More Thoughts on the Query Pile

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More Thoughts on the Query Pile

paper-stackA few months ago, when we Crows were newly hatched, I wrote a post about how our submission guidelines ask for 20 pages with your queries. At the time, I was unsure whether or not this was the best way to go, more because of how long it would take me to read through them than what it meant for you. What can I say, I’m selfish.

Now that we’ve been at this for a little while, I’ve come to find 20 pages plus a synopsis is perfect for my needs. The query gives me a general idea of who you are and what the book is about, and the 20 pages is just enough for me to decide I’m either not feeling it or I absolutely have to read on. Granted, sometimes I like the concept enough that I’ll ignore some flaws in sample pages, or I’m intrigued by how wacky things are and want to keep reading, or I think the writing is nice but the concept isn’t strong enough.

If you’re the type who lives for statistics, here you go: Since we opened the doors to submissions in August, I’ve received over 750 queries. Of the 750, I’ve requested about 25. Of the 25, I’ve signed one project.

Now, if every single project had loads of potential, those would be pretty alarming numbers. Thankfully, I receive a lot of duds, like writers who don’t take the time to look up what I represent (there’s nothing easier than rejecting an adult book, which I don’t do), or writing that screams, “I’m a first draft!!” Lately, I’ve seen more and more people send a query with no sample pages, which frankly boggles my mind. If we’re giving you this nice gift, why must you snub us?

What’s to take from all of this? I have room for more clients! I want more great submissions, as does the rest of the Crow Crew! I just made up a new nickname for us! Keep sending your work in, because we all want to find new talent.

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Debra Schubert, Upstart Crow. Upstart Crow said: Now on the Upstart Crow blog: More Thoughts on the Query Pile (http://tinyurl.com/ylx9795) […]

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  2. Best. News. Ever. Your Crow Crew rocks, and I’m glad you survived being hatched. I’m editing my new YA Urban Fantasy and will send you my query + 20 pages when it’s ready. Until then, happy hunting!

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  3. I was at a conference where the agent said he wanted queries only for everything. No sample pages. A woman asked, “but I thought you were supposed to just send the manuscript for a picture book. Has that changed? It must have changed.”

    The agent didn’t clarify that that a query, no pages were *his* preference, and that she should check out other agents listings or websites to find out what *they* want.

    So, like a lot of writers, she decided that it is What Agents Want Now — that they’d all had a meeting and revised the rule book.

    She probably sent you a query, no pages.

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  4. @Kurtis Could be. I usually just write back (when I see it) and ask that they paste in the 20, as per our guidelines. Then they write back, “Thanks so much for requesting my first 20 pages!” Not a big deal, just adds more time to the whole process for them.

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  5. I think it’s awesome that you’re willing to invest the time to look at a portion of the actual manuscript and judge the worthiness of a client based on that – instead of just on the query letter. It gives you a sparkly, shiny star in my opinion!

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  6. I love the 20 pages. I cringe a little at the word synopsis because, like almost every writer on the planet, trying to write a synopsis makes me want to set my hair on fire. But I know it’s unavoidable. I’ll get over it…eventually.

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  7. Well, um, you have my query. :)

    Anyhoo, I really like the 20 pages, and I love the nickname the Crow Crew. Perfection all around!

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  8. Who wants to buy a gallon of hand-packed ice cream without tasting it first?

    – Julie

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  9. Somehow when you say Crow Crew, I can’t help picturing the Goodfellas pigeons from Animaniacs, sitting around eating seed and reading queries.

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  10. I have my synopsis and query good to go but am still revising, revising, revising my ms…:) I’m planning on submitting first to agencies like yours that allow sample pages so I’m glad to hear it’s working for you.

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  11. How short a synopsis will you accept? (Middle Grade and author/illustrator of PB’s

    Haste yee back ;-)

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  12. Crow Crew – love it!

    I’m working hard on that MS, but I’m not going to send it until it’s all prettied up for you. :)

    But, I am looking forward to meeting Micheal Stearns at the Harper conference in just a bit over a week!

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  13. So what you’re saying is that not following instructions sticks in the Crow Crew Craw?

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  14. May I ask what the response time is? I sent a query on 08/23, but haven’t heard back, and yes, it included the 20 pages. *grins* Thanks so much!

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  15. I really appreciate that you accept and want to read 20 pages of the manuscript and don’t just judge us on whether we can write a spectacular query. I am still revising my manuscript and am resisting the urge to submit it to Upstart before I feel it’s done. I just pray I finish it while you all are still actively seeking clients.

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  16. I’ll be sending 20 pages of my ms soon, but first I hope to meet Michael Stearns at the upcoming conference, too, and gather up some of that Crow Crew wisdom.

    Susan Quinn, perhaps we’ll meet as well – it’s a first conference for me, so I’m really eager to mingle with like-minded writers!

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  17. I’m glad you’re so positive and passionate, it really comes through in your blogs. I should contact you about coming out to a DFW Conference sometime, assuming you can stand humid Texas weather!

    Kurtis-Hah! That made me giggle.

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  18. @Katherine: Our current goal for a response time is 4-8 weeks. If you submitted to Michael, you may want to hang tight for a little longer. As the head honcho, he’s a little busier than the rest of us. If you submitted to either Danielle or me at the time, I’d invite you to resubmit. Perhaps it didn’t go through?
    @Natalie: I don’t think you should worry. We have no plans to close down to submissions, other than perhaps a break here and there to catch up. We’ll be ready when you are!

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  19. Kurtis, That is AWESOME! Forget whatever I was going to say to suck up to the agency I’m querying. You’re pretty funny. I might have to buy one of your books…
    ;-)

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  20. I love that you read sample pages. Quick question: I didn’t see ‘synopsis’ mentioned in your guidelines. I thought I’d done the research before submitting to you last week. My query letter kind of covered what happens in the plot, but should I send a synopsis along, too?

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  21. To all those dear, dear people who have been sending duds to Upstart Crow, my most sincere thanks (wrapped in a wicked grin)for providing moi just the contrast she was hoping for. I’ll keep polishing and you keep submitting. Alright my pets? My precious ones?

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  22. Oh,I most definitely have one heading to Upstart Crow Literary. I figure it will be ready to head out into the world by Christmas. Yeah. When everybody’s cleaning off their desks for vacation. How’s that for timing?

    By the way, I’m enjoying this blog and I’m thrilled to see this agency is embracing technology.

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  23. I think it’s great that you ask for the first twenty pages. I mean, a letter is a good start, but really, what can one tell about a book from a letter?

    A letter doesn’t play its part in giving agents a taste of the action or dialogue, or the characterization of a cast that essentially brings the book to life.

    But in twenty pages, wonders can explode across the page. It can make the heart beat faster, the anticipation grow, and in the end, bring about the words every author dreams of hearing: “Please sir, I’d like some more.”

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