Sunday, February 10, 2013

My patience is at zero

There have been several writers who've submitted queries to QueryShark recently, had the query posted and critiqued, only to ask to take it down shortly thereafter with NO revising.

The value of QueryShark is in the archives, everyone learning from the work of other writers.

It's also a complete waste of my time to critique a query and then have it taken down. Given I spend more than an hour, frequently several, on each entry, you can understand my patience is wearing thing for this kind of thing.

So, help me out.

Do I:

1. Remove the provision that allows writers to remove their work at will?

2. Require that the query be posed for a minimum length of time?

3. Turn off comments for the first week the query is posted?

4. Throw in the towel and let the archives serve their purpose, with no new entries?

5. Something else?

Input needed. Input received. It was VERY helpful, thank you.


Anonymous said...

You could say that any writer who submits their work to you must agree that it will be left online for (however long you want, even eternally). You are offering a service for them. You are under no obligation to perform this service if they do not agree to the results.

Just my opinion, but people like that shouldn't submit their queries.

Katrina Monroe said...

#2. Writers can take it down if they wish, but only after it's served the purpose.

H.C. Palmquist said...

I think you should remove the provision that says you'll remove the query at the writer's request. As you stated, the whole point is for the critique and for all to learn.

Larry Shallenberger said...


Having your work posted is the price of the free critique.Proceed at your own risk...

Leah said...

If someone submits, it should be with the epoectation that it will remain there for archival purposes. Done. They should not submit otherwise. In my opinion anyway.

Are people's feelings getting hurt? If so, they need to toughen up for this writing world!

adam.purple said...

I think option 1 is best, provided the rule is clear to the participants.

Catherine said...

I'd never vote for the last option. I find your query critiques incredibly helpful (also the question emporium). I can understand the frustration given all the time you're giving here.

I'd suggest a bit of tough love. One of the hardest things for a writer to do (at least this one) is to have courage. If someone is going to muster the courage to send a query to the shark, one should be ready to bleed a little.

Otherwise, don't send it in until you're ready for honest feedback.

And your feedback always seems helpful - to the point, but certainly not cruel. No one should feel bad about seeing their query on your blog. This is a constant learning process.

Thanks for giving so much of your time and expertise!

Claire said...

I think you should remove the provision allowing writers to remove their submissions at will. Think of it as a non-refundable transaction: They get your help and you get to display it so others can benefit too. If they still want to submit they can go for gold. If not, they can go elsewhere. It feels like they're taking advantage as it is.

Please don't stop! I love this blog and it's hugely beneficial to writers.

Heath Quinn said...

I agree with bjmuntain. So, option 1.

adam.purple said...

I think 1 is best, provided the new rule is clear to the participants.

Alison said...

Remove the provision that allows people to request that their query be removed.

It's reasonable to state that a condition of having you advise on their query is that it will be posted here. That's the point of why you do it, after all -- to help a large group of people, not just the query author. If an author doesn't want to agree to those terms, they can decline to submit. It doesn't sound like you'll have any shortage of queries -- most people will be fine with that policy, and those who are not don't need to submit.

But the point is that you're offering the service not solely to help them -- you're doing it to help a wider audience, and that requires leaving them up once you've put work into them.

I suppose you could set some time limit and say that after, say, six months queries can be removed upon request. But I wouldn't even advise that -- it'll create extra work for you, and it's counter to the point of the site (in my opinion).

You'll always have a few people like this, but they're far outnumbered by the people who don't behave like that and who get real value from reading your advice. So I hope you won't throw in the towel over a couple of difficult authors!

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

I would be okay with making it impossible to take a query down once it goes up. Anyone who has Read All The Entries should know what they are in for if their query is selected for the feeding frenzy. The main value of this site for the readers is the evolution, the revisions, and finally watching a query blossom into success.

If you aren't willing to submit to that, then this is likely not the right place for you to seek query help. It's partially about growing that tough Authorial Armor, learning how to make yourself shark-proof.

If an author wants coddling, I'm sure there are people online willing to critique and help with query writing privately. That's one thing CP's are great for. This is such a valuable public forum, though. I'd hate to see it collapse because people couldn't handle a fair, albeit tough, critique.

elyana noreme said...

I agree with this one. What the hell? Queries are here to be worked on, helped. As far as I've seen, no one's been disrespectful.

Besides, I thought that was part of the agreement. The queries go public and STAY public.

A&J Writers said...

I think it should be left up. Change the submit rules to say that by doing so they agree that it will be left up even if they don't like what you have to say. They will have made that choice by submitting.

Would I want everyone to see my horrid query laid bare? No. BUT, if I want to be a serious writer and get better then I will take advantage of what you offer and let my skin get a little thicker.

Carl said...


You're providing a service, and the only "cost" to the writer is that it gets posted. If it's taken down they get all the benefit of your insight for free. Doesn't seem fair to you (or the other readers of your blog).

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I agree with the others. Your input is certainly worth the cost of being on the blog.

Unknown said...

