Thursday, July 19, 2007

Checklist for submitting work to the Shark

BEFORE you send your query to the Shark do these things:

1. Read all the entries on the blog (aka the archives)

2. Make notes on what you read that you did not know.

3. Revise your query using the notes.

4. Let the query sit for a week.

5. Revise again.

If you just send your query without doing this, you'll make the exact mistakes I've already talked about on the blog and that reduces the chance your query will be selected.

6. make sure you include:
a. word count
b. title
c. contact info (I redact but get in the habit of including it)

7. Is your query for non-fiction, or memoir? If so, don't send. I'll just email you saying I don't post those kinds of queries on QS.

8. Make sure you don't send a big chunk of text. White space. White space. White space.
If you cut and paste from a Word doc into an email, the spaces do NOT transfer. You must type your query into your email program directly. Insert a blank line about every three or four lines (break paragraphs but not sentences)

Do not send your query letter as an attachment. I will discard those unread, and unacknowledged.

9. Include this phrase at the top of your letter:  "By submitting this query, I agree it may be posted and critiqued on the QueryShark blog and included in the archives for the life of the blog."

10. After you've read and followed these directions you'll know to put "Query Shark: I promise I read the archives thoroughly" in the subject line. If you fail to include this, your query will be discarded. If you put something OTHER than "Query Shark: I promise I read the archives thoroughly" in the subject line, you will annoy me so much I will be tempted to discard your letter.

Recent examples:
fiction query "Query Shark: I promise I read the archives thoroughly";
query for Janet Reid "I promise I read the archives thoroughly";
Query Shark: I promise I read the archives thoroughly" fiction 78K words/historical/romantic/thriller.

All these examples are WRONG. This is not a trick.  It's not a spelling test or a capitalization test.

Here's what should have been in each of the subject lines:

fiction query "Query Shark: I promise I read the archives thoroughly";
query for Janet Reid "Query Shark: I promise I read the archives thoroughly";
Query Shark: I promise I read the archives thoroughly." fiction 78K words/historical/romantic/thriller.

Get the idea?

IF you just write that, and haven't read the archives to avoid mistakes I've commented on a LOT, your query has zero chance of being posted.

10a. If it's clear you haven't implemented some of the most obvious edits (for example, you put your address, or mine, at the top of the email) it annoys me so much I just delete your email.

11. When you send an email to the Shark, you will get an acknowledgement. This can take several days if the QueryShark is swimming in the Sea of Writing Conferences or the Ocean of Time Off For Good Behaviour. If you do not get a reply within a week, see #10 and #10a. If you've made those mistakes, you can fix them, and email me again.

12. As of 12/8/13 you can now include a paragraph at the TOP of your query that asks questions about the query, or explains the choices you've made.  This paragraph should be as cogent as your query, and 100 words or fewer.  Here's the blog post about that.

It's harder to get a query posted on QueryShark than to get a request for a full, just FYI. In the course of a year I've read more than 200 fulls, and only posted 151 queries here at QueryShark.

The value of QueryShark is seeing what OTHER people have done and applying it to your work.

Where to send: QueryShark at gmail dot com


Rob said...

Thank you for this site. It is very helpful. I want to submit a query to you and have read the directions but can't seem to find your email to send my query. Please advise.

pritis C majumdar said...

I have read your instruction for submitting work to the shark. Now, please tell me how to submit my query letter to shark and its contact email submission.

L. D. Nash said...

Sorry, I just couldn't resist this. To ROBERT and PRITIS C., if you would read the entire instructions on the right hand side of the page, you will see where Ms. Query Shark tells you to send your query. She lists her email address in idiot proof english.

Reading is fundamental people.

(Sorry about the previously deleted comment, I felt that a tad more tactfullness was needed :-)

Unknown said...

Hi Query Shark, im trying to get someone to read my new novel before i sell it. I know that you are the best helper I've ever heard of! So please comment me and tell me if you can read a short discription about my book and tell me on how it is.

steeleweed said...

What is this obsession with white space? Are we to assume that agents and/or publishers can't/won't♠ read anything but dialog?
There are a lot of mediocre books full of dialog but there are damn few Great books that don't contain lots of 'black space', often at the beginning.

Sandra Cormier said...

Dear Steeleweed:

White space equals not putting your whole query in giant chunks that go on and on and on without a break.

Break them up a little so the eye doesn't get lost and therefore lose interest.

Try to make it as easy as possible for the agent to read your query. Why make it harder?

