Monday, June 25, 2018

What I Look For In A Query

I want to take the time today to let you in on some things I look for when a pitch comes across my desk. I do want to stress that every editor or agent looks at different things, but, my bet, is that most look at many of the same things.

I know that many authors often hear over and over again that "If you have a great story, it will sell." Unfortunately, this is not always the case. You may have a great story, but this goes far beyond that.

So, what do I look for? Today, I am going to focus on those initial e-queries that come across my desk.

Step 1 - Open the email and look at the professionalism. This says a lot. If you are submitting to me with a "Dear Editor/Agent" or a using my agency as my last name, it becomes clear that you have not done your research. It tells me that you are probably just mass mailing that query out. How much do you really know about me?

Step 2 - I look at the basics of the book. We're talking about the genre and word count. Is this something that I work with? Is this a project that I can even sell? As you all know, every agency and editor specializes in specific things. Since I only look at romance and women's fiction for the mass media market, if your story doesn't fit that, I will be passing on this. I know this sounds obvious, but it is amazing how many authors get frustrated when they get rejected for this reason.

There is another piece of this. Is this a word count that editors will buy? Is this a genre that is hot right now and will even sell? Again, you may have a great writing style, but if the market is not buying, then it will not matter. If you have a novel of 300,000 words, unless you are a Stephen King or similar level author, no one is going to sign this book.

Step 3 - I look at the premise of the story. Is this something that is believable and, again, something that the market will buy. Too often, I see projects that start off well, but then turn into a direction that really makes the story unbelievable. A lot of this also revolves around the characters. Remember the readers connect with your characters. If you have characters that readers feel distanced from, the story will not work.

Step 4 - Do I like this? One of my umber one reasons for rejections is just something that  don't like. We don't have to like everything. You as a reader or a writer don't like to read everything. You might say you do, but the reality is, you have favorites and you have dislikes. As an agent, you want someone who wants to do nothing but talk about your book. You want us to have a desire to read your book over and over again.

When I do get your story, whether it is a partial of a full manuscript, again, I go beyond simply the premise. I am looking at the voice. I am looking at the style. I am looking at the level of your writing. Let me explain that last one.

There are a lot of you out there who do things in your story because someone told you that would make the story better. you use strategies because it is the latest hot approach. You use a model that you have seen other authors use. But, you are not using the approach that your story needs. Good writing just happens. Good writing is organic. It is not forced.

Hopefully this gives you some insight into my approach.

1 comment:

  1. Queries are tough. There is no better way to put it. For me the key was to learn with each one. I had help with my editor who was really good at writing these things.

    Not everyone can write a query. For those who can....cough/cough/me....find those who can.