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Plymouth, Devon, United Kingdom
West Country author, winner of Piatkus Entice award for historical fiction 2012.

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Query Minefield

Okay, so here we are once again at the query stage. I've not given up querying The Dust Of Ancients, but I have this shiny new MS that I'm currently a lot happier with - largely because I think it'll be easier to place, genre-wise.

Tainted Legacy is straight historical fiction. There's a romantic element; and a bit of physical tussling sometimes resulting in death; and a stolen diamond; and there's even a ... nope, not giving anything else away here! But basically, yeah, it's historical fiction.

Right, so time to brush up on current thinking regarding that old chestnut; the query. Once again I'm so mired in confusion and conflicting advice/requirements. I read Query Shark religiously, read all the comments; the wins and the fails, the confused, the questions, the agreements, the disagreements ... and I read other agents' sites, where I discover everything I've learned is a huge no-no.

QS requires an immediate hook, the word count etc at the end, and the query to give a strong indication of what the story is about. Other places insist you begin with the info, and that you include a personal bio. QS states no bio unless it's relevant, others say they want to get a feel for the writer.

So, I signed up to this thing called Query Test where you can submit a query to a virtual slushpile, and have other people read it and tell you whether or not your query has their attention. Okay, so I've had 2 'no' replies so far, and both of them give their reason as 'it's not to their personal taste' and it's not a genre they read.

Well, I'm sorry, but is this going to accurately reflect a query's chances? I wouldn't send my query or my MS to an agent who isn't seeking historical fiction, or who doesn't represent it.

I've had a couple of decent e-mailed rejections from (actual) agents, both of whom have complimented it in one way or another, but being told your query is no good because the reader doesn't like historical fiction is like being told you're ugly because the beholder prefers blondes.

Anyway, since there's no method of replying to those Query Test observations, I thought I'd blog about it instead, and vent a little bit here. I'm bloody exhausted with it all, to be honest!
I follow the different requirements as far as they're laid down by different agents, but most of them don't tell you if they're from the school of "less is more" or "gimme everything."

Well, I've bitten the bullet (oh no! a cliché!) and sent my query to QS for ceremonial ripping-to-shreds, and will await the verdict, if I get one.

One final note - The Tooth Fairy = epic win! Except I kept thinking that now, whoever reads my short-story: A Tooth For A Tooth, about the tooth fairy's revenge, is going to think I nicked bits of the film. Ah well.

Oh, and a final-final note: Julian Fellowes is currently writing/filming a series set in a big, Edwardian country house, about life above and below stairs. Hmm, maybe he's copying me!