I'll reject you at noon next week if it will make you feel better

Dear Miss Snark,

Some literary agencies are apparently much more efficient than others. Most websites indicate that email submissions require at least 7-10 days for a response (if they respond at all).

So I email out 4 queries late one evening. Surprise! In less than 10 minutes I have my very own rejection! A second rejection was in my inbox first thing the next morning.

I am puzzled. How in the world can we-are-so-busy-don‚t-dare-waste-my-time agencies
receive a query, open it, read it, and make a decision so quickly? And, in the middle of the night! It would be unprofessional to accept email submissions and then reject them unread, wouldn‚t it? They would never do anything like that, would they?


No, they wouldn't.

When exactly do you think we read queries? Ten am on Monday? Are you nuts? That's when I'm yapping at editors like the Hound of Offerville. Do you think I'm doing it at 6pm on Tuesdays? No, that's when I'm howling at film agents, and my foreign rights agents.

We read queries when we aren't doing anything else. For some us that's now. 10pm on a Sunday night. That's EXACTLY what I'm doing now, while I also post to the blog.

Scroll back through the archives for a couple recent posts on "Why I stopped reading" and you'll see why many times it doesn't take more than 1/4 of a NY minute to know "it's not quite right for me".

Most queries suck. Most writers can't write query letters to save their lives. Odds are you are one of those people. This is not a comment on your query cause I haven't read it but if I know that most ie 75-80% of query letters suck, I'd be an idiot to bet yours didn't. Cold hard brutal facts, but they are facts nonetheless.


K.B. said...

A shame you don't open up "Miss Snark's Online School of Amazing Query Letter Writing." I'd sign up. I've got friends who would sign up. And I'd sign up for the follow-up course on Taming the Dreaded Synopsis (since my synopses are more Dreadful than Dreaded).

M. G. Tarquini said...


Check the Snarkives. Miss Snark's already done an Online School of Amazing Query Letter Writing. She also Tamed all our Dreadful Synopses in a feat of commitment and editing that will live on forever in the annals of publishing lore. Or at least as long as this blog exists.

Bella Stander said...

I believe that Media Bistro is all over the first one, and may even offer help with synopsis writing.

Simon Haynes said...

Apparently you can get this software which will write a killer query letter for you.

Kristin said...

Just from my own personal experience, I emailed a very well-known agent on a Saturday afternoon with my query. FIFTEEN minutes later I had a request for a partial! Email can get you quick rejects, but also quick requests.

Let's hope my ms lives up to the query in the eyes of this agent. I would die for him to represent me!

Epilogue said...

I also received a very quick request for a partial after an email query, fyi.

just Joan said...

kristin, if you died, he wouldn't be able to represent you. :-) Good luck!

As for queries, they are terrible little beasties, IMO. I wish we could just write, "My query sucks, my writings good, here are a couple of pages." *sigh*

Yardbird said...

I try to write queries based on the agent's preferred guidelines. If they say "I only represent Chick Lit," then I change my action adventure sci-fi hero protagonist to a young college- bound girl with no social life who can't get into Harvard.

Benja Fallenstein said...

I read slush for an sf/f magazine. We read submissions and reject or forward them to our editor faster than apparently any other pro short fiction market in the genre (in days instead of months).

I've seen one author say they like that we're fast, but they're wondering whether we're "perhaps too fast."

Frankly, I'm wondering whether they think that the other markets out there spend any more time thinking about any individual story.

So you got a rejection in less than ten minutes, Puzzled. Clearly, the agent read it immediately when it arrived. How much time did you expect them to spend on your query?

Miss Snark just told us she gets 100 queries per week. If she spent ten minutes on each one, that would mean 3 hours 20 minutes per workday. Just because you don't get your SASE back in the space of ten minutes doesn't mean that MS can spend any more time on your ms.

Sure, if an agent has had a really busy time recently, a lot of queries may have piled up, and it may take them weeks to reply. But that doesn't mean that they give your query weeks of deep thought. It means that they don't get around to looking at your query for a couple of weeks.

And if you think that replying immediately means that your agent has nothing else to do, think again. It only means that whatever they're doing at that time isn't so urgent that it can't wait five minutes. Replying to your query immediately isn't going to take any more time than replying to it a week from now, it prevents a pile of queries from building up, and it's being nice to the author. Or so the agent thought.

When I see that a new submission has hit my inbox, and whatever I was doing can wait, I will sometimes open the submission immediately and give it the usual two pages[*] to interest me. And yeah, I do think that I'm being nice in allowing the author to get a quick decision[**].

I can understand the psychology involved, but I still feel annoyed when people think this means that I'm lazy. Or that I don't give their story less consideration than anybody else who gives them two pages to interest them.

[*] Don't freak out -- remember this is short stories, not books.

Although, come to think of it, Miss Snark also requests only five pages with the query letter, if memory serves. So do freak out if you feel the need. ;-)

[**] This doesn't mean an immediate reply to the author, because we have multiple readers and allow a couple of days so that everyone gets a chance to read each submission -- we always have more than one person read each story -- but that's off the point here.