Sunday, November 28, 2004


The FAQ covers how QueryShark works, not general query questions

(if you ask a question other than about QS it won't get posted. Things like "double spaced?" or "should I mention I live in Antarctica?" are not about how QS works. You can get those asked and answered at AbsoluteWrite Check them out.)

If you have questions, post in the comment column here. I'll augment the FAQ as needed.

1. How do you choose which queries get posted on the site?

I look for queries with interesting errors, or errors on a subject I haven't ranted about previously.

2. Are they posted in the order received?

3. If a query doesn't get posted, does that mean the author didn't follow the instructions?


4. How do queries for children's books differ from others you typically critique (if there are any differences?)
Read the archives. There are queries for picture books, middle grade and YA books on the blog.

5. Do you accept queries for children's books here on Query Shark?

6. When Query Shark goes back to being Clark Kent, according to her web site, my stuff does not fall into the things that she is usually looking for. So is it still okay to send a Query for critique? And - just in case the roof caves in or God arrives in Pittsburgh - if she likes it, do I send a query for the kind of material she doesn't handle?

Yes. I critique work in categories I don't sell.

You can query me for anything you want. What's the worst that could happen? You'll hear "no." Despite intense lobbying, there are still no Query Police to run you in for Query Violations.

7. Are there winners which you don't post, given that 99% are not posted?


8. do you post every winner?

9. How far back do you go in the e-mail archives to consider using a query as a post? When can I figure I'll never see that particular query used as an example?

120 days or so.

10. For the queries that end with "I'd request pages" from the Shark
, do you request pages off the QS submission, or do you wait for the person to query you officially?

I don't request pages from QS postings. I'm glad when those authors do query since they have projects that sound interesting. I've read ten or so full manuscripts that I originally met here at QS.

11. If someone sends you a query but get an agent before the query is posted here, would you rather that person (a) do nothing, (b) send you an email saying "please pull my query from the pile" (and if so, how should one attempt to identify it to make it easier for you to find), or (c) something else entirely?

Withdraw the query. You don't need a critique because your query worked (hurray!) Send an email requesting it not be used. As long as the email addresses are the same, I can find you pretty easily.

12. Is there a similar site that deals with non-fiction queries?

The only option I know of for non-fiction and memoir is the paid private service at TheQueryShark.

13. Is it okay to ask if you've signed up any Shark winners?
yes. One.

14. Really dumb question here.... what does FTW stand for?
For the Win. It means the query has been revised to the point that I think it's ready to go out.

15. I need help. Every time I try to send a query to the Shark I get a failure to send message. What am I doing wrong.

I have no idea.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

I could not have done it without you.

I recently sent three queries for my MG novel. I have heard from two agents: one rejection and one request for a full based on the query and first 10 pages. The crap queries I drafted before my friend turned me onto QS would have gone zero-for-a-thousand, but with help from the QS I'm one-for-two. I could not have done it without you. I really mean that! THANK YOU!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

"I made all the mistakes"

 Once upon a time, I wrote what I thought was a decent query letter.  Then I found Query Shark and realized I had made approximately all the mistakes.  I read your whole archive, spent weeks rewriting, and queried according to your suggestions.  After fifteen rejections, I finally got the Call and signed with my agent.  My agent liked my query so much, she actually used it with few alterations as her pitch to editors.  And in just the last few weeks, I signed a two-book deal [with one of the Big Five.]

The impact of your advice on my success can't be overstated.  Thank you for your time, generosity, and snark. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

"Six years, two novels, 19 query drafts"

 I just wanted to say thank you for Query Shark.  It took me six years, two novels, and nineteen query letter drafts, but not only was I finally offered representation ... she also sold my novel in December.  When I was thinking today of the people who helped me get to this point, I realized just how helpful your site was.  I pretty much memorized your entries over the past ten years in order to craft what became my successful query letter.  Without that help, I'd probably still be spinning my wheels.  I'm not sure how many success stories you hear, and I'm sure some days you wonder if keeping the blog going is worth it, but it was certainly invaluable to me.  So thank you.

Monday, August 16, 2004

"It's amazing how much better everything looks just from this one small edit."

Reading your blog has not only made queries considerably less intimidating for me (although not completely), it has provided me with some much needed  perspective in this delicate stage of my book's development.

