Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Inside The Mailbag, Week #1

As always, there's demand for more agenting content on this blog, because really, how many of you come here just to read about my life? I mean, yes, there are blogs that are highly successful this way, such as Dooce, but this is still a professional blog, or it tries to masquerade as one. =)

Now when I win the lottery and move to Tahiti, then it can be just a blog about my new-found riches...

Anyway, so we've got a new feature here, which I hope to do weekly. It was suggested by my always inventive friend, E, that people could learn if I told you why I am or am not rejecting or accepting queries and partials. So the way this goes is that every week I'm going to pick five random query letters and five random partials, and type my thoughts in about them as I go. I'm going to be polite and not reveal who the author is or what the title is, etc; I'm also going to try mightily to be constructive, so we'll see how that goes.

I want to make it clear that I am writing out these comments on the queries and partials purely as a learning exercise for my readers. My goal is not to mock any writers, or in any way make you feel bad. I receive many queries and partials that deal with the exact same subject matter, and because I know what I like and don't like, it often only takes me a short time to decide upon something. I literally do not have the time to write individual comments on every query or partial I reject, which is why you may see a comment on your material here, but not on your actual form letter.

And without further ado, let us start. Just to give you a time basis for how long it takes to do all this, it's now 4:46 pm EST, and I'm also eating while reading, so that slows me down a tad. If I'm rejecting anything while doing this, I'm going to stop and stuff the rejection letter into the envelope, as we go along. Likewise, for acceptances, I'll e-mail the people whose work I want to see more of.

  1. This is a well-written query; it's polite, business-like, and presents its YA novel well. I'm passing on it, however, because the novel centers on the martial arts, which don't really appeal to me, and I don't think the plot has enough originality to stand alone in the heavily saturated YA fantasy market.
  2. This query is for a paranormal YA fantasy; I'm passing on it because it's quite similar to another book I have on my client list, one about the ability to travel in time, which hasn't been having the most success with editors.
  3. This query is for a historical romance from a Golden Heart finalist. Besides the fact that the author has that credential, I like that the story sounds different from the standard historical romance. I'm asking for more.
  4. This query confuses me. The author is one of many that were scheduled to meet with me at a writer's conference, when I was terribly ill with a stomach virus. As a result of my being ill, the conference organizers and I agreed that the authors could send me partials, but this author has only sent a query. I will be e-mailing the author for clarification on this. (ETA: I've spoken to the author and we've resolved the perplexing issue. Hooray! =)
  5. This query is from an established writer. I'm interested in looking at what they are querying me about. Of course, I'm asking for more
  1. This partial is what I would call women's fiction. I'm passing on it because there's way too much telling rather than showing in the writing, and that's turning me off. I read until page five.
  2. This partial is a mainstream novel, one involving food, which is always a subject I adore. I read until page forty-two, and then decided that I was going to pass on it. Basically, the novel needs a good edit; I think it starts in the wrong place, but that with work the author can revise it. It has that certain *something*.
  3. This partial is a YA fantasy novel; I didn't find the teenage voice convincing at all, so I stopped reading on page three.
  4. This partial's writing is not bad, but not sparkling either. It's not right for me. I stopped reading on page five.
  5. This partial is a fairly generic horror novel that did nothing for me. I stopped reading on page three.
And now, with the time count, it's 7:08 pm EST; it's not quite so much the reading that takes time, as the paperwork associated with the slush.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful idea here, and illuminating. Thanks for the extra effort.

Jodi Meadows said...

This is fascinating! Way to go E for suggesting. And thanks, Jenny, for sharing.

Kim said...

Oh... I wish you'd done this back when I queried you... altho, looking back at the manuscript (sitting in a drawer for now) I think I already know the answer! =)

Then again... there's always another query! :)

Thanks for sharing.

Mark said...

Cool. Really appreciate this - it gives a real insight into what works and what doesn't.

Jaden Nation said...

Actually, I've always quite enjoyed it when you post about yourself...

- Jaden Nation

moonrat said...

you're so good. i have such a huge pile right now.

Lee Ann Ward said...

I think the status is great, Jenny. And, just curious, but what about full manuscripts you've requested?

Tawna Fenske said...

Excellent new feature, Jenny! Thanks for sharing this with us.


Anonymous said...

This is so helpful, Jenny. Scary, but helpful. :)


Karen Duvall said...

Thanks for sharing, Jenny! Really interesting. I thought it was particularly interesting how far you'd read a partial before making a decision. I often hear writers whine that the agent they queried didn't bother to read their work, that if said agent had given it a few more pages he or she would have been hooked. But agents only need a handful of pages sometimes to make a decision. I know when I buy a book and start reading, I give it only so many pages to capture my interest and if it doesn't, it immediately goes onto the "used bookstore" pile.

Mystery Robin said...

Oh, I love posts like this! Thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea, and very helpful. Thank you for doing this!

Anne-Marie said...

Great post, Jenny. It's always good to see how things work.

Josephine Damian said...

Excellent idea! (but I do hope the kitty is ok).

I'm with Karen. There's a gal in my writers group who keeps insisting that none of the agents who requested a partial from her ever read it becaue if they had, they'd offer representation because her book is that good.

How clueless! I try to explain it's the agents job to read everything, and that they read until they've seen enough, which is usually the first three pages, if that.

And what does this gal reply? They didn't read any of it!

And what do I do? Set my hair on fire!

Anonymous said...

one about the ability to travel in time, which hasn't been having the most success with editors

This is this true for adult novels, too? (My current WIP is a time travel novel; starts in 1974, goes back to 1942, where it stays for most of the time.)


Gardner said...

Thanks for these, Jenny!

karen wester newton said...

I think this is an excellent post, even if one doesn't need an agent, because it shows the range of fiction being submitted.

But I do want to know how Zoe is.