Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What I (don’t) want to see in queries in 2014

It’s here. The last day of the year. (Wow, that even rhymed.) We’re all gearing up to welcome the New Year. We make resolutions and have dreams, wishes, and ambitions we hope to fulfil in next twelve months.

The perfect opportunity for me to look at what I do and don’t want to find in my inbox and see in queries in 2014.

I want to see…
  • brilliant queries and unputdownable manuscripts. Obviously.
  • a greeting and my actual (and correct) name in the query. Getting my name right is possibly the easiest part of the querying process. Don’t mess it up.
  • all the relevant information in the query: title, genre, and word count of the manuscript, pitch, short author bio, and your name. You wouldn’t believe how often at least one of these is missing.
  • queries that follow my submission guidelines and come with all the materials I asked for.
  • commercial contemporary and humorous Women’s Fiction and Chick lit. 
  • Chick lit where the main character doesn’t work in publishing, advertising, or the fashion industry. Give me something else. I wouldn’t mind seeing a female main character with an “unusual” job, like a roofer or chimney sweeper.
  • an awesome YA, NA, or adult thriller with a stalker theme. A thriller that digs deep, and really shows the psychological aspects of stalking, and being stalked. What makes the stalker tick? Bonus points if the stalker is somebody the victim thinks they can trust.
  • YA, NA, or adult fiction set on a farm/ ranch. I’m partial to the city girl on a ranch trope.
  • YA, NA, or adult fiction about how one moment can change one’s entire life. Think SLIDING DOORS. 
  • something à la SHE’S ALL THAT? Or CLUELESS. Or ELECTION. Or PLEASANTVILLE. (God, I’m such a 90s girl.)
  • realistic NA that’s not your average “love at first sight with the hot, mysterious guy at college” romance. 
  • adult romance from sweet to sexy.
  • MG and YA set at summer camp, sports camp, fat camp, sports academy, or boarding school.
  • ALL the sports themes. From MG to adult. ALL of them.
  • a story where the main character fails school/ college/ a job, or has to give up a certain dream, and now has to find a new path/ reinvent themselves. 
  • small town/ village settings. Places where everyone knows everyone — and everyone’s business. 
  • characters that don’t match the stereotype. Rich mean girl? Blonde bombshell? Popular cheerleader? Arrogant jock? Done to death. When I look at the people I know in real life, hardly anyone fits into those stereotypes. There’s more to people than that. Show that. If you work with stereotypes, that’s okay. But show me that the character is not as one-dimensional as the stereotype lets on. 
  • great commercial MG, YA, NA, WF, Romance, and Thriller concepts and story I didn’t even know I was looking for. Surprise me.
  • Zac Efron’s phone number.

I don’t want to see…

  • a “query“ that’s merely a link to a website or Amazon page. That’s NOT how a query works. Also "queries" à la "I've written a book about [general topic]. Get in touch if you're interested."? No. Just... no!
  • genres I don’t represent. Do your research. Check submission guidelines.
  • attachments unless I specifically asked for them.
  • queries addressed to “Sir”, “Sir/Madam”, “Agent”, “Editor”, or nobody at all.
  • chapters 1, 5, and 7 when you send your sample chapters. The first consecutive chapters are the way forward. If you think those chapters aren’t your best chapters, go back and revise or drop them.
  • unfinished manuscripts or first rough drafts. The problem: a work in progress is a huge turnoff. And a first draft is still a WIP. Make sure to make your query and manuscript the best version they can be before sending them out. To make it the best manuscript it can be before querying, make sure to proofread, revise, tweak, address possible plot and character changes, etc. If you query before your manuscript is really ready, you're bound to collect needless rejections.
  • angry and mean responses to rejections. Agents are people with feelings, too.
  • emails to ask if you may query. I’m always open to queries, so if your manuscript is finished and polished, and I represent your genre, query away. No need to ask beforehand.
  • ridiculous word counts like 200k words for a MG novel or 25k words for a “full-length” adult thriller.
  • borderline creepy comments about me and/ or my face. An in-depth analysis of my facial expressions based on a picture of me, for example? Not such a great idea. (Yes, that’s happened.)
  • TWILIGHT, HARRY POTTER, or 50 SHADES read-alikes. In general, if your story is about vampires, werewolves, wizard schools, dragons, or unicorns, I’m probably not the best fit.
  • high fantasy or sci-fi. (Light sci-fi for MG or YA might be okay. Depends on the story.)
  • manuscripts that open with the main character dreaming and/ or waking up, or with the main character describing themselves while looking in the mirror. Other opening scenes I’m not too keen on: too much backstory, lengthy and flowery descriptions of sunsets, rooms, fields… (well, any lengthy and flowery description really. Where’s the plot, the action?), too much dialogue and too little info about who is talking and why I should care.
  • erotica.
  • clowns.
  • cannibals.
  • clowns.
  • incest.
  • ... did I mention clowns?

That’s all I’ve got for you this week. Happy New Year to y’all. Zac and I say bye to 2013 and HELLO to 2014. 



  1. So let me get this right Julie, you want a query about clowns who fall in love at first sight while attending a college specializing in teaching kids how to ride unicorns. Right? Oh yes, and you want that to be accompanied by a note that compliments your features?
    Ok, ok... Really though, I just say that because your post made me smile. Have a great 2014 and have fun reading through those queries! ;)

  2. I will save this for future reference and swoon Zac what a wonderful inspiration for a romance writer like me, have a wonderful holiday season and hoping 2014 will be a fantastic year.

  3. **scraps Zac Efron clown erotica trilogy**