Monday, March 09, 2009

It's Really Not Personal

Must be the trend—and it might even help. Seeing some of the supposed big hitters are posting no-no query beginnings, thought I’d get in the act by posting a few received over the weekend. Seeing everyone’s using the same format, I’ll use it too—the writer’s query then mine in brackets.

There are fools and there are great fools. You are a fool. (and I suppose that’s news)

I am writing to ask if you are looking at general novels. (possibly, if I can figure out what a general novel is)

I have read your updated guidelines, and believe my work fulfills your requirements in all regards. (Great Beans!!)

I am writing to submit for your consideration my 60,000-word women's literature novel (Yea!! And only about 30,000 words short)

Now, since you brought up the subject of "God," let me begin right there. (Oh you smoothie)

Hello Robert. Thank you for taking the time to read this querry. (q-u-e-r-y)

I’m searching for a literary agent for a recently completed novel (and I’m searching for writers who can write)

Hello, I am writing to you in regards to finding a Literary Agent. ( tea for “to” and you boo-boo)

While researching your agency, I followed the link to your needs list on your blog. (Good show. Would have left breadcrumbs, but)

I am a novice author and have a completed manuscript. (Then you need a novice agent)

What do you suppose all these query’s first or second sentences have in common? Give up? They all begin with personal stuff that shouldn’t be included in a query letter. So, even though it’s beginning to sound like a mantra, I’ll repeat it one more time:

A query letter is a business letter and therefore is impersonal—no personal information.
See a great example of a typical query letter here:


Scott Jensen said...

While I was reading your post, I was thinking, "I wish they'd give an example of what should be sent." and ... PRESTO! ... you did. If possible, how about when a great query letter comes your way, you post it to your blog and say, "Here's another example of a great query letter." I know I'd enjoy reading them.

Carrie said...

The 60K women's lit query you listed didn't have personal information, right? It just had the wrong word count... although I've seen published women's fiction at around 60K (Elizabeth Berg regularly publishes novels between 50-60K) so now I'm confused as to why this is such an obvious query fail to you...

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

To answer your question, Carrie, and also answer those who continually send us works below 80,000 words in length: It is difficult enough to get a new author published without throwing low word counts into the mix.

Elizabeth Berg, on the other hand, is the New York Times bestselling author of many novels, including Open House, which was an Oprah's Book Club selection in 2000.

Lastly, no unpublished author with zero reading audience should ever compare his or her work, word-count or otherwise, with Elizabeth Berg’s, a well known, New York Times best-selling author. It’s considered arrogant to do so.

Carrie said...

Well, naturally, I wasn't suggesting that an author with a query letter for a 60K manuscript should defend its length by mentioning Berg IN THAT LETTER, I was just wondering if 60K was really so shockingly low a word count for the genre.

Apparently it is!

Is there really no market for shorter works unless the author is already well-known? I'm so used to seeing agents complain about overly-long first novels, rather than overly-short...

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

If you have doubt where word counts range for most currently published fiction, take your calculator either to your local bookstore, library or visit Amazon online and perform the following test:

(1) Pick a dozen or so current genre novels at random (no peeking)
(2) Write down the page number of the last printed page in each book.
(3) Multiply each of those numbers by 250.

This will give you the approximate word count for each of the novels you’ve picked. You now have a range of word counts for current novels published. If the majority of the books selected at random fall within the 60,000-word range, then you’ve won this argument and your next step is to write publishing houses and complain, as we follow their word count guidelines.

The books below were picked at random.

John Grisham’s The Associate—384 pages—96,000 words
Sophia Kinsella’s Remember Me—400 pages—100,000 words
James Patterson’s Run For Your Life—384 pages—96,000 words
J.D. Robb’s Dead Witch Walking—368 pages—92,000 words
Kim Harrison’s A Good Woman—386 pages—96,500 words
Danielle Steel’s Honor Thyself—336 pages—84,000 words

Average word count= 94,000 words

Scott Jensen said...

Robert or Sharene (not sure who wrote the last reply),

Your list of authors doesn't count. You just said in a previous reply that established authors go by different rules. What about newbie authors? What is the average word count for them?

And, yes, I'm yanking your chain. LOL