Saturday, December 26, 2009

The hell with Elvis, Christmas Spirit has now left the building

I'm not reading queries this weekend. Even the shark is taking some time to chew on Christmas pudding rather than hapless authors.

I do however glance at the queries I receive as I herd them into their little holding pen with milk and cookies. And I'm seeing a lot of this: "I don't know how all this works but..."

This makes you sound lazy and stupid. DON'T PUT IT IN YOUR QUERY.

Even if you don't know how all this works.

I know you're going to make mistakes. I encourage you to make many and try for more.

But, I also assume you've done some preparation before writing to ask I read your work. That maybe you've googled the phrase "how to send a query" (1) or "how book publishing works"(2) or "how to get a literary agent"(3) BEFORE you actually DO any of those things.

Would you show up at an NFL training camp and tell the coach you're not really sure how the game is played but could he watch and see if you're any good?

Would you show up at an audition for America's Next Top Chef and mention you're not really sure about the difference between bake, broil, simmer, and saute, but you'd still like to cook for them.

Would you audition for the New York Ballet and mention you aren't really sure what this whole five positions thing is but could they watch and see if you do it right?

Well, you certainly can of course, but it pretty much means you won't be taken seriously. Querying is not the first step. It's not even the fifteenth. You need to learn about the biz if you want to be part of it. This isn't just true of publishing. It's true of any business.






(1)my blog post is #4 on the list when you google this phrase.
(2) 20,900 places with info on this phrase.
(3) 2 MILLION hits for this phrase. It may not tell you everything you'll ever need to know but it's a good place to start--a lot better place to start than my incoming query mail for sure.

15 comments:

Kristy said...

Too bad not everyone has met The Shark...

Ronda Laveen said...

I am grateful for all of the information you share.

coffeelvnmom said...

As always, thank you for continuing to share advice, even when it's redundant advice! ;)

Amanda J. said...

Clearly these people aren't reading your blog...

Loretta Ross said...

"I'm not sure how this works . . ."

Hey! That's how I hooked up my electricity! And I only had two small explosions and neither of them actually caught anything on fire. Let's not kill the spirit of experimentation!

Kristi Faith said...

I absolutely could not do your job...

Tabitha Bird said...

People actually write, "I don't know how all this works, but..." ??? REALLY? Oh my. I do not envy your job.

Michael Clutton said...

Keep tellin' it like it is! Maybe if fewer people wasted your time (and other agents)... you'd all have time for the serious (and well prepared) authors who deserve to be considered.

My two cents.

Keep it up in 2010!

Malia Sutton said...

"Would you show up at an audition for America's Next Top Chef and mention you're not really sure about the difference between bake, broil, simmer, and sautee, but you'd still like to cook for them?"

Hell no. I'd fake it with a huge smile.

Heidi Willis said...

Amen! In fact, if one even googled a single one of those, they'd get sucked into more information than they could possibly digest. Starting even with Miss Snark (which was the first site I found when I searched) one could spend months just researching how to do it right.

And with any common sense, they would.

Steve Stubbs said...

Janet: "Would you show up at an NFL training camp and tell the coach you're not really sure how the game is played but could he watch and see if you're any good?"

yes.

Janet: "Would you show up at an audition for America's Next Top Chef and mention you're not really sure about the difference between bake, broil, simmer, and sautee, but you'd still like to cook for them."

Yes.

Janet: "Would you audition for the New York Ballet and mention you aren't really sure what this whole five positions thing is but could they watch and see if you do it right?"

Yes.

Janet: "Well, you certainly can of course, but it pretty much means you won't be taken seriously."

Yes. Now I know why I am not a gourmet football player who wears ballet shoes on the gridiron.

TERRI MOLINA said...

Gosh it amazes me that some people still don't know the protcol for agent hunting. Even before I knew anything I knew if I wanted to be taken seriously as an author I needed to be a serious author and that included learning as much as I could about publishing.

Granted, I'll never really know everything I need to know, but at least I'm going in with eyes wide open and low expectations. hah

Ms. Reid, I'm looking forward to meeting you at the Desert Rose conference in April. Since I don't have an appointment with you I won't feel so intimidated. LOL (kidding)
Happy New Year!

Jane Smith said...

Janet, I feel your pain.

I got so very irritated by people not understanding how publishing works, and yet insisting they knew how to game it, that I began my blog, How Publishing Really Works. It's helped a few people: but some turn up and argue with me every week, and while I'm happy to be given the opportunity to correct my own mistakes I reel when people who have been writing for a few weeks and know nothing about publishing tell me I've got things wrong. I watch them digging themselves in deeper with every keystroke, and know they have a long road ahead of them. Thank goodness for bloggers like you, who try to educate us all.

Richard Mabry said...

Good post. Thanks. The would-be golfer who wanders onto the course with a borrowed five-iron and a found Titleist is highly unlikely to even hit the fairway, much less make a hole-in-one.

Laina said...

Hmm... That link (to how to send a query) is broken. That's the second time I've run across that link and it's been broken... Why do I have a feeling that's exactly the post I've been looking for??? :P