There’s been quite a bit of debate this week on sites such as SlushPile Hell and #queryfail (read here and here). So far, I’ve only been reading the opposing side. Points:
Who has time to even THINK about these bad queries, let alone TWEET about them!
I will NEVER tweet/talk of personal correspondence, so query freely! It is an ethical faux pas to do so.
To be fair, I understand that. A lot. Both are incredibly valid points, and I agree with both. The majority of people that send the worst letters aren’t even lucid when they press SEND, and for the ones that are, it’s heartbreaking to receive such humiliation.
But (of course you knew a but was coming) I DO tweet about these queries. Do I do it to be helpful? Well, yes. But 90% of the audience reading my tweets isn’t who should be getting the advice.
So why do it?
Sites like “shit my dad says” may emphasize what I’m about to say the most: really, it’s about having a sense of humor. Do I honestly take it so seriously that every time I tweet about a mistake, I’m FUMING and RANTING about the HORRIBLE quality I’m reading? No.
I still turn to the majority of manuscript pages that I tweet about, because I know for a fact that some people just plain suck at writing query letters. But that doesn’t mean they suck at writing. I also think that writers should be aware of the reality of the slush pile. If anything, I feel my tweets emphasize the importance of research, feedback, and continued perseverance and development.
I also DESERVE to be called out on ANY mistake I make. So, fair’s fair. In my eyes.
Everyone has the right to dislike policies and attitudes of other agents. But…just don’t act like your word is final. For every opinion, there is an opposite.
Ok! Onto fun stuff. How about I level the playing field?
Here is MY own PERSONAL query development. Snarky comments welcome; I made almost EVERY mistake in the book! I cringe to look back…
First Letter Ever:
If you mix a fairy, a goddess, magic, and a story, what do you get? A book written about those subjects called The Goddess of Time.
The main plot is set at no particular time, but resembles the middle- ages, with kings, queens, peasants, and other miscellaneous characters. It is fictional, having magic, folklore, and mystical creatures that you may only dream of. The main character is named Shadow, a fifteen-year-old fairy whom is compelled to tell the truth. She is most unusual, with her blue eyes and black hair, unlike all the other fairies who have brown eyes and either brown or blonde hair. Her best friends, Cider and Wheat, always try to make her have fun, and misuse her powers for simple pleasure, ending in a loss of their friendship.
Shadow finds a circlet in a cave, launching her into adventure with the task of rescuing the former Queen Lilly from the clutches of the evil King Smoldren. If Shadow does not succeed, the kingdom and world could fall into King Smoldrens grasp, allowing him all the power and money he could imagine, killing all who come in his way.
Shadow is not about to let this happen, though. With the help of a prince transformed into a squirrel, a nymph that had previously been a walnut, and Lilly’s husband, she manages to come up with a plan to over-throw the wicked king. Consulting first with her own dear king, she sets up a battle plan, proposing to enter through a secret tunnel and rescuing Moonshine, the head of the teaching department, whom had been captured during the battle. The king and his army would swamp the rear of the palace, taking them by surprise, and hopefully winning.
But the battle suddenly takes on an interesting turn, and Shadow finds herself face to face with the vile Smoldren.
In battling him, Shadow sets Lilly free, whom on her return, kills Smoldren and restores her wasted kingdom. Only then does Shadow learn whom she really is, and with that knowledge put to right the traitor that was smuggling plans to Smoldren within they’re midst.
If I have caught your attention in any way, please read the novel for yourself and decide if it is worthy to be published. The book in whole has ----words, and can be sent disk (floppy), CD, or by mail. Would you rather have a general outline, or the book itself?
I know that as an unpublished writer, I won’t have anything to show or assure you that my work is suitable. But that does not mean it is not good; it just means I may have fresh or new ideas.
My phone number is ___, and my address, ___ Brentwood, TN, 37027. My fax number is ___. Please contact me if you wish to consider my book. I know that I may and most likely won’t be successful on my first try, but that does not mean I didn’t try at all. Thank-you for your time and patience with this letter.
(I should have put the thanks for time and patience at the beginning, and yes, this was in the time of floppy disks...)
Biggest Mistakes Ever:
I am a writer. I haven’t come to you asking for proof. As a girl of only sixteen years of age I can’t truly tell you if that’s what I’ll be in ten years. All I can say is that getting there will be a long, and yes, expensive road.
Naturally a writer can’t help but go to the computer and type out a story. Mine happens to be called _____, a ___-word _________ novel.