Andrea Brandle said...

Dear Query Shark,
Why don´t you accept memoirs? My debut book, Memoirs of a Cat Named Dog, is like Eat,Pray,Love but about a cat from Japan who lived in Canada and now lives in Spain.
I really need your help. Any suggestions?

bcbgirl84 said...

I submitted a query letter to the shark last year and I guess it didn't get chosen. I understand that the shark gets tons of letters and can't critique them all. However, I have since completely revised my query letter (hopefully for the better!). Would it be ok for me to resubmit it?

Unknown said...

Mr. Shark:
I have read your blogs/revisions and have learned quite a bit. How do I submit my query so you can hoist it aboard your literary vessel while trolling?

Liska said...

I like the mandatory subject line! You're probably rolling your eyes, but I think it's pretty clever.

LA Juice said...

Dear Dear Query Shark! Why why won't you look at query letters for non fiction narratives or memoirs/ I adore your site and your advice, and need you!!!!

dammit all to hell. sigh.

Phoebe said...

I'm so glad to have been referred to this site. It's brutally constructive, yet needed. It's informative and helpful. I plan to submit my query and hope to receive the uncut criticism.

Londa S. Hayden said...

janet at fineprintlit dot com

Your email address comes up invalid when I try to send. Is there some sort of trick?

Janet Reid said...

I get 200+ emails a day to that address.

Unknown said...

At Londa

I assume the address is

and QS just spelt it out to make it easier to understand....

Janet Reid said...

I don't spell it out so the spambots don't pick it up.

Joey Rogers said...

I attempted to submit my draft query letter to query shark, following all of the necessary steps (including No. 9) but never received an autoreply. Should I resend it? Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Dear Shark,

I tried to send my query twice - with proper subject line included. My email address is the first initial of my name and full last name (from aol). I did not receive an auto-reply. I do have the phrase 'mutilated corpse' in my query - would that prevent it from going through due to filters?

Thank you.


RWJB said...

Great source of information! I seem to be having the same issue as a few other members after submitting and not receiving an auto-response after sending (copied and pasted the subject line) hopefully it's just bogged down and I'll get one soon!

Janet Reid said...

It's NOT an auto-responder. It's a Me-responder. Give me more than five minutes before you resend. Like 24 hours more.

I've got four or five of yours all lined up in a row Bobby!

I just delete the extras so don't start worrying.

Unknown said...

My apologies! Was a bit overzealous this morning!

JW Nelson said...

Dear Query shark,
I have been diligently reading this fine blog and other resources for learning about query letters. Naturally, this means I've been working on my query letter. You were kind enough to accept my earlier draft several weeks ago and I was wondering if it was possible to submit the latest version for your nasty gnashing teeth. If not, no worries. It will be a treat (and education) to see if my changes match any of your suggestions.
best regards

SASwiss said...

I understand how busy you are, and I saw the 200 fulls and only 151 queries part, but I'm dying to know if I can forget seeing my query here if others have been posted very soon after I sent mine in. Do you have a backlog, or do you select a likely candidate immediately and delete the rest?

Anderson Sheppard said...

How long before the auto/me-responder responds again?

Keith Wilson said...

Articles on submitting a query suggest using only 3 paragraphs:
1) a hook
2) a brief summary / overview
3) a short bio of your writing.

However, the queries I see here tend to be several paragraphs long and are actually a synopsis of the novel.

As a busy agent, do you prefer 3 organized paragraphs, or longer synopsis as part of a query?
Please advise... (thanks!)

Anonymous said...

Just saw this: awesome!

So is there a general summary of directions somewhere, or a Top Ten list of Things to Never, Ever, Even Attempt?

If not...I'll be taking a plunge into the archives soon.

Shelby Adams Lloyd said...

Can I redo my query and send it to you again. I have read all the comments and I don't want to send it unless you will look at it again.

Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban said...

Hi Query Shark,

You mention you have requested 200 fulls and only posted 151 query letter in a year.
How many of the 200 fulls have you accepted for representation?

Melissa said...

Do you accept requests for screenplay query revisions? I have only seen novel queries on your site. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Dear Query Shark,

I have enjoyed reading your blog and have done my best to apply your instructional criticism to my own letter. Thus, I submitted my query for your much sought after dissection-I mean inspection-but quailed at the realization that I may have committed a faux pas of oceanic proportions. I forgot to include my contact information (instruction c. in what to include). Should I resend my query?