I am aware that I am a talented writer (my mom constantly tells me so),  but I am also aware that I have acquired some nasty habits over the years that I still have great difficulty identifying while in creative mode.  Identifying these bad habits while I'm writing is an important step in ridding myself of them and developing healthier ones.

In the past two days I've read over 200 queries posted on QS (yeeah, I  don't sleep much) and in one, or possibly several, of them you advise the  writer to search for certain words in their text and remove them where  they are not absolutely needed. Following that advice I removed about 20  unnecessary instances of the word 'simply' from my first chapter; only one  was deemed actually useful and survived the purge. I repeated the process  with every word I know I overuse but often miss. The experience made me  want to punch myself so badly I am likely to never overuse these words  again. It's amazing how much better everything looks just from this one  small edit.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

It took four years of writing and rewriting but...

 Your Royal Sharkness,
            I never got up the guts to send one of my queries into your shark-infested waters, but I did read the archives and follow your blog religiously. I learned that I was being an idiot about a lot of things and over thinking things that really didn’t need to be over thought. You were a fabulous teacher in a field that is daunting and confusing a lot of the time.  Thank you. 

Because of you, I landed a fabulous agent and a two-book deal last month. It took me three novels and four years of writing, rewriting, editing and praying, but it happened. I owe a lot of that to you. Thank you for keeping this little corner of the Internet going. You are fabulous.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

"I’m one of your success stories now!"

 I’ve received an offer of publication from a small publisher--and an offer of representation from one of my short-listed NY agents.

I owe it all to you, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the time you spent working on my query. Your comments were invaluable.

I doubted your methods. I owe you an apology.

 I doubted your methods, and I now owe you an apology. I only gave your archives five days to gestate revision ideas, and now, on the seventh day, I have a new draft that I would like you to review.

Friday, August 13, 2004

I'm in your debt!

Just a quick note to say thank you for all your Query Shark posts. Reading through/dissecting every entry helped me write a query letter good enough to open some doors, and I landed an agent a few months ago. I'm in your debt!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

"I've never gotten this far with a publisher until now."

I don't even know where to begin to thank you for all your hard work that you've put into the Query Shark website. I've read your posts for the past few years now and used them to learn how to master my query letter. Well, all that hard work paid off. My novel now sits in the hands of a publisher who is mulling it over. I've never gotten this far with a publisher until now. Even if the publisher rejects my novel, the fact that I've walked through the gate makes me very happy. The publisher said, 'This is right up my alley,' Thank you again for everything you do.

"I signed with a dream agent. "

I can hardly believe I'm writing this, but yesterday, I signed with a dream agent.

I have no doubt that my querying success is, in a huge part, thanks to your blog.

I read the archives and rewrote my query about a dozen times. When I sent it out, I ended up with requests for five partials, eight fulls, and ultimately, three offers of representation. One agent loved the manuscript so much, they offered to fly over several states to meet me and discuss the work.

This is not the first time I've written a query with the Shark's help, but it is the first time I actually put the work into reading the archives and revising. It makes all the difference.

If we ever cross paths one day, I definitely owe you a drink.

Thank you again.

Reading the archives and revising made all the difference.

I can hardly believe I'm writing this, but yesterday, I signed with a dream agent.

I have no doubt that my querying success is, in a huge part, thanks to your blog.

I read the archives and rewrote my query about a dozen times. When I sent it out, I ended up with requests for five partials, eight fulls, and ultimately, three offers of representation. One agent loved the manuscript so much, they offered to fly over several states to meet me and discuss the work.

This is not the first time I've written a query with the Shark's help, but it is the first time I actually put the work into reading the archives and revising. It makes all the difference.

If we ever cross paths one day, I definitely owe you a drink.

Thank you again.

All the best,

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

OMG! Where once I was blind, now I see.

OMG! Where once I was blind, now I see. I have read dozens of your shark bites and thought I had it down. I am shaking my head at the crap I sent you. It’s dribble, trite and pedestrian. I have never been so happy to be literarily emasculated. Thank you so much.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

It has been a pleasure being ripped to shreds

A word (or 604) of thanks:

I am writing this letter before you post my last revisions to my query letter. I have faith in my writing (as much as any of us do) and have thick skin, so I am hopeful I will be published someday. I will always believe this is due to you and both of your blogs, regardless of who my agent will be someday. This is because I am certain you will be the reason I get an agent in the first place. Without your help, I would have soldiered on in my ignorant ways.

