Monday, October 4, 2010


I get email asking questions that are (to my mind) clearly answered in the directions for QueryShark.  Normally I just delete them, but it occurred to me that the readers of the blog might be willing to help me out here.

If you have questions, post them in the comment section of THIS blog post.  By questions I mean things about how QueryShark works. Examples: can I resubmit if I've sent a query before (yes); I've sent you three queries but none have been posted, why not (I don't post 99% of the queries I get.)

If you ask a question about how other agencies work, about how to handle issues with something OTHER than a query letter to the QueryShark, the comment won't be posted. There are lots of places on the web to get that information. QueryShark Questions are ONLY about QueryShark.

If you're a blog reader, feel free to answer.  I'll keep you all on the right course -- wrong answers won't get approved. I also don't post questions about the general query process or how to submit work to agents.  These questions are about how the Shark works and ONLY about how the Shark works.

My hope is we can get questions answered without my having to engage in a one on one email conversation.

Thanks for helping.


April said...

Awesome! Thank you for taking our questions!

1. How do you choose which queries get posted on the site? Are they posted in the order received?

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

Tiana Smith said...

How do queries for children's books differ from others you typically critique (if there are any differences?)

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

Anonymous said...

1. How do you choose which queries get posted on the site? Are they posted in the order received?

No. The queries that are chosen have something to teach the rest of us. They are examples to avoid or to imitate.

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

Given how many “Form rejection” queries are actually posted (including mine - #148), I’d say no. It has to do with what can be learned, for the benefit of all.

RW said...

I've been reading and re-reading the queries and the critiques here strictly to learn how to do this. I know from experience the query letter is my absolute worst thing. I mean I struggle with it and there's just no two ways about it. Sometimes I think it's harder than doing the work itself.

I feel I have learned a lot, and now for the first time ever I have the query letter finished before the final draft. I know, right?

Perhaps not strangely, having the query finished has helped me do the work. I would imagine that's common?

That's not my question, however.

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?

Anonymous said...

Are there winners which you don't post, given that 99% are not posted?
Or do you post every winner?

Theresa Milstein said...

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?

Unknown said...

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.

I've been following this blog for years now. It's become impossible to write a query without (seeing/hearing) the 'Shark' circling and commenting LOL

I recently entered a contest where we were asked to submit our first chapter and encouraged to attach the query. Which I did.

One of the judges said I hadn't written a 'query' but a synopsis. I felt like sending her the link to this blog :)

My point is, there seems to be a trend where writers sumbit log lines as queries and queries as the synopsis. It's very confusing.

What's your take on this? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

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

There's a kids' book query on the front page right now. Scroll down to #178. You'll learn plenty from the critique and comments.

Josin L. McQuein said...

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 at your J.Reid email?

Anonymous said...

Marie, re query vs. synopsis, what I gather from reading this blog and others on query-polishing is that you are pitching your book, so you've got to be quick and perhaps a bit slick. At the same time, your potential customer, the agent, has to know enough about your product to decide whether to buy. I guess there's a sweet spot where pitch and description come together harmoniously.

What do others think?

Phyllis said...

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?

From How Query Shark works: If your query is not posted within about 120 days, it probably won't be.

Phyllis said...

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?

#162 was critiqued and went for the win, but it was for a kind of suspense novel, the agent behind this blog doesn't handle.

So, I'd say it's okay to send fiction queries to the Query Shark, even if they are not among the genres listed on the agent's website.

Word verification: shoot
I guess that tells it all.

Unknown said...

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?

I'm not (yet) in this position, but it's conceivable that it could happen. Odds are that the query won't even make it onto the site (and it wouldn't bother me if it did, even if I had already secured representation) but I'd wondered how something like that should be dealt with, and it occurs to me that I'm probably not the only one wondering.

Anonymous said...

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

Jess of All Trades said...

Jinlong: I imagine 'Do Nothing' is a reasonable response, because if your query got the attention of another agent, it's probably not going to get a picked as a bad example and you don't need to worry about it anymore anyway!

If the Shark showed interest (say, your query was so good it went For the Win! and she requested pages..) you would of course want to say that you'd already found representation...and she might use your query as a Good example.

Dave said...

Is it okay to ask if you've signed up any Shark winners?

This is a great resource. But I'm not sure that you need to read everything to get serious value from it.

