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!