Change of Heart

Last week, you may have noticed some interesting happenings over on Twitter. Several agents participated in “queryfail” day. They posted “turnoff” lines from query letters, in hopes of helping to educate writers about what we don’t want to see in a query.

At first, I wasn’t going to participate, concerned that people might think we’re making fun of writers. But I thought about the fact that my intent was not to mock, but to show writers what it’s really like for agents. I imagined you would benefit from seeing some of the things that make agents shake their heads. Perhaps by reading a few inappropriate queries you’d realize that your own queries are pretty good by comparison. And quite honestly, agents receive so many unbelievable queries that I think we sometimes just need to lighten up and laugh to avoid crying and/or giving up on our jobs altogether.

I examined my motives and I knew I was not approaching this from a mean-spirited place. Mid-afternoon I decided to join in “queryfail.” I posted several tweets, being careful not to include any identifying information or anything about the content of someone’s story. Most of my tweets were paraphrases and composites of lines from queries, rather than direct quotes. And I tried to include things writers would actually learn from (i.e. common mistakes). Still, I worried people would think I was being cruel, so after a little while I bowed out.

I thought back to the blogs I’d posted about “What Not to Say in a Query Letter” where I used lines from people’s queries, and I questioned whether that was right. I always try to be helpful with my blog posts. I realize sometimes truth in this business is hard to take, but I still try to speak the truth in love, even when I get a little ranty.

The bottom line is, I want you to feel safe in querying me. I don’t want you to think I’m mocking the queries I get, because I’m not. I don’t want you to worry that you might be used for blog fodder or Twitter fodder.

So I thought maybe I should stop posting bad examples from queries on the blog or Twitter, or any public forum.

Yet, I know many people like it when I do, and I know they also learn. Many writers cringe at the thought of their work being used as a “bad example,” but at the same time, aren’t you always clamoring for more feedback from agents? Since so many people say things in their queries like, “It’s a fictional novel,” or “A spiritual memoir in the style of Anne Lamott, Don Miller, and Lauren Winner,” isn’t it helpful to know that these lines are usually query-killers? I’m thinking perhaps you’d want to know.

So I thought of a way it might work. Here’s my new policy: I will never use actual quotes from any correspondence I receive, EXCEPT if I get permission from the author first.

I reserve the right to paraphrase or compile “composites” of bad-example queries. I will also try to post more often about GOOD things people write in queries. Although I admit, I usually don’t do that because it’s so straightforward, and I’ve already given advice in many posts, like this one and this one.

I hope my new policy can accomplish both goals of continuing to educate and entertain writers while avoiding mocking them. I appreciate those of you who express support of what I try to do here, and offer me grace when I don’t always do everything right. Thanks for reading.

P.S. Special thanks to Nathan Bransford, who inspired me in this, and Colleen Lindsay who hosted queryfail and has taken the brunt of the criticism.

P.P.S. If you liked queryfail and want to read some well-written defenses of it, try these: Katherine, Christine, Criss, Nemil, and Michelle.
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Myra on March 14, 2009 at 9:46 AM

    >You make me wish I wrote Christian fiction!

  2. Kelley on March 11, 2009 at 8:52 AM

    >I’ll say as an aside, and NOT to Rachelle in particular, I think sometimes people believe if they ascribe good intentions to their behavior, it somehow makes all their resulting actions okay. But maybe the idea is to look at your intentions and see if your actions are the BEST way, the most effective way, to carry out your intentions. And I think that is what the debate is here-educating writers is a great intention, but what’s the best and most effective way to accomplish this? That’s all.

    Since no one has yet to admit to it-I will. I once made the single most embarrassing submission to the world’s most fantastic agent. My hard drive had a bug and it did the funkiest things to my ms. Unaware, I sent it to her and well, let’s just say it was something. And she blogged about it. :O 🙂

    In retrospect, I’m glad she did. She didn’t list specifics or give names, but used it as an example to educate. (Something she strives to do-help and educate writers who it seems she genuinely cares about.)

    She said look, this writer sent me this insane ms. And you know what? It was cool. I fixed it and I read it because I liked it. So stop freaking out about stupid little stuff, oh neurotic writers, because if you follow guidelines and write something I like, I will overlook stuff if need be.