If a writer doesn't get the message after studying thirty or forty queries, revisions, and associated comments by Janet and Shark fans, he or she has a problem.

Enlightenment isn't likely to swing by after reading another hundred queries.

Again, this blog is superb. In comparison, most other query analysts are still swimming around in the primordial gloop.

Rachel K said...

How does one deal with a submission of the first novel of a trilogy or saga? In other words, should it be mentioned in the query letter or should that piece of information wait until the query has been accepted?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this wonderful resource!

Query Shark seems to take more mystery queries than other genres, which makes perfect sense. Does anyone know a similar resource for other genres (YA, science fiction, fantasy)? I get the sense that many query errors are universal, but I'd love to see a fantasy query get to a request for pages, for instance. Do you select the queries you critique to create genre breadth?

Perhaps I should rephrase in the form of shameless begging: Please, please could you post (or could commenters link) a few fantasy queries that are closer to successful? I've read back in the archives, but the fantasy queries I've seen are far from the point of a page request. Fantasy seems so prone to sharkbait queries, I'm having a hard time finding good models.

wizardonskis22 said...

About the query/synopsis problem, I think that arhooley pretty much said it. The synopsis is just sort of explaining what happens, which is hopefully exciting and intriguing, but not exactly designed to be so. The query is more of a form of persuasion, saying, "Here's a taste of my book, look how intrigued you are, now you want to read more of it." It's partly like the description on the back cover, which gives you enough of a hint to want to read on, but not so much that you know what happens and aren't interested. Not too specific, but has enough detail.
All this is just what I've figured from reading this and other blogs, so if I'm 100% wrong, I'm sorry :-D

Anonymous said...

@ Rachel K
How does one deal with a submission of the first novel of a trilogy or saga? In other words, should it be mentioned in the query letter or should that piece of information wait until the query has been accepted?

If an Idiot might offer a small comment containing even less wit, I would say what I have been told both here and in other places.

To state what is likely obvious, the answer depends to a degree on how much profile you already have. If J.K Rowling goes to pitch something to someone, then likely the someone will only salivate faster if she talks series. If never-heard-of-me were to go, then I would keep my mouth shut about the series and concentrate on pitching the first book as a stand-alone. Getting a single book under someone's interested eye is one thing. A pitch that says 'this only makes sense if you take the story in the other ten books into account' _might_ work, but the moon would probably have to be blue and be circled by flying pork.

A first book (first by an author or first in a series) pitch should live or die on its own merits in my poor view. Then, if the result is life and sales, to be able to turn round to your Agent and say 'oh - by the way. I have these as well' might be a good thing.

The Idiot

Anonymous said...

Hello, Peladon

The series thing has come up in a few queries here. The standard line is something like "Although the story of Xenia and Aladron is complete, the book has series potential." Unfortunately, we've never seen a successful query that happened to mention a series, so we don't know whether that line is a good idea or a bad one if it occurs in a query that's attractive in every other way.

Rachel K said...

Thanks for the thoughts, and in fact you pretty much hit the nail on the head in terms of how I saw it. I just thought I'd get a second opinion from my own. =) I'd assume from the fact that the Shark posted your response that she agrees.
Thanks again.

dana e donovan said...

If someone sends you a query but get an agent before the query is posted here, would you rather that person....

Wow, Jinlong, if that's your only question, I applaud you. I love your optimism. Seriously.

Orlando said...

I am still editing and working on a novel while also researching to learn the business more. I'm finding myself overwhelmed at times with all there is to learn.

Since 99% of the queries you receive are not posted; Is it safe and a good idea to bring up your query in a writers group or an editor?

Anonymous said...

RW wrote: "Perhaps not strangely, having the query finished has helped me do the work. I would imagine that's common?"

I don't know how common it is, but here's my experience.

Working on the query --- at least, doing so according to the Shark's advice --- forces you to "boil down" the story's details in your mind, as well as on the page.

I frankly doubt this would have helped me complete the first draft. However, I found it priceless at revision time. It gave me the focus needed to cut out a lot of fluff.

An example of how helpful the site can be, even for those of us whose submitted queries never get put up.

Anonymous said...

RachelK-- I'm pitching a series now and my agent introduced me to the phrase "a stand-alone with series potential". So I assume that's the correct phrase, because she knows all that kinda stuff. I'd put it at the end of the query, like so:

The Last Vampire (I Hope), complete at 75,000 words, is a stand-alone with series potential.

