Saturday, July 08, 2006

Q & A 62 Form Query Letters

Why don't submissions work like this? You send in a page, with the following information:

1. Title (Harry Potter)
2. Length (150K words)
3. Genre (Fantasy)
4. Concept (Boy goes to wizard school)
5. Setup: (There's a boarding school for wizards)
6. Hook: (Harry has a destiny in the shape of a scar on his forehead)
7. Resolution: (Student Harry fights the Dark Lord)

The editor sends you back a number. "1" means he didn't get past the title. "2" means they don't do that length, "3" means they don't do that genre, and so on. Obviously, most submissions will fail at "4", since very few books are about boys going to wizard school. The editor can also reject the manuscript at the level of setup, hook, and resolution, thus giving the writer far more feedback than the standard form letter yet at a minimal effort on the part of the editor.

Think of the efficiency! Editors could respond to submissions with a single number! Even better, editors could fill out the first few lines (except title), indicating that they are only looking for works of a certain length, genre, and about boys going to wizard school. I think this system would modernize the submissions process, perhaps even leading to the Holy Grail: computer programs that can reject submissions.

You're suggesting that rather than post submission guidelines that state we publish romance novels in the 50,000 - 80,000 word range, where any author can read them, that we wait until manuscripts of all genres and lengths arrive, and then respond individually with the genre and length we require?

You're suggesting that rather than have one stack of rejection letters on his desk, Evil Editor clutter it with ten stacks of numbers?

You're suggesting that J.K. Rowling wouldn't be a barmaid in a smelly Edinburgh pub today if she'd used your sample query?



Lightsmith said...

This post reminds me of the joke about how in the future, all jokes will be numbered and everyone will know them by heart. Instead of saying the entire joke, you just say the number.

(Told using the cast of "Friends" in place of man #1, etc)

Chandler: 22!
(the Friends all laugh uproariously)
Phoebe: Oh! Oh! 63!
(more laughter)
Ross: And who could forget...47!
Chandler: You told it wrong.

Bernita said...

Look, BC, the wheel will run better if it's not square.

Anonymous said...

A query letter is a way for the agent/editor to see if a writer can, in fact, write well. Wanting to query in point form seems like the suggestion of a person who doesn't actually like writing at all. I doubt such a person could produce a good novel.

I certainly hope that suggestion was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. If so, I do apologise; my sense of humour is currently out for dry cleaning.

none said...

Nah, these days the query letter is a chance for the agent/editor to see if Evil Editor likes the minion in question enough to write well on their behalf.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, how can I make it more convenient for agents to reject me? I know! A handy-dandy numbering system.