So, I had this super long post about queries and whether they're relevant anymore, but it got eaten by Word because I'm an idiot.
It's probably for the best anyway, since my post was all drawn out and wordy. I'll paraphrase here and then let you chime in.
Recently, I went through the query process. I'm happy to say that I signed with an amazing freaking agent—Amy Boggs at Donald Maass Literary Agency. But having been through the ordeal a second time, I wondered whether queries have outlived their usefulness.
Everyone knows that agents use queries to find books they might want to rep. Many agents are so overwhelmed with queries that they look for reasons to reject a query, much the same way a hiring manager looks for reasons to reject a resume. It's not crass or pessimistic, it's just a fact of life.
With the magical Google machine, it's so easy to find information on writing a great query. I honestly believe that there's so much info on the Internet that if you're not writing a great query, you're not trying hard enough.
Which was the problem I saw. Writing a great query is easy. But even a great query doesn't tell the whole story of the manuscript. A great query is a writer's marketing tool. It's crafted to be enticing. That's all. Anyone with marketing savvy can make crap into gold. But doesn't that defeat the purpose of the query? If agents use queries to filter out books, but writers have learned how to write great queries, then aren't agents back where they started?
The other problem is that email has made querying agents so bloody easy, that I think it detracts from the process. Before email, you had to research agents, write the query, and physically mail it to them. There was no instant gratification. A person querying that way had to lay out a significant amount of time and cash to query, and therefore didn't do so lightly. But with email, you can dash off a query in ten minutes and be done with it.
I'm not sure if there's a solution (or if it's even really a problem!). But I wondered if maybe more agents should require a synopsis in addition to a query (or instead of, since a query really tells you very little about the book anyway). A synopsis is difficult to write. It takes time, and has the ability to show a potential agent whether the writer REALLY understands their book. Plot or pacing problems can be identified before they waste time reading the whole manuscript. Writing a synopsis might force the writer to take the process of querying more seriously, or might help them identify problems before querying at all. I know that writing a synopsis for my own book helped me understand a problem early on.
What do you
think? Are queries a waste of time? Do they still serve a valuable purpose? Should agents junk them and seek a different method of finding writers? Should I shut up before agents seriously start requiring synopses and writers everywhere hunt me down and hang me by my toes?
You tell me.