As I started to ponder the #queries question, I started to ponder on the query letter in general. I don’t know the actual history of the query letter (my strenuous two minute Google search sadly ended in failure), but I imagine that it started when aliens came down and waved a magic wand over every sleeping agent to magically cause them to all require an introduction to manuscript submissions, so they could toss it out the window immediately without having to read 500 pages in before realizing: oh, I don’t like time-travel books.
There’s obviously no one way to write a letter. It is the bane of every submitting writer’s existence to come up with the perfect form-letter-that-also-sounds-personal. Researching all these different wants, personalities, likes and dislikes…
It is undeniable that it is a very time-saving process for agents, and that it is an invaluable practice for authors. Being able to sum up the book not only prepares the author for that inevitable, “so what’s it about?” question, but it also allows him or her to finally sit down after months or years or decades of sweet, hard labor and realize…oh whoops, I just re-wrote Harry Potter.
But is the time saved and the practice gained worth the cost?
Most agents (myself included) insist that the Classics would of course still have been published today. Fine writing is fine writing no matter what.
But I have to wonder. If Charles Dickens had submitted a query and the first 50 pages of David Copperfield to me, what would I have done?
It wasn’t until the very end of my forced reading of that book that I realized the pure genius of it; it is a beautiful character study. Every single page is necessary to flesh out his characters. But 50 pages in?
Thank you for thinking of me. I really appreciate your patience in allowing me time to consider David Copperfield.
While I was very impressed with your writing, I’m sorry to say that David Copperfield was just not for me. I found the pacing a bit slow, and worried that there just wasn’t enough going on to really break it out in today’s tough market. The length also gave me pause.
I’m sorry I couldn’t have better news; I wish you the best of luck!
So what do you think? Are today’s literary geniuses being overlooked, or just transformed into more commercial and ADD-friendly authors?
Because again, there’s no doubt there are some absolutely amazing authors today. And writing styles/tastes do change over time. I personally don’t feel we're missing any genius. But do you?