Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How to read queries, a step by step guide

The other day an author asked me what she was "doing wrong" in her query. I didn't really have an answer. There are, obviously some BIG no-no's when querying, but I feel like those have been covered by other blogs.  Aside from those, what is "wrong" for me might work for another agent.

So, for what it is worth, here is my process for reviewing queries. 

Step 1. Realize that query folder is overflowing. Berate self for being lazy and/or having a life. 

Step 2. Decide to wade into the fray of battle to make unread email number lower. Screw courage to sticking place. 

Step 3. Open email, hoping for something clearly awesome that I can sell for millions of dollars. Or, failing that, an obvious reject since I simply must defeat the inbox. 

Step 4. Read email, possibly several times depending on potential of project. See below. 

LEVEL 1: Quick reading of query to see if it hits any of my "automatic rejection" buttons. EXAMPLES: It's a screenplay; it's a book genre I do not handle, novel is 600,000 words long, the author cannot write in English, author is potentially crazy and/or lists heinous crimes committed. (NOTE: I feel like anyone reading this could beat this level.)  

LEVEL 2: Book is in my wheelhouse, now examine premise. Is this something I would read? Possible reasons for rejection at this level: Don't like concept, I have read this book before, sounds boring, etc. 

LEVEL 3: Ooh, shiny! Is something I would read, but do I think I can sell it? Possible reasons for rejection at this level: I have something similar and haven't been able to sell it, editors don't want this, don't know publisher in that area, etc. 

LEVEL 4: I must read more!  Author has beaten levels. Excitement and rejoicing.

Step 5. Repeat these steps until my eyes start to cross and words look fuzzy. Admit defeat. Wring hands like maniacal super villain and announce that "I will get you next time, slush pile."


  1. I love this!
    And it is totally true.
    I wish I had written this for my blog.
    Admit defeat. Wring hands like maniacal super villain and announce that "I will get you next time, Emily Keyes."

  2. Soon I will be invincibleeeee!

  3. Can't believe I missed this post! Love it! Must link to this fantabulous post. :D

    1. Thanks, Saritza. It's nice to know my silliness is appreciated.