It turns out that I have an 86% rejection rate I think this is actually rather low. Other agents will probably say their rate is 90% or higher. Many of the queries I should have rejected, but something about them made me pause. Next round (reading the partial or proposal) will see maybe 80% rejection.
Here are a few reasons I requested a partial (fiction) or proposal (non-fiction) based off the query.
- great platform (non-fiction). More times than not, it's the platform we are looking for. Evaluation of whether the idea is marketable comes in the next round.
- good story and/or concept. This includes ideas that are hot right now and highly marketable.
- something got me hooked. I can read the worst query in the world and be left wondering what happens. (I should not be requesting these. Bad query more times than not means bad writing. As an Agent-in-Training I am allowing myself a stupid period. One day I will be all knowing, but for now I am a grasshopper.)
Here are some of the biggest reasons I reject queries:
- no platform (non-fiction). Platform sells, if you don't have it, get it before you query.
- screenplay. We do not accept screenplays, yet I will see a query for one about once a week.
- bad bad bad bad query. About once a week I'll stare in disbelief at my computer screen and want to cry.
- wrong genre (fiction). Check out the agent's list before you query. It saves everyone a lot of time.
- Simply not interesting.
- If we can't figure out what you are requesting/offering, we won't spend time trying to figure it out.
- Full length novels are 60,000-100,000 words. Too much over and it's a no. Under, and it's a no. Even the first Twilight book was under 100,000 words.
- Use the agent's name, not "Dear Sir or Madam." Do you even care? If you don't, then I don't either.
- Make sure I can understand the first sentence of your query. Don't use words that I'll have to look up. I have a large vocabulary, but I'm not a walking thesaurus (which you obviously used).
- Use some specifics in your query, what exactly is the protag fighting against? It's the conflict we, as humans, love. I don't care that you have been writing since you were two and are going to be the next Hemingway.
- Get your genre and word count right. For example, "chick-lit" will never ever be 130,000 words. To me: chick-lit=mindless chatter. 130,000=philosophical debate on life. And the two shall never meet!
As I wade through the "slush" that will be my career (some days I'm just not sure what I was thinking!), I wonder if I will ever find a good manuscript. Then I find a good manuscript (these are the days when I rub my English degree in my Dad's face), and it's all worth it.
Happy (query) writing!