I just had a random thought, inspired partly by author and former literary agent Nathan Bradsford's recent post on query critiques. It got me wondering, with the recent surge of query critiques, how will that affect the query process in the long run?
Let me explain. Starting few years ago and continuing today, we have seen the emergence of the query critique, with agents such as Janet Reid critiquing them with Query Shark and her main blog, BookEnds, LLC's agents doing the Workshop Wednesday posts, Kristin Nelson posting advice in Pub Rants. The list goes on and on. I could post more, but you get the idea.
The good news is there's plenty of advice - solid, real advice from those in the industry - we struggling authors can find and use. Unless you're this guy, you probably have a pretty good idea on how to structure a decent query. Bad news is, so does everybody else out there. This means that aside from the folks who just aren't ready to begin querying yet, you're competing on a pretty even playing field with queries. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the majority of queries over the next few years will be formatted correctly, spell-checked, and contain at least a semblance of personalization and professionalism.
Now I've seen a recent post from an agent who ranted there were plenty of chuckleheads out there still throwing astoundingly awful queries out there, but for the life of me, I can't find it again. I wanted to link it here, because it's a good read. Oh well.
I think though, in spite of the fact that some people just aren't going to get it right, the majority of authors will continue to hone and fine tune their queries to the point where the queries will be a good deal better than the actual manuscript. I think that while it'll make agents' jobs much easier to a point, by culling out the obvious bad ones, it'll make it a lot tougher by masking some of the bad ones with good queries. And I don't know how many of the bad ones will be that much more obvious than before. Bad writing is bad writing, and a failure to follow submission guidelines has always been a huge strike against anyone doing it. The fact that there is more contrast between bad and good queries today doesn't make it any easier than it already was to discard the bad ones.
Of course, that's just my musings. I could be wrong. I don't know. I write about the future; I don't predict it. But I think this push by agents to educate authors on how to write a proper query will certainly affect a resonant change in the way the query business is done. Couple that with the changing face of e-publishing, and we have the makings of a giant shift ahead.