Queries, Queries, and More Queries

Yeah. I promised more about queries.

It’s been crazy here at the Filbert offices. Haven’t posted a while so I figured I’d finish the query discussion right here, right now.

So here we go… the last of the query tips in their entirety:

The Secrets of Rejections Revealed
By Beth Ann Erickson

Rejection is a part of every freelancer’s life. We all hate it, but it’s a reality we need to face.

However, now that I’ve sat on both sides of the writing desk, that of freelance writer and editor, I view at rejection differently than I used to.

Quick note: although I make a point to not read too many Filbert Publishing queries anymore I recently spoke to the person who has taken over that task for me. Things haven’t changed much in the six months since Elizabeth become our first line of defense in filtering appropriate projects toward the correct people in our tiny organization.

Here’s what she tells me:

Nineteen out of twenty queries she receives are for works of fiction. Unfortunately we aren’t accepting any new fiction until 2007… probably later. Sad fact is, fiction doesn’t sell very well. Fiction that doesn’t sell doesn’t pay our bills. When we don’t pay our bills we don’t stay in business.

We mention that we aren’t accepting fiction in our online writer’s guidelines, but evidently many writers don’t check online guidelines before querying.

So… Query Tip #1 – Check your market’s most current online guidelines if you can. The Writer’s Market often lists publisher’s website URLs so take that little extra step to give you a big edge when it comes to your queries.

Next, Liz tells me of the remaining queries, three-quarters of those do will not appeal to our audience. Nope. We don’t publish dog books. We don’t publish political diatribes. We don’t publish astrology either. We publish books that freelance writers would find interesting but rarely receive queries that match that description.

Query Tip #2 – Make sure your query is appropriate for the market you’re querying. If they don’t publish books on fish, don’t send them a fish proposal.

One day Liz called me breathless. “Listen to this,” she gasped restraining laughter, “This one says, ‘Dear Bart and Mary…’”

Sigh.

Actually, our names are Beth and Maury. We’re probably picky here, but an author who gets our names wrong really doesn’t need to work with us. “Dear Editor” is a little better but not much.

Query Tip #3 – Send your query to an actual person, and be sure to get their name right.

“We’ve queried you three times and you haven’t responded!” Liz digs through the envelope and wouldn’t you know… no self addressed stamped envelope (SASE). She immediately tosses the query into the recycling bin.

Without a SASE you will not receive a response. We receive hundreds of queries every month. If we were to provide a stamp for every one of them our postage expenses would absolutely skyrocket.

Query Tip #4 – Always include a SASE.

We occasionally receive a rude e-mail demanding to know the status of a query.

Now, here’s the thing about e-mail: we occasionally have trouble receiving e-mail. I don’t know what the deal is, but for some reason or another I’ve come to realize that we’re not receiving all the e-mail we’re supposed to receive.

It could be our sp*m filter. After all we receive hundreds of sp am messages daily and our filter automatically deletes a lot of it. Perhaps your query got lost in there. Sometimes when I’m downloading e-mail I’ll notice the server said, “downloading five messages” and I’ll receive two in my in-box. Where did the other three go? Only heaven knows…

Query tip #5 – Don’t rely solely on e-mail for your queries. If you’ve sent an e-mail query, don’t assume your recipient received it. A lot can happen between your computer and theirs. If you’ve sent an e-mail query and feel you’ve waited long enough for a response, either move on or send a courteous follow-up.

Liz is a fantastic person. She and her husband of 40+ years walk to the post office daily to pick up the queries. One day Liz stopped by the office with a mammoth package. “You requested this?” she asked.

“No,” I replied.

We opened the package and inside was the longest double-spaced novel I’ve ever seen. Musta used an entire ream of paper. We didn’t ask for the manuscript. The author didn’t include a SASE. So there we were with a huge package and nothing to do with it. We recycled it.

Query tip #6 – Don’t send your entire manuscript unless the publisher asks for it. (And if you do decide to do this, please include a SASE.)

Finally… Liz called one day saying, “I’m not sure I like this job anymore.”

“Why not?”

“Well,” she answered, “I’ve got this query here and it’s a novel about a frustrated author who puts poison on the glue of her SASEs.”

“Really?”

“Yeah,” she replied, “and now I don’t want to lick envelopes anymore.”

“You were licking them?”

“Not anymore,” she shot back.

Query tip #7 – Don’t freak out your potential publisher. It’s just not a good thing.

These seven simple query tips are easy to implement and won’t cost a cent. Plus, by following tips, you’ll better target your queries and reduce the number of rejections you’ll receive. Perhaps you’ll even hit pay dirt and wind up selling your work for a tidy profit.

Talk later,

Beth

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