Before I queried The Shark, I read through the posting guidelines and other information. I followed your business blog for the last few weeks. This past weekend I read through many of your posts, dating way back to when you started posting. Not because I am a stalker, but because they are a wealth of information. Not only that, but you are one funny lady.

When I said many of your posts, I meant even ones that had nothing to do with queries, publishing, pitfalls, and the like. Regardless of your 'snark' at times, your free and independent spirit shines through, as does your heart. A couple of your posts regarding how much writers mean to you (and how brave we can be) brought a tear to my eye. Your genuine gratitude for those who work so hard to have their voices heard is moving. We know you fight for your clients and the staff that supports you. We know you will stand up for a cause if it deserves attention. We know you have our best intentions at heart.

I am writing this letter of gratitude before you wash your hands of my query letter in training (because I think it's time to free you of it and let you help others), but will not send it until after you post the revisions -for obvious reasons. In case they are not obvious, I will state at least one: I do not want you to go easier on me just because I thanked you. I want an unbiased thrashing of what I've written.

Your assistance has been invaluable, and your blog a great gift. I know I have already thanked you at the bottom of my query, but I fear you will think I was just sucking up. I have no expectation you will ask for pages or have interest in my manuscript, and that sets well with me. I was one of many who asked for help and you chose me as the one who needed it most (possibly because I was the most pathetic). That means more to me than I can say. You were under no obligation to help me at all, but you did.

You did.

And that is what makes you one of the finest agents in the business. There is always a bottom line, always the consumer and the stockholders of publishers to consider, but you also consider the writer. You help who you can. You pluck people from the sea by the scruff of their shirts with your mighty jaws and toss them onto the shore. I know your clients appreciate you, as well as your support staff, bloggers, and many others. But I wanted you to know I appreciate you, too.

It has been a pleasure being ripped to shreds. Keep those teeth sharp.

With actual sincerity,


PS: I removed all the bad 'that's again before sending. See how well your lessons stick?

I used your Query Shark blog to revise my letter multiple times.

Thank you so much for the Query Shark blog. I know it is time-consuming, and while generating goodwill, probably doesn't generate much in the way of income. I have been querying agents for a little over a year now. (I haven't queried you because you don't represent my genre.) With the exception of one handwritten note with a few invaluable specific comments, every reply I received was a form rejection. I knew I had a flawed query letter.

I used your Query Shark blog to revise my letter multiple times. Even though you never critiqued my letter, I recognized my mistakes in the letters you did critique. Finally, after more than 40 form rejections, I received a request for a full. I know rejection is still possible, but I feel like I've made another step forward, and I owe you a big thank you for that.

"Brutal Honesty"

Dear QueryShark,

I just wanted to pop you an email thanking you for two things:

1) Landing an agent! I recently signed on with an agency after using the exact copy that you approved on my revision query letter. I'm pretty sure my agent would have shunned me for all eternity if I'd sent the earlier format, so kudos to you.

2) Inuring me to humiliation. Of course, it took plenty more rejection to get to that agent, but I discovered that being mocked and ridiculed before all the world (okay, before your readers) helped to turn my thin, you-hate-my-work-therefore-you-must-hate-me exterior into something a little bit more resilient. I think that's something that's going to come in handy for the rest of my writing career.

So, thanks again - for taking the time to post the queries, for choosing mine, and for being brutally honest when so few people will.


"This is where I'd stop reading"

Dear Ms. Reid,

No, this isn't a query or a request for information. It's a simple note to say thank you for your remarkable blog, Queryshark.

I think I'm a decent writer. Perhaps I'll never get my novel published, but I should at least be able to interest an agent in reading a few pages. Yet the way I was going about composing the query in my head, it would never have happened.

I'll spare you all the gory details, but the main reason my letter would have prompted the auto reject is that I simply had no idea what a good query looked like. Now, thanks to Queryshark, I think I know. No, I know I know!

I found myself laughing out loud and nodding my head at many of your comments—and wincing at the tortured writing that provoked them. You see, I'm a university professor, and every semester I have to slog through a dreary stack of term papers, 90% of which should never have been written. After the first couple of sentences, and definitely after the first paragraph, I know whether it's going to be a good paper or not. Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of pressing auto-reject, nor can I be as snarky as you are in your comments; so the bloodied, dissected letters you post on your blog provide me with some much-needed catharsis.