I’ve been “agenting” for quite some time now, trying to find one to slip my manuscript under your “big, scary door”. The thing is, I am, after all, still learning about how to properly write and polish a five-paragraph essay. God forgive the unlucky soul that tries to take on and read a pitted, grammatically incorrect manuscript that may or may not even be anything more than a big run-on sentence…right? Then again, you have to consider the fact that I have actually picked up a copy of Writer’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents to find your name. It has, unfortunately, become my Bible. You might be surprised at how many tricks a person can pick up after reading a gazillion and one books such as that.
One thing that might have you reading no further is the fact that this is a query letter, a piece of paper that pitches a novel, and I’ve only mentioned the book once. In my experience, it might not be my letter that gets me thrown away but the close-mindedness of adults who can’t imagine a future for a silly little sixteen-year-old girl. That’s why I’ve dedicated this entire cover letter to getting you used to the idea that not all teenagers sit and drool in front of the TV all day.
The thing is, I’m not out for glory and fame. I am surrounded by peers who probably can’t even read. The general audience I’m targeting prefers movies to books any day. Here’s the catch: teens also like to read things other teens have. A book, written by a teen herself? Put yourself in my shoes. I know I would personally go to the store and pay money to check out what this girl has to offer.
What does this girl have to offer? A very dedicated soul. The glossy cover of the bookfront does not blind me; I do know what work goes on to put it there. Editing, editing, and yes, editing are not beyond me, nor are promoting, cooperation, and patience. I offer you my query: please sample it. The taste might just be to your liking.
I currently have a contract with _____ Literary Agency. I am writing you because I wish to find new representation for my novel, Love and Navy Slippers, due to the unsatisfactory representation I have received so far.
Alarm bells, and several questions, should be popping into your head right now. As a contracted author, I have no right to try and find new representation before terminating a current contract on that novel. However, I have been unable to contact my agents for several months now, and I do not wish to sit around waiting for failure. I still want to succeed as an author, and to do so I cannot afford to wait for my agents to find me a publisher when it is convenient for them.
In an effort not to offend, I will not use this space, or your time, to list my complaints about my agents. All I ask is a review of my query and a response. I have enclosed an SASE for this purpose. I thank you most sincerely for your time.
(guess how far the last two letters got me? *snort* My tweet would be: "I will not use this space or your time to list my complaints" <-- data-blogger-escaped-br="" data-blogger-escaped-didn="" data-blogger-escaped-do="" data-blogger-escaped-just="" data-blogger-escaped-t="" data-blogger-escaped-that="" data-blogger-escaped-uh="" data-blogger-escaped-you="">
Last Letter Ever:
How typical of Charlotte Huntington to fall in love with the stable boy. Unfortunately, how also disastrously embarrassing that, after a passionate confession of her love, he broke her heart, coolly dismissing her passion and walking out of her life for good. Broken, Charlotte is shipped off to London for a proper season, where she bitterly decides to never let any man reject her—ever again.
Three seasons, many coy smiles, and fitted bodices later, Charlotte has become the toast of the ton, the most sought-after and elusive woman in all of London.
Until he shows up again.
The stable boy. And every ounce of her carefully trained façade begins to crumble, her heart skittishly surrendering to his very presence. Not that he even bothered to notice; the man barely even acknowledged her existence. He was the most infuriating creature she’d ever come across in her life! Not that it helped that he was, apparently, her father’s new manager. When he’d left her, not only had he rejected her love, but rejected every ounce of his former self, nearly breaking his back for two years to become as ruthless and cold in business as her father, managing the astonishing feat of completely taking over Lord Huntington’s company.
But damn him, she would win. She’d learned a few tricks herself over the years. And Charlotte is going to make him pay for his cold heart. She will make him fall in love with her, and as soon as she hears the words—she’ll run off and marry someone else.
Unfortunately…that’s only if he doesn’t rekindle her weary heart first, which, as time goes by, starts to become a very frightening possibility. Because the more time she spends with him…the more she remembers as to why she fell in love with him in the first place…and the more it feels like she’ll lose, either way she decides to play. Because what she doesn’t know, is that Jake Jennings never intended to leave her at all—because he has always loved her. And he intends, now that he has gained the means to claim her, to never let her go.
Unfortunately…he’s got a new secret of his own. A secret that, innocent and darling as she is, could keep them apart forever.
No wonder it takes an entire book for the two to finally live happily ever after. It’s all the unfortunate reality of Natalie Maya Fischer’s AN ERRONEOUS ROMANCE.
(this was the point I ended up with "great writing, needs plot")
Is this proof enough that I will NEVER “write off” an author just because of a bad query? I’ve had quite a journey. I expect every writer to as well. Development. Happens.
And for the record, using my “agent hat” now, I would have ONLY looked at the pages for the last query. I am SO HAPPY I was not published at age 11!!! The universe knows. Trust it.