Hi Janet, I totally understand your frustration. The problem with abandoning and simply letting the archives serve their purpose, is that things in publishing, in writing, in agenting etc. change. Even on Query Shark, this has often been the case over the years. So, QS really isn't only about the query letters, but it is also a fantastic (and rare) window into the agent's world. Invaluable. My suggestion would be as follows: The moment somebody submits to QS, as a precondition, their query letter "belongs to you". (Read - your ass is mine). IE, it can be used to assist writers who are really serious about the craft. Even if the query writers in question don't do revisions and follow the process. I'd HATE to see QS become a specimen in a bottle of formalin on an Interweb-laboratory shelf, somewhere people come to study extinct species ...

Anonymous said...

Option 1 is best.

M@ said...

I'm a fairly new reader here, and I'm slightly shocked that you offered to take the queries down if the writer requested. I can imagine writers wanting to anonymize their queries more (e.g. take the name of the novel out, change the names of the characters), but take them offline? No. Option #1 is the only way to go.

Unknown said...

I like option one. You're not called Query Kitten, after all! I think what you do for aspiring authors is fantastic. I have learned so much from the archives, especially the queries that undergo several revisions. Just my humble opinion, of course.

Cindy Dwyer said...

Your site, your rules. Anyone can understand your frustration and so many of us appreciate the help. Seeing actual examples helps me so much more than reading about concepts.

I bet you have a queue a mile long, so where's the harm in losing the few people who won't submit if you change that rule?

Anonymous said...

I vote for making submitted queries go up permanently. It is a small ask for the service you provide not only for the person querying but also for the writers who use them to learn.

Or you could say that queries will only come down after you receive a print copy of the published work...

Sharon Wachsler said...

Is the reason people are requesting to have their queries removed because they are upset by your critique and/or by the feedback from commenters? You don't say that explicitly, but your ideas about how to solve the problem suggest that that's the issue. If it is, I agree with the others; change your rules to indicate that posts will remain on the site.

Actually, lots of blogs have a policy of not removing comments when requested by commenters. It's kind of the rule of law on the interwebz: what you say may be eternal, so post with care. (Not that I haven't had poster's remorse, like most people!)

If people are asking their posts be taken down for some other reason, then my answer might be different. I don't know, for example, if someone's query leads to a book deal, if the author or agent or publisher might want the query taken down for some legal/publishing reason? That's something I expect you'd understand far better than I would.

Freda Cameron said...

I suggest the use of a web form, rather than email, to receive queries.

Why? CYA in case someone goes legal on you.

Include a "terms & conditions" clause that they must "accept" before they can press "submit" to QueryShark.

You decide what those terms should be.

Sia Jayaram said...

My vote: #1. The query should remain online.

I wouldn't have learnt anything about querying if it weren't for the archives. And there are many writers who have submitted queries and wait patiently to see if their query gets critiqued. It's not fair to them at all.

If a writer wants private feedback there are so many courses to choose from. Writer’s Digest offers many webinars that come with an agent critique. Writers may want to try those.

Steph said...

#1 ...for all the above mentioned reasons. This is an incredibly nice thing you are doing, so I think the price of it staying up for others to learn from seems fair. Especially considering there are no names attached to any of them.

Queries to agents can't be taken back either.

Unknown said...

Option 1. I agree with those who say the public display is the price for the free critique.
I have submitted to Query Shark in the past, and I know you have an auto responder...perhaps put an option in the autoresponse to unsubmit BEFORE the query is critiqued. Say someone, I don't know, drunk queries Query Shark and wakes up the next morning reeking of tequila and regret...they can send an email with the subject "withdraw submission." It might make more work for you, picking through the pile to find the withdrawals, but less work, I think, than removing an entire in-depth critique. Along with this option, though, should come a disclaimer that once the critique is posted, it may as well be chiseled in stone.
Also, you're awesome. Don't ever change. <3

Ellipsis Flood said...

I vote for #1. If they sent their query to a "real" agent (as in one they actually query, instead of just a check), they don't have the chance to take it back either. People will read it, and they should be aware of that.

Also, these people know what Query Shark is, right? They know they would have to deal with some sarcasm. And from what I know, the comments are moderated, so hateful crap gets sorted out.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Janet, these writers are receiving a free critique of their query letter from one of the top professionals in the business. I think asking them to "give back" by keeping their work posted in the archives is not asking too much. So I vote for #1--"Remove the provision that allows writers to remove their work at will."

Britni Patterson said...

Same as pretty much everyone else. #1.

The price of a free query critique is that you deal with the public responses, and that you are aware that it lives in the archives.

I'd give three packs of Oreos and a bottle of bourbon to dip them in to be chosen for QueryShark, but I haven't submitted because I can't help but feel like I already got my "benefit" from the Shark during the Liz Norris contest. :D

Unknown said...

#1, no removal.

Query Shark is a fabulous service to the author community. Anyone who's serious about writing - serious enough to formulate and submit a query here - has to realize that all work needs editing, and that should the writer actually get to publication, there will be reviews that make Rex Reed's description of Melissa McCarthy seem a love affair.

Thank you for doing these critiques, Ms. Shark.