Or something like that.

Rachel K said...

alaskaravenclaw, that sounds reasonable... although I do wonder at the necessity. Does it help or hurt or not matter in terms of having a query accepted?

siebendach, I like that you said, "I found it priceless at revision time. It gave me the focus needed to cut out a lot of fluff."
After the fifth revision of my own work I was starting to think, "ok I'm done because I'm just not seeing anywhere else to revise." I began to think I really needed someone with fresh eyes to look at it. But when I started reading queryshark I began to see again the places within the story where I could cut and trim and re-word and such. It's been AMAZING as a revision tool as well as a query writing tool.

haleigh said...

siebendach said, "I found it priceless at revision time. It gave me the focus needed to cut out a lot of fluff."

I've found the same to be true. Being forced to boil everything down to one protagonist, facing one choice, that will inform the entire arc of the novel has given me strategies for revision I never would have thought of, and helped me see how to make everything advance the plot.

Regarding the series/stand alone question, I personally think that there's not much, if any, value in even mentioning a series potential. To have any potential for a series, the first book has to stand alone as a powerful enough story to make readers want to keep reading past it. If an agent isn't excited by the pitch, saying it has series potential isn't going to change that. Will it hurt you? I don't know.

Personally, once you and an agent are talking about the possibility of representation and long-term career goals, that seems the best time to bring up series potential.

Anonymous said...

RachelK, I'm sure if you don't want to mention the sequels at all, that's fine.

But if you do mention them, you still want to say it's a stand-alone (and it should be true). It's hard enough to sell one book these days. Whether it becomes a series is likely to depend on how the first book sells.

Rachel K said...

All this talk about synopsis vs. log lines has made me wonder about something. I have seen submission guidelines VERY often ask for a query letter which includes a synopsis or they even just as for a letter which includes a synopsis. So if we're saying that a "log line query letter" is different from a synopsis, does that mean the query letter should only include what the agent asks for? Or do you include BOTH log lines AND a synopsis? And so is a synopsis just a nuts and bolts type description with beginning-middle-end? Or do many agents not know that asking for a synopsis is different from asking for just a query letter? Is this making sense?

Stella said...

Agent Kristin Nelson has a blog called PubRants. She accepts fantasy and sci-fi for MG, YA and adult markets and has lots of advice on how to write queries in this genre. H

KatOwens: Insect Collector said...

For the question:

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 at your J.Reid email?

I can't speak for others, but when mine went up as FTW (#160), I sent the Shark an email to ask if I could really send pages.

She invited me to. She also mentioned that since she did not cover my genre, if the MS was excellent she'd pass it on to another Fine Print agent who did.

Unfortunately my MS was not excellent. :o(

I received a polite rejection on the MS after a reasonable amount of time with some incredibly helpful feedback.

And for Dave's question-- while it didn't pan out for me, I believe she now has Dan Krokos as a client b/c of a QS letter.

So it can happen.

Unknown said...

Madam Shark advises not to nclude personal information in queries. However, some agent websites specifically request personal information regarding an author's writing background. If we are to follow their directions, we have to supply something.

I've spent thirty years writing sermons, essays, articles for professional journals, devotionals, etc. I realize their irrelevance for fiction. Even worse, I fear my identity as a minister will lump my novel into the inspirational genre, which it doesn't fit.

Any guidance here?

Anonymous said...

Kathryn, my gut would be to say, leave it out. Especially since that also seems to be what your gut is saying.

If they ask for your writing background, I think they probably want to know about fiction you've been paid for.

Better to say nothing but "Thank you for your time" IMHO.

But perhaps others have some other insights into this.

Anonymous said...


The shark doesn't want personal info, but that's not true for all agents. Always follow the individual agent's submission guidelines.

"Writing background" would refer to publishing credits. If you've published in professional journals, I would mention it, but not in great detail. I'd simply say "I've published in several professional journals."

Anonymous said...


Oh and I doubt "writing background" is limited to PAID gigs. Most small literary journals don't pay and you'd for sure want to mention those if you'd published there.

Anonymous said...

As far as series quering goes, here is my experience. I put my work was intended to be the first of a series and had one agent ask specifically about the series potential when requesting a partial. She wanted to know how many books I planned. So to some agents it may be something that catches their eye. She still has my full.

