Is this supposed to wow me?

Wow me, baby.

The first line in a query letter I received last month:

Soopah Editor from HooHa Publishing House and WhoaNellie Editor from Genuflect-When-You-Say-My-Name Publishing House both wanted to buy my book, but they were voted down by the submission board.

What am I supposed to do with this information? Should I fall to my knees and cry out a thanks to the Literary Gods for letting this author choose *me*…a significant little twig in the grand Po-Bah world of publishing?

Ok, maybe I’m getting a little snarkilicious, but this is exactly how my feeble quasi-working brain thinks when I see things like this in a query letter – especially if just one paragraph is dedicated to the book, and the other two paras are about how other people wanted this book. Just because Editors Soopah and WhoaNellie lurved your work – which I can no more verify than drink a pitcher of the beagle’s margaritas after a turkey dinner – doesn’t mean I will. Even if I could call up the Fair Ladies Soopah and WhoaNellie, the chitty chat would be fairly predictable.

Me: So, Soopah, WhoaNellie, thanks for the conference call. So whazzup with this ohmygoshamazingworkthatIgottabuy manuscript?

Whoa:  Um…oh yah, I liked the story a lot. Got tossed out at submissions committee.

Soopah:  Yep, me too. Bummer. Good book.

Okay, that sounded snarkybeans, too, didn’t it? But really, what will I have learned other than two other editors loved the book? It’s very cool, and this should verify to the author that she has something quite good. However, just because they liked it doesn’t mean I will.

We make decisions based on different parameters – the foremost being taste. Do we like the story, the writing? Is it marketable? If the answer to these questions are yes, then we don’t care if Mistress Gobalicisious, Queen of the Literary Gods, loved or hated the book. We love it, and we believe we can sell it. Being an independent publisher allows us a lot more freedom that Editors Soopah and WhoaNellie, which is cool. It allows us to take more chances. But in the end, it’s gotta sell.

I know this subject may seem pedestrian to many, but it’s another example of things authors do in their query letters to try to make their stories stand out, and it ends up having the opposite effect. It’s the same thing when authors include blurbs. A while back an author had one short paragraph about her book, and sixteen…I counted them…paragraphs filled with praise for the book – NONE OF WHOM WERE PEOPLE I REMOTELY KNEW. Even if I did know the author of a blurb or three, I wouldn’t be impressed because taste is subjective. I have to love it.

Remember, editors have no heart or soul, so we’re not swayed just because someone else says they loved the book. Everyone told me The Bridges of Madison County was to die for. I. Hated. That. Book. I’m probably the only one, so perhaps my taste should be called into question. But the point is that the opinions of a few supporters don’t a publishing contract make. So consider leaving the excess stuff out. Use the space in your query letter to make us drool over your book.

Now go out and be brilliant!

8 Responses to Is this supposed to wow me?

  1. NinjaFingers says:

    One of the things I always tell new writers is to *always* remember that editors are human. Even if an editor tells you a story is awful, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad story.

    It means *that* editor didn’t like it. Now if ten or twenty editors tell you it’s awful, it might be time to toss it on the rewrite stack or even in the drawer, but one editor, no matter who they are? Ignore it. Keep going.

  2. Genuflect-When-You-Say-My-Name Publishing House – HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! I laughed so freaking hard at this I almost wet myself. Lynn, you crack me up! 🙂

  3. Lev Raphael says:

    Love the photo. Publishing can make lots of authors squirrely!

  4. Donna says:

    Great post – and you’re not the only one who felt that way about Bridges of Madison County.

  5. awparker says:

    Another Bridges hater here. Couldn’t finish it.

    One thing I took from this was that we don’t want the same selection opinions from every editor. We want different reactions. If the example author had gotten the same opinion from you, it would be an “I liked it, rejected” comment with a pretty little note as to why. Still same thing. No contract. No hardback sitting on Oprah’s table.

    Hope, for us authors, comes only with a variety of opinions.

  6. You’re so not the only one who hated that book.

  7. Jason Black says:

    “We make decisions based on different parameters – the foremost being taste. Do we like the story, the writing? Is it marketable?”

    Perhaps most damning, the query already informs you that two fully independent bodies of presumably sober-minded individuals, whose very job it is to assess marketability, did so and concluded that the book was not in fact marketable.

    So why, he wondered rhetorically, should this prospective new agent think she’d have better luck with it elsewhere?

  8. The query was written by the author, not an agent. An agent wouldn’t include that information in a query.

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