I got a tongue lashing this morning from a woman I don't really know, and I'm a bit confused. She asked me to read her query letter and give her any help I could. Now, I've done this several times when asked, and am happy to help anyone where I can. Now, I an by no mans a query expert, but mine did serve me well and I am happy to try and assist the folks who are in the same positions I was in not long ago.
Before I go on, let me tell you that this person - who's real name I do not know - does not read my blog. I met with her on a writing forum on which I don't post my blog info, so I think I am pretty safe. I would never post info like this about any of my friends/followers, so if you have asked me or would like to ask me to crit. your query, you don't have to worry - everything between us is totally confidential.
tdsephens_writes, is a frequent poster on the forum, and seems to be well respected and liked amongst the people who frequent the threads there. She sent me an e-mail saying she had read my success story, and asked if I would take a look at her query and let her know what I thought. I said I would be happy to do so. The next morning I found an e-mail in my inbox that contained her query, and all I can say is this...
It was BAD folks. Really bad.
Obviously, I am not going to post it as I do believe that - even if she's not here to know about it - that would be rude of me. I can tell you that by literally the second line in I was totally confused. At the end of the letter, I honestly could not tell you who the main character was (there were several characters named, but I have no idea which one was the lead), where the story takes place, or what the general plot is. I was baffled. So baffled in fact, that is was difficult to reply to her as I just didn't know what to say.
Here is what I wrote back to her word for word. I know it will not make much sense as you haven't read the query, but I just want to give you an idea of my wordage and tone...
Hello again! I have read over your query and I do have a few suggestions for you if you would like them.
One - I would think about working on your opening sentence. That is very important as it is the first thing that the agent sees and the first thing they have to make an assessment of you. If you choose not to go with a 'hook' and instead wish to go straight into description, your genre, main character, and general plot should be clear by the end of the first paragraph. You may also want to include the word count up there as well.
Two - I might change several of your pronouns for the name or place they represent. You use 'he' 'she' and 'they' a lot, and with so many characters, it gets very confusing. I know it's hard to tell, as you know the story and know who all the characters are, but for the agents, they will need a bit more direction.
Three - For the bio section, I would stick to only the information about yourself that is relevant to your writing. They are just looking for a little background and any writing credentials you may have.
This is what I would have done:
(I then took all the info I could gather from what I had read and put into the formula of my own query just to give her an idea of what I was saying. I do this for all queries I crit.)
These are just my opinions, you may use what you like, toss what you don't - after all, it's all subjective.
Good luck to you!
Not two hours after hitting 'send', I got a reply which I have copied and pasted verbatim below:
Thanks for wasting my time! What so you some expert becasue you hve written so many queries? You OBVIOUSLY just don't get what I was doing and OBVIOULY my book is way over your head. I guess when you waste your time writing commercial romance crap you loose sight of what REAL literature is. I can come up with my own stories and not hve to steal from Jane Austin which everyone is doing now a days anyway. Guess no one has respect for originality anymore. Thanks for nothing.
Yeah... If she'd have know what color hair I have, that probably would have been bad too...
In all honesty though, was I out of line? I tried to be nice and supportive, but like I said, this query was a train wreck! I could have said A LOT more, but again, I was trying not to hurt her feelings. What was I supposed to do, tell her it was great? That might bolster her ego for a while, but does it really help her? Was I really that insensitive? I don't think so, but then maybe it's just hard for me to see...