Brent Salish said...

#1, no removal.

Query Shark is a fabulous service to the author community. Anyone who's serious about writing - serious enough to formulate and submit a query here - has to realize that all work needs editing, and that should the writer actually get to publication, there will be reviews that make Rex Reed's description of Melissa McCarthy seem a love affair.

Thank you for doing these critiques, Ms. Shark.

Shelley Watters said...

I would suggest to make a rule stating that queries will ONLY be taken down upon agent request (i.e the agent is submitting the project & does not want the project out on the net for others to see, and the AGENT is the one requesting the removal) or upon publishing contract (proof of contract required, including a copy of the email from the publisher asking them to remove all mentions of the project on outside websites). Otherwise, by submitting to query shark, the author understands that the query will remain up, unchanged, indefinitely, at the discretion of QS.

Sadly, some people seem to think that all of us who provide critiques for others are there for their own benefit, to be used, and abused, as they see fit. This is not the case and it drives me NUTS. The whole point of critiquing on a public forum like this is to help ALL the writers, not just the one receiving the critique!

Write The Book said...

#1. This is a service for a larger community than just the person submitting. Even if it's left up for a temporary period, people who read the archives in, say, a year, won't benefit from reading the removed letters. This is all anonymous anyway. People need to toughen up.

I recently read all of the archives as I prepared to write a query. (Not necessarily to submit a query to the shark, just to prepare to send one out into the world.) I was astounded that I continued to learn new things in post after post after post. The archives do have some redundancy, as you repeat things for people who haven't done all their homework, or who perhaps didn't understand your advice the first time around. But the blog is by no means losing value as time goes on. I'd hate to see you throw in the towel. I'd understand, if you were just ready to free up some of your time! But it would be a shame to end the blog out of frustration with this issue.

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

#1, definitely... but I'd also put in for #3 in addition to #1 except turn off comments altogether. When I've perused entries and comments, too often I've felt that many just echo your thoughts and I haven't found the comment section to be much help. I come to this site for an agent perspective. There are plenty of other sites that offer valuable peer feedback. If you disable comments, maybe that will decrease some of the query writer angst?

Geekamicus said...

I agree with point 1. Unless there's some ugly cyber stalking or major legal issue, being posted forever is the price of the very valuable free help with your query.

It's not really fair to anyone if it gets taken down after the critique. You waste your time, and we don't learn anything. Please don't stop doing this because of a few frustrating people. Apart from a new critique being the high point of my day, I'm learning a lot and selfishly don't want to lose that.

Evie said...

I agree with everyone else. Rule #1 is fair. What was the point of submitting in the first place if these people didn't want to hear the honest, brutal truth? If they were coming here for butt-patting and "good jobs" they came to the wrong place and obviously (mysteriously) didn't know what they were getting themselves into, but that's their own fault.

I see no problem with a rule stating that if a submitted query is chosen to be used on the blog, the writer of said query loses any rights to have it removed. EVERYONE who reads this blog is helped by the critiques given to each query, not just the submitter.

And lastly, if they can't handle a little criticism on just their critique, how are these people ever going to make it as writers?

Unknown said...

Remove the provision to allow writers to remove their work at will. In reality, if someone gives you a valid reason, you can judge it, but they/we need to be prepared for analysis.

Chris Desson said...

#1. I can see most of us agree option 1 is the best choice. I, like many others, read your critiques and learn from them. The older ones are good, but so are the new ones. If the so called writers don't want the online critique to be shown to the public, then they should not submit.

RobCrompton said...

It's not just their own work they are asking to be taken down. It's yours as well. So you have a right to ask that all remain posted for a minimum of whatever.

Theomanic said...

I like the first option. No one is forcing anyone to submit, so if they don't like that stipulation, then they can go elsewhere for their free professional feedback.

Tiana Smith said...

#1 - You're providing a service, and if they can't agree to the rules, they don't deserve your critique. I agree with what a few other people said - it might be good if you have some kind of form where the terms and conditions are clear, where it spells out exactly what they're getting into. I also agree though that if the AGENT requests you take down the query, that it should be possible.

Other than that, I can't see why an author would want to remove their query because they should know what they're getting into. Especially if they've read the archives, as they are supposed to do before they submit. Maybe they want to remove it because they already have an agent? If so, why not let their query help other authors?

Number one is the best way to go. Your site, your rules.

Steve Buchheit said...

#1 The point of submitting is to learn and to educate others. Also, critique is part of process.

Chantee Hale said...

I vote for #1.

nightsmusic said...

#1. NO removal is the best way and some proviso such as:

Author agrees upon submission that the work becomes a permanent fixture on Query Shark, never to be removed unless the Shark deems that it has served it's useful life as a teaching tool for what/what not to do in a query. So...DON'T PUSH THAT SUBMIT BUTTON UNLESS YOU AGREE.

That seems a simple enough instruction, don't you think? Because contrary to popular belief, a lot of us really do learn by other's mistakes and how will we do that without your critique to help us?

Chantee Hale said...

I vote #1.

Anonymous said...

