Dec 17, 2011

Poor Query Trend

We had a brief sitdown this week to discuss queries/submissions, and Nancy brought up something that really bothered her. It's something that I have been noticing over the last year, and it's gotten increasingly worse.

People are not proofreading their e-queries.

In some cases worse than others. But I can't tell you how many times we see spelling errors (note: most email programs have a spell-check these days), punctuation errors, and even sentences that don't make sense.

This is really a more recent thing. Of course there were always queries that had these issues, but we're seeing it more and more. And it seems like it should be common sense, right?

We're kind of at a loss as to why this is happening, and the only thing I can think of is that emailing makes it really easy to just type something out and hit "Send." Whereas, when we were all paying for postage on queries, perhaps more attention was paid? (note: I was a querying writer before email queries really came to be.)

I don't know. And I'm not knocking anyone in particular. There are also a number of e-queries that come in that are clearly proofread and professional.

(note: I'm not one to be picky about ONE error and neither is Nancy. Lately it's been more queries that are *riddled* with them.)

The issue here is that when I see that in a query, no matter how good your story is, I'm going to think the whole manuscript will read that way. It becomes an easy pass.

And while I'm currently closed to queries, Suzie, Kathleen and Nancy are not. They will pass if they see this.

Proofread those queries, guys!


Charlie Rice said...

Writers must present themselves as professional and easy to work with, as well as actually being able to write and have a salable product. Sending a sloppy query exposes laziness in a writer. Securing an agent is intimidating to begin with. It doesn't make sense to tell a prospective agent that. They might as well mention laziness along with their stellar publishing credits in their query. I may be unpublished at the moment, but yule never see me send anything without proofreading it first!


Angelica R. Jackson said...

I hope I've caught any spelling errors before I hit send, but what drives me crazy are formatting changes the software sneaks in there afterward. Something that looks normal in the draft will show up weirdly formatted in the Sent version, when it's too late to do anything about it.

Colin Smith said...

This is very odd, considering the abundance of query help there is online--from agents, even (such as yourselves)! As much leeway as you might want to give people who make silly mistakes, really there is increasingly less excuse.

In a way it makes your job easier, because it whittles down the slush pile quicker. But it also makes it harder, because there might be a really good novel behind one of those rejected queries.

I don't envy you.

JoSVolpe said...

Thanks, Charlie! I completely agrea ;-) hehe

Angelica--we can typically tell when it's a formatting issue vs. just being sloppy. I don't mind formatting issues, unless the type is too small to read (that happens). That's the only one that bugs me because I'm pretty sure it's not a formatting thing....

Colin - I know! There is SO much online that wasn't even available when I was querying (7 years ago or so). I think that's part of the reason I get so frustrated.

In any case, good writing eventually wills out. I really think it does.

Shelley Watters said...

I judged a writing contest for a chapter of RWA and I absolutely saw that. If the query was riddled with mistakes, the sample chapters were too. It was pretty indicative of the writer's attention (or lack there-of) to detail.

Thanks for the reminder! And I'm with Angelica! It's SO frustrating to see the formatting changes in the sent folder. Ugh! Gmail is a particular offender there!

LupLun said...

I'm thinking fatigue. There're a lot of writers out there, and with the recession agents are taking fewer clients and publishers fewer books. This means the queriers get told no, no, no for months on end, until finally a sense of "Oh, why bother?" settles over them.

Alternate explanation: It's just after NaNoWriMo, which I presume means amateur hour on the queue.

Shooting for the Moon

karen einsel said...

Hi Angelica, Funny you mention the formatting changes, because I was just reading about them and how to fix them. You can check it out here;

I am thinking before I send out my query, I will send it to my other email and see how it looks.
Hope everyone is having a great day.

jamercier said...

Hello Joanna,

After just sending off a handful of queries to my top agent picks, I may have an answer to your question. Whereas I love the ease of access, the eco-friendliness, and the speed of E-Querying, it does have its downsides.

I did all my E-Queries first, but upon actually printing out my Synopsis to send off hard copies, I was able to find one or two stupid errors. I was able to fix the errors for the Queries I sent out through Postal Mail, but with the queries that were emailed, I just have to hope that the errors are overlooked by the agents. Hope... and pray that my writing speaks for itself.

In this digital age, where almost all writing is done on the computer--even editing--my eyes overlooked the small things, even reading over the errors as if they were correct. For instance: one of the errors I had found was the simple error of using "can" instead of the intended "can't". I must have edited that Synopsis five or six times, and each time I read it correct because your eyes tend to play tricks on you when you're glancing at a screen that has an imperceptible refresh rate. It wasn't until I had a physical copy in my hand that I was able to spot the error.

So, I hope this gives a little bit of insight into your question. And with that said... to writers reading this blog: you will do yourself a favor if you print your writing out for editing, including your synopses and queries. Having a hard copy in front of you does wonders.

Joshua A. Mercier

{My pen is my sword; may I never have to use it in violence.}