Friday, September 04, 2009

If it can be gnawed, you will won't you?

My post earlier today, in which I extolled the virtue of actually telling me what your book was about in the query letter has generated some interesting, if befuddled, comments.

For starters, let us all remember that pages (ie the requested 3-5 pages) are NEVER sent in an attachment. NEVER. If there is an exception to NEVER, the guidelines will say so very very specifically. The default form is to include the pages in the email. When in doubt, include in the body of the email.

Thus, when I rant about "Did you send a couple quick sentences about yourself and then say, here are the first couple pages attached below? Yes? Form rejection"
and you think I mean the pages should be in an attachment, you're focused on the WRONG THING.

This post is about describing your book; the problem is that you've only said a couple quick sentences.

Get it?

What I'm asking for is what I've ALWAYS asked for: more than a cursory "here's my 50,000 word novel about agents who eat queries for breakfast, pages below"

Get it?

The guidelines are not designed to trip you up, fool you, challenge you or make you feel stupid. The guidelines are supposed to help you. Don't over analyze, and don't obsess.

And if you got a form rejection, and you re-read your query and you can't figure out if you didn't describe your book in two paragraphs, well, maybe you should invest some time over at QueryShark.

And, no, I'm NOT caught up on my queries at all. I will tell you when that happens. In fact, I may take out an ad in the damn New York Times and pay for the Empire State Building to be wreathed in pink (for the octopus of course) it will be such a happy day.

18 comments:

T. Anne said...

OK, I'm actually laughing because you're so riled up. And yes, do outfit the Empire State Building in pink. That will be our Gotham like signal you are hungry for more. I suspect you already own a cape.

Tabitha Bird said...

You are never better than when you are kicking our butts! I probably shouldn't be laughing... but... I am! I want to see that empire state building in pink too. I thought it lacked something when I went to visit. Now I know what it was. Far far too greenish...

justwritecat said...

I worry about your blood pressure sometimes...maybe another hit of scotch might help.

Seriously, I think the guidance you provide is superb. Please keep it coming...

Ben Sloan said...

You're such a badass. You will be the first person I query.

Skeptic said...

You are hysterical. I am laughing so hard at this. Yes, Janet, you are right. People will gnaw on anything. Perseverate. That's a psych word that I love. Same thought, stuck over and over. Worry, obsess, etc.

When you get caught up on the queries be sure to post pictures of the pink Empire State Building. I'd love to see that! ;)

csmith said...

I am very very pleased I am not a literary agent. Because you, Janet Reid, have the patience of a saint.

I'm all for "If you can't follow simple guidelines, you're not ready to be published."

So go you, for giving people another chance. It makes you a much better person than me!

Scott said...

My solution for days like you're having . . . copious amounts of margaritas. It is Friday, and that means (in my world) margarita night! But, since it's still morning, perhaps a nice Bloody Mary to start the day . . .

S

Margaret Yang said...

I like Query Shark a lot. If you can't learn how to write a query from Query Shark, then you can't learn how to write a query.

caitmorgan said...

The Empire State Building in glorious, technicolor pink. I love it.

Not being a literary agent (more power to you, all powerful one), I don't mind when other aspiring writers don't bother doing their homework or follow the damn directions. That's one more space toward Boardwalk for me, rather than Go To Jail.

So I respectfully ask the reverse (loaded question I'm sure): Do you receive queries that provide too MUCH info? I limit myself to the accepted one-page business letter format, but percolating 100,000+ beans down to a really great cup of coffee is a challenge of mine. Any advice for us overly wordy ones?

The Rejectionist said...

But our book is SO GOOD we shouldn't HAVE to query you! You should be able to feel the awesomeness transmissions of our BRAIN shooting out into the atmosphere! YOU should be querying US! We also like to apply for jobs without a resume, using solely osmosis.

bingol said...

That's pretty clear, but answer me this: Should I include the 3-5 pages as an attachment? You don't seem to express a preference either way.

Marsha Sigman said...

Sometimes when I feel like I have been really harsh or sarcastic I come to read your blog....and I realize I need to try a lot harder.

Rebecca Knight said...

Dear Barbara Bova,

I really enjoyed your post on querryies and thought you'd love my book, COWGIRL OCTOPUS P.I. It's imcomplete at 250,000 and counting. Here are my attachments and my headshot.

We're gonna be rich!

Love,

Loyal Blog Reader

Ulysses said...

I love you when you're cranky.

Er... I'm not sure I like what that says about me.

Jenn Johansson said...

Awesome, could you also arrange for a giant-sized tiara-wearing replica of the octopus to be placed on the pink Empire State Building? That would be stupendous.

Diana said...

Isn't it amazing the number of writers who need to take remedial reading comprehension? Yes, someone who can't follow simple submission instructions is in need of a course in remedial reading comprehension.

This does beg the question, if a writer can't comprehend what they read, will anyne be able to comprehend what they write?

Jm Diaz said...

I am speechless, not because of any sense of dread but rather 'cause I can't stop laughing long enough. This post was great....
I didn't think that a snarky comment would cause this. But your response was priceless. I can smell the awesome!
You are on my top agent list... :)

BuffySquirrel said...

Diana--in my experience, no.