Query Quagmire

We regret to inform you that your book does not meet our current editorial needs or direction... bitch

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Anonymous asked: If I've edited my book as much as I think I could (multiple personal revisions, asking others to read it through, etc) and I still don't think it's great enough to ever be picked up, what do you think I should do? Would it worthwhile to attempt to publish it? I guess my question is this: how polished does a novel have to be before an editor will give it a chance?

I expect books to be extremely polished when they come my way. But that’s not really what you’re asking. You’re asking me if your self-doubt is valid. You’re asking me to alleviate your fears of inadequacy and encourage you to submit your book, whether or not it’s actually ready.

I’m not going to do that.

Here’s the thing, love: only you can know your own mind. You obviously don’t feel like the manuscript is ready to be submitted, and you don’t feel like there’s anything more you can do to make it ready. One of those assertions has to be wrong for you to justify sticking with this project. But I can’t tell you which one is wrong. The best I can do is tell you this:

Don’t be afraid. You lose nothing by trying.


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inksword asked: How much slush could an intern crush if an intern could crush slush (and dreams)?

All of it.

All the slush.

All the dreams. 



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I would like to submit for your consideration, the work of my client, Author Name, entitled Book Title. I have enclosed the synopsis below. Please let me know if you would be interested in reading this. Thanks.

This literary agent (I use that term loosely) submits a book to me every couple of months or so. And she always begins with this exact same sentence. I always turn her down. And I just want to march into her office, set her desk on fire, stand amid the flaming wreckage and shriek “FOR THE LOVE OF STRUNK AND WHITE WILL YOU PLEASE LEARN HOW TO USE A GODDAMN COMMA CORRECTLY?”

Filed under query letter literary agent slush pile Strunk and White

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thehufflepuffwholeaptthroughtime asked: Oh great and mighty, QQ- I am but a humble, nervous writer with curiosity that's beginning to drive me up and over the mental wall. I've been wondering if you're officially done with the latest Elevator Pitch Game, or if you've just been so swamped over with work (on top of being sick) and haven't had the time to get to any of the other prompts. *offers a box of White Cheeze-It's as an apology for the possibly annoying question*

Yes, alas and alack the game officially ended with the last of the pitches I posted, and I no longer have the other pitches that were submitted to the game (almost 100 of them, you prolific fools!). This game didn’t end as smoothly as I would have liked, because of the aforementioned illness and work swampage…

…which is why I plan to do another game soon! So hold onto your ideas, minions. I feel all guilty and stuff about leaving you guys hanging and I want to make it up to you just as soon as I’m able.


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jackierandall asked: Tumblr is too boring at the moment. You know why. :/

I have clawed my way to the top of Manuscript Mountain to bring you this message:

Your appreciation warms the cockles of my shriveled little walnut of a heart. But for some reason every author in the world has decided they need my immediate attention, and I have like 3,000 conferences to attend this spring. So instead of providing my dedicated minions with amusing diversions about the publishing world, I’m stuck doing my job at all hours of the day.

Believe you me, I’d much rather be hanging out with you guys! I promise I’ll queue some interesting content for you just as soon as I can. And if you sent me an ask, please be patient and know that I’ve received it, I just haven’t had time to answer it. 

QQ out!

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celdaran asked: More than two weeks without a post? That makes me happy: it means you're out there in the real world GETTIN' IT DONE. Or, uh, you ran out of Cheez-Its and are curled up in a fetal position somewhere awaiting rescue. Hoping it's the former.

A little of column A, a little of column B…

Rest assured, noble minions, I am not dead, merely indisposed! Your regularly scheduled QQ programming will return just as soon as I can claw my way out of this pile of manuscripts. 


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You have no idea how hard it was not to answer this with some variation of the Tigger song. For while I am both bouncy and flouncy (not to mention fun fun fun fun fun), I’m not quite the only one.

And thank you! As you know I simply live and die by shameless flattery, so you’re welcome back any time. :)


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litnerd22 asked: Hi QQ! I just finished reading your entire blog. I feel as if I've learned just as much here as at my shiny new editorial internship - where I'm paying my dues slogging through the slush pile. Just now I logged a reject as "blatant disregard for submission guidelines" but I wanted to type "READ THE F*CKING SUBMISSION GUIDELINES!" Thanks for being awesome. Here are some Cheez-Its. *places Costco-size box of white cheddar on the altar*

Costco-size is the only size as far as I’m concerned.

Thanks so much for your kind words, and for reading my (not so humble) blog! Write in to tell me about your intern adventures any time. As you know, I have quite the soft spot for editorial interns.


