Query direct

Hello, Miss Snark.

As with your minions, I appreciate your helping us unpublished authors learn how to become published.

My question concerns queries sent directly to publishers. I know you discourage authors to do so, but if one decided to go this route, should one write the query similarly to one to an agent?

I don't discourage you from querying publishers who say they accept work over the transom at all. Have at it. What I insist on is that you don't sign any contracts without someone looking at it other than you, jumping up and down, screaming "I'm going to be published! I'm going to be published".

And yes, you write a query letter to a publisher like you do an agent.


Sherry D said...

Ha! That's cute.

Anonymous said...

it should be noted that mainstream publishers do not read unagented submissions.

Anonymous said...

"...it should be noted that mainstream publishers do not read unagented submissions."

Well... they say they don't, and who can blame them? They're trying to discourage complete idiots from querying them. But believe me, I have had plenty of partials and fulls read by editors who swear up and down that they won't read unagented stuff. If the query is good enough and the subject interests them, they'll ask for more.

Rowan said...

Anonymous: Last I checked, Tor, DAW and Baen took unagented submissions (unless that's changed since I last saw). Primarily in Science Fiction/Fantasy. They are the only three in that genre that I'm aware of. The rest, as you say, are agent-only.

Anonymous said...

This seems funny. Maybe I'm too dense to comprehend. If I knew enough to admit to myself that I don't know enough about the business to know whether or not a query letter to a publisher takes the same form as one to an agent, then it would seem to me that I'd know enough to admit that I need the representation of someone that knows such things....such as an agent.

A month ago I didn't know what a hook was. How presumptuous would I have to be to think that I can march into a publisher's office and carry on an intelligent conversation about the process of publishing my WIP? If I ever decided to do that, I think I would have to learn all there is to know about being an agent. I imagine it takes a day or two to learn that, so perhaps I'll stick to writing and find an agent to do the things I would consider a waste of good writing time.

Just my opinion.


delilah said...

I don't know why, but I do so despise writers who come to this blog and do their best to make a newby feel lower than whale shit.

What's the point?

Anonymous said...

To compliment what rowan said, yes, Tor, DAW, and Baen all accept unagented fiction. They all have different requirements for how to approach each publisher, however, and none of them want queries. DAW wants the complete manuscript in hard copy, Baen wants electronic submissions (I understand they haven't looked at a paper submission in three years, despite claiming in some publications that they do), and Tor wants the first 3 chapters (roughly fifty pages) and a summary... which perhaps come closest to a query letter. Baen books is reportedly somewhat hostile to some agenting practices, with more than one author's sale supposedly being lost because an agent tried to get involved after a contract had been agreed to.

There is also Mundania, also in the sci-fi\fantasy genre, which claims it will accept unagented queries. Small press publishers will often accept unagented submissions, as well, and small press publishers are ideal for certain genres (poetry, for example). So it isn't unheard of.

The Writer's Market (published by Writers Digest) will tell you which publishers accept agented submissions, and which won't. In general, it appears if you aren't writing for the small press, or writing in the science fiction\fantasy genre, you're pretty much stuck with having to go through an agent.

Anonymous said...

On Monday I sent an email query to an agent at Putnam, with eight pages of the novel in the body of the letter, no bio, no credits, just a quick rundown of the plot and why I thought the editor might like it. Within two hours she emailed me back requesting the manuscript. Of course, I've sent millions and millons of queries to every person in the publishing industry I could find, with no good results. This time it took. So it's not impossible to be read by a publishing house without an agent. You can bet if this editor likes the novel, I will quick as a bunny look for an agent.

Anonymous said...

Plenty of romance publishers take unagented submissions. Why not just get an agent anyway?

I'll tell you why. For a first book often it is easier to hook an editor than an agent. Many agents are not willing to touch an out-of-favor subgenre, yet I've had editors read the same partial and request the full.

Would I rather have an agent? Sure, but with a difficult-to-sell book, sometimes you are simply on your own.

Kim said...

I think most of the romance publishers accept unagented submissions/queries - take a look at a house's submission guidelines, they'll state pretty clearly what they want in regards to query, sample pages, outline, etc. When in doubt, one can always send an SASE for guidelines. I don't know about other genres, though, since I don't play on their fields.

just my two cents

Anonymous said...

i would definitely not have read anything that contained eight pages in the body of an email. how unprofessional. i like how you people assume you can know what editors are looking for. have you had conversations with them? have you perused their bookshelves? did you have drinks with them last weekend and spent an evening talking about all the books they love? no. you didn't. because you're an an amateur writer. not an agent. not even a professional writer.

i guess the "to have agent or to not" dilemma can best be illustrated by this example: you can go up to an ATM jam a debit card into the slot, and type any sequence of digits you wish. but unless you have the right pin, you're not going to get any cash.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it was anyone's intention here to make a newbie feel lower than whale shit. I happen to agree with everything everyone's said here, especially Fred. If this person doesn't even know the right format of a query, perhaps they should step back a moment and reassess. It's not being mean to say stop and take a moment to think whether sendinf a query to a publishers or an agent is better, especially if sending your book to a pub will result in having to get an agent anyway.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Anon.