    Don’t get me wrong. I wish my ms hadn’t been submitted in technicolor, but I learned a valuable lesson. And she used what happened to me to help others. In a good and gentle way. So, yeah. I love agents reaching out to help us, it’s just in the how for me.

    I love your blog, Rachelle, and how you’re helping others here. Thank you, and pls don’t let any negativity stop this.

  3. Anonymous on March 10, 2009 at 3:29 PM

    >I had two reactions to query/fail. Probably the same two many other writers had when they read it. First, I laughed, then I thought “how nauseating.” I laughed at a couple of the seriously whacked ones–laughed till I cried, I’ll admit it! But the overall impression of that many query/fails, with the attendant gong-sound at the end (QUERY/FAIL!) and the obvious chortling on the agents’ part, was not a good one. They did not acquit themselves well for their agencies, that’s for sure. The deal is, it’s insiders’ humor, and they, the agents, the ones inside, are clearly (no matter their self-denial) laughing at us, the sorry folks on the outside who just want to play. I certainly would never query anyone involved in it. (Maybe you, Rachelle, because you figured out quickly how it looked to the outside and exited.) Here’s a case where the technology has gotten ahead of the personal responsibility, ethics, and yes, kindness. I’m all for venting with people in my work groups…in a private setting like a bar, not online where my victims/target of my humor can read it. Education, schmeducation.

  4. Rachelle on March 10, 2009 at 11:47 AM


    I understand you being appalled at queryfail. I understand you being surprised I was a part of it. I don’t understand you referring to it as “gleeful mocking” when I went to great lengths to explain that it was NOT that for me. I had no way of knowing that some participants would treat it that way, and I don’t take responsibility for that. I think I just got finished explaining that when I realized it was becoming that, I dropped out.

    And no, I’m not going to ask people “Can I post your really bad query on Twitter and gleefully mock it?” Trust me, I’m not going to do anything like that to anyone.

    OF COURSE that would be hurtful. I hoped people would realize the “unless I get permission first” in essence means I’ll never be quoting anyone’s query. Because I’m not going to ask permission.

    Despite all evidence to the contrary (cruel, ranty agent that I am), I do have a heart.

  5. Pam on March 10, 2009 at 11:13 AM

    >I was appalled at what I’d read at queryfail. I was also surprised at hearing you were a part of it. I’m glad you decided against participating.

    I don’t think gleeful mocking has any value in this business. I also hope you don’t go to a rejected author and ask to post their “bad” queries. The best way to do this is to hold a query contest with the parties willingly wanting to put their queries to the test–for good or bad.

    Just my opinion…

  6. Anonymous on March 10, 2009 at 10:02 AM


    Thank you. You have restored some of my faith in humankind.


  7. Steve Garufi on March 10, 2009 at 8:34 AM

    >Ahhhh, now I *finally* know what #queryfail was all about!

    Personally, as I work hard at writing my first book, I now appreciate all the query fail stuff. Authors need to know what to do when submitting their book proposal to publishers with regards to what to do and what not do. Ohhhh, you know, like follow the guidelines precisely and pretty much DO NOT be unprofessional, DO NOT include unnecessary and distracting extras and DO NOT make oneself look stupid! 🙂

    Rachelle, it speaks well of your character that you felt bad about matters of ethics and potential hurt feelings from the event. Go easy on yourself! 🙂

    I’ve learned a great deal about the publishing industry thanks to your blog. Keep up the good work!

    -Steve Garufi
    Buena Vista, CO

  8. Anonymous on March 10, 2009 at 8:08 AM

    >Personally, I want to work with an agent who shares my belief that it is never okay to ridicule someone else for any reason ever. I graduated from high school a looong time ago. I don’t have to put up with it anymore. I do not believe for a second that ‘it’s a business’ and ‘writers need thick skins’ are valid excuses.

    You’re still on my Query list, Miss Gardner, providing I ever write the kind of story you represent.

  9. Kim Kasch on March 9, 2009 at 11:12 PM

    >I’ve submitted my share of what would be queryfails (QF) including some hilariously HUGE mistakes (okay it’s hilarious now-not then) but I’ve learned a lot and I think the queryfail was educational but then I don’t mind laughing at myself – why not, my kids do all the time? I’ve shared some of my BIG mistakes here.