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Anonymous asked: Dear QQ, I'm currently at page 42 out of 68 of your wonderful blog and I wanted to thank you for the wonderful advice you give, as well as the tone you use to do so. I've just started properly writing my first novel (instead of just vaguely jotting ideas down) and I'm actually finding it a lot easier to write now that I fully understand that the first draft is likely to be awful and need a lot of work. I'm learning so much and please accept an offering of Cheez-Its as thanks for your wisdom.

Aw, shucks! I think I’m blushing. :)

Thanks for reading, and I’m glad I could help with your burgeoning writing career. Come back any time.


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Anonymous asked: Hello! I've been browsing around your blog/Q&A's for a bit but I apologize if you've already answered this question... I currently work as an Editorial Assistant for a pretty well-known publishing company (at least I think). Although I haven't been working here too long - just under a year - I was wondering when you moved on from being an EA to something else and how your process went. I don't really see myself staying at this company, but I feel like I'm at a little of an impasse. Any advice?

I’m actually not a very good example to judge yourself by. I had three internships before getting my first job as an editorial assistant, and through a series of random events was promoted to assistant editor after only 6 months. The promotion had much more to do with what the press and the editor I was working with needed at the time than any inherent talent or brilliance on my part. My meteoric rise through the ranks was nothing short of luck, and had there been a different editorial assistant in my place at the time, he or she probably would have gone through the same promotion.

Most fellow editors I know spent anywhere from 6 months to 2 or even 3 years as editorial assistants before being promoted. If you haven’t even made it past the one year mark yet, I wouldn’t sweat it. 


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inksword asked: Since you're probably inundated with elevator pitches and I'm partially to blame, I thought I'd ask a fun question! Do you like going to movies, and when you do, do you examine them with the same kind of critical eye as you do for books? I'm from a family of voracious readers and book critics, and I've noticed we do the same things to movies. *Leaves Cheez-its by the door on the way out.*

What a darling question! And thanks of course for the requisite offering of Cheez-Its.

Here’s the thing you have to understand about me: I love a good story. The medium is less important. But if I had to describe my personality in one sentence or less, I would say “I fucking love a good goddamn story.” Books are my first love, but I also enjoy movies, TV shows, comic books, webseries, poems, songs, theater, drunken campfire stories, my dad’s old army stories, you name it. 

And no matter the medium, the art of storytelling is remarkably changeless. There are always certain elements that define a good story, certain markers of effective writing/performing/creating which are transferrable between art forms. So I can (and sometimes do) examine movies with my trained editor’s eye.

My college roommate was a film major, and watching movies and TV shows with her was routinely interrupted by her criticizing the lighting or the camerawork. The habit was both enlightening and annoying, which I told her. She, in turn, suggested that I could be less critical of other people’s reading choices. What we took away from this discussion was that it was important to separate our professional selves from our personal selves as much as possible, given our professions.

So when I’m reading a book for pleasure, I’m usually not gauging its worthiness as a piece of writing. I’m not keeping a mental note of the author’s shortcomings or quibbling over their pacing. I’m just reading… as any non-editor would. Same goes for when I’m consuming a story in any other medium: if I’m off the clock, I’m primarily just enjoying myself.

Now, that’s not to say I’m completely unaware of the flaws in what I’m reading/watching. Far from it. Sometimes a story is done so poorly that it actively takes away from my enjoyment. And that’s hard to ignore. And of course, sometimes it’s fun to critically examine the stories we enjoy! It’s definitely possible to enjoy a story, and then turn on the critic later. 

I love a good story, no matter the medium, and my Editor Mode has an on-off switch. :)


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Anonymous asked: Oh, great QQ! I need your help! I am trying to find an agent for my YA book. When I look through profiles of agents, most of the YA they represent is things with fantasy elements or dystopian things. Mine is just about a real girl in real high school with no magic or apocalypse. Are there terms I can add to my searches to narrow them down? Thank you for your eternal wisdom. *leaves White Cheddar Ceez-Its at the altar and bows in reverence*

I find your meager offering acceptable, and I shall deign to answer your summons.

I think you need to start working backwards. Find published books that are like yours (YA, but realistic with none of that fantasy/dystopian funny business), and then find out who represented them. Then research those agents. A lot of authors will thank their agents either in the acknowledgements section of their book or on their blogs. So the information could be readily available, just not on the usual agent lists that you’ve been perusing or finding through search terms. 

Hope that helps! Good luck. You’re going to be great.