Laura Zats

@LZats

Founder & Agent @HeadwaterLit . Host @printrunpodcast . Intersectional feminist. Geek. Beer lover/tea snob. Pibble enthusiast. She/her. Tweets my own.

Twin Cities, MN

Headwater Literary Management

Laura Zats @LZats · 23 May 2018

It's an imperfect system, but in a business of art and humans, it's the best way we know how. So go forth, aware that in deviating from the formula, you might catch a tired agent's attention, but that we'd much prefer if your awesome idea did that catching instead.

Laura Zats @LZats · 23 May 2018

We teach about queries because we know that in an effort to reduce our bias during reading, we're requiring you to learn and perfect a skill that, to be frank, will be of little or no use to you later on in your writing career.

Laura Zats @LZats · 23 May 2018

So no, there are no real "rules" to querying, but there are standards that exist for a lot of reasons. None of those reasons are meant to keep you out. These are not gatekeeping requirements by nature. I know I and many other agents teach queries constantly.

Laura Zats @LZats · 23 May 2018

By requiring queries to be as streamlined as possible, we're trying to give you, the writer, the best shake. We're trying to make it so that we reduce our own biases.

Laura Zats @LZats · 23 May 2018

This bears reiteration: agents are human. We try to be open-minded when answering queries, but the fact is is that we're curating a list of our own. We also get impatient, or don't read as carefully as we should because we don't get paid for slush, so it's pushed to late nights

Laura Zats @LZats · 23 May 2018

So following those "rules" is really the only way to guarantee that your book is being turned down on merit rather than the fact that I had eyestrain or got cranky because you sent me 2000 words.

Laura Zats @LZats · 23 May 2018

There are also reasons why we turn things down that have nothing related to you or your book. One of my most common is that I already rep something too similar to your book. It means you're on the right track, but repping two similarly pitched books makes my job difficult

Laura Zats @LZats · 23 May 2018

One of my goals with #500queries is to show writers a snapshot of 500 emails from my slush. Nothing is skipped, and this is about a month's worth of queries. This is meant to show you exactly how even following the rules a little bit will put you at the top.

Laura Zats @LZats · 23 May 2018

And related to #3, Reason #4) these rules exist so that we can look at slush without all the bullshit; it's so we can assess ONLY the story idea to see if we want to read it. It's why you telling me why you wrote the book doesn't matter at this stage. All of that we'll ask later

Laura Zats @LZats · 23 May 2018

Reason #3) These queries are meant for skimming. As opposed to the rhetoric, a query letter is not important on the whole. Its sole purpose is to pique my interest enough to get me to the pages. That's it. It's not supposed to make me want to sign you right now.

Laura Zats @LZats · 23 May 2018

Reason #2) A lot of agents go through queries in bulk. If it's a standard format, we can move through them more quickly and hopefully reduce response time. Relatedly...

Laura Zats @LZats · 23 May 2018

A lot of the formatting rules exist for reasons:
Reason #1) If you follow directions, we know you've actually put the time and energy into prepping your book for submission, and you actually want to work with us (read: not wanting to waste anyone's time)

Laura Zats @LZats · 23 May 2018

The prevailing idea is often that agents make these rules so that they can delight in crushing your dreams. First thing first: I do not want to spend my weekends and nights not getting paid to maybe make a stranger cry.

Laura Zats @LZats · 23 May 2018

Laura Zats @LZats

So we're just over 50% through with this session of #500queries and I have a few minutes before a call, so let's do a quick thead on query "rules"

There are hundreds of businesses and blogs out there trying to convince you that there is one right way to write a query. That you have to follow all these ridiculous rules, and that agents love turning you down.

Laura Zats @LZats · 3 Jul 2017

You should query two agents at the same agency the same way you put on pants: first one, and then the other. #querytip #pubtip

Laura Zats @LZats · 21 May 2017

New query rule: if you use "savage" as a noun, you get an auto-pass. #querytip

Laura Zats @LZats · 3 Dec 2015

"The plot has movement, stays fresh and engaging, becoming more enduring as it progresses." Don't query like this #querytip

Laura Zats @LZats · 3 Dec 2015

"The main protagonist has an identifiable character arch. The supporting cast is well defined & distinct." Don't query like this #querytip

Laura Zats @LZats · 1 Dec 2015

#querytip: writing to fill a hole in the market often means you're late to the party. Books sell to pubs 2-3 years before they go on sale.

Laura Zats @LZats · 6 Nov 2015

Pretty good rule of thumb on #query requests: if we don't state we want a MS inline (esp if over 50 pgs), we want an attachment. #querytip