Makuro said...

Me-responder. I love it. You are one classy shark.

Kim Kouski said...

LOL!! Oh Janet. After reading some of the above posts, I really feel for you. God bless you and I'll keep you in my prayers. I think you need them, if only to keep your sanity. :) Thanks for all you do. You've really helped me.

Unknown said...

Great source of information! Thanks. Mike

Shelby Boyer said...

I love this site, and you give great help in a hilarious way. But for all this talk demanding good queries, you only post the bad ones. It's all educational, sure, but for those of us sending a good query per instruction hoping then for info on how to make it spectacular, we're ignored in favor of posting the truly awful ones. It's unfair that the ones who do follow these "strict" instructions are the ones never featured.

Maybe you can post some middle-ground queries--ones that aren't a complete disaster, but ones that still need basic help. I know it'd be nice and not exactly ferociously shark-like, but it would make following these instructions more important. I'm tempted to write a terrible query just to get you to post it so I can then send a follow-up.

stephen matlock said...

Just found this site - you are awesome for doing this!

I know you do it because it helps you in getting better queries - but you are helping a lot of writers with their craft for what seems to be the pleasure of doing something good.

Thank you for that.

Anonymous said...

Dear Query Shark,

I'd just like to say I think you are a total angel to spend so much of your own time helping other aspiring writers like this. Reading through these posts I had to chuckle. How do you stay sane?

You must have the patience of a saint :)

Unknown said...

I am an insatiable consumer of your site, and finally posted my own query last week. It was a disaster.

First, I forgot my contact info, so I posted it again. Then, I spotted an egregious no-no in the first graph.

Is there a way I can can the first two, and send the right one. I really did sit on this query for weeks, revising it endlessly before pulling the trigger. And still, I made a pair of amateurish blunders.

Is there any way to rectify it? I haven't found an answer to this problem anywhere on the site. I can't be that screwed up to be the first, can I?
Tom Bell

Sydney Sinclair said...

Oh, my. As others have said, I'll be thinking happy thoughts for your sanity's sake.

I came across this blog while just barely starting to research how to write a query. I haven't finished even my first novel yet.

(Fear not! I have no intention of sending a query before it is finished, and probably not ever for this one! It's my 'I'm-writing-this-to-prove-to-myself-I-can-actually-finish-a-novel' novel.)

But knowing how much difficulty newbies have figuring out how to successfully write a query, I figured I'd better start getting educated early. And this site shall be my new mecca. :)

Thank you so much for investing time in what has to be endlessly frustrating at times! It's been a huge help!

Heidi K. Isern said...

I quite enjoyed the advice in this blog. I would love to send in my query however, I am working on narrative non-fiction. Is there a like site for works such as this? Thank you!

Unknown said...

It is an outstanding thing what you do in here.
Thank you.

Shelly Goodman Wright said...

I love that people post how well and often they read this site and then refer to Query Shark as Mr.

Mark Spector said...

Thank you for this blog. Some weeks ago I finished the first draft of a novel. Just as I was starting on the rewrite, I came upon your blog. Beyond just how to write a query, your blog taught me to identify and focus on the key character drivers and plot elements. Never mind the query - I now think I will write a better novel. Thanks again.

Jacquelynn Gagne said...

Okay I completely understand getting excited and sending something prematurely. I did it alot with my first novel. Then I smacked myself in the face and rewrote the entire thing, including my synopsis and query letter. (trust me it was worth it all)
When my eyes cross from editing I take a break and read sites like this just to keep my mojo going.
But to be honest some of these comments are amusing as the queries.

tourmelinerain said...

Dear Ms Shark,

Expecting no surprises, I dropped in to this site to be sure my great query letter was up to snuff (No conceit here!).

Well, two things occurred:
First,I've added your work to the list of things I'd never be able to do without murdering someone; and
Second, I can see that it'll be at least another month (maybe two) before I'm truly equipped to send out a decent query. Your archive - MY GOD!


furrykef said...

Let me make sure I understand rule 9 correctly. The examples such as "'Query Shark: yes I read the directions' fiction 78K words/historical/romantic/thriller" are examples of what not to do, right? The subject line should consist only of "Query Shark: yes I read the directions"?

A. Colleen Jones said...

Rachelle Gardner was talking about pitches in her latest post and mentioned your blog. I'm so glad I clicked that link! I already see that I used the forbidden rhetorical question in a query/submission I made to a couple of publishers. I will definitely read all the blogs here and see what else I can learn/correct for my next attempt. Thank you very much!

cdrover said...