I don't think authors should be allowed to request their letter be taken down. There's no reason for it. Even if their MS has changed significantly there's no reason why their query can't remain up for others to see.

Mary said...

Option #1 with the caveat that they can contact you if they'd like to have it removed. That way, they'd need to plead their case and it's up to you whether it stays or goes. They'd know this going in.

Can't waste the shark's time without feeling the bite, people!

Unknown said...

Maybe this is an educational thing. Are people concerned that an agent will see their sad attempt at a first query and that will hurt their changes to query agents with their vastly improved query? I can see people being worried about that even though I can't even imagine that being a real issue with agents.

I agree that submitters need to agree to a permanent post. But maybe this is a chance to educate the general querying population about the human-ness of agents. They know people have rough drafts and don't judge writers on them (unless, of course, you query with a rough draft. Then shame on you).

Anonymous said...

Definitely #1. They may not have their cake and eat it too.

Jemi Fraser said...

#1 - everyone knows the risks going in. You spend a lot of valuable time helping writers by doing this - and asking you to spend more time like this isn't fair.

Lehcarjt said...


If submitters are shocked by the amount of humiliation that is inherent to this process, then they likely haven't read the archives to begin with (and will be really shocked the first time they have pages read by a beta).

Sarah (saz101) said...

Remove the provision that allows writers to remove their work at will.

Possibly with very rare exceptions, like if a book gets an offer and the agent or publisher requests it's taken down? MAYBE that's a different story if it keeps the same name, and will reveal crucial story elements? *shrugs*

Anyone who submits knows that it's at their own risk. A thick skin is hard to grow, but... still. It might be scary, but it's a risk they take. Sorry for the frustration :(

Polenth said...

I'd go for not letting people remove them. A number I've gone back to look at again, to find they've been removed. They're often queries with a specific problem which hadn't come up before, so removing them is a loss.

(Reader comments can pick up on other issues, so they're also useful.... and I doubt many of the removals you've had were entirely due to reader comments. It's a thing someone might say to you, to deflect being angry about your critique, but that doesn't make it true.)

Bonnie Shaljean said...


I feel the same as the majority of the others do: if a writer decides to submit, then they take their lumps. Just like in real life. I vote that you remove the option for deleting queries, and emphasise that this is a permanent archive. That way everyone knows what they're getting themselves into before they hit Send. It is, after all, anonymous.

Along a similar line, I wish more people would actually do the suggested revisions and work to solve their query's problems. Submitting a number of evolving versions means they (and we) can watch their craft grow and take shape, and learn from it. It's such fun to see raw material metamorphose into artistry, and so disappointing to respond to something and then feel you are shouting into a vacuum. Lately, too many interesting-sounding projects have just sat inert on the launching pad and never gone anywhere.

Since you're providing a valuable professional service, for free, you're perfectly within your rights to retain contents which un-named writers have voluntarily given. I'm glad you raised this issue. The one-way nature of many of the latest offerings has been distressing.

Unknown said...

Thoughts from a lawyer trying to make it into the writing world (and not the other way around):

Option 1 is a BAD idea. The last thing you want is a battle over what someone perceives as their intellectual property. Imagine this battle over and over with each request. Blogs make bad contracts. Resist the "your ass is mine" mentality suggested by other commenters.

Option 2 gets you the same as 1.

I don't understand how Option 3 solves your problem.

Nobody reading this blog will ever vote for Option 4. We read Query Shark because you offer real hope to clueless sots like me - daily. Only you can make the call whether this work should continue. I probably would have thrown in the towel long ago, but I'm not as dedicated as you are, especially to people I don't know from Adam. That's what makes your blog so special.

Option 5: We all face your dilemma in reverse: I want my work critiqued, but I fear what public exposure means to me (probably a baseless fear). In the end, I have to buck up and choose what is right for me, and that will probably mean just reading your blog over and over until it sinks in. Others will want to take the plunge. I suggest you offer a patent warning to shark chummers that they should submit if and only if serious about public exposure. Finally, remember that we writers are creative and therefore susceptible to flights of fancy, tizzies, cursing fits, neuroses, and sometimes uncontrollable giggle fits. Please forgive us!

Angelica R. Jackson said...

I vote to ask writers to commit for a certain length of time. There are valid reasons to ask for it to be removed (such as the book has sold and the original query is too spoilery) and you'll want to leave that option open I think.

Please don't let a few people with writer's remorse spoil this experience for all of us!

Anonymous said...

You are giving free useful critiques. Writers pay the price of having their query stay up for as long as you choose. (I'd prefer to see the archives archived forever.)

Ben Mann said...

#1, but I can understand the occasional objection. How about the modifications below?

Background: by submitting material to the blog, writers were already giving Query Shark the right to publish their work. Internet archive software was already taking a snapshot of QS, including their queries, and those queries can therefore be retrieved whether or not QS takes them down.

However: A writer may find that at some point in the future his query may need to be taken down for legitimate reasons, such as at the request of agent or publisher, or because he feels it may prejudice future submissions.

