Do Queries Really Work?

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Do Queries Really Work?

Lots of writers really seem to hate the “Q” word. It’s a swear for writers on par with words and phrases like “synopsis,” “not right for my list,” and “form rejection.” I’ve heard writers moan, “Why do I have to sum up my entire brilliant manuscript? If only the writer/agent would read the book, they’d know how great it is!”

I’m happy that with our submission guidelines here at Upstart Crow, we’ll be able to read 20 pages of your manuscript along with the dreaded query. In fact, I’m actually going to start with the sample pages in most cases because, for me, the writing’s the thing wherein you’ll catch the interest of the … uh, agent (my apologies to Bill Shakespeare for botching that quote).

But even if I didn’t start with the pages, I can say with certainty that queries DO work. Of the seven clients I represent as of the writing of this post, five were plucked straight out of the slush pile. They queried me just as many others will, with nary a credential to their name, but with a great idea for a book and writing that hooked me within the first two pages (which is all I used to read).

Now, with Upstart Crow, I’ll have 20 whole pages to fall in love with your story. Of course, the query will still be important, since it’ll be a chance for me to see if the rest of the story beyond those initial pages seems to work, but it’s not everything.

And, who knows, maybe one day YOU’LL be one of my next success stories!

  1. Queries do work. Mine got me requests of full m.s. from editors. I find them not hard to write. Just have to revise them as if they were poetry.

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  2. I am glad that your agency is requesting pages. A query is about the hardest thing I ever wrote. And I still think it falls short.

    Plus, I guess I never got the concept of a query. I would post my finished query on a writer’s site, and they would rip it apart. Some would give me advice, so then I would apply whatever suggestions, repost it, only for it to be ripped apart again. It was like I failed no matter what I did.

    So finally, I just made my query as short and direct as possible. Hope it works. 🙂

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  3. Very timely post. I am currently up to my eyeballs in the query writing/revising process and found the example in your Writer’s Toolbox to be very helpful.

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  4. As someone throwing her query out there, this makes me happy. At first, I really hated the query, until I realized if I couldn’t sum up my book in a couple of paragraphs, then my hook wasn’t there. The query actually helped me to focus my book and make it stronger in the end. We just need to look at them as yet another writing exercise and NOT as the evil querymonster we’ve all made it out to be.

    That being said, I am way happy you want the first twenty pages. 🙂

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  5. I would just like to point out that queries need not be so scary or difficult—just check out our little query-writing tutorial. Or check out Michael Bourret’s query example in the new Poets & Writers.

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  6. i think they do. If you have good writing and interesting premise – you can easily get chosen form slush pile – Trident grabbed me out of the slush pile 🙂

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