Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.
Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a new series of posts called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers for the real expert--agents!
If you have your own specific query question, please leave it in the comments and it might show up in future editions of Query Questions as I plan to rotate the questions.
Please welcome Tamar Rydzinski of the Laura Dail Literary Agency shares her answers to common query questions. Thank you so much Ms. Rydzinski for taking the time to respond and ease some fears about the query process.
Is there a particular time of year that is better to query?
Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
It depends. If the typo is in my name, then that makes me think the querier isn't being careful and that isn't something I appreciate. However, we all mistype sometimes. And we all make grammatical mistakes. So if there aren't many, then I have overlooked mistakes in the past.
Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
As long as the query is decent, I will look at the sample pages included.
Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
I don't mind chit-chat, so long as it's applicable. Like, I read ____ that you represent and loved it and think my manuscript is similar in these ways ______. That works for me.
Writing, I see you live in New York so you'll definitely like my query. That doesn't work because it's super general and you're not telling me why the place I live relates in any way to your manuscript.
Is there a bias against querying authors who have self-published other books?
Nope. But don't bash self-publishing or traditional publishing! Authors make choices for specific reasons. If you chose to self-publish because you believed in the quality of your work but it's a paranormal YA and you knew it would be difficult to find a traditional publisher, that's a valid, smart decision. And perhaps it helped you build an audience. Don't knock that decision.
Have you form rejected great projects you think could be accepted elsewhere or do you try to give some feedback?
I do form reject great projects that someone else might love but aren't right for me.
What themes are you sick of seeing?
I get a ton of queries for Holocaust books. I've yet to request one.
What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
Sci-fi. Either YA or adult.
Contemporary women's fiction--a big, sweeping story.
Middle grade adventure.
What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes?
I'll give you three of my favorite books I've read this year (my clients not included, of course):
Defiance by CJ Redwine. I love dual perspectives. I love strong women and men who respect strong women.
Out With It by Katherine Preston. I love books that make me see the world in a way I have never seen it before, and this memoir did that for me.
Defending Jacob by William Landay. I'm only half way through, but am totally obsessed. I love the way this book is structured and Andy is an incredibly strong narrator.
Tamar is not interested in prescriptive or practical non-fiction, humor, coffee table books or children’s books (meaning anything younger than middle grade). She is interested in everything else that is well-written and has great characters, including graphic novels. A fantastic query letter is essential – “you need to make me want to read your book, and be excited to read it,” she says, “with those first couple of paragraphs.”
Follow her on twitter @trydzinski