Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nathan Bransford's problem solved

Why he didn't think of this is beyond me but then again, he's not mean or nasty or...me.

Here's his problem: he asks people to paste their query letter into their manuscript when sending a partial or full. Most people do it. 1 in 4 do not. Nathan posted a plea on his blog for actual queriers to help him make the wording clearer. He thought maybe people just didn't understand.

Here's what I do when people don't follow the directions: send a reply saying "please resubmit your requested manuscript and this time follow the directions."

I don't do the cutting and pasting for them.
I don't explain the directions in different words.
I also don't discard the query.

One mulligan per query...but that's only for partials and fulls.

If you don't follow the directions at the initial query stage (send your query as an attachment; don't tell me what the book is about; cc or bcc every agent in NYC) I don't worry about it. I just say no.

The horrifying fact that 25% of the pool either missed seeing or just didn't follow the directions doesn't surprise me in the slightest. Somebody has to be below average! I just hope it's not you.

21 comments:

Jenn Johansson said...

haha, I saw his post, glad you helped him out. They definitely call you the shark for a reason. ;)

TERI REES WANG said...

Damn!...
I barely know how to read directions, following them is an entirely separate challenge for sure.

Focus. Focus. Focus.

Nathan Bransford said...

Haha, see, you really are more patient than me -- I don't even want to get to the Mulligan stage. Know hope.

Gary Corby said...

"Somebody has to be below average."

I once said to a software team I was leading, "Always remember, half the people on this planet have below average intelligence."

And one of my team members, thinking I was being cruel, replied, "That can't be right. People are smarter than that."

Stephanie Faris said...

I'm like you. Making them follow the rules may teach them to PAY ATTENTION next time, which will help you and all the other agents out there. I work in tech support. We have a main help desk for computer problems that they all are required to call. But, as in the case of Mr. Bransford, about 1 in 4 refuse to do that and call me directly every time. It's the SAME 1 in 4, of course. So, every time, I say, "You need to hang up and call" and give them the number. They do but the next time they call me again. My co-workers think I'm crazy to do that...they just go ahead and enter the ticket for the person themselves and go do it. Not me. Teach a man to call the help desk and (eventually) he calls the help desk for a lifetime. Do it for him and he never learns.

Something like that. :-)

Margaret Yang said...

To be fair, the wording of Nathan's original directions was a bit confusing. I think the new version will work better.

DebraLSchubert said...

Ha! I almost posted on Nathan's blog for him to channel his "inner Janet Reid" - kind of a WWJD - What Would Janet Do? but I didn't want to hurt your feelings. I should have known you could take it and gone with my instincts!!!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Thanks for the morning chuckle.

kyler said...

Janet, something IS confusing here. I've never been asked to paste the query into the ms. I always include it in the email itself and attach the ms as is. Recently I was asked to include the query (I always do), but it didn't say where to include it. I hope I haven't missed something, as I always follow directions.

laughingwolf said...

'when all else fails, read the instructions'... as the saying goes ;)

Kim said...

I think it's just weird that people are so...below the average. Then I go to the mall and suddenly, everything becomes clear.

Belvoir said...

It is a bit confusing. Nathan asks that "your email" be included on the first page- he means your query, but on first reading I thought he meant email address.

Also, since partials are sent as attachments, I wonder if people did resend their query, but in the email that the pages were attached to. As commenters there have said, "Make the first page of your attached partial the query" is simplest.

BJ said...

laughingwolf said...
'when all else fails, read the instructions'... as the saying goes ;)

Or, as we say in the computer world, RTFM (Read The Friggin Manual)

The people who really want to be published, who are serious about it, will learn.

There are instructions for everything, and the instructions -- in many cases -- are simply there to help get stuff done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I used to work in a government department handling requests. I handled about 150 (sometimes more) requests per day. The 75% of folks who followed the rules got their requests handled that morning. The rest had to wait, sometimes up to 2 weeks, before I could figure out what they were looking for. And, more often than not, I had to send their request back asking for that information.

Imagine having a recipe (which is a list of instructions) for a cake, and deciding that some of the instructions don't pertain to you. You don't like chocolate, so you leave that out. It's hot out - let's not turn the oven up as high as it says. And who really needs flour? Just use oatmeal instead. Funny, but I don't think you'll really want to be eating that cake...

Following instructions make things happen faster and better. But, of course, I'm preaching to the converted (and a long sermon it turned out to be...) :)

DaveK said...

You say :
If you don't follow the directions at the initial query stage (send your query as an attachment;

Your query instructions say:
send a short, two or three paragraph intro to you and the book.
Include the word count.

Paste the first 3 pages in the body of the email.

This seems contradictory to me. Do you want an attachment or not?

Livia said...

I had a similar experience with wedding emails. We sent out a save-the-date with a link to a web form to input mailing addresses for the invitation. Most people got it, but there were a few that just replied with the address anyways. I ended up replying and asking them to input it into the link. Probably took as much time to explain to them as to input the address myself, but it's the principle of the matter...

passinglovenotes said...

It's amazing some people can figure out how to pay their taxes. I wonder how much $$ the govt. loses in incorrectly prepared tax forms every year...?

Vacuum Queen said...

Bwah!!! You're hilarious. Well, he said he can't afford to let a potentially good manuscript get away, so maybe he's just relatively new to the scene. You've got cash lined up or something? You can afford to pass some by. Or maybe it just helps your mojo, getting rid of the renobs. Either way, I find you fantastically funny.

Terri said...

It's actually half the people on the planet are below 'median' intelligence, not 'average', but I'm just being a pedantic snot to point that out. I'm in Muncie, Indiana waiting for my pizza to arrive and the hotel has a fast internet connection. So, I'm blog surfing . . .

I am unleashing my bright shiny new query fresh from the query squirrels in my crit group on one of your agency-mates in a pitch session this weekend at the Midwest Writers Workshop at Ball State University. Are there any particular office-wide-bribes that might work better than others?

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Nathan ....

you said "Know hope." I want to know if you meant, "no hope." It's important that I know, because as life-tyme president of the Typos of America club, I need to know if we have a new member.

Best regards,

The Pixie

Mira said...

Well, you know, there are different types of intelligence. There is also a cultural assessement of intelligence. For example, Western Culture tends to value speed of thought. Whereas some Easter cultures value deeper thinking over time. So, evaluating intelligence is a tricky thing.

I know that there are some things I can comphrehend almost before I'm taught them. I just gulp them down. On the other hand, no matter how many times someone explains how the Stock market works to me, it's like they are talking gobbly-gook. For some reason, my mind just doesn't work that way.

Heather B. Moore said...

With the advent of the Kindle, this makes sense!