Ten Queries, Ten Rejections: Wanna Know Why?

Recently, I dove into the slush. Here’s why I said no to some of the queries that were there…notmycupoftea

  1. Not my cup of tea. A memoir needs to be knock ‘em dead unique or by a celebrity or by someone with an amazing platform. Also, if it’s a memoir it isn’t a novel. A novel is fiction. If your memoir is fiction (i.e. you made it all up) then it’s not a memoir.
  2. Puh-leeze. A plot that’s all over the place in the query is most certainly going to be all over the place in the manuscript. And the author mis-used a word, showing me they’re thesaurus-izing their writing. Huge red flag.
  3. Smoke up my skirt. First the author re-quoted me, to me. Then it was portal fantasy, which I’m not fond of. Then the author bio gave me all personal, unnecessary information and no information about their writing chops.
  4. Delete. Nutty query for something I would have rejected anyway, and the author didn’t follow submission guidelines (i.e. they didn’t include the first 20 pages).
  5. Delete. Another memoir about something kind of not that interesting and the author didn’t follow submission guidelines (again, no pages included).
  6. Woof. I don’t do werewolves. Does anybody still do werewolves?
  7. Oh. My. God. Slightly turned off by the one-sentence intro that repetitively redundantly reiterated the genre, leading in to a synopses replete with multiple infarctions of the law against thesaurus-izing.
  8. Something’s fishy here. I’m not a fan of mermaids and there was something off about the syntax in the query.
  9. I’m so sorry, but NO. The querier’s native language must not be English, because there were non-native-English-speaker kinds of mistakes all throughout the query. Plus, it’s another portal fantasy, it’s unfinished, and it’s way too long.
  10. Out of this world. Another re-quote of me, to me, and a manuscript that’s too long. I don’t really do outer space Sci-Fi. I’m more a social-science-fiction-grounded-in-reality-ish kind of Sci-Fi reader. Plus there were a bunch of spelling errors.


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16 responses to “Ten Queries, Ten Rejections: Wanna Know Why?

  1. So … we’re passing on “Grr-Maids” as a follow-up to Porcupine of Truth? Roger that! 🙂

  2. I’m also asking you to generalize (because I understandthat one day/week/month is going might be wildly different than another), but *about* how frequently do you read queries in your slush pile?

  3. I had to do this, now that I work as an editor for a publishing company (startup Christian, so don’t get too excited):” replete with multiple infarctions of the law against thesaurus-izing”. Maybe I need to do a mi sheberach (Jewish prayer often said for the sick) for whomever is having the (myocardial) infarction? I wish you a heart-stopping manuscript, but I hope that the author(s)’ English education was not infarcted sometime around the sixth grade.

  4. Thing I find most unforgivable: if one is trying to put one’s best foot forward: spelling errors. At least get someone else with good grammar and spelling skills to read through your query and spot when you’ve written its instead of it’s (etc.)

  5. Susan

    I know I’m asking you to generalize, what percentage of your rejected queries look something like the reasons above?

    • Yes. You’re asking me to generalize. 🙂 I also get fabulous queries, for things I’m not interested in. Horrific queries, for horrific manuscripts. Just fine queries, for a great idea that is poorly executed. Amazing queries for terrible manuscripts. Terrible queries for pretty good manuscripts, that just don’t cut the mustard. I request between 1-5 out of each 100 queries that come in to my inbox. Publishing is a very tough business. And totally subjective.

  6. Jodi R.

    Curious… To re-quote you to yourself: “First the author re-quoted me, to me.” So, do you mean they quoted you with quotation marks and all or just referred to something you said on Twitter or on your blog? Isn’t it ok to try to personalize a query like that? Just wondering where the line is. Thanks!

    • It’s kind of like this: I KNOW what I like and what I said. You don’t need to tell me. If you have a manuscript with a “strong girl” character in it, you don’t have to tell me, “because I know/read you like ‘strong girls’ you’ll like this,” because it will be obvious. It just gets tedious to go through 50 queries reminding me that I once used the word “quirky” in an interview.

  7. Linda,
    Thanks for answering my question in such depth. I’m sure other authors would like to hear from agents who have rejected them why they they were rejected but often receive the form letter.

    Spelling errors in a query letter? For shame!

  8. It always surprises me to see how many people don’t check submission guidelines before sending. It’s a shame, because they’re disqualifying themselves right from the start.

  9. Yikes, hope you don’t get a portal fantasy mermaid’s memoir next week by another writer who doesn’t read or follow instructions.