3.31.2006

Form e-queries

Dear Miss Snark,

I am a literary agent at one of the larger New York agencies (boy, we literary agents love you and your campaign against nitwittery!)

My firm does accept email queries, and I've noticed an annoying, and in my opinion, totally nitwitted trend among query writers recently (I wonder if you're noticed it, given that you don't accept email queries).


I get over a hundred queries a week. Many of the email queries I get sound eerily familiar, as though they're being generated by some kind of automated query program, that inserts one's name, title and synopsis. Perhaps there is some universal form available on the internet being heralded as THE form to use for queries. Each of these supposedly unique queries has same tone, phrasing, salutations and even charming little jokes!

Needless to say, it's quite off-putting to see that writers pitching the singular uniqueness of their novels would use a form or a program that makes every project sound identical.
These form queries are a terrible turnoff!

I go through my queries 50 or so at a time, and it becomes so tiresome to receive these that at a certain point I just issue a form rejection without even reading the letter.

I know queries are hard to write and mind-numbingly boring, but what does it say about you or your project if you can't even summon up the enthusiasm to write your own query letter?

Yes, queries have a basic structure. They will all inevitably sound similar. But when they have the same exact wording as 20 other queries in my pile, they get filed directly in the trash bin.



Somewhere in the Snarkives is a post about a company that for a "small fee" will email "select agents" with the great news that you! have! a! novel! just! for! them!. I think this might be what we're seeing here. No more than junk mail gets your attention, does junk email get an agent's.

There are some good places to get advice on how to write a good equery. Sending a query via electrons doesn't mean you switch your brain to Off. And why you'd PAY someone to send form equeries that get tossed is beyond me.

6 comments:

Elektra said...

She rejects queries without reading them because she's just sick of it?

You know, sometimes we writers are justified in our paranoia.

Nonny said...

Actually, I believe I have seen a short synopsis / query generator online at some point. I don't have a link for it anymore, but I vaguely recall my writer's group having a lot of fun giggling over it two or three years back.

Carter said...

Bookblaster -- http://www.scriptblaster.com/bookblaster.php

Apparently, they think agents are as moronic as the writers that use them and won't notice that every query is exactly the same.

Carter said...

Oh, and elektra? If a writer can't take the time to make up their own query letter, why would an agent assume they would take the time to make a decent story? It's exactly the same logic that will get you rejected if you send a letter full of typos and/or bad grammar.

Your query letter is a reflection and representation of you as a writer. It's all an agent has to go on. A form letter is just an indication of laziness on the writer's part, and no agent wants to deal with that.

Anonymous said...

On a writer's board, a person who said she got a lot of responses to her query, posted that query. It stunk. It had to be the worst query ever. Wonder if that's the one? And she never mentioned if they were negative responses.

Steorling said...

I find it interesting that amongst so many people who are ostensibly trying to get published or have hammered their way through the industry to GET published, the very question of why this would happen has to be asked. It's called gut-wrenching desperation...been there, done that, succumbed to hopelessness some time after I'd written my fifteenth synopsis for each of my first two novels and reformatted said documents twenty times to meet the requirements of as many publishers/agents. I've gotten so much contradictory information, even within the guidelines for the same firm, that I've given up more than a few times and if I thought for one moment that some nitwittery would save me all that again I'd do it in a heartbeat. At least applaud them for trying...flinging your "art" into the flotsam is as insane as it gets, you're surprised there's are a few "nitwits" trying it?? lol