I can never fully understand the ebbs and flows of queries. The last couple of weeks have been fertile. As I've been reading through them, I've found myself doing what I usually do: dismissing some immediately, examining others, asking for a full manuscript or two.
A lot of industry professionals say this, but I think it bears repeating: The fact that I've rejected your query does not necessarily mean it isn't good. Sometimes it means that, yes. But many times it means the book isn't right for me. Here are the some of the reasons I've done rejections over the last couple of weeks:
1-Book was a historical mystery. I usually don't see historicals as an easy sell to readers.
2-Book focused on a cold case. I don't like books that open with cold cases. For me, they lack immediacy and drive. It's hard enough to get readers interested in something that's happening here and now; digging way into the past is even more of a stretch.
3-Writing was good, characters were weak. This particular manuscript had a lot of potential but I had to reject it on the basis of the flat and/or stereotypical characters.
4-Protagonist is amoral or immoral, or appears to be so. Readers need someone to like, to root for. And over the years I've been amazed by the reasons that readers will turn against a protagonist, for fairly small infractions or moral hiccups. Even in the hardest-boiled books, the best protags have strong moral centers and a desire to do justice or help the downtrodden.
5-Book required too much suspension of disbelief. This one is really tricky. Genre fiction is fiction - strange things happen that wouldn't happen in real life - but the question for any writer is: What can you really get away with before the book breaks with reality too much for readers to continue accepting it?
6-Manuscript had no "hook." The manuscript I'm thinking about was well written, well plotted, and had good characters. But it was so... standard. It was competent, which is an interesting word. So much of what I see is incompetent, so competence is lovely. But it isn't enough.
And, finally, the rejection that pains me the most:
7-I liked it, but I don't think reviewers will. Too quirky, too off the beaten path, too much of an uphill climb to get readers (and reviewers) to give it a fair shake.