Monday, February 10, 2014

If You Send A Form Query, Expect A Form Response (if any)

I say this over and over again. A) Being a published author is a job and not simply a hobby; and B) the submission process to editors and agents is a job interview.

Over and over again, I hear writers complain that they receive "form letter" responses from editors and agents and they are not too happy about it. They want full critiques of their project and a full discussion of what they can do to make the project better. In a perfect world, that would be great. I wish there was enough time in the day to go through and personally provide a critique for everyone. But I can't.

I will say, as someone who writes a lot of rejection letters, there is only so many ways to say the same thing over and over again. In some cases, it is simply a matter of the story not connecting with me as an agent. Therefore the rejection letters may seem a bit "form letter" in nature.

But the point of today's talk deals with authors who use form letters for their queries. Look, we get that you are doing multiple submissions. That is normal. However, the approaches of using the exact same query letter for everyone you send it to, or mass mailing the same query to everyone in one email is not what you would do in a job interview. You would personalize the query.

Yes, much of the material you include in the query will be the same. But, for each query, you have to highlight exactly what it is that makes your story fit with that particular agent or editor. Using their submission guidelines, and more specifically, the things they write in their blogs or things they say at conferences needs to be included.

I have to say, the majority of the rejections I wrote last week were form letters that came from the authors. These people either didn't take the time to think of this as a job, or maybe they didn't care enough.

Remember the Hallmark commercial - When you care enough to send the very best.

Before you hit send today, look at that query letter. Is this just another form letter?


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  2. I haven't sent one of those literally in years. But i see your point so clearly. I know what i have been blessed to write can sit on bookshelves next to great works of Richard Wright, Toni Morrison...and all would be in savory company. Since it became clear that i suck at marketing, i gave up. But now that im on Twitter, at least a whole new learning environment is available.

  3. I've read so many articles about writing queries, since for me it is the most challenging aspect of being a writer, and honestly I've never read this perspective before. Great post, thanks for further insight into the tedious approach to query writing.