again, unless an agent says, "this phrase/formatting/whatever is an instant reject," assume they're willing to read as far as their interest takes them.

Now, I'm assuming you believe your novel has the other things you mentioned: a compelling MC, crisp writing, ect. Most of us do think highly of our work or we wouldn't send it out there. But if you're getting lots of rejections, keep an open mind about where the problem is. Look at all possibilities and put both your query and your opening pages in SYW.

rac
05-03-2012, 01:43 AM
Some agents give guidelines as to what they are looking for in a query. I always check this out and try to tailor the query to the agent's preferences. You can usually find this information on the agency's web site.