Unknown said...

If an agent's submission guidelines ask that you email five or ten pages along with the query letter, does that mean you should cut and paste five double-spaced pages from a Word document into your email? I am afraid that the formatting from a Word document wouldn't stay the same in an email.

Anonymous said...

Anne, perhaps it's not. But I see a lot of people putting stuff like their college lit magazine down as a publishing cred, and all that really seems to do is point up their lack of publishing creds.

(I can't off the bat think of a prestigious literary magazine that doesn't pay, but if there is one, and you've been published in it, sure, by all means, mention it.)

Faye Davies said...

Are you - or anyone else - aware of the differences between US and UK queries? Thanks mainly to you, I think I have quite a decent US-style query. But UK agent requirements are still a mystery to me. They always ask for a full synopsis with the submission, so I gather they want something more succinct in the letter. But it's hard to do this without breaking some major QS rules (talking in nebulous terms about theme etc.)

I also get the impression that they're less fond of the hard sell than their US counterparts. Which is frankly ridiculous, since they're all looking for a bestseller.

Any thoughts?

Adam Heine said...

@Megan, re: pasting sample pages into an e-mail

Yes, it means the first 5 to 10 double-spaced pages from your Word doc. But don't trust copy/paste to do it right for you. You're responsible for ensuring the e-mail is formatted correctly.

One way to do this is to paste the text into a plain text program (like Notepad), then copy it from there into the e-mail. Another is to make sure your e-mail program is set for plain text (e.g. in Gmail, there is a link for Plain Text to the right of all the formatting buttons).

Either way, you'll probably still have to tweak paragraph indents (hint: don't use tab), line breaks between paragraphs (if you remove paragraph indents, which is standard in an e-mail), and things plain text can't handle like bold/italics. If you're still not sure how it will appear in the agent's inbox, send the e-mail to yourself or a friend and see what it looks like.

It's your job to make it readable in whatever format the agent asks for it. Copy/paste can help, but unfortunately computers can be a lot dumber than we give them credit for.

Jo-Ann said...

Really dumb question here.... what does FTW stand for?

Adam Heine said...

Jo-Ann: FTW == For the Win

Jo-Ann said...

So the aim for query writers is to go from WTF to FTW?

Carol said...

My question involves word count. If I use Microsoft Word to count my words, I get double the number than if I use the guideline of 250 words per page. I have my ms formatted in Arial 12 point, double spaced with 1" margins, header and footer. I don't want to mislead anyone when I send my query letter but I also don't want to be rejected automatically because the count is high if it doesn't need to be. Any guidance?

Adam Heine said...

@Carol: Use the MS Word word count. The 250-word-per-page guideline was made when people used typewriters and the only other option was to count the words by hand.

HollyD. said...

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.

Unknown said...

If this is uneccessarily repetitive, hopefully the shark will trash it:

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

Or do you post every winner?

Shaunna said...

MK: I don't know for certain, but I'm going to say that query shark does not post every winner. Here's why: even though posting a winner is less time consuming than posting a form rejection, it still takes some valuable time to arrange the blog post, time for which the query shark gets no reward other than the good will of the thousands of us who follow this site. If you want to know whether she would request pages, just submit your query to her agent site; I know she responds promptly to those. Or you can always submit your query to a host of other agents who will, by their rejection or request, tell you whether or not your query is FTW.

Kim Kouski said...

I really don't have a question, but a comment. THANK YOU!!! I apprecieate your help. Also, writers, beware of taking your queries to Writer's boards for help. Some writers have told me to do the opposite of what Janet said to do. I see 'rejection' written across their posts.

Anonymous said...

so if i wanted my query to be reviewed, do I post it in comments??

Mary-Lou said...

There are a list of directions to follow under: How to Send a query to Query Shark

In: If you want your query posted, read and follow these directions.

Also, read the posts and look at the comments to know what she's looking for.

It helps to know how to structure your query if you read the ones that have gotten the Yes.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I'd like to say thank you, for providing such a wonderful resource for writers! :)

I have a question that I'm relatively sure isn't covered elsewhere on the blog. I'm current working on a fantasy novel (and no, I'm not going to query anywhere until it's done, but I like to think ahead!), and it has multiple POV characters. At the moment, I don't plan on mentioning any but the main protagonist in the query letter, but I'm wondering if I should mention somewhere that there's more than one POV character?

