Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What the hell were you thinking?


At first blush, this seems very sweet.
What sours it? It's a query.

No harm, no foul, right?
I mean, gosh, who gets their undies in an uproar about something as harmless as a mug?

Well, it's not so much the mug as the what it indicates about the sender.
If I get something like this I know the querier is tone-deaf about how publishing works, and worse, nuance-impaired. In other words, the exact kind of person who will require extra work, extra handling, extra instruction, extra monitoring, and pre-printed apology letters.

Not the kind of person agents are eager to work with.

In case it's not obvious (and it may not be if you're just starting out learning how publishing works) gimmicks are a bad idea. You spend $10.00 to personalize and mail a mug hoping to get attention. All you really need to do is write a book I want to read, and write it well enough that I want other people to read it too. 12 place settings of Limoges won't help you if you can't do that, let alone a cheap ceramic mug.

And honest to Godiva, do you really think an agent is flattered by "world's greatest agent?" Most of us have a pretty firm grasp on our egos, and those who don't recognize empty flattery when I see it.

This kind of stuff not only doesn't help you, it actively hurts your chances of being taken seriously.

Don't do it.

54 comments:

Christina Lee said...

*speechless*

Robin Becker said...

but you are the world's greatest agent! : )

Emily C. said...

Hmm... I once sent a full ms to an agent. She politely declined. Then my computer and my two backups crashed at the SAME TIME!
Completely embarrassed and out of options, I emailed the agent and asked if she still had my ms. She did and even took time out of her day to send it back to me!
I was so happy, I sent her some sweet treats from Harry and David as a thank you.
Please tell me that's not in the same category.

Cynthia J Faryon said...

Ummm... desperate comes to mind

Glen Akin said...

Epic fail on a maximum scale

Tracy said...

"Most of us have a pretty firm grasp on our egos, and those who don't recognize empty flattery when I see it."

Best line ever.

Peter Newland said...

Limoges, got it.

:P

(I swear that's what someone, somewhere will take away from this post...don't ask me how)

Have fun with your new mug/pencil holder/vase/target/whatever.

Deep River said...

Nothing Irish in the box, I suppose?

Travener said...

And seriously, what kind of bribe is a Quaker oat bar?

Janet Reid said...

Emily, it's not. You sent a thank you for a specific good deed. You see the difference.

Malia Sutton said...

I once knew a pushy gal who slipped a Ben Franklin into a query. It was returned to her, promptly. And I swear it wasn't me.

Lumpy Dog said...

Hell, I'd just about send you a fifth of whiskey and a Cuban cigar for that line about agents' egos. That was hilarious.

behlerblog said...

Oooo, Janet, I wince in your general direction.

At least you didn't have an author include a choccie bar in their query, where it sat at the PO for a few days because I was out of town, and have it attract an entire colony of ants that not only attacked my query letter but the entire bin it was sitting in. The PO had to call in some peeps to get rid of the ants.

By the time I got back into town, I was their least favorite person.

Bethany said...

Okay, Tracy already quoted what I was gonna quote so now I don't have to quote the entry in the comments. But Tracy did. Tsk, tsk, Tracy.

Clara said...

Amazing!Writting is an art, publishing is a serious business, and some people just don´t get it. It was sweet though, whilst utterly unecessary.

Marsha Sigman said...

It's not even chocolate or booze. Form Rejection.

Margaret Yang said...

I winced thinking that this person will now be humiliated on the blog, but I realized that anyone who reads this blog would know better, and wouldn't send the mug.

So, instead, I wince thinking that this person will send this same mug to many agents.

Sonja said...

Bet the poor guy could've *at least* avoided the shark tank if he'd sent an engraved flask full of whiskey.

OfficeGirl said...

They could have at least filled the cup up more. Maybe a little flower arrangement. I mean come on, where is the creativity? I just dont know.

Mandy said...

Well, damn! This whole week I thought I was the best literary agent in the world, and turns out you are too!

JS said...

Here's something that bugs me (because I am a stickler and I stickle like that):

The mug says "From To The World's Greatest Literary Agency."

Sending a tacky bribe along with your query is bad enough; sending a poorly copyedited bribe along with your query...

Janet Reid said...

JS, I edited out the name of the query writer, and the name of the agent and agency. It says "A gift from (query writer name) to the world's greatest literary agency (agency name)

Stephanie, PQW said...

