Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How to Start Off on the Wrong Foot --

Several days ago, I received a query letter that stopped me cold. The author had a first novel she wanted me to represent. Rather than provide me information about the manuscript, she proceeded to tell me what publisher to whom I must sell the book and how she would not entertain ANY suggested revisions, other than the correction of the most superficial errors. She wasted a few more sentences telling me about her platform and how she enjoyed public speaking and then her email query stopped.

Nothing whatsoever about her book was included. I don’t know whether the book is women’s fiction or romance (which I do represent) or science fiction or literary fiction (which I do not). I don’t know whether it has a contemporary, historical, or futuristic setting nor do I know anything about the characters, plot of themes. In short, there was nothing there on which I could possibly base a decision to ask to see a partial. So I said, “no thanks.”

What a waste of her time and energy -- and mine! You might say, “why didn’t you ask to see the partial anyway? Or why didn’t you ask for more information in a second query?”

Both of those could have been possibilities, except that I had another 149 queries to answer that week, and, except for the fact that I have several shelves full of partials already waiting in my office to be read. Of course, I also represent already a number of very talented authors. Whatever “extra time” there is needs to be devoted to helping them step up their careers, talking to the editors, monitoring sales, brain-storming marketing ideas. That week, I actually had manuscripts from two of my authors on deadline who were waiting for my comments before delivering their final manuscripts to their editors. So, I really couldn’t give any more attention to this cryptic query.

Remember if you submit a query to me (or for that matter to any other agent), it is YOUR responsibility to make that agent fall in love with your project. You have that one chance to grab my attention, peak my curiosity, and convince me that my life won’t be complete if I don’t read your manuscript. Don’t waste your opportunity.


Pat Brown said...

Even if this query had contained the necessary information, would anyone want to work with a new author, on her first book, who tells the agent that they won't accept any editing? What kind of red flags does that send up? I would expect this person to be very difficult to work with. Anyone who thinks their work can't benefit from a knowledgeable eye and a skilled editor has some serious ego issues in my book. (Which is well edited, I might add)

Charity said...

I know someone like this. *sigh* I'm not sure why she insists on being part of a critique group or why she opts to enter contests when she consistently disregards feedback and is high on her ego.

Clearly, that author didn't understand the actual purpose of the query letter.

Happy reading,

Heather says said...

So instead of tooting their own horn, they gave you the entire brass ensemble. It would seem that no matter what field of work you are in, there is no escape—even for Literary Agents—from folks who need the lesson in humility. For Waiters and Bartenders, it’s uncouth patrons shouting blunt and unnecessary comments. Medical Personnel has the uncooperative (that’s putting it delicately) patient. And so on and so forth. From the sound of it, there was probably a resounding, “Seriously? That did not just happen!” from all the other gals in the office. Duly noted.
We’ve seen those same personality types on the American Idol Reject list. You know—the ones who’ve been told their whole life how talented and amazing they are. So while said reject is utterly baffled as to why they didn’t get picked and struggles to regain their composure, the encouraging family has all witnessed the horrific audition and broken out into a chorus of knee-slapping snort laughing.
Interesting how the author took a guns-a-blazing-shoot-first-no-questions approach. Most writers/authors are not looking for pats on the back or smoke up the patooties. They want you to tell them what’s wrong with it so they can rewrite—even if it’s the eighty-seventh time. Great post, though. Interesting…

Anonymous said...

Don't you mean PICQUE?

RE: You have that one chance to grab my attention, peak my curiosity, and convince me that my life won’t be complete if I don’t read your manuscript.