Therefore: Might QS consider that for future submissions,

a) Writer submits real query to QS, and
b) Also submits an identical copy of the query with identifying place and character names changed.

If QS receives this, then QS will comment on writer's query (a) but the posted response will contain the copy and identifying information from (b). Further, the writer acknowledges Query Shark's implicit right to reproduce (b) on the blog without attribution.

At which point I can't see how anyone can object to #1.

drw said...

I agree with bjmountain, for god's sake. Each entry should be left for however long you decide. No like, no post.

Sam Mills said...

Aw man. I would be fine with #1. Writers could always plead an individual case and you could decide based on that. I fear that by having the "I'll take it down no problem" clause some people are starting to think it's a free critique that they can benefit from and then delete the traces. What a way to abuse a great service! >:(

I was wondering if that was happening-- I know I've come back a few times recently because I was curious to see if some memorable queries had been revised, only to see they've disappeared entirely.

Sarah G said...


I can't imagine anyone who has read the archives and uses Query Shark as a (totally invaluable, awesome) tool being surprised/upset your feedback.

If you don't like the smell of your own blood, don't play in the shark tank.

Unknown said...


If they don't want their query up there, they shouldn't be submitting.

Unknown said...

Option 1 all the way.

The whole point is that everyone gets to learn from everyone's mistakes. If you get a critique and remove it, no-one else gets the benefit.

How's about only accepting queries entitled "Query Shark: yes I read all the archives and agree to the terms and conditions"? Then you can make it a conditions of being queried that the critique stays up.

Jonathan Dalar said...

Option #1 and it isn't even close.

Botanist said...

I'd go with #1. If they want a private critique from a professional they can darned well pay for it like everyone else.

I would make it clear on the blog, though. Something like "The Shark bites," or "Don't feed the Shark unless you're ready to lose an arm and your ego."

Adam Heine said...

I'd go with #1. It's not like you have a lack of submissions, no? They don't have to submit.

SA said...

Option 1.

Unknown said...

I don't think there should be an option for people to remove their work. Your critque of others' queries is what the rest of us learn from. I don't think it's fair for you to put your time in to help us all out, to have someone selfishly withdraw the useful information you've bestowed upon us. I think if someone is lucky enough to have you critique their query, they should have to agree to leaving it up permanently.

leegomez said...


If you want free help from the Shark, you damn well ought to be able to handle the chomp.

I can see no reason why anyone would need a query taken down--you aren't doing private critiques. There's purpose to the queries remaining public, and anyone who demands otherwise is just pouting.

Bill Scott said...


Have sharp teeth will bite. If you want to be a foot model, don't go dipping your bloody toes in the water.

I can't query my way out of a three sided box. I would give up my little boy feelings to have one of my rotten queries masticated by the master.

Sending you a virtual scotch.

The Story Bridge people said...

Stick with No1. You're providing a great service.

E.L. Wagner said...

I love your site, and I think it would be a darned shame to see you stop taking new queries on.

I would go with telling people that they are agreeing to leave the query up indefinitely and also that they must attempt at least one revision on it if you request one.

If unfavorable or contradictory comments by readers are contributing to hurt feelings that makes some posters want to take their queries down, then restricting comments initially is an additional tactic you could take.

Anonymous said...

Number 1, straight up. "Submit it, and we can post it, period," is standard practice on many sites. You are providing a service for the writing community, not performing private coaching. I doubt you would exert your time if you knew only the query writer and a very limited number of other viewers would see your work.

Beth said...

#1. All the way.

Chris v said...

This is an absolutely fantastic service that you're providing for FREE. Please don't stop!! And those who get the service then want to remove their submissions are being completely ungrateful. I agree with the majority. If one chooses to submit to you, it should stay unless an Agent/Publisher requests it be removed. (Which could be a huge thanks in a way because you helped them write a successful query.)

Unknown said...

Janet, there might be a correlation between people who fib about something as simple as having read the archives and authors sensitive enough to request immediate removal of their queries.

Please don't overhaul your rules because a few (many?) people think their time is more important than yours.

The fact that you allow authors to remove their entries shows a tremendous amount of personal and professional respect. It is one of the many things I love about QS.

A good solution might be to more strictly enforce the "The Rules are The Rules" rule. In other words: REALLY, DEFINITELY, ABSOLUTELY read the archives or you won't be posted.

I suspect authors who really are into the spirit of QS will rise to the top. Good luck and thanks.

Morag said...

Another vote for "Don't submit if you don't want the world to read your query." Otherwise, what is the point for Janet and for the rest of us readers? We want to learn from your mistakes too.

Leona said...

I agree with the "writers, if you don't want it to remain posted, then don't submit" camp. One of the best parts of the service you provide is that the world gets to learn along with the writers chosen. It's like a world wide workshop. Thank you for all your hard work. We all appreciate it!

Leona said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

If they want your help, they dance to your tune: "Post it for help and I'll use it to help others."

Seems to me you're being taken advantage of by some.


Katrina S. Forest said...

I vote for #1 or #2, whichever you are more comfortable with.

