Saturday, December 18, 2010

Query this...

Oh my gosh, queries are rolling in and I've yet to make a call for submissions -- which is a good thing.

It is time to once again talk about the query process. There is information all over the internet about how to query an ms. I have several books on the topic on my book shelf. I've also thrown away several highly recommended books on the subject. The information is not a guarded secret. It is readily available.

This week there was a long blog post, on what literary agents want in a query letter, sent out on one of the industry wire services. I almost posted the link, but the piece was horribly boring to read, and quite honestly, there was nothing new included about what not to do when querying. Tip: Read the submission guidelines and follow them.

Here is what is important to me as a publisher: Make sure your ms is well written. A little bit of telling goes a long way. To write well, you need showing and lots of it. Showing puts the reader into the story and hooks into their emotions. It makes the setting and secondary characters become 3D (three dimensional), so they can support the storyline and the actions of the main characters.

Goodness, there are tons of books, classes, and seminars on how to write well. No one has the time or interest to read an ms that is not well written. Tip: do not send a draft.

I no longer read submissions that are not in ms format. If it isn't important enough to do it right, then don't expect it to be important to read it. There is an industry standard for the format - use it. Tip: Manuscripts are double spaced and synopsis are single spaced.

I know that I'm being blunt, but that is basic stuff. I'm not looking for people who write as a hobby or even those who are storytellers. Tip: I'm looking for writers who can write well.

At the very least learn the basic elements of writing. I can overlook some grammar problems, but not writing elements. After all, how many people actually know there are 48 prepositions, much less what a preposition is? If you really want to impress me, then get direct addresses correct in the dialogue.

Anita is the line editor for Cactus Rain. She can fix the grammar issues, if the ms is worth fixing.

It is simple common sense not to send a query that is addressed to another publisher. I'm all for recycling, but it is basic good manners to address the query to me when you write to me. If you can't bother to do that, then it is likely I can't bother to read the submission -- after all, you aren't serious about this time honored industry procedure.

I remember what it was like to send query letters. I do ache for writers who pin their hopes on being done with the process and on their way to fame. The best thing to do is to make sure your ms is polished, the writing is professional level, and the query follows the submission guidelines.

Big tip: If you seriously want to be published by Cactus Rain more than any other publisher, then buy Kathryn’s Beach and The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister and use those to see what we like to publish.


  1. You are right. Queries can be a task. Thanks for having held my hands all the way.

    Currently writing my next book (WOW!) Non Fiction this time... ANd I am all fired up! This is straight from my soul. To the High-school children getting out into the WOrld. I do not call it the big bad one. I think the world is great! It has angels... ;-)

  2. Hello Nidhi,

    You've defined your audience, now you need to find lit agents or publishers who cater to that audience. Plan the end work while you're writing.

    Good luck and best wishes!

  3. So pleased for you and Cactus Rain Publishing.

    Query letters are hard for me to write, sometimes harder than the ms itself. :)

    Loved both books you have mentioned. They sit on my shelf to keep me motivated.

  4. I hope you get loads of fabulous MS! Wishing you all the best for 2011 and beyond.


  6. Thank you, DJ. Best wishes to you too.

  7. Glynis, you are precious. I felt the same when I read the book. It is a Velveteen Rabbit sort of story. The people do become real, and that is what writing is all about.