Thank you so much for writing this fantastic resource. I think it's more useful than any query-writing manual out there.

matt said...

Rule 6c requests contact info; rule 9a states that you will delete e-mails with addresses at the top. Help.

matt said...

How embarrasing. My question was answered in the very next query I read (#84 December '08).

I guess it's true - you really do have to read all of them.

Troglodad said...

Query Shark- just found your site. I look forward to reding some of your responses. But since you say you keep repeating yourself, pointing out recurring mistakes, I can't see the sense in reading them all.

But thanks- this site is very helpful. I look forward to reading most of it.


french sojourn said...

Thank you so much for this blog. I have re-re-rewritten such a great query letter after disecting this site; that it has actually refocused the story, so I will be in re-write for a year.

As frustrating as this may sound, it has given the story a voice that was previously lost in the foreground.

This site has turned my writing into a much more rewarding endevour. Thank you.

Avery Shy said...

You've helped me so much with my query letter!

I remember the first query letter I wrote, I thought it was pretty good. But instead of -- well, actually writing it in letter format, I just sorted of listed things. I thought the reader would appreciate that: well-sorted information. Hahahahaha... nope.

I've always learned best by example, and this blog has given me so much insight about how to entice an agent. I'm putting together another query letter now. Here's hoping it gets posted (fingers crossed!).

Unknown said...

Dear Query Shark,

In submitting my query I wasn't sure if I was allowed to personalize a little thank you at the end. Seems a bit rude not to, so, thanks for the site (considering it's not your job or even hobby).

Janet Reid said...

Many people do add little notes to their queries. I strip all of it out before posting, although I do see it and appreciate it.

Ellipsis Flood said...

What exactly should be included in the contact information section?

I'd say name (how do you handle pseudonyms, by the way?), address... not sure about the phone number/e-mail... what else?

Sara J. Henry said...

@inkslinger - If you read all the archives you will see that QS does post strong queries sometimes - some where she says she would request pages immediately.

The fact is (judging from queries I have seen, some from very good writers) bad queries far outweigh the good ones.

biojen said...

I am also grateful I stumbled upon this site. I'm actually trying to finish my first novel, and then I decided "hey, I'll try that query letter thing and see how I do" - it did as promised. I needed to re-focus and once done, I will need to do some serious edits before I attempt to query an agent. Reading the archives and seeing the comments posted was an eye-opener and really helped me see what needed to be done to the book itself. Thank you for volunteering your time to help others! I would like to submit my letter, but not until the book is complete. I'm not a writer by trade - I have another profession and this is simply something I've wanted to do since I was young. Thank you again :)

Unknown said...

It's a funny thing, really -- how the moment you click on that SEND button, you immediately spot that typo/ other kind of bigger error that shines like a zit on the face of your ALMOST perfect query...
I've sent to Ms Shark yesterday, but today revised completely.
So my question is -- even though I fully realize it's rather early for that -- how long should I wait before offering the Great White this newer version of my poor masterpeace:):)( in case I don't get posted in the meantime, that is:))

Thanks a bunch! And FTW!!!

Janet Reid said...

Monica, if you have an improved query, send it. I'd rather see the best you've got and work up from there.

S. Callaghan said...

I've been to various sites, read a bunch of books, been to seminars, etc. and this is one of the best resources for query-building. I know from the comments, Ms. Reid already gets a good deal of praise, but I thought I would add one more thank you. My query has improved tenfold just by going through this treasure trove of notes. To people just starting out: do as instructed. Read everything. It's time consuming, but worth every minute. And if you have a number of "ugh, I do that" moments, that's a good thing. Don't get defensive. Don't try to justify your mistake but telling yourself you are somehow different or special (I'm speaking from personal experience in this case- humility: the hardest lesson to learn). Fix it and move on. You've just improved your query by that much more.

Sharon Tabak Bisk said...

Thank you so much for creating this blog. I spent yesterday reading the archives and realized that my query letter was boring as heck, and full of mistakes. I've revised it and hope to have better results from now on.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joanna Pilatowicz said...

I thought I have a good query letter, checked by native English speaker and then I came across your blog... It saved me from sending it to literary agents and I am really thankful for that!
I just want you to know your blog is read in Europe (I am Polish currently living in Germany).
Thanks again for extremely informative, straight to the point, concrete examples!