One of the first queries I ever wrote is forever immortalized at Evil Editor. (Heck, it made the "classics" section.) It was awful -- it had every standard mistake in the book, clearly showed I hadn't researched enough, and contained a very embarrassing typo.

Of course, at the time, I thought it was perfect. I found out I had a lot to learn. Which is way better than getting dozens of form rejections and thinking, "Gee, I wonder what's wrong."

Besides that, the deleted queries are not permanently deleted. I can still read them in Google Reader even though they're not on the site. I could also find them in Google Cache. Removing them really just hurts people who don't subscribe to the blog. Most of whom are probably new visitors who could use help the most.

Unknown said...

Ungrateful little bastards! Mine didn't even get picked - I would have been honoured (despite the shredding I would have received) to have mine up in the archives. I think you should keep them up eternally. I read through each and single one of them when I first found you, and learned loads. You'll probably be rid of a lot of those who only want to steal feedback if your rule was that no one was allowed to take their query down once posted.

Veronica Sicoe said...

#1, definitely. Your critique is helping hundreds of writers, and I think it's only fair that the writers who submit for your FREE and COMPETENT critique consent to have their query archived for others to learn from.

I think it's incredibly rude and childish to whine about a negative critique and ask that it be taken down. Writers who can't take that should stay offline and reconsider publishing.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I think the writers should submit on the understanding you can use their query as you want. They know the format when they submit it. At the very least there should be a very generous minimum period (a year?) before you'll consider removing it.

I find this series really helpful.

CavalierdeNuit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CavalierdeNuit said...

No one should waste your time with remorse and whining. To get a query critique posted is like receiving a hand delivered letter from an angel. Your one rule should be:

By submitting your query to Query Shark you agree to let it be posted indefinitely. This is non-negotiable. Feel lucky Query Shark chose you.

And why would one want it removed anyway? There are hundreds out there who desperately want a query revision. This is part of the process. It's a golden opportunity that requires a little sacrifice. Butt hurts need not apply.

Daniel M. Bensen said...

I vote for number 1

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

N 1

I too agree that whoever sends you a query for critique on QS should know that their letter become permanent in the archives of QS.

But I think it is interesting what Shelley Watters said: agent wants query of future client removed -- not the writer herself.

Perhaps you could add in the submission rules that at the moment of submission there must be stated:

"I agree that this query and all revisions and all comments regarding thus WILL be permanently posted on query shark" signed yours truely ,Eat Mealive.

and yes, please don't stop.

Anonymous said...

I think #1. There is the anonymity option, which is fair, but you aren't doing this for a fee - the point, as you say, is for others to learn from. Authors should submit knowing that the query will remain online for as long as you wish. Please don't abandon us!

Malacara said...

Screw the fragile egos! Add a new proviso: "If your query gets critiqued, then it will stay up for as long as I feel like it." If the writer can't handle his/her query being scrutinized, then what the hell will they do when they publish a whole damn book? Will they ask the publisher to pulp it based on a few critical reviews?

Mark Koopmans said...


I'm not sure if anyone mentioned #1, but yeah that's the one I'd go for.

You can't stand the heat? Remove yourself from the proximity of the police station.

Tom M Franklin said...

1. Remove the provision that allows writers to remove their work at will?

I have long believed you were offering QS critiques as a way of teaching writers the right way to create a query. This means both for the query writer and for those looking for help in writing their own query.

You ask all query submitters to read through ALL of the back pages for a reason. (If they did, I think a lot of the queries you've been posting lately would not have been submitted) I can only assume that you are taking the time to critique the ones you have posted lately because there is something else to be learned from them -- for both the author and the rest of us.

If you're not willing to leave your query up for the rest of us to learn from, you should probably submit it to one of the peer query review sites where you can take it down yourself. The quality and thoroughness of the review is likely not going to be as good, but that's one of the trade-offs.

-- Tom

jacquie said...

No-brainer - #1. Remove the post? Pshaw you wimp! So you volunteered to fight for a charity match. The donations for the fight will feed thousands of children and you jump in the ring to find your the heavy weight champ of the world! So you're going to back away, facilitating a refund to the thousands who have paid to watch and leave the children hungry? Suck it up… grow a pair and learn something…while feeding the hungry kids. But the seriously funny part is the subject line "My patience is at zero". Has it ever pegged above zero? Your patience, that is. Keep on keepin' on, I say. It's a great service and highly entertaining too:)

french sojourn said...

Go with number 1

I can honestly say this site has helped my writing more than any other site, class, or person.

I will also add, that I would be incensed were the ability to submit my query eliminated.

I started reading this site three plus years ago. I have rewritten my query 50 plus times. I have a polished query all set to send in.

I can't send the %$^&**-ing query in because in rewtiring it, I discovered a voice the was hidden off to the side. ( an annoying one with a Maine accent.)

And now I am in rewrite and loving the improvements, thanks speciffically to you. So don't throw in the towel. You are depended upon.

Relax and watch the Reacher Movie again with a scotch on the rocks.

Cheers Hank

french sojourn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brittany said...