    I don’t think it was meant to be mean-spirited, and sometimes I think we need to lighten up a little.

    Of course, I love Nathan B. too and appreciate the power in positivity – I just didn’t think QF was negative. If you want to read more check out ”GalleyCat”

  10. Timothy Fish on March 9, 2009 at 10:38 PM

    I am well aware of why the tag is there, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is there. In writing, the difference between something that comes across as funny and something that comes across as mean spirited is a matter of timing. Every word impacts timing, whether it is part of the sentence or only an artifact of the tool. In this case, it made #queryfail appear, in your words, as the punch line. Burma Shave.

  11. clindsay on March 9, 2009 at 10:24 PM

    >Adrienne –

    Yes, that’s exactly it. There are certain aggregators that perform keyword searches on Twitter based on locating the # (hash mark) symbol.

    It’s actually a great search tool if you’re looking to see what people are discussing on Twitter in real time. Two good aggregators to try are and (yes, with two Ts).

    You can type in any word – like coffee – and put a # in front of it and these aggregators will pull up anyone talking about coffee.

    Likewise, if you have a large group of people deciding to all have a chat about the same thing at the same time (like #queryfail), you can give it any name you like. As long as everyone participating in the chat agrees to use the same keyword, you can have literally thousands of people participate in one chat at the same time.

    Hope that helps shed some light as well.


  12. Adrienne on March 9, 2009 at 9:17 PM

    >Quick answer Timothy about the #queryfail. That wasn’t the punchline to a joke, it was the title of the exercise. There is a separate website that basically searches Twitter for certain key words with a # before it, and then lumps all of those posts together. This then makes the exercise easy for followers to follow, they simply type in “#queryfail” into the program and then they can follow anyone who has been posting with that in their tweet.

    I hope I’ve explained it, as I was going I realised it was trickier than I thought. 🙂

  13. Timothy Fish on March 9, 2009 at 8:01 PM

    >What got me with QueryFail is that they all end with #queryfail, like the end of a Burma Shave ad or the drumbeat at the end of a comedian’s joke. “ka-boom-chic” I don’t see anything wrong with mentioning some of the funny things people do, but that #queryfail at the end it like making a wisecrack about someone and then yelling, “In your face!” It gets old very quickly.

    I’ll say that, no matter how ill advised a query might be, I never doubt the sincerity of the author. If he says he knows he is great because his mother likes it, he means it. If she says that she received the words of the novel from one of Jesus’ half-sisters returned from the dead, I figure she believes it. While we find these statements funny and they reveal something about the author, it is unlikely that simply telling authors not to make these kinds of statements will do any good because they believe what they saying. For that matter, there are authors with similar beliefs that have not only gotten published but have done well.

  14. Anonymous on March 9, 2009 at 7:21 PM

    A sincere thanks for what you do for us writers. My question is: Back to the elevator pitch blog…I was so surprized that you would scold those who addressed you as Mrs. Gardner: when most often writers are instructed to approach agents exactly in that business-like manner. I thought it made you seem as if you definitely would find …something…wrong. And I hope and expect that is not the case.

  15. Amber Lynn Argyle on March 9, 2009 at 6:54 PM

    >I have mixed feelings too. I hate it when the agent gets “snarky,” but I’ve learned a lot from it. The thing is, snarky is entertaining. Niceness isn’t aways as much. But you’ll gain friends instead of a wary chuckle.

  16. macromab on March 9, 2009 at 6:48 PM

    >In one sense, I think it’s much ado about nothing. Unlike American Idol parading the musically-impaired for all to gawk at, this was all anonymous, so I don’t see the harm, but I do respect your change of heart. Nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution in these things.

    It seems relatively simple: if we bother to do our homework by reading this blog and others like it on how to do a query, and have some amount of writing ability (and a decent product), it’s safe to say that we won’t end up as a queryfail example.

  17. Anonymous on March 9, 2009 at 5:31 PM

    >Sara, I don’t think Colleen needs you to defend her as she seems quite capable of rationalizing her actions on Nathan’s blog. In fact, she seems quite proud that she’s in a position to crush a new writer’s spirit–and is already bragging about queryfail #2.

    Is she going to attack unpublihed msss. next? I’m an editor, not a novice, and I know better than to hold up people’s bad writing examples as entertainment.
    Why not find another way to get your kicks?

