Query Mistakes: No Turning Back?

The submission process has been nicknamed the “query trenches” by the legion of aspiring writers online. With good reason. If you are serious about finding an agent, you must spend a lot of time researching literary agencies and polishing your submission material. After this careful preparation, you enter the “trenches”, submitting to each agent in accordance with their specific guidelines. All while navigating the endless posts/tweets/comments by publishing professionals about the horrific mistakes they see writers make, and trying not to get killed by rejection letters.

When I was in the query trenches myself, once I received a rejection letter for my angel/demon novel, then that same agent tweeted a minute later how annoyed she was that writers continued to submit angel/demon manuscripts to her, despite her regular tweets that she wasn’t interested. I was mortified. I thought I’d made the worst mistake ever, almost as bad as the dreaded grammar-error-in-query-letter (gasp!). I could never show my face in that agency’s submission inbox again.

I was wrong of course. Making a mistake in your submission is not the end of the line. You should do as much research as you can and polish your submission until it gleams. But errors happen. We don’t auto-reject authors just because they misspelled a word or incorrectly identified their subgenre. Trust me, we can tell when an author has worked hard on their submission materials versus slapping something together. Treat the query process as you would a job search, with professionalism, and we agents will return the favor. Although, I’m guessing if you are agonizing about that error in your sub, you probably already fall in this category. So know that if we passed on your carefully-edited query, it’s because it wasn’t a good fit, not because of the way you used “whom.” (Don’t use this post as an excuse to be lazy though, you should have multiple people proofread that query!) And, we’d be more than happy to see your next project when it’s ready.

I was asked specifically on Twitter about this, so here’s a list of “mistakes” authors make that will actually cause an agent to blacklist you.

  1. Being rude and unprofessional
  2. Responding to our rejection with angry/hurtful comments (see 1.)
  3. Badmouthing us online (see 1.)
  4. All of the above

Open To Submissions!

Happy 2019 everyone! New year, new start. I am pleased that I have reduced the number of submissions in my inbox to under 5. In part thanks to to the help of my wonderful assistant, Amber, who is an excellent reader. In 2018, I received over a thousand queries while I was open to submissions during Aug-Nov. Of those I ended up signing two clients. Both in the adult literary speculative space, Veronica Henry and Yume Kitasei. Very excited to introduce their amazing projects to the world in 2019. Both were cold queries, but both had done careful research and knew their projects were exactly to my taste. For neither was this project the first they’d written. So their persistence and research paid off. The query trenches are difficult, but it is where the majority of authors are picked up by agents, despite rumors to the contrary. So don’t give up! Cheers, and I look forward to reading.

Query Boot Camp Is Back

Kimberley Cameron & Associates is hosting another Query Boot Camp via Writer’s Digest January 15-18. Get four hours of online time with me or one of our other agents to ask ANY questions you might have about publishing and writing*. Maybe you want to know if dragons make good romantic heroes, or what is the average word count for middle grade, or why you shouldn’t start your novel with the character staring in the mirror even if they’re a zombie. Or perhaps you want a peek behind the curtain on the daily work life of an agent, do we really cackle loudly as we throw queries in the trash and eat unsuspecting new authors for breakfast? I promise an honest and fun forum! There’s an added bonus of a query and sample critique after the course is over. It doesn’t matter if you are ready to query or just putting the first words of your novel down. Click the image below to enroll. Sign up soon as spots fill up!

*If you’re writing nonfiction I recommend requesting to join Elizabeth Kracht’s group as the rest of us don’t represent nonfiction.

Happy Holidays!

I know I haven’t posted much this year. I blame this adorable face. But she’s going into pre-school in the new year, which means I’ll have more time! If you have any posts you’d love to see in 2019, questions about publishing, peeks behind the agent curtain, editorial advice, comment here.

Many exciting things happened in 2018 for my clients, deals, awards, sequels, and I couldn’t be prouder.

I will be open to submissions January 1, 2019, and I hope (this may be too optimistic) to respond to all remaining queries, partials, and fulls by that date. Until then, may there be lots of joy and celebration and cozy reading time for everyone.