"It should be noted that mainstream publishers do not read unagented submissions."

That's a tad uninformed isn't it? Baen, some divisions of Harlequin, TOR/Forge, Edge/Tasseract in Canada and others do. They're not mainstream publishers? The list is longer than this.

And ... they're nice too! Both Harlequin and Baen included very nice comments (while telling me no). Both contained enough detail to be helpful. Edge hasn't rejected me yet, and their editor wrote a very nice email.

The last one to reject me (just call me the queen of rejections) included their reader's comments too. I really appreciated this because it told me what problems the reader saw and their opinion of my book. The overall opinion came first: "Excellent read, very entertaining and a lot of fun." Then they noted a few minor problems. And they explained that they rejected it on the basis that it isn't what they publish. I knew that. It was a long shot. I don't write hardcore science fiction. I write gentle fantasy with a semi-chaste romance element. My characters may make babies, but I don't tell you in sweat-drop by sweat-drop fashion how they do it.

I can't write a query letter. If my next meal depended on my query letters, I'd starve. Editors have been much more forgiving than agents. … Okay, so others said all this stuff, mostly. I see that now that I bothered to read the comment trail. But since I typed all this up, I'm posting it anyway.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Oh, and there are several good lists out there of romance oriented publishers that take unagented submissions. I like this one best:


Mark said...

Norton accepts over the transom queries, as does Knopf. I've gotten through to both for nonfiction.

BernardL said...

I can tell you one thing: publishers, queried directly, send out the most abrupt SASE rejections out there. :)

BuffySquirrel said...

Evil Editor has minions. Miss Snark has snarklings.

Yes, I'm a pedant. Miss Snark will probably reapply the electrodes for my learning pleasure.

David said...

How low is whale shit? Maybe it floats and is high.

delilah said...

"did you have drinks with them last weekend and spent an evening talking about all the books they love? no. you didn't. because you're an an amateur writer. "

Maybe we didn't have drinks, but the sex was great and at least I can write a complete sentence . . . most of the time.


delilah said...

There's a right way and a wrong way to share you infinite knowledge of agents/editors. That's all I'm sayin' here lil' anonymous. Don't be a dickhead about it. We're all in this together. So play nice!

Heidi the Hick said...

Why are so many commentors anonymous here???

I ask this despite covering most of my face and not giving out my last name.

Twill said...

If I had to guess what the rules are, here is what I would say -
(1) good queries or submissions from good agents will be treated better by publishers than the same from writers.
(2) queries or submissions from bad agents will be trashed by publishers, regardless of the quality of the writer.
(3) queries or submissions by
writers will be treated by publishers to the degree that they match the exact requirements - both submission and genre - of that publisher.
(4) queries or submissions, from whomever, that kick ass and happen to hit the right person at the right time will jump the queue above.
(5)the trash will be emptied eventually.

NOTE - any anonymous person who thinks you have to peruse an editor's bookshelves to write a good query, or who thinks an email query should *never* include eight pages of the novel, needs to read point 4 a few hundred times.

Mark said...

"An agent at Putnam?" No agents there to my knowledge unless ex-ones gone over to the dark side. This can also work in reverse.

Lower than whale shit? Actually it's a quote from my memoir. The answer: Fish & Game biologists.

Anonymous said...

I'd noticed previously (during the CoM) that there's an anonyasshole who never uses capital letters floating around, trying to - well, Delilah put it best, didn't she?

Dear anonyasshole; regarding the following:

i would definitely not have read anything that contained eight pages in the body of an email. how unprofessional.

What on Earth made you think we would consider someone as rude as you to be an expert on professionalism?


Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Miss Hick,

What would life be like without the Anonys who hang out here?

It's so much easier to call a twit a twit when they're anonymous, isn't it?

Take anon. number 1. He/she may be a perfectly nice person. But that's a twitish comment. So, one can say, "Hey you twit! Don't be dumb!" and not feel as if one is insulting kindly old aunt Martha who writes torid pornography and bakes the best chocolate chip cookies outside of your mother's kitchen.