  18. Catherine Downen on March 9, 2009 at 4:56 PM

    >To Jessica:

    To answer your question, “who has” would be written “who’s” not “whose.” An easy way to remember this is that the apostrophe takes the place of the missing letters.

    (English teachers, unite! Bad spellers, untie!)

  19. Catherine Downen on March 9, 2009 at 4:31 PM

    >Rachelle, it’s ok. Really. Finding out what we’re doing wrong is just as helpful (maybe even more so) as finding out what we’re doing right. If I’ve got a line in my query that makes an agent laugh or cringe, you’re doing me a great favor to let me know so I don’t keep sending it out that way. And if others can learn from my mistakes, even better.

    Thanks again for all you do to help us be less clueless in the challenging pursuit of publication.


  20. Janet on March 9, 2009 at 1:11 PM

    >I was also not troubled by queryfail. It was educational and – yes – entertaining. I dislike American Idol because there is a face on the person who is being ridiculed (and let’s face it, that’s what the early rounds are all about, ridiculing the delusional). But in queryfail there were no faces, no names, so it is the foolishness, not the person that is being held up as a bad example. And I don’t have any problem with that.

    As for good queries, there are examples all over the Internet of queries that worked. Many agents have shared successful query letters in their blogs, many writers have done the same, and Absolute Write also has a compendium of successful letters. I’m sure there are other places. Demanding balance in queryfail is like insisting that every sermon preach the entire Bible in the interest of balance. It’s perfectly all right to narrow the focus sometimes.

    Rachelle, if you don’t want to quote letters verbatim, that’s quite understandable. But I think getting a letter from an agent asking permission to hold me up as a bad example could be just as bad as seeing my sentences posted anonymously.

  21. Doug on March 9, 2009 at 12:58 PM


    I found the queryfail to be very educational for people querying those particular agents. I read a lot of agent blogs, (including yours, which I like a lot) and I find conflicting advice on them. One agent will say don’t bother to include nonfiction accomplishments on a fiction query, while others have the totally opposite view.

    What I get from this is that doing your research on an agent is critical. Finding out what they like and dislike before the query is crucial.

    For instance I know based on your interests it would be a waste of your time and mine for me to query my latest novel. But that’s not a bad thing. It allows both of us to pursue the authors and agents that better match our interests, and I think focus is important.

    Keep up the good work. I will be listening.

  22. Sharon A. Lavy on March 9, 2009 at 12:58 PM

    >I must have missed something. I was only following two of the agents who participated and only noticed the rants that showed the lack of reading the guidelines before sending.

    Maybe I need to pray for more sensitivity. Having said that–I spent too many years of my life getting my feelings hurt and it’s not worth it.

  23. lynnrush on March 9, 2009 at 11:57 AM

    >I did see those twitter posts…was like, “OMG” at first, then realized what was going on. Yeah, I’m mixed on it. BUT, it was educational…so it’s a double-edged sword if you ask me. Sure, I’d hate to be one who wrote what you posted, but for those who read it, it helped them….

    So, yeah, I think I’d rather see what WORKED versus what didn’t work, actually. Then I have something to model my letters after. **smile**

    Thanks for the post!

  24. Adrienne on March 9, 2009 at 11:48 AM

    >Anon 10:02 – it seems to me obvious you didn’t follow #queryfail, because there were the odd Query Wins, and I recall them mostly coming from Colleen, the agent you revile so much and called out as a bully. The fact simply is agents get more bad queries than good ones, so that will be the ratio. Nonetheless there were posted tweets about queries that were good.

    Personally I had no issue with what happened. None of the tweets I read were personal in the least, and were mostly just “didn’t follow guidelines”. Granted I didn’t read the whole thing, and I hear there was one, ONE, agent who named names and that I don’t approve of. Still the rest were incredibly professional and . . . honestly . . . I just don’t see the big deal.

  25. Anonymous on March 9, 2009 at 11:43 AM

    >Anon 10:02 –

    If you’d bothered to read through the entire queryfail post stream, you would have realized that indeed the participating agents did post examples of good queries when they came across one.

