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Best "hook" vs. best ms

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I'm a newbie with no publishing experience, looking to send things to agents for the first time. Obviously, I know I should send what I think is my strongest work. However, of the three things I've written that I'm truly happy with, one of them stands out as having a better hook -- that is, I think I can explain it more dynamically in a query than I could the other two pieces. It's not, however, my favorite of the three items (though, as I've said, I do like it quite a bit).

If an agent requests a query only, without an attached ms, do you think it would be best to query the one with the best hook?  Do agents typically ask to see more work if they like your writing, even if the particular project is not right for them? Or are they turning down writers solely on a project basis (this particular project isn't right, so bye-bye Joe?).

On another note, is there a way to get rid of these little emoticons when I'm typing a post? I believe they're the culprit that's making posting on these forums unbearably slow.
#1 - February 19, 2014, 12:07 PM

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yes, Jennifer. If you go to your Profile, under Profile>Modify profile>Look and Layout you'll see a drop down box for Current Smiley Set. You can turn off emoticons there.
#2 - February 19, 2014, 01:05 PM
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Just my opinion, of course, but I think you go with your best manuscript and apply a lot of elbow grease to the query. A good hook certainly doesn't hurt, but when push comes to shove it's the quality of your pages that will carry the day.
#3 - February 19, 2014, 01:12 PM

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Makes sense. I realize everyone struggles with the same issue, but it's extremely frustrating to have to wow someone with a query before I can get them to look at the ms. It's only a couple of pages -- wish I could just send it along!

Thanks, Artemesia! That solved the problem.
#4 - February 19, 2014, 02:02 PM

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Thanks, Artemesia! That solved the problem.


Oh good! I'm so glad!


I agree with Mike that the strongest overall ms is best to query with. You could try posting your query here on the boards on one of our critique boards. We have some amazing people that are great at helping to polish up a query.
#5 - February 19, 2014, 02:38 PM
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I'm not so sure about this. I think where picture books are concerned, authors don't always know which one is the most appealing. Is there anyone in your life you can ask? That is, have them read all three manuscripts and tell you which one is your best? There's never been much of a correlation, for me, between which mss. I thought worked the best and what editors and other people thought.

If you've got a really great idea, many times and editor will acquire the ms. and help you rewrite it. I've had that happen more than once.

But fact is--it's almost impossible for us to judge these three mss. based on your description. I'd show them to someone who will tell you the truth (doesn't have to be another writer) and see what they say. In fact, two people are even better.

Also (and I'm sorry to say this) but beautiful writing in picture books isn't as desirable as it used to be.
#6 - February 19, 2014, 02:59 PM
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Hi Jennifer,

Just wanted to mention that most agents will expect the manuscript (pasted) underneath the query. Of course the query should be as shiny as possible, but your story will most likely be part of your query submission, too.

Best wishes!
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#7 - February 19, 2014, 03:02 PM
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If an agent requests a query only, without an attached ms, do you think it would be best to query the one with the best hook?  Do agents typically ask to see more work if they like your writing, even if the particular project is not right for them? Or are they turning down writers solely on a project basis (this particular project isn't right, so bye-bye Joe?).



It does depend. When I queried my agent, she really liked my submission, but she did have some issues with it. I had mentioned I had other projects, and she requested 2 of them. She liked them both, but one she was really excited about. It was that ms that decided her. I also had some rejections that invited me to query with other projects. I have heard that PB agents especially may want to see multiple PB mss before they decide to offer. But every agent has their own way of doing things. But I would definitely have at least 2 strong mss in case they do ask to see another one before offering.




I only had one agent ask for a query only. Most PB submissions require the text to be pasted into the body of the email. Just check submission guidelines carefully!
#8 - February 19, 2014, 03:15 PM
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Oh, there was also one agency that asked for TWO mss in the query for PBs. Not sure how common that is.
#9 - February 19, 2014, 03:17 PM
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Yes, what they said. You'll usually be asked to paste the whole PB below the query. All the more reason to send your strongest work and gear up to write an awesome query for it, IMO. *Sometimes*, as long as the query does nothing egregiously bad, the agent will skip over the rest of it and drop down to sample your text. THAT'S what you want to be your strongest.  :goodluck
#10 - February 19, 2014, 04:40 PM
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I think PB submissions are a bit different than others, but I could relate to your post, because I have the worst time with queries. When I enter contests with just the first page, I usually get requests, but not usually just off my query.
But I like everyone else's suggestions to get some feedback. You might even post your query in the forums to get some help.
My gut would say to go with what you think is the strongest (writing wise).
#11 - February 19, 2014, 07:04 PM
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Yes, I noticed that most places do ask for the ms with the query -- that would definitely be an advantage. But Writer's House, for one, does not -- query only, unfortunately. I'm not sure what the odds are for getting beyond the query stage.
#12 - February 20, 2014, 11:27 AM

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I think WH agents all have their own guidelines, and it's not a query one query all place, because I queried a WH agent and attached a ms...of course, it may be that because I'm an illustrator also I had a link to a dummy. So hard to remember the deets. It was a couple years ago now.  :eh2


You just have to make the query as strong as possible. Not much else you can do in those cases. A lot of agents look at the query as a test. If you can't write a passable query, they have doubts about your ability to write a ms. I encourage you to have some other writers look at your query. If you aren't comfortable posting it here on the Query and Critique board (or on the Critique SCBWI only board), you can ask for an exchange and just send it privately to some people. But really, all writing needs others' eyes on it.
#13 - February 20, 2014, 12:18 PM
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I think WH agents all have their own guidelines, and it's not a query one query all place


Yes. Check the individual agents you're interested in. They specify individually what they want to see -- unless something has changed very recently. I know I sent sample material to a WH agent when I was querying. (Probably 18 months ago now.)
#14 - February 20, 2014, 12:45 PM
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Also think about this: What do you want to connect with an agent over? Your favorite work or the books you are less excited about? What kind of books do you want to keep writing and selling once you do have an agent? Lead with those.

Good luck on the querying process. And remember that no matter how good your query letter is, no matter how carefully you target your manuscripts based on agent research, you will most likely get rejections that disappoint you a lot. But the right agent is out there, and, speaking from experience, it's totally worth the rejections to end up with the right agent in the long run. I can't tell you how grateful I am that the other agents knew that the fit wasn't quite right and that I'm with the agent I have.
#15 - February 20, 2014, 01:19 PM

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I would query with thd strongest. And if they don't request, you can query another agent or manuscript later...
#16 - February 20, 2014, 01:55 PM
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