I don't want to end up saying, "Surprise narrative change!" to some poor unsuspecting agent one day, but I don't want to put in a long list of characters, either, which is clearly a no-no.

So, um. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. :)

Lehcarjt said...

@dmnsq - You might think of going to the bookstore and looking at the back of books that are similar to yours. How do they handle the multiple story lines?

I would not just add a line at the end of the query that the book has multiples. I've never seen it done before that way.

cetus521 said...

Is it possible to get feedback on a query even if it isn't posted to the blog?

Janet Reid said...


Janalynne Rogers said...

Anyone got a suggestion for a site that might offer a Shark-style dissection of a romantic comedy query?

sbarb said...

Is there a venue like query shark for non-fiction comments?

Lehcarjt said...

@Jai - Post it here. The shark is genre-blind.

@sbarb - not that I know of, but you might trying googling 'non-fiction query help' and see what comes up. Or find a forum of writers working on projects similar to yours and ask them for suggestions.

Welcome to Hell said...

I am thinking of posting one of my queries soon. I've read that you don't post 99% of the ones you get, but does that mean you won't even read them? Will you at least email back your advice?

Anonymous said...

Well, I've waded my way through the entire archive here, and I really need to say a big 'thank you.'

It's extraordinary how much clearer (and, yes, more fun, believe it or not) the query writing process has become for me.

What has really surprised me is how writing the query has forced me to re-examine my current novel-in-progress. New revision, coming up!

My question: this comment section is meant only to ask general questions about how Query Shark works.

Is there an appropriate place to post more specific questions about queries and querying themselves? (One question I've been wondering, for example, is how important it is to label your manuscript --as 'fantasy' or 'thriller' or 'literary', etc. -- in the query.)

If there isn't, I vote for one. If there already is one, oops! I didn't find it.

Janet Reid said...

Glad the archives have proved useful. This is really only for questions about how QueryShark works.

Anonymous said...

Okay, in that case, here's a "how Query Shark works" question:

Is there a rule against submitting a query to Query Shark (not to an actual agent) before the novel is completed?

Of course, it occurs to me that you have no way of knowing if there is a manuscript at all behind a query. Still, given her apparent superpowers, perhaps the Query Shark can sniff out an incomplete manuscript?

In any event, it was reading this thread that opened me up to the query's potential as a revision tool. I owe a big thanks to the commenters here for that.

Janet Reid said...

The Shark Superpowers do no extend to sniffing out unfinished manuscripts. There is no rule here against querying before you're done.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

An assistant at a reputable agency recently said she likes to know at the query stage if any other agents are reading your full. Is this common? I thought you didn't mention it until an agent asks for pages.

Thanks to anyone who answers!

Lehcarjt said...

@ Chelsea -

What I've heard is this: You query Agent 1 and get a request for a partial. You send the partial, get a request for a full and send that too. Because you went through the full process, it is reasonable to assume that Agent 1 likes your writing and is seriously considering your MS.

You query Agent 2 and you DO tell them you have a full submitted to Agent 1 at the query stage. Why? It's polite to them and to Agent 1. It let's Agent 2 know not to sit too long on your stuff if they are interested.

However, if you met Agent 1 in the bathroom at a RWA meeting and they requested the full while washing their hands, then you DO NOT mention the full to Agent 2. Why? You have no reason to believe that Agent 1 is serious about your MS yet.

Hopes this helps.

Janet Reid said...

You don't tell anyone at the query stage that other agents are reading fulls.

You tell agents who have requested partials or fulls that partials/fulls have also been requested by others.

If you get an OFFER you tell everyone you haven't heard from with enough time for them to read.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Thanks Janet, that is exactly what I thought. Sounds like this particular assistant is the exception to the rule.

Thanks to Lehcarjt as well.

Anonymous said...

Ah, so if we're allowed to send a query for an incomplete novel to QS... what should we say for the word count? Should we guesstimate?

jen said...

Janet, thank you so much for this blog. The revision process with your detailed comments on what isn't working and what is are priceless as a learning tool. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I have one format question that I haven't found the answer to anywhere else around here. What contact info should you include in an email query? Just email address since contact is electronic or do you still give mailing address and phone? I assume it's appropriate to give mailing address and phone number when a partial or full is requested, but wasn't sure if that was overkill on an email query.