    May I point out also that at all times Colleen Lindsay refrained from actually calling people derogatory names in any of her queryfail posts, whereas you feel it perfectly appropriate to call someone whom you’ve never met a bully. I’d say that wasn’t very Christian of you.

    Fed up with hypocrites on the Internet-

    Sara Fenwick

  26. Stephanie Reed on March 9, 2009 at 11:40 AM

    >If these links were already posted, please forgive me. If not, interesting reading–one author’s opinion on do’s and don’ts for agents and editors (including telling tales out of school, so to speak):

  27. Lea Ann McCombs on March 9, 2009 at 11:23 AM

    >I’m obviously in the minority here, but I didn’t see the big deal about queryfail. It wasn’t much more than the usual examples Rachelle posts on this blog to show us what NOT to do. I’d bet most of the query lines posted were not isolated incidents, but happened so frequently it was time to say something.

    Yes, it would be embarassing to see one of my idiot phrases posted, but I bet I’d never use it again! Neither will the thousands of other writers who see it. I just considered it another way to educate.

    I appreciate Rachelle’s sensitivity, since it clearly offended a lot of people, but c’mon future writers…lighten up!

  28. Anonymous on March 9, 2009 at 11:02 AM

    >Instead of posting only extremely BAD examples of queries, why not try posting good ones?
    Also we writers need to start up AGENT-FAIL–how about it?

    Of course Colleen would defend herself on other agents’ blogs. She seems like the biggest bully on the playground. As a child, I outgrew the bad habit of mocking weaker girls or misfits.
    Glad you’re not one of the bullies any longer!

  29. Camille Cannon Eide on March 9, 2009 at 10:48 AM

    >Jen & Kev said: You jumped on the playground merry go round and did a few whirls. You realized it wasn't as fun as you imagined, so you jumped off.

    As one who has jumped on the merry dealymajig on impulse and had or gotten a few laughs, and then regretted it later when I found that someone's feelings were hurt, I can say with authority that:

    1. People DO get hurt by our jokes even though hurting them is the last thing we want, and

    2. No, Jen & Kev, it IS as much fun as you hoped. There's the beauty of what Rachelle did by jumping off. If we turned from sin because it turns out to be not that much fun, that's nice; but if we turned from it while it's still enticing because we know it's wrong, that's gold.

    A beautiful, honorable thing to do, Rachelle. Way to go.

  30. Timothy Fish on March 9, 2009 at 10:35 AM

    >If I ever write something so atrocious that someone feels obligated to request my permission before using it as an example of what not to do, that would be a good day to die.

    I don’t follow Twitter, so I didn’t see QueryFail until today. I see nothing wrong with a simple list of query mistakes on a blog, so before I read it I was ready to assume that a few people just had their bloomers in a knot. The more I read of it, the more I got the impression of a bunch of agents sitting in room, slapping each other on the back and saying, “Here’s another one! You’ve got to see this!” followed by uncontrollable laughter.

    Few authors would place me on their short list when looking for a publisher, but I can say that I published a book after receiving a query letter with more than one of the mistakes that ended up on QueryFail. If a query letter provides sufficient reason to say, yes, nothing else matters. I doubt the stars of QueryFail had a chance, even without the mistakes, so I wonder if there is really anything of educational value there.

  31. Heidi on March 9, 2009 at 10:17 AM

    >I followed much of the queryfail during the afternoon, and didn’t think much about it other than that I was glad I’d done a lot of research before jumping into the pool myself and managed to avoid most of those mistakes…. mostly because agents like you have pointed many of these out on your blogs.

    I didn’t see anything wrong initially because I was just reading the agents’ comments. It wasn’t until I started getting tweets from other writers that I saw the mocking aspect of it.

    I don’t think the agents were necessarily in the wrong. Most tried to be general enough and point out common enough mistakes that it would have been hard to determine if one of those was a specific author’s query. And I am guessing that someone that follows agents enough to know about queryfail wasn’t making those mistakes. Most were just a real lack of research and understanding of what queries should and shouldn’t be.

    Still, the fact that by doing something like that – even if sensitively – opened up the floodgates for people to be overly sarcastic, mocking and hurtful, does make one question the benefits of it.

    I always appreciate that you try to do the right thing by people, and that you value writers both as professionals and as individuals. In the end, I think that’s what counts the most.

