Super short queries...ewww

Hi Miss Snark,

I just got an email from a friend who attended the San Diego Writers' Conference. She said the agents and editors she met wanted super-short queries (maybe 150 words) and one-page synopses (250 words). I know the queries you ran through the Crap-O-Meter ran closer to 250-300 and the synopses 1,000. Is there that much of a variance in agents/editors' personal

Miss Snark wants thin thighs in thirty days but so far no luck on that score either.

The truth is we very seldom count words if the letter is well written. This word limitation is to keep those folks who have little of value to say, from saying it at length.

The danger is you won't write enough if you're trying to be so brief you're obscure. I wrote a post on that yesterday I think...I had no idea what the book was about from the cover letter.

One page query letters, synopsis under a thousand words, you're probably ok. I have no idea why people ask for a synopsis of 25o words on a novel unless they're just trying to make everyone's life miserable. If the first three paragraphs suck, I just stop reading.


Anonymous said...

I think there may be some confusion here about formats.

Manuscripts are double spaced, and any other spacing is used at your peril, so figure 220-250 words per page on those. But don't apply that rule of thumb to queries, synopses, bionotes, or anything else.

True, plenty of agents think a single-page synopsis is a good idea. Me, too. But a one-page synopsis generally isn't double-spaced, so it runs closer to 500 words.

Typical practice--though there doesn't seem to be an absolute standard--on matter other than the manuscript is to follow business format: single spaced, non-indented, blank line between paragraphs.

Some people use an old rule: If it fits on one page single-spaced, then single-space it.

Synopses by their very nature make folks' eyes glaze over. Don't make them turn a page for more of the same!

Kelly said...

Thank you, O Snarky One! Have you SEEN Noah Lukeman's query rules? 3 paragraphs only, 3 sentences for the plot, and no other pages of any kind! I think he's just such a big fish that he doesn't want to be bothered with queries anymore, so he wrote a book discouraging them.

Anonymous said...

Anon - my friend told me the agents she spoke to asked for double spaced 12pt synopses. Mine is 250 words even and I had to put it at 1.5 space so it would all fit on one page!

I have also seen that one-page synopses should be double-spaced, while synopses running longer than that should be single-spaced. That particular rule made me think of Calvinball...

Miss Snark, thank you for setting my mind at ease. I was so afraid I would have to go back to Elektra, Eva, et al. at the CoM and ask them to help me trim some more, when they already worked so hard with me!

Anonymous said...

I just had to write a one-pg, single spaced synopsis. Made me want to bang my head on the floor.


Anonymous said...

I was at the conference and at the same workshop. Yes necks snapped all around the room and you could see some flickers of panic as people were trying to figure out how to do a one page synopsis. Thanks for the posts clearing that up.

I have a question for Miss Snark. (which may qualify me as a nitwit but I am willing to chance it)

This was my first time pitching a story and was very happy to have three requests for partial submissions. (one editor and two agents) YAY..but then a fellow author said they just ask out of courtesy..Huh? I would think the last thing you want is another package of 3 chapters or 100 pages flooding your office if you don't intend to read it, but it put the question in my head anyway.

So does that really happen?

M E Hunt said...

I was at that conference also. In fact, this was my fourth time to attend. Believe me, the editors and agents do *not* ask just as a courtesy. If they are not interested, they say so. That much I do know.

Anonymous said...

Kallie, I was at the conference as well. The editor didn't request material, but 3 agents did. I wondered the same thing. And I labored for weeks to get my synopsis to one page --- it's not easy, but it helped me to verbally get my pitch to about 30 seconds!