The only legitimate reason I can see to remove a critique (other than just general butthurt) would be to avoid infamy once it's published. Perhaps you could make a provision that rather than getting the critique deleted altogether, a person who wishes to distance themselves from a bad query can submit a "No Celebrities Were Harmed" version (changing the title, character names, and perhaps other pertinent details that won't affect your commentary) to go up in its place.

This way, they remove a potentially embarrassing search result for their title, but your readers still get the benefit of learning from the experience.

Karen said...

Like everyone else said, #1.

If a writer chooses to to have their query posted, it stays there forever. This is a service you are offering -- to both them and other writers. If they don't like it, they don't have to take part.

Theresa Milstein said...

I'm sure it's hard to read a scathing (though humorous) critique along with occasional harsh comments.

That said, I think writers who have their queries posted are lucky. You provide a free service with the opportunity for countless additional critiques on revisions for free. If a writer just gets the harsh critique and does nothing to learn from the experience by reworking and resubmitting, they're losing out on a rare opportunity. How many queries do you receive vs. how many you post? I'm sure it's a small #.

We writers all learn from how the query changes and (hopefully) improves. I recall that very recently you posted a new version of a query years after the original. Who would want to lose that opportunity for quality free feedback?

The writer is anonymous when a query is posted, so what does the author have to lose? I say you should delete the deletion option.

Megan said...

Number 1. You submit for a free critique, you lose the right to have your query removed. No one is forcing these authors to submit their work to you.

Aimlesswriter said...

They submit the query for the life of the shark.
If chosen, it remains on the shark for the life of the website.
If they don't agree to this, they can keep their stinkin' query and muddle through on their own.
Sheesh! You think they'd be grateful for the help!

Patty Blount said...


Back when I was querying, I'd had about 30 versions of the same query letter and was almost paraylzed by fear and uncertainty. Your Query Shark site was my grad-level course in the subject. I printed many of them out, tried to emulate what I saw, and what you said.

I'd vote for removing the 'take down' option. Participation is voluntary but those who submit must understand that they are not the only ones who benefit from your service. Taking down their queries removes the rest of us from participating and believe me, I studied those archived entries. If they cannot accept your criticism, they are clearly not ready to query.

I'm so sorry you're frustrated.

Zan Marie said...

I vote for #1. Let the writer beware from the start.

Anonymous said...

To not waste your time my opinion is:
#1 Yes,
#2 Yes,
#3, Maybe? Definitely if nasty comments are left, and possibly always if nasty comments are left,
#4 No!! I find what you do very useful and I'm sure others do as well. I hope this is a question borne out of frustration,
#5 I think you're on the right track with the first two questions.

David Eric Tomlinson said...

I think it depends on what you're trying to get out of this, Janet. If Query Shark is primarily a learning exercise for the writer, then the archives are probably sufficient. But if you are still getting something from the site - as an agent, a woman, or a shark - a tweak to the terms would probably do the trick.

Gina said...

I really appreciate this site. I'm getting ready to query right now, and I desperately LOVE the archives. I vote that you remove the option to have queries taken down.

If you worry that some people might not be aware of what they're getting into, maybe send a "These are my terms of service" email back to every request, requiring the query-er (is that not a word?) to respond that they agree.

Just a thought.

Please don't delete the archives.

Please don't stop.

Lawrence said...

Either 1 or 2 - your choice. I was fortunate enough to have a query reviewed and posted. You liked mine, although some of the comments posted ravaged it. Earlier drafts had been torn apart well before the draft that made it to Query Shark. I can understand the embarrassment felt at having your work attacked. I also understand that, to have any chance of improvement, you must be able to develop a thicker skin. Mine has been stuck frequently enough to cause calluses, but some jabs still cause pain.

If someone wants a critique, they have to accept the bad with the good. If they don't want honesty, they should go elsewhere - probably close family.

Having said that, you should reserve the right to remove any post for your own reasons, possibly due to agent or publisher request, or anything else you choose.

You offer the service. You set the terms. By the way, thank you for your work on mine.

I have not requested removal, nor will I, although, on my computer, I seem to be unable to access the archives before November, 2012.

Thanks again for your time and effort.

Anonymous said...

I say go with option #1, but replace it with a statement saying that anyone who submits a query to the Shark agrees that the critique will be posted and maintained in the archives. (And really, anyone who does submit KNOWS that. I think the writers asking that their queries be taken down are just upset that they got critiqued rather than showered with praise.)

Jozerphines said...

It defeats the purpose of telling people "read every single back entry" if back entries can be removed at will.

If your skin's too thin for it, then you shouldn'tve submitted to the shark in the first place.

#1, for sure.

Cheryl said...

Yours is the most useful site a writer can find when querying. Please don't stop critiquing. I go with the first option, and let the poster know once it's posted, it stays posted.

Thank you for all the time you spend on these queries!!!

Lemur said...

#1! Totally! QueryShark is a fabulous resource for all of us writers. Reading your site not only improved my query it improved my novel itself.