  32. clindsay on March 9, 2009 at 10:05 AM

    >Unless we call it Queryfail 2: Electric Boogaloo….hmmmm!

  33. Dara on March 9, 2009 at 9:58 AM

    >I liked queryfail, but I understand your reasons for asking for permission from the author first.

    Personally, I don’t think I’d mind–I’d at least know what goof I need to fix for future queries. And it’s not like anyone would know it was my letter, except for me and the agent.

    Anyway, I’m glad you found some “middle ground” to appease both sides 🙂

  34. Rachel on March 9, 2009 at 9:39 AM

    >One more thing:

    No one would take a musician seriously who had not spent significant time learning the technical aspects of his/her instrument. Passion is important, but is not a stand-in for technical proficience. Passion without techinical ability is always either funny or sad. Hello, American Idol! I wonder why some writers feel like they can just churn out whatever thrills them and think it will thrill Rachelle? I don’t think the stars of queryfail are people like us who comb this blog for information, read trade books, and expose our work to thoughtful scrutiny.

    Still, I’m twerked out of shape by the queryfail topic. I certainly don’t want to be a jerk.

  35. Michelle on March 9, 2009 at 9:16 AM


    Your honesty and heart are refreshing because it’s always a good think to consider the impact of our actions. I was (and am) a big supporter of queryfail in that I learned a lot about what should and should not be in queries.

    Your new policy is sound and will hopefully alleviate any qualms you have about helping writers by posting query feedback.

    I’m hoping that writers who were afraid of rejection take heart and realize that it is for their benefit to pay attention when agents offer criticism, both good and bad.

    P.S. Thanks for the link.

  36. Rachel on March 9, 2009 at 9:16 AM

    >I didn’t feel bad reading queryfail at all. Rachelle didn’t use names, and the information about how to do a correct query is easily accessible. It’s a competitive business, and I expect to be on the receiving end of tough criticism if I ever put myself out there. But I certainly will do every last shred of my homework first to reduce the chance of making a glaring, avoidable error. It’s not sad to me that someone would blaze forward in ignorance and choose to display their work to a large, unsympathetic audience. I am a musician. I am a professional violinist and a very amateurish guitarist. If I get on stage in front of seasoned, accomplished musicians and perform on guitar, I better brace myself. I’m not in that league. Not sad. Just true. But I appreciate how you always, always seem to be searching your heart, Rachelle, and I could probably learn a lot from your example in that regard.

  37. clindsay on March 9, 2009 at 8:56 AM

    >Hi Rachelle!

    First, I wanted to thank you for partcipating in the Queryfail Project. Despite some naysayers, the vast majority of the feedback that I saw online yesterday after doing a pretty thorough search was amazingly positive. I received a number of touching thank-you letters from writers who were grateful that so many of us took time out of our day to try to live-stream our queries and why we rejected them.

    You wrote . Most of my tweets were paraphrases and composites of lines from queries, rather than direct quotes. And I tried to include things writers would actually learn from (i.e. common mistakes).

    The fact is, that’s what MOST of us were doing, including changing charcter names, places, etc. Most of the participants played by the rules that Lauren and I set down. Unfortunately, one agent used a writers’s real name. He was immediately reprimanded by me for doing so.

    Yet in much of the negative feedback I’m seeing online – mostly, it seems, from people who haven’t actually read the whole stream of Twitter posts or who don’t use Twitter at all – it is assumed that we were just cutting and pasting queries whole, sentence by sentence.

    I also know that you yourslf were the victim of some awfully small-minded and nasty comments, questioning your commitment as an agent, and event your commitment to Christ. I have to say, anyone who would write such a thing about you is not someone I’d want for a client anyway.

    You’re a great agent with a big heart, and it’s awesome that you always find time to reach out to people – whether on your blog or on Twitter – to educate and be helpful. And as so many of the people in those links I emailed to you yesterday revealed, most writers found queryfail very helpful.

    So, yes! It’s going to happen again: Queryfail 2: Queries Never Die!!! (Starring Bruce Willis and that kid from High School Musical.)

    Chin up, lady!


  38. Lady Glamis on March 9, 2009 at 8:45 AM

    >I know I would have been mortified and crushed if I had been one of those quoted on queryfail. I applaud you for thinking this through and typing up such a heartfelt and honest post.

