Query Letter: There’s Disagreeing and There’s Being Unwise

A recent email responding to my rejection:

Thank you for your comment regarding my story, but I have to disagree.  I don’t think my book lacks a plot or specific message.  Please let me know if I can rewrite my query and send it to you. You’ll find that if you read my work, that your conclusions are all wrong.

Um. Here’s the thing; I base my decision to ask for pages on the strength of your query letter. If your query letter lacks pertinent information, then I’ll normally say something so you may consider revising your query letter. I don’t offer critique in order to open a dialog or entertain a difference of opinion, so it does you little good to disagree with me.

It could be that your story rocks the Earth and Moon, and I’d be a simpleton not to immediately sign you. But unless you communicate that fabulosity in your query letter, I’ll be none the wiser. I understand author frustration and the desire to lash out, but rather than blaming me for the fact that you didn’t do your job in your query letter, try standing outside yourself and viewing your query letter objectively. Remember that I didn’t have the advantage of sitting next to you while you wrote your story, so I’m literally blind.

The Art of Objectivity

When authors fall into this trap of “What the heck, Pricey, why don’t you love my query?” it’s usually because they’re too close to their stories. Objectivity allows you to look at your query letter with fresh eyes and answer those pesky questions:

  • Is there a clear intro to my main characters?
  • What situation have they gotten themselves into?
  • What choices are they facing?
  • What do they stand to lose if they don’t take action?

Being too close can get you into trouble. You react defensively rather than taking a step back and allowing your cooler self to take control. This is when you publicly lash out at a bad review, or invite editors to make merry with barnyard animals if they reject you.

Of course there are times when authors have been unfairly rejected, and the editor was simply a cranky pants. But so what? You can’t argue your way back into their inbox, so why bother? Best line of defense is to avoid being like the author above.

Have there been times when you really wanted to bite back? What would you have said, and would it have been right?

6 Responses to Query Letter: There’s Disagreeing and There’s Being Unwise

  1. I agree with you. Arguing will not change the result. It is best to move on, have a retook at your work as well as query letter and, if possible, consult an expert before sending it elsewhere.

  2. D. D. Syrdal says:

    I’m always amazed at authors who do stuff like that.

  3. ericjbaker says:

    That’s like arguing with the referee for calling a penalty. He’s not going to uncall it, so just move on.

    If I have occasion to interact further with someone who rejected my writing, I either say, “Thank you so much for the feedback,” or, “Thank you for taking the time to read my query.” Yikes. Some people…

  4. Jwelling says:

    Ms. Snark’s finishing school grad. Revise, revise, revise, take you lumps, revise, query widely.

  5. Those are four very useful pointers for a query letter. So far, I’m not sure I’ve covered all those items, as I’m afraid of duplicating my synopsis in the letter. I’ve generally just stuck to a two-sentence hook instead.

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