Thanks! (How many times can I thank you?)

Janet Reid said...

Contact info goes under your name.
You list everything.

Here's the example:

Her Sharkly Self
123 Gnaw Lane
The Reef, The Ocean 12340

t: 212-666-1234

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Yup, Dmnsqwrtr, just give it your best guess.

Kat Who said...

I am under 18 years old, and I think I read on one of your queries here that minors should probably mention that somewhere in their query, so the agent knows what they are dealing with. Is that correct, and if so, what would be an appropriate way to add that detail to the query?

Janet Reid said...

You don't need to mention it at the query stage if you don't want to. You will need to mention it if the agent wants to sign you because you can't sign a contract without a parent's permission.

I actually prefer queriers not tell me their age. I prefer to read the pages and if the voice is compelling, proceed from there.

This varies widely in the industry however, my opinion is not the statement of an industry standard.

anupama kalgudi said...

I'm working hard in the hopes of being your chum Query Shark, but I submit my query, I have a questions and a request:

1. Very very few of the queries critiqued are for literary fiction. Please do consider posting more. Plots for literary fiction aren't really as action driven as a Tom Clancy novel for example (or YA/Thriller). I don't know if I'm right in saying so, but I really feel that writing a query for literary fiction is especially difficult.

I tried to focus on capturing the voice of the story. After a lot (a LOT) of thought, I decided to write the query in first person. The novel is in first person (written in the form of diary entries). I jut didn't want to lose the voice. Is there anything I should be careful of, knowing I'm already breaking such a big rule?

I did follow the others though: who is the protagonist? What choices does she have to face? What are the consequences of that choice?

2. Is there anything you could say about writing queries for literary fiction? Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you Query Shark. All the guidance you've given through your blog has made an immense impact on my submission process. And WHEN I land an agent (no harm in staying optimistic), I know I will owe a large part of my happiness to you.

anupama kalgudi said...

I just read my last posting and am horrified that the very first line contains so many mistakes. I guess I posted the wrong draft of my comment (yes I even have drafts for comments!).

Please do excuse me for those. I'm not as sloppy as that usually and work very hard to make sure my work is perfectly polished. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

This is an amazing resource. I am grateful to have found it. Thank you, Janet, for your incredible generosity with your time.

My two questions:

1. I want to read all the archives, but I only see 2004 as the oldest posts, and they are clearly not the oldest posts. How do I get to #1?

2. Does QS accept queries on short story collections or anthologies, or just novels?

Many thanks to anyone who can answer either question.

Janet Reid said...

After gadget, Here's the first post

Mostly novels.

Dexter said...

Are all Query Shark submissions read? Or is it just random selection?

Do you respond to all Query Shark queries? Or only the ones you post?

Colin said...

@Dexter: If I may quote from "How Query Shark Works":

"There are no rejections. If your query is not posted within about 120 days, it probably won't be.
This can happen for several reasons: you didn't make any really good mistakes; you made the same mistakes everyone else made; it was so bad I didn't know where to start. Pick the reason that makes you feel best, because that's the real reason. "

From this, I would conclude that Ms. Shark reads all the submissions (at least partially if not fully) with an eye to whether the query contains really good mistakes, unique mistakes, or it isn't terrible but has potential. In other words, if she deems the query a useful learning tool that helps to SHOW as opposed to merely TELLING how to compose a great query, it'll most likely be posted.

That's how I understand it, anyway. :)

matt said...

How do I get to query #1. I can only get as far back as #69 in 2008. Help!

Janet Reid said...

Krymzen Hall said...

I'm confused as to what to put in the subject line. The Shark writes:

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

Do we use the word "archives" or "directions" in the subject line?

Thank you.

Janet Reid said...

It's fixed now.
Thanks for calling it to my attention.

It's "archives"

Anna said...

I feel like this is a really stupid question, but I have read the queries and directions for sending something, but I seem to be overlooking your email address. Where do we email to read the fabulous shark?

James said...

If a query gets critiqued, and you send it back, what happens next? If it gets to the fabled Yes, then what happens? A request for a full?

Anonymous said...

Mrs. So and So:

Look at the last line. Although if you missed that, you probably should read the entire thing and follow those directions first.


Angela Solano said...