Happy New Year!

Mary C. MooreMay 8, 2018

 

Mark your calendars, I’m hosting a live webinar for Writer’s Digest on Thursday, June 14 at 1pm EDT. We will be discussing reader immersion, natural world-building, and polishing your writing all through a SFF lens. And bonus, there’s a 750 word critique! For more details and to sign up click the link below:

Wizards, Robots, and Ghosts: Navigating Narration Within Sci-Fi & Fantasy

 

 

 

The Evolving Client List: Notes From A Literary Agent

I can see it. A break in the deluge, a light at the end of the tunnel. A clearing of the slush. Am climbing determinedly for it. I vowed I would not reopen to submissions, until I had responded to every last sub in all of my inboxes (yes, I said inboxes plural, writers have interesting ways of worming into every contact I have). It’s down to a handful of submissions, and these are the ones that I have been hanging onto for far too long. One or two will hopefully result in an offer, at last. But I have to face the heartbreaking reality that I must let most go. I can only take on a few more clients this year, and I need to make myself available for submitting authors once again.

So why would I suddenly make an offer on something I’ve had for months and months? And why would I open to submissions when I already have a full client list, plus some great submissions on hand?

An agent’s client list, both the current and seeking, ebbs and flows. Even mine–despite the fact that I tend to keep clients for multiple projects meaning less and less room for new clients–still morphs month to month. This is in response to a few factors, the ever-changing market, the evolution of my literary tastes, and the statuses of my current clients. For example, although I love love love YA (young adult) high fantasy, it’s super saturated and hard to sell right now, plus I have a large handful of clients who write in the genre. So where I was once eagerly reading all the YA fantasy, now I’m much more selective. On the flip side, MG (middle grade) is seeing a surge, and I’ve recently read more than a few really inspiring MG stories, e.g. THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON, which has made me hungrier for it. I wasn’t into adult thrillers a few years ago, but then I read some of the popular ones that came out, e.g. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN and found myself ready to sign one, but way after the market had peaked. Thus I’m seeking that super high-concept yet unique thriller that would be hard for a newer author to pull off. I’m a big fan of lady pirates, but a current client totally by coincidence pitched me a lady pirate fantasy and so I’m no longer looking for one. And so on and so on.

To make matters more confusing, I keep the projects that I saw potential in, because maybe in the future my client list will open up or the market will shift.

But it’s impossible for submitting authors to know any of this happening behind the scenes. Their best guess would be to check out the agent’s social media and watch the market. And agents understand this. We’re pretty happy if you’ve simply done a bit of research on us.

We wade into the slushpile, hoping for that one manuscript that fits the market and our current tastes and that we fall in love with. Not too much to ask right?

All this to say: I’m getting my waders ready. Hoping to open again to submissions this summer.

Submissions Update: Remaining Closed

As many of you know, I closed to submissions back in September. Thank you everyone for your kind words of support. Happy to report all is well. For those of you wondering when I will reopen, I did have plans to open again in the new year. However, due to an unexpected surge of client work, I’m going to remain closed to submissions for the immediate future.

Hope to be back mid-year! Keep an eye on this space for updates.

Cheers.

 

Mary C. MooreNovember 30, 2017

 

The versatile and talented editor Sangeeta Mehta hosted a Q&A on powerhouse Jane Friedman‘s blog. Myself and literary agent DongWon Song answered her provocative questions as honestly as we could! Check out the interview here. If you post a comment or question there, I will try to answer it.

Link address: https://www.janefriedman.com/ethics-and-literary-agents/

Mary C. MooreOctober 17, 2017

With so many natural disasters hitting the U.S., it’s hard to know where and how to help. But if you need a query critique anyway, why not bid on one?

Click here: I’m offering a query letter plus 1st chapter critique, starting bid $25.00–which is a steal!

Or bid on one of the other incredible offers from multiple publishing professionals in the usvipubfund.com. Proceeds go to support hurricane relief in the U.S. Virgin Islands via The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.