Maybe if the agent/publisher requested. However I REALLY LIKE the idea of just changing the title if the book gets published. (And if the author requests it.) That way the query still shows up and isn't linked to the book. That should even satisfy the agent /publisher shouldn't it? You'd know better than me.

I'd also suggest allowing folks to send a copy of the REAL winning query if they wanted - the one that got them the book deal - so we can see how their query evolved.

Agree with Malin too! My query didn't get chosen either. The folks who are picked for shark bait should be grateful!

Also, and you might want to point this out to those who want their title changed, some of these queries have probably resulted in SALES. When I read #192 Premeditated I went screaming to find the book. Same with #172 A Comedy of Terrors. No doubt others have found excellent reads on your site. Not all of the winning queries were my type of book, but they may have appealed to someone else.

Please, Ms. Shark, don't let this site die just because a few people OBVIOUSLY didn't read the entire site as they were supposed to. If you sign up to be chum you can expect to have your query shredded in the Shark's sharp teeth.

Oh and please don't kill the comments. I've noticed you've made corrections from them and they're often helpful.

Jennifer Cary Diers said...

I see no reason whatsoever that you are obliged to remove any posts. I recommend that you make it clear that the content belongs to you (for use only on this website and without monetary gain) indefinitely. If people don't like it, they won't submit.

Anonymous said...

Evil Editor doesn't offer a delete option, I don't think, and several of the queries in his archives are for books that are now out from major publishers.

I see a difficulty if the rules were changed now: People who submitted prior to the date of the rule-change would still have to be given the option to remove their query because those were the rules they submitted under. (Simple solution: Discard all waiting queries and ask writers to resubmit under the new rules.)

The two considerations that are probably why people are asking to be removed...

1. Public ridicule and

2. The query remaining in archives after the book's been published

...are the reasons many writers choose not to submit to query critique sites in the first place.

Anonymous said...

PS-- I'm a little surprised by the suggestions that the query be taken down at an agent's request but not the writer's. Why would an agent have more authority over a writer's work than the writer him/herself? Makes no sense.

Shayna Shaw said...

#1. If they're not secure enough to have other people see their work being critiqued, they need to get out of the shark-infested water.

Thomas E Ball said...

Option #1
It's the cost of the critique.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and one more comment and then I'm done-- I like the idea of changing the title and character names. Seems like a sensible thing for the writer to do before s/he submits the query for critique.

But I can't imagine the publisher or agent caring much whether the identifiable query was up on a website somewhere, provided the author didn't behave in an unprofessional and sales-threatening way in the comments or in the query itself.

french sojourn said...

Dear Query Shark
My fictional knovel takes place in 1890a.m.
Their is four main characters. Each character is written about in third person hanging participle. Their is this guy that meets a girl with a differenced outlook on life. The main character is written about only in the past tense. His future ex-girlfrind, soon to be wife, that’s why she’s his ex-girlfriend, well she’s written about in the future tense. This is because she is a back seat driver. The own a two seater convertible, and that’s there main conflict in Maine. Mainly because he’s British and drives on the left side which is not right. Well right to the left of the median………(This is a joke you know, thought you could use a laugh?)
Please correct, then take down from your non-profit site.
Hey Shark!!... Keep swimming against the tide, most posts illustrate the amount of respect and appreciation we feel for you. Don’t be a blue Shark. Smile with your three rows of teeth. Order up some sushi, or intern to go.

Colin Smith said...

Unless you know of a very good reason why a writer would, at some point, request that their QueryShark submission be removed (perhaps if the author's work is about to be published and they think the QueryShark posts reveal a bit too much of the plot?), I would agree that submitters should understand that their queries will be posted and available indefinitely in the archive.

My 2c.

Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

Seems to me that the only valid reasons to take down a query would be in cases of fraud or plagiarism -- that the work should never have been submitted in the first place. In which case the submitter should be banned from ever submitting again.

My two cents.

Dr. Phil

BP said...

I love how many comments this gets! :D Janet, OBVIOUSLY getting rid of Query Shark is not the answer (says 120 people and counting lol)

So I'm going to go with 1. What makes people want to take their query down is not the MEANNESS of peer comments (although that certanly might be a contributor) but the AWARENESS that those comments create.

Although the NAME is not linked to the query, the plot and actual title of the book are, so technically, someone could trace it. What is probably going through some paranoid, lesser-confident (or probably they were over-confident to begin with) writer's mind is this: "Hey, I'm out here naked and in the open and now I realize that my query is totally a hot mess and now not only do I see that, but a reputable agent, and a bunch of my peers, and possibly other (future potential!) agents see that as well! I better get this down before EVERYONE sees what a terrible writer I am?"

Don't know why someone would think that as I've read Query Shark for years and never thought any less about a person who submits a faulty query than one who submits a good query; they're both taking a chance! However...maybe just some insight to the madness. Bleh.

Craig F said...

Add to the subject line that you have not only read all of the archives but refuse the right of removing your query. Make this count 90% of the time and the others only on a whim

Jayne said...

Option one, oh Query Shark! I agree with poster 4 - 'having your work posted is the price of a free critique'. Absolutely.