Dear Query Shark,

I am finishing up revisions on my query before sending to you, however, I have a question. My query is for a MG novel. A big part of this book is how the main character deals with his Autistic younger brother in his everyday life. Now, I do not have any publishing experience to list. Instead, should I mention that I do have two sons, the youngest being Autistic, so the agent at least knows I am not "guessing" about Autism with siblings? Something like: This novel is loosely based on my two sons, the youngest of which is Autistic.

Thanks for all you do.

song_of_calliope said...

AS, I'm sorry I can't answer your question about mentioning your sons but I do know that if you do your sentence should state "the youngest of whom" rather than "which."

Does the Query Shark ever request pages without posting the query on the blog? Or would she only request pages without posting if the query were sent to her via her agency rather than to her sharky alter ego?

Mollie Player said...


I'm just wondering if I can get email notifications of new blog posts or subscribe by email.

Mollie Player

Keri Neal said...

Query Shark, brutal
I suck less, because I learn
Thank you, from your prey

Netlatch said...

Suggestion: In the blog layout, can you move the archives section higher in the right hand menu? It may help those who try to read through them. It is a bit aggravating to move up and down the pages.

Just a thought.

jw11 said...

I have a question:

I have written a memoir (I am a person of some some circles.)with a fictional narrative subplot.

My coach calls it 'cross genre'.

Am I eligible to post on QS?

Leslie Dana Kirby said...

I was under the impression that queries should be limited to one page, but most of the queries on QueryShark seem to be much longer than that. Is there a recommended length/limit for queries?

Leslie Dana Kirby said...

As I continue to read through the archives, I think I may have answered my own question. A recent comment indicated many queries are too long and suggested that a range of 240-280 words may be about right. So, I'm going to operate on that:)

Seeley said...

I think I messed up big time--I sent a query in (after reading all the archives and revising), then requested to have an updated one replace it a few days later and got a "deleted at your request" email. Wondering if the QS gave up on me?

If that's the case, is there a grace period for when I can submit (and leave it alone) again? Or am I out for good? I've been racking my brain and searching the blog trying to find the entry that I think talked about not double submitting or this would happen because I'm sure it exists and it's nagging me. Gah.

Anyway, I want to submit right if I still can. (But you'll still be cool either way, QS). :-)

Janet Reid said...

Yikes! When someone replaces a query, the old one gets the "discarded at your request email." I do this so I can track things.

The NEW query should have gotten a standard "your entry has been received" email.

If you did NOT get that acknowledgement RESEND.

Seeley said...

Ah, yes, I did receive a second confirmation email. *Whew.* I just got the "discarded at your request" after it, which I think is why I was wondering.... But the second confirmation must mean I'm good to float?

Thanks so much QS! :-)

Anonymous said...

Your dissections of queries are always so awe-inspiring. Sometimes I wonder what could be wrong with a particular piece and then you come along, gnash it to bits, and then I, wonderstruck, finally see the places for improvement.

My question - I see a lot of promising queries posted on QueryShark which you have commended for having a good voice usually reflective of the humorous plot or character personality. Could you possibly give some tips for establishing a dark voice that works well? Has any query ever managed to give you the shivers?

Jack Brooks said...

There are two statements in the instructions that I find confusing. I’m Irish so it’s possible I’m just being thick, but here we go anyway.

6. c. contact info (I redact but get in the habit of including it)

9a. 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 and don't send it to the chum bucket.

The first one I get. Put in your contact info. The second one is where I come unstuck. It kind of says to me that if you put your address in the email you’re a dead man.

So is there some secret combination of contact details that somehow doesn’t constitute an actual address?

Also, I write under a pen name. Do I use it in a query or do I use my actual name?

jygatsby said...

Jack Brooks--I believe it is the contact info at the TOP of the query that is frowned upon. Contact info should come at the end, after your "signature".

Anonymous said...

@anupama kalgudi wrote: “Plots for literary fiction aren't really as action driven as a Tom Clancy novel for example (or YA/Thriller). I don't know if I'm right in saying so, but I really feel that writing a query for literary fiction is especially difficult.”

I feel qualified to respond, having gone through a “high, low, flat, splat” experience. My GREAT LITERARY NOVEL was represented by referral and I didn’t have to write a query. Having splatted despite the agent’s optimism, I bound my wounds with whiskey, found salvation on the web (i.e., QS, of course), and went to work on those perfect 250 words. Half a year and a thousand drafts later, I had lopped my MS word count in half, and found my story in the process.

