how to get a request for pages · query problems · writing problems

Today’s query batch: how I replied and why

I read a small batch of 6 queries. Here are my reactions to each and why I chose to reject, wait, or request.

Note: I must be vague about some things. However, if you identified a small problem in your book and wondered, “is this bad, or am I okay?” this post will give an answer.

The first 4 were easy rejections:

  1. Way over word count (about double what’s right for the genre); pages were boring
  2. Way over word count on a children’s book; pages were wordy description
  3. Too violent with no stakes; no empathy for the characters (or real-life survivors)
  4. Beginning rambled as character gave us background about various people and things; no reason to invest

All 4 shared the problem of not catching my interest on the first page. Whether for voice, rambling, or lack of conflict, I wasn’t interested in reading further.

Which means readers wouldn’t be. Thus they all got rejections.

Interestingly, all 4 had male protagonists and male writers. Out of 6 queries, there was only 1 female protagonist.

dented red mailbox labelled mail on a wall with pealing paint and stucco

Query #5 caught my attention and kept me reading past page one. The female protagonist had a strong, unique voice. In the first sentence, she announced her conflict with another character. It hooked me because the situation was both unique and relatable.

Verdict: I set it aside to reread later. I read good ones twice to make sure before I reject/request.

Query #6 also caught my attention. The author’s resume impressed me and the query had a good hook.

I had misgivings about the latter half of the query: it set up a disenchanting plot. A random, powerful, evil man wants to turn the world dystopian for unknown motives. I’m tired of this careless and underdeveloped storyline.

Another clear voice wound through these pages. The writing was good. Characters were intriguing, if a little overdone. (Certain overdone tropes make millions yearly, so that’s not a reason to reject.)

The decision came down to the synopsis.

Unexplained questions popped up in every paragraph. That works in some genres (magical realism, literary subgenres, middle grade), but not most.

Things just sort of happened. The right person appears at the right time. The golden boy is son of the long-lost king. In the end, someone who was there all along but never spoke up explains everything. Gag.

These are weak devices used by lazy writers. They are also overused and boring.

The synopsis revealed a particular trope which agents are currently avoiding, too. That particular theme flooded the market a few years ago and needs a rest. Also, the plot reads for younger readers than the book intends.

It got a rejection.

To see what you can learn from this and how to apply it to your book, continue on to Today’s query batch: TLDR.


Image by spinster cardigan.

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