One very illuminating thing you've done on a couple of occasions is to say, "If this had been a real query, here's where I would have stopped reading." I'd love to see that with all the submissions: maybe a big "X marks the spot" or a set of teeth marks :)

Thanks again for the blog. Perhaps one day you'll receive a real query from me. If, after the wealth of guidance you've provided, I can't interest you or another agent in a few pages, then I'm a nincompoop.

Thursday, August 5, 2004


Hello Janet Reid,
Your message about "Re: Query Shark: I promise I read the archives thoroughly." was waitlisted.
Please add yourself to my Guest List so your messages will be delivered to my Inbox. Use the link below.
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That's your job.

Sunday, August 1, 2004

"I did not think all of your advice applied to me."

Dear Query Shark,

I am a fool. I, probably like a lot of people, thought your advice did not apply to me. More accurately, I did not think all of your advice applied to me. I didn’t think I really needed to read through all of the query shark posts before shooting my query off to you. So I read about half, rewrote, and then sent it off. As I waited I continued to read, and I learned so much more.

My current query letter is below, followed by the first pages of my novel. If you’re REALLY up for a laugh, check out the first query letter I sent just a few months ago, before I found your site.

It is at the bottom of this email, and truly cringe-a-riffic.

Now I’m off to apply what I’ve learned to my manuscript.

"I read every entry multiple times"

 I've been meaning to write to you for a while. I just wanted to say thank you for your Query Shark blog. I never actually sent you a query to critique, but I did read every entry multiple times. The tips, guidelines and suggestions you offered helped me write a perfect query on the first try. I ended up being 12 for 12 with requests for my full MS. That never would happened if I hadn't encountered your blog. Happily, things only got better from there.

Friday, May 7, 2004

I found my query wasn't the problem

In following your instructions to submit to Query Shark, I found that my query isn’t the problem. My novel is. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the core idea of my novel. But I knocked it together ALL wrong.

Too much setup. Telling, not showing. Choices without believable consequences. These are concepts that, as a new writer, I wasn’t familiar with. Reviewing the manuscript had always produced a feeling that “things weren’t quite right”. But now I have names to identify the issues.

At first I was devastated. But then I realized it’s not the core idea for my book that sucks; it has lots of potential. I just didn’t do so hot with the writing part. And that I can fix.

So thank you, and back to the drawing board.

Sunday, January 4, 2004

"chum luck"

My query writing skills improved dramatically simply by reading every single Query Shark entry (oh, yes I did!) and following your advice right down to the letter. Whether my writing passes muster is another story -- but hey, at least I have a fighting chance.

Dumb luck?
Nah. Chum luck.

Thank you so much for your guidance.

Thursday, January 1, 2004

"I would send you a chocolate bar or liquor as a thank you"

Just wanted to drop you a quick note to say THANKS for your work on Query Shark- I am very grateful it exists.

I never got my query reviewed by you- but I read every single entry- and worked on my craft- and worked on my craft- and went thru seventeen versions of my query to get from BAD to GOOD (I got a positive response from an agent on this- my only goal with the query- to get a positive response).

Anyway, the advice you have given on Post (redacted) could have been me- a year ago. My first query was sh*t and it showed. You taught me what sh*t looked like, and how to make it much, much, better!

I would send you a chocolate bar or liquor as a thank you- but they don’t travel well in email- all the best and THANKS!

Revise I did

Dear QueryShark

After I posted my query on your blog -- having received the equivalent of an electronic shrug of the shoulders -- I was reluctant to post a revision. But revise I did, thanks both to you and to the comments from other posters.

I'm happy to say that last year I got a full-fledged agent, who got me a three-book deal. The first book comes out in January.

To avoid prospective readers from stumbling across the title of my book on your blog, I respectfully ask that you please remove my query (redacted).

On behalf of other posters, thank you for the dutiful (and voluntary!) service you provide to would-be published authors.

"just reading through your advice has helped me"

Even though I haven't submitted anything to you yet, I still want to say THANK YOU! Honestly, your blog has been extremely helpful to a newbie like me. I knew about query letters, thought I knew how to write one, even wrote one, but after reading a few entries I went and looked at what I wrote. I cringed and shuddered and trashed it. If it hadn't been for your blog, I'd probably have sent that catastrophe out and wondered why agents weren't interested. If just reading through your advice has helped me that much, I can only image the improvement I'd have if you critiqued my query letter when I finally figure out what to write.

I hope you keep on ripping and tearing (figuratively) up query letters. It IS appreciated. Thanks again!