  39. Janna Qualman on March 9, 2009 at 8:44 AM

    >I think it’s great you’ve reassessed what’s best for you and your intent. We support your decision!

    And I LOVE your new header pic!

  40. Michelle Wegner on March 9, 2009 at 8:22 AM

    >I completely understand your heart in this, although I think it is a healthy thing for everyone to take a breath and laugh every once in a while.

    I have posted my “Top Ten Funniest Moments As A Pastor’s Wife” in a few places. It’s really, really funny, but very sad if you look at it from the perspective of the people who do things to make my life so insane.

    I don’t think I’ll be posting it anywhere anytime soon, until I am certain that the “offenders” are not around anymore.

    Ok that sounded morbid. You get the point. 🙂

  41. Krista Phillips on March 9, 2009 at 8:17 AM

    >Wow, loved this post!

    I always have mixed feelings when I read those quotes on agent blogs.

    To a point, it is quite funny. And to another point, it is educational. (I don’t *think* I’ve ever written “fiction novel” in a query but I’m sure I’ve said it before not thinking!)

    But I’ve always thought, “Crud, what if I come on here one day and something from MY query letter is posted.” Especially from my raw, newbie days when I was one of those that sent in a query (to a different agent) that I’m now horribly ashamed of re:quality.

    I personally love your stance on this. I never thought badly of you for posting these quotes, however the etiquette of asking a querier for permission seems appropriate. It also allows that person to be educated on the faux pas before they see it broadcasted publicly.

    It got me thinking though: if someone asked me to use one of my idiot moments as an example, would I say yes? Probably. I’m secure enough in myself that I can have a laugh over my mistakes—most of them anyway:-) I’d just love the forewarning first!

  42. CB on March 9, 2009 at 8:11 AM

    >I am appreciative of agents who have opened up a window into the world of publishing by giving us insight and valuable information. All that is good.

    Although done with the best of intentions, last week’s #queryfail on Twitter opened up a window into the sarcastic and degrading nature of what goes on behind the scenes. All that is bad.

    Better to leave those windows shut and keep it professional by just sending out the rejection letters. Like we were taught as children, if you don’t have anything good to say . . .

    Kudos to Mr. Bransford and others that shunned the invite. I know that I would not query an agent that ridiculed slush in public without a writer’s permission. (No matter how cleverly the agent tried to disguise it.) How could I have any confidence that I will be represented with class and professionalism?

    Your change of heart is welcomed and greatly appreciated.

  43. Sara J. Henry on March 9, 2009 at 8:10 AM

    >Maybe writers will start putting disclaimers at the end of their query letters: This query is confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom it is addressed. Be advised that any use, dissemination, forwarding, printing, or copying of this query is strictly prohibited. Particularly on blogs or Twitter.

    I have mixed feelings about #queryfail – it seemed a good idea (sort of a Twitterish Query Shark) but Query Shark folks know their letter will be dissected. It perhaps would have been better if the “fail lines” had been consistently presented without comment. But during the course of the day (and the 100s of frustratingly bad queries) it had to be easy to forget that people might be crushed at being presented as a bad example.

  44. Litgirl01 on March 9, 2009 at 7:57 AM

    >I am an English teacher and I love to share funny student essay tidbits with my colleagues. I am not being malicious, just need to vent sometimes. I know that queryfail wasn’t meant to hurt anyone. I mean, why would agents want to purposely alienate writers? On the other hand, I was a little saddened for those who might have been tweeted. I was also glad it wasn’t me. Still, I am not afraid to put my query letter out there when I am ready. I feel that having done my research, I am well informed.

    Furthermore, I know how pertinent to your survival venting can be! Lord knows I am right there with you sister! LOL

  45. Jen and Kev on March 9, 2009 at 7:56 AM

    >Rachelle: I love your humility. And so does Jesus. At first I was amused at the query fail– you always feel good when you look at someone else’s mistakes and think “At least I never did THAT!” I have done lots of other ditzy things, however, far worse than an ignorant query letter. So, none of us can point out the specks in others’ eyes, even if it feels good for the moment.
    You jumped on the playground merry go round and did a few whirls. You realized it wasn’t as fun as you imagined, so you jumped off. I’m proud of you. Thanks for putting your respect for us and your love for the Father ahead of your own need to ‘vent.’ God will honor you–Jen

  46. Richard Mabry on March 9, 2009 at 7:18 AM

    >Since I’m still Twitter-challenged, it took me a while to recognize what was going on with all the “queryfail#” stuff. As you know, I love a good laugh as much as anyone, and I’m not above a mild sarcastic remark, so long as it’s taken in context. But this seemed sort of like what we used to do in the play yard: “piling on.” I think your change of heart is refreshing. Thanks for being big enough to do it.