The point is, literary fiction is no different from Clancy when it comes to querying. There may not be such obvious crises as in PATRIOT GAMES, but if you can’t find the story points to make a query backbone, shark warnings should clang. I’ve forgotten which great writer summed up the essence of story like this: “Make them laugh; make them cry; make them wait.” It is true whether we are wondering how Jack Ryan is going to thwart the baddies or how Elizabeth and Darcy are going to get over it and get spliced.

A good exercise is to take an excellent action/thriller query from QS and insert your story points into the structure. If you find yourself saying, “I guess this is the first main turning point but it doesn’t have much oomph,” then likely it is the story itself that is weak.

@anupama kalgudi writes: “I tried to focus on capturing the voice of the story.”

The “voice” of a story IS the style of the writer. This comes across if you are writing a novel or a thank-you note. It will be completely evident in an honest query. At least one reason for your difficulty is you are not seeing the difference between a précis of your story and a marketing pitch. Imagine telling a friend about a great book you’ve just read. It has changed your life and you desperately want her to drop everything and read it NOW. You don’t do that by putting yourself into the voice of the protagonist. You instinctively tell the tale in a “Once upon a time Mary was faced with a terrifying challenge...” manner. Try it out loud and you’ll see. This is NOT a breakable rule in querying.

As a longtime editor for hopeful writers of “literary” fiction, may I also add a chum-bucket warning about style: make sure your story is not floundering in a sea of ruptured thesauruses. It is a common mistake to confuse “beautiful lyrical prose” with actually telling a tale. “Excise. Revise.” Find your story and the “voice” will take care of itself.

@anupama kalgudi writes: “I'm not as sloppy as that usually and work very hard to make sure my work is perfectly polished.”

Not to be unkind - we’re shark bait in the same ocean - but your posts, both the original and the apology, belie your own claim. At the least, you don’t know how to use commas. “Very” and “really” are worse sins, crutches of weak writers. This is not the “voice” you want to convey. Take a good dose of Strunk and White and revise. The point is, writers striving for greatness never relax their guard against sloppiness. Your “voice” develops through practice. Even in a blog post comment - and particularly in this context - your voice should shine.

Keep writing and best of success.

Unknown said...

Love Your Blog!

Q: Is there a way to search for help with a specific topic?

Q: Is there an entry specific to queries written for a manuscript told from multiple points of view?

Julie said...

Is there way to search for particular types of Queries? I am struggling with how to address with flashbacks in my novel when I write my QL, and I am looking for a way to target this issue.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Janet Reid said...

No, there is no subject index here and that's on purpose. The archives are the resource and reading them in full, and probably more than once will give you both specific help AND generate some new ideas.

There are no shortcuts on this, sorry.

Julie said...

Thank you very much. I am reading through them, as fast as I can. Am headed for hospital Weds and would like to have a relatively decent QL before then, because writing on pain meds is likely to make my MCs go riding through the Tudor Court on White Porpoises with yellow pansies all around. Or something. Which would be bad. And if it were Henry VIII's court... here it comes.... there would be lots of sharks going for the porpoises. On porpoise. OK, I'll stop now. Thanks.

Julie said...

Dear Great White,
Having concluded the second edit of my manuscript and become really excited about reaching the Agent Query point for REAL, I have read (First Five Pages, Noah Lukeman) that seeing italics in a manuscript is cause for an agent to ditch the manuscript immediately into the "delete" bin.

My m/s uses italics heavily, not for emphasis in sentences as many writers do, but to transmit understanding that we are now inside a character's head, either thinking, or communicating telepathically. If I remove the italics, it pulls the reader entirely out of my characters' heads and onto the sidewalk, observing rather than experiencing. I am very hesitant to change everything over.

However, the point of the whole thing is to sell my story, and if nobody will read the m/s because they see italics, then I have not accomplished what I set out to do and the whole thing is pointless.

Please, do you have any helpful insights here?

Thank you,
Fish Food

Unknown said...

How do I get access to the archives on your blog?

Janet Reid said...

Archives are loisted on the
blogroll, right hand side

Unknown said...

I think in your FAQ you said you want someone to wait 120 days before sending a revised query (one that was not chosen). If I've been getting feedback on my query on the AqentQuery connection website, and the members think it's good, is it okay to send that new version to QS if it's been less than 120 days?