The world needs more Anons. Think how much easier elections would be if personality were removed from the selection process. If every candidate had to post anonymously online before they made the ballot and we all got to comment on their wonderful ideas without knowing who they are .... Just think ....

So be nice to the anons. We must have them. We need them. They are much easier to tease than say someone who posts as Satan the Devil's Evil Half Sister Jane. I'd think twice before I pounced on the Devil's half sister. Oh, I'd probably do it anyway. It's the pixie way to pounce on twits. But still...

And some Anons aren't. Like Fred. HI FRED! He signed his anon post. Of course we don't know much more about Fred for all that, but still he signed it.

And some who aren't anonymous, well, I'm not sure we can believe them anyway. I'd be pretty skeptical about someone posting as Lord God. I do not think God posts online much. And I'm almost certain he stays out of the religious chat rooms. The people who chat there are full of the Devil and a tad rude.

Anonymous said...

And there I was wondering "Why do these people need to post photos and give directions to a page on their life?"

Anonymous and proud of it.

Anonymous said...

the anonhole ripostes:

Maybe we didn't have drinks, but the sex was great and at least I can write a complete sentence . . . most of the time.

aside from one typo, i'd say the sentence was pretty darn complete. sorry for not proofing. i'll be more careful next time.

What on Earth made you think we would consider someone as rude as you to be an expert on professionalism?

i probably sift through just as many piker queries each day as miss snark does. given that i had three MSS go to contract this month, i'd say i know a thing or two about this biz.

and i'll remain anonymous so that i don't further incite query riots in my inbox. plus it's nice to be able to speak candidly once in a while, the virtual analog to slamming a few supersized glasses of cabernet with rachael ray after a long afternoon of having to be fake and polite and feign interest in so many people. it is not hard to imagine that miss snark herself writes under a pseudonym for a similar reasons.

Chumplet said...

Anons, if you're going to spend more than a nanosecond on this blog, give yourself a name. You don't need to have a link to a blog, and if you're consistent with your opinions, others will be able to get to know you.

I'm anonymous, but I have a name, and the minions and snarklings have come to know me by my name. Of course, I am careful to be polite and to keep my posts lighthearted, as is the norm for blogs such as these.

We offer each other support and entertainment, and hopefully not at the expense of others. I guess a few anons who cruise through here for the sole purpose of stirring up shit are welcome to do so, but don't expect us to take it up the yoo hoo.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Hey! Anon-the-Agent! Aren't you the guy that still owes me a stamp? What on earth did you do with my SASE? Eat it? Shame, shame shame!

Kim said...

Wow - It looks like a few people have had their Cheerios peed on over the last couple of days. And really, do we need this 'I can do this because I am better than you' nonsense? I thought the purpose of this blog was to try to help each other, not get into virtual pissing contests. Yeesh - this is like when my kids bicker in the back of the car. "Don't make me pull this blog over! And I don't care who started it."

Can't we just all get along???

Sha'el, princess of pixies said...

Kim said: Can't we just all get along???

Dear Kim,

The problem with the cranky posters is that they don't have pet goats.

And .... you must have boys. Having all girls, We've never had to use Cheerios for "target practice."

Some people are ill disposed toward amity. Umm I think that means they like to argue. And wutcha wanna bet that most of the cranky Anons. are guys? Male hormones are really worse than female hormones. You know they are. Ha! And they aren't cowboys either! I can tell. Cowboys and Engineers are cranky in ways other than these posters are. I can probably guess their political affiliation too. But, I'd start a bigger fight if I tried.

I'm not even sure I know exactly why anon-the-agent and anon-the-anon are upset. I just skip over most of that stuff unless it's really entertaining. This wasn't.

Yours most sincerely and truly and faithfully and non-anonymously (mostly),

Victoria Louisa Gabriella Henriette Rachael Michelle Elizabeth d’OrlĂ©ans - de Vienne -S.
AKA Sha'el

Anonymous said...

I'm anonymous because I was using the ID 'Just Me', but someone else came along and started using it as well. He or she seemed like a perfectly nice person, but I didn't want people getting mixed up and attributing someone else's comments to me or vice versa, and I don't post here (or on the other board where I use that ID) often enough to be bothered coming up with a new name. So I just quit using one altogether.

Kim said...

Dear Sha'el -

I've missed your wisdom, o wise Pixie. Once again, you have hit the nail on the head (pardon the cliche) and so I raise my glass and say, 'welcome back!'

You are still my hero!

So it isn't 'all you need is love'? like the Beatles wrote. It's actually 'all you need is goats'? (or would it be 'are goats'?)

bill e. goat said...

I'm a life essential!