Monday, July 18, 2011

How to Succeed at Query Rejection

(The obligatory query post.  Don’t act surprised.  It’s a writing blog.  You knew this was coming.)

There is a place in every writer’s career, a time both mixed with elation from having just finished (and hopefully edited) a manuscript and confusion, where a single question pops into the mind:  What now?

If you’re the type who walks into a bookstore and picks out where on the shelf your book might fit in, the next step is Querying an Agent.  Let’s do ourselves a favor here and side step the whole self publication / ebook / indie road to publication discussion, or for that matter, the argument over the need for an agent.  Firstly, I know jack about self publication and in my experience, an agent is a must.

My blog.  My rules.

I’ve had two agents.  My current one, John Rudolph, is with Dystel & Goderich.  Both relationships began with a simple, one page letter known as a query.  This might get a little elementary, but that’s okay.  If I'm going too fast, please raise your hand.  Remember, there are no stupid questions, only stupid people. 

Right.  Where was I?  Yes, the query letter.  There are many places to learn how to write one, but the website that helped me the most is  Instead of regurgitating (apologies) everything I learned there, I suggest you click the link and get to studying.

Of course, the hook, synopsis, bio format isn’t the only way to write a query, but it worked well enough for me.  Feel free to experiment with what is most effective for you, but remember – the query should be about the book.  It should not be about your inflated dreams of celebrity or all the useless market research you’ve done, offered as evidence for why your book sales will make J.K. Rowling’s figures look like a Girl Scout’s cookie rush invoice.  Do yourself a favor and skip that crap.

The only universally accepted rule to querying is this: your query will be rejected.  The other only universally accepted rule is: follow the submission guidelines of the agent.  Okay, pardon the math there.

Rejection at the query stage is okay.  It should be expected, in fact.  If your manuscript is in great shape (read: polished after several drafts) and your query is an honest reflection of your voice and book, a rejection simply means that there is a conflict of taste. 

And there’s no accounting for taste.

To imagine an agent’s perspective, I like to think of my own regards to foie gras, often found on fine dining menus.  I mean, that’s freaking duck liver.  A dish made from an organ that filters all the impurities and toxins from the blood of an animal that walks around all day in its own feces?  Not my thing.  But that doesn’t mean that the quality and presentation isn’t spectacular.  It just means that for the next several months I don’t want to spend my days helping you perfect the recipe before we sell it in a restaurant.  I’m just not the guy for that.

So don’t be afraid of rejection.  Embrace it as part of the process. 

Since I brought it up, I’ll include my query letter here.  If you have any questions about the querying process, feel free to ask in the comments!

Dear Mr. Agent,

I am querying you today as a former client of William Morris Endeavor, following a heartfelt decision by my agent to cull his fiction catalogue in favor of celebrity memoir and nonfiction.  This manuscript has not been submitted.
When an assassin burns his cathedral home and leaves one innocent murdered in a style not witnessed in centuries, seventeen-year-old Gabriel Adam’s father reveals that Gabriel is one of four Archangels, born human and sent to stop Armageddon.  Now, he must leave behind dreams of attending NYU to fulfill a prophecy kept secret by a phantom religious sect charged with the pre-biblical traditions of the End of Days.  Thus begins THE SECRET OF GABRIEL ADAM, a 73,000 word young adult novel.
Sixteen hundred years ago, the Roman Empire declared a prophetic book, The Apocalypse of Solomon, heretical and banned it from Biblical canon.  With every copy soon destroyed, all the information it contained to secure mankind’s right to the Earth realm disappeared forever.  However, its secrets survived in the knowledge of a professor, whom today resides in England.  With the assassin still in pursuit, Gabriel and his father travel to the English university town of Durham, hoping that the book will guide them.  Joined there by Micah - the Archangel Michael born as a girl - Gabriel must learn to have faith in himself and accept the role he must play in the coming war without being distracted by his new life as a college student or his religious skepticism.  But with two of the four Archangels hunted down and presumed dead, the only chance at stopping the assassin’s plan to ignite the apocalypse remains hidden inside the Ark of the Covenant, somewhere in Ethiopia.

I'm a practicing attorney and have studied international legal systems in England. My time abroad encouraged an academic interest in religious histories throughout the British and Roman Empires. THE SECRET OF GABRIEL ADAM represents the culmination of my research from an agnostic perspective. 

Thank you for your consideration.  Should you like to see more of THE SECRET OF GABRIEL ADAM, please feel free to call or write. 



  1. Great query sounds like an awesome book!

  2. Thanks Rachel! It only took me 3000 drafts. ;)