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The Point System of Queries

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Nathan Bransford has a great post about a sort of point system to reviewing queries and how people break the rules when approaching agents.

The important thing to remember when you contemplate breaking some rule in querying an editor or agent is that your strategy should be deliberate and justified. We’re not talking about complete lawlessness and anarchy here. Instead, we’re talking about a measured decision — based on a fairly good bet for success — to go around the rules. Let’s look at an example.

As we all know, most of the big publishing firms do not accept unsolicited, unagented submissions. However, if you know (and that means more than just reading an article about him) an editor at Crown or if a published friends tells you to send your materials to her editor at Simon Spotlight then you have some justification to breaking the no unagented submission rule. Executed in this manner, the rule breaking shouldn’t reflect poorly on you and may even help you.

But if your strategy is to blindly spam the highest ranking editors you can dig up in an internet search, then your rule breaking will brand you an amateur and a pest.

You also have to be willing to suffer the consequences of your rule breaking. The bigger the risk, the worse the situation could be. We all know the story of Kris Kristofferson landing a helicopter on Johnny Cash’s front yard in an attempt to get his songs heard. It’s a helluva story and one tremendous risk. It paid off in Kristofferson’s case. But it could have just as easily resulted in a 12 gauge being levelled at his skull.

So think twice before you mail that submission to an agent or editors home address…