  47. Gwen Stewart on March 9, 2009 at 7:05 AM


    I think the picture of that vivid broken heart above says a lot, and undergirds every word you typed.

    It takes courage to remain open in this business. That’s true for writers; I’m sure it’s true for editors and agents as well. It’s probably a lot easier to sew that heart shut than to allow it to stay open, and even change…and then explain the change, when you could have just as easily remained silent.

    Your courage is a real inspiration. It propels me to keep an open heart too, even at great personal cost. It encourages me to put it out there, within reason of course, but to stay vulnerable and real.

    Thank you for all you do. There does not need to be any quotes around your professed faith. That you allow your heart to be open and you learn from the brokenness that we ALL share (every one) says it all.

  48. Anonymous on March 9, 2009 at 6:52 AM

    >Thanks for the change of heart.
    As I said on Nathan’s blog: “If agents are willing to post failed queries online, I hate to think how they may mock our sample pages behind our backs.
    I’m a published writer, but even that idea makes me nervous, not encouraged or inspired at all…
    What’s next?”
    At least this may be one way to slow down the flood of (bad) queries!

  49. Sharon A. Lavy on March 9, 2009 at 6:29 AM

    >Thank you for the previous posts which were helpful to me and for the new policy for those who did not understand.

    I am enjoying getting to know you through your blog and look forward to saying howdy as we pass in the halls of a future conference.

  50. Jessica on March 9, 2009 at 6:25 AM


    Is who has written who’s or whose? LOL Anyone know? I think I messed up!

  51. Jessica on March 9, 2009 at 6:23 AM

    >Well, I didn’t see queryfail so I don’t know how it sounded. I think it would be hurtful for newbies, but someone whose been around for awhile would probably find it funny.

    I hope you realize that you’re a very kind person. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that.

    There’s an agent in the blogosphere who has a very small following and I think it’s because the posts come across as harsh and arrogant. Look at your followers. 🙂 We all like you a lot and can tell that you have a soft heart.
    Even Miss Snark people loved ’cause she was like House, abrasive on the outside, warm on the inside.
    Anyways, hope you have a great day!

    Oh, and those posts, snarky though they may be, are very helpful. I’ve made the same mistakes in my queries because I just didn’t know better. I didn’t know everyone else was saying the same thing, or that it came across as rude. So thank you for informing us and helping us walk a little steadier on this road!

  52. Jody Hedlund on March 9, 2009 at 5:38 AM

    >I can understand your decision, Rachelle. You want to educate not humiliate.

    If we’re downright honest, however, most feedback hurts no matter how it’s dished up (at least for a little while). It’s what a writer does with the honest feedback that makes the difference; we can wallow in it or use it to improve.

  53. T. Anne on March 9, 2009 at 1:20 AM

    >Thanks for your post Rachelle. I have a thick skin but queryfail stunned and sickened me on a different level.
    It didn’t come across as helpful or insightful on the contrary it felt in your face, complete with finger pointing and laughter. Those kinds of things go on behind closed doors I’m sure but to flog people out in the open for sport seemed a little harsh.

    Colleen seemed very open on Nathan’s blog, it was interesting to read her comments.

    I hope I didn’t offend you, I really love you as a sister in Christ. Just sharing my humble opinion.

  54. ~Jamie on March 9, 2009 at 1:08 AM

    >As a new writer working HARD on my query letter with mounds of rewrites on my little back of the book blurb… I had mixed feelings.. on the one hand it was funny to read some of the stuff, but on the other, I started to think of the five hundred and eighty seven rewrites I have done on my letter, so this stressed me out! I had a good time though, and I hope they keep doing it, because it was a great learning experience. I think your decision is a very wise one, a best of both worlds so to say 🙂