Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Untrendy Trends

I’ve noticed some trends lately, and I hope that’s all they are. But first let me say that our only way of discerning whether you can write or not is gleaned though the query process. So if you drop the ball there, you probably won’t get past first base as far as an agent getting serious about seeing any of your work.

Many of you are now sending ten pages along with your query and that’s great, as it shows me that you’ve done some research on us. However, I have to say that just because you put a writing sample in your query doesn’t negate the necessity to also formulate a good query letter. As has been said over and over here and on just about every writer board that I’ve ever visited, QUERY LETTERS ARE IMPORTANT, so study how to write an effective one. There is no short-cutting this vital step. So if you’re getting loads of rejections, a bad query letter might be the reason.

One of the trends I’m seeing is that a number of writers send either their query, their pages, or a bio as an attachment. Do not attach anything to your query as that will only get you rejected. Viruses hide in attachments so most won’t ever be opened if they are not requested. But also, those who phish for information do so hoping that the recipient of your attachment will write back saying they won’t open attachments, so most agents, being aware of phishing techniques, will just hit the delete key.

Then there are those who have a passable query but get a rejection anyway. What’s that all about? It could be that you are querying something that’s not marketable, or something that I don’t represent. Yes, I’m open to many genre areas but I don’t take Christian or Spirituality queries at this time. The reason I reject in this area is that I don’t have expertise or sources developed and have no desire to develop them at this time.

Another tread is wrong word count: Yes I know that we’ve not posted what we consider a typical word count and we probably won’t. However, if you’re a novelist, it pays to know what constitutes a novel. For one thing, adult novels are larger than 50,000 words and anything less is a novella, short story, a young adult novel, a middle-grade novel, a picture book or a script. Information on exact word counts is like finding hens teeth, however, a little research will give you the answer and here’s how. Go to your local bookstore, picking up a few book and see what their average page count is. Next, multiply 250 words per page times that average and you have it. Say the average page count is around 350 pages, multiply that times 250 words per page and you have 87,500 words. Of course you don’t have to send exactly 87,500 words as that would be ridiculous. What I do like, however, are books that are well developed and well written and those books run somewhere in the neighborhood of 85,000 to 110,000 words. Simple books don’t do it for me.

If yours is a simple story with one character and no subplots that covers a day or two in the life of your characters, then yours will be a very short story, after you cut out all the overwriting that is. As for me, I like complex stories told from multiple viewpoints, so books that I like are usually around 350-450 finished book pages long. See how simple that was?

No commercial appeal: This is a catch all. It can mean anything, but I use it to mean that if the book you’ve written looks like what everyone else is writing—abused wife, kids, dog, bipolar problems, serial killer, fantasy set in a land far, far away and such, don’t send it to me. If it was a best seller a year ago, there’s been so many trying to duplicate it that it’s old news and has low or no commercial appeal. Whole genre’s have disappeared because of market gluts, so this is what I’m talking about here—no commercial appeal.

With all that I’ve mentioned above, I’ve left out the obvious books that have bad openings, point of view problems, no story, one dimensional characters—all that stuff that writers who query me have fixed already. However, if you haven’t, you probably shouldn’t query.