Last week I said I would do a version of Sara Megibow’s popular “10 Queries in 10 Tweets” Twitter series, where she looks through the first 10 queries in her inbox and gives 140-character opinions as to whether they are good, bad, worthy of asking for more, or hopeless. I decided, as I went through my inbox, that instead of simply cribbing the idea for a blog post, I’d take the first 20 queries and do an analysis of them—how many are adult vs kid books; how many are fiction vs nonfiction; and crime fiction vs other kinds of stories. I have a couple of caveats: First, this analysis only includes unsolicited queries—the famous slush pile. It’s not recommendations from editors or clients. Also, I went straight down the list. It happens that of the first 20, only three were children’s books. That is highly unusual for me—I’m now at almost 50/50 kids/adults, so when I went through I assumed I was just having a slow week. Then I looked down a little and discovered that 7 of my next 9 were children’s books. So it’s just luck of the draw. Anyhow, here we go:
Of the first 20 queries in my inbox (which takes me only through the beginning of this week, I have
1) Eight adult crime fiction queries. Of this, three are mysteries, five, thrillers. Two are historical, and one of those is an impossible 200,000 words. (It’s an interesting idea, too, and I will read some of it. But 200k is pretty much disqualifyingly long.) Three are foreign based.
2) Four adult fiction, popular or literary. One seems to be a male 50 Shades, and another about aging.
3) Four adult nonfiction. One’s about a dog’s impact on a family after a tragedy, one’s about elder abuse and the sex slave industry (which pretty much disqualifies it for me).
4) One straight-ahead YA fiction that seems very interesting—badass girl, rock-n-roll, pretty strong background.
5) One book that describes itself as a MG/YA crossover, then makes THE cardinal sin of MG/YA queries: The author compares it to Rick Riordan, JK Rowling, AND Christopher Paolini. First of all, what these three series have in common are that they have boys, are for children, and have sold boatloads of books. They are tonally different, though, set in different times and places, and in fact have completely different philosophies (other than that the epic hero ought to win). The author, with that one sentence, ensured that I would not read further. If you are writing a query to an agent, you should—must, really—look beyond archetypes to really comparable titles. OK, rant over.
6) Two straight middle grade books, one of which takes place during the Civil War. It’s funny—while I love historical fiction that takes place in Europe or during the American Revolution, I’ve never really fallen for Civil War literature. It’s the same way with books about the Westward Expansion in the US—I have one Western on my list, and no Civil War books. I can’t say precisely why, but that’s the case.
So of these 20, I’d guess that I will read further on in maybe five, but really only have truly high hopes for one, maybe two, depending on the quality of writing. A couple of the authors have pedigrees—either higher degrees or previous publications with legitimate publishers—so they’ll get a look, even if their subjects aren’t particularly compelling at first blush.
I’ll do another set of 20 next week, in the hope that I have a bit more variety, or a novel that screams “Take Me!” that I can explain exactly why.
By the way, I’m on the ITW blog again this week, this time talking about writers conferences with my friend Paige Wheeler. Here’s the link: http://www.thebigthrill.org/2012/12/coming-dec-10-16-why-do-agents-attend-writers-conferences/