Aww man, does this mean I need to take my ms out of that box of chocolates I was planning on sending you? ;-D

Shannon Messenger said...

Well...at least it didn't arrive via singing telegram. And if one ever does PLEASE post a picture of everyone's facial expression!

Ashley A. said...

And you just know they had more than one of those babies printed up. They're pretty cheap if you buy in quantity.

I agree with the granola bar comments: LAME.

Lisa Desrochers said...

Would it have gone over better if it was a shot glass that read "get drunk before you read my query?"

Linda Rader said...

Well at least you got a mug out of it.

Bill Peschel said...

OTOH, the query-writer serves as a wonderful example of What Not To Do, proving that everyone serves a purpose in this veil (vale? Vail?) of tears.

The person must have read about the study that showed even empty flattery is known to have some positive effect. Good thing agents have no heart so they can resist these blandishments. :P

Tawna Fenske said...

Having worked in marketing/PR and ordered many promotional mugs over the years, I know the minimum order is often a dozen. Makes you wonder who got the other 11.

Tawna

Philangelus said...

The question we all want to know the answer to: does that mug fit in the SASE, and will you cross out "world's greatest literary agency" to replace with "not suitable for our needs at this present time"?

atsiko said...

Erhmm... What Tracy said.

di said...

I think you should reply with a mug of your own with 'World's Worst Agent Submission Ever' on it. - di

Christi Goddard said...

In a way, it's a form bribe, unlike the gifts authors receive: form rejections. It's not personalized to you, and also is addressed to the entire agency. So, really it's property of Fineprint now and you all have to share. Perhaps it can be a spare change collector for the weekend booze-ups. Perhaps it can be the Mug of Shame that an intern has to use for doing something naughty.


Perhaps you can recycle it and give it to Barbara Poelle at Christmas. :-) Unless the Irene Goodman Literary Agency got one as well.

S.D. said...

Or...

It could be a trap and that Quaker bar is Poison!

LOL

...Did you eat it?

Tahereh said...

this is why QUERY-Yes! is the way to go.

layinda said...

I am fascinated by possible reasons for including a granola bar. Was it related to the content of the query?

worstwriterever said...

I think this gesture is a sad, unfortunate indication of how difficult and discouraging the publishing industry can be.

I mean, considerate and empathetic bloggers aside, some industry insiders are tough.

Too tough to even appreciate tasty breakfast treats.

Liesl said...

How many other agents got one?

Vacuum Queen said...

But really the issue is that the person has no taste! Where are the Fran's Gold Bars? Dark chocolate salted caramels?! Sharffengerger cocoa? Geez people. If you're going to bribe, make it a good one.

Humph.

Buffy Andrews said...

I'll take the Quaker oat bar. How many Weight Watcher points are they anyway?I'm dying here without my Rolos.

Jen said...

Wow I'm afriad there simply are no words.

Steve Stubbs said...

I can't take credit for this. Michael Hyatt of Thomas Nelson has been sending out a link to this YouTube video by DK Publishing and you have probably seen it. BUT IF YOU HAVE NOT, this is a gimmick you will like. Promise. Watch it to the end, though.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqO2fXukLJk

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

My son set up my cellphone to say "World's 4th Greatest Mom."

I guess he made sure my ego's in check.

Is that a huge mug or do you people have teeny tiny Quaker bars in USA Land?

Sharon Mayhew said...

I guess you don't want the World's Greatest Agent blanket I just knitted for you. :(

Kate Evangelista said...

Should have added cookies.

Ian said...

I laughed long and loud and then realised something.

(cue confession)

About six months ago, when I first started subscribing to blogs, I probably would have thought that that was a really cool idea.



I feel bad for the queryer in a way (and no, it wasn't me!).

Still, it is a cool mug.

kitty said...

The best piece of advice you've written to date is WRITE A BOOK I WANT TO READ.

It is a learning process, and I hope that writer does not become discouraged. Scroll down and re-read "Feeling discouraged?" Stephen Parrish persevered and got published :)
...

alaskaravenclaw said...

I had a housemate in grad school who was from China, and he used to ask these wonderful questions about American culture.

One of them was "Can you explain to me the circumstances in which it is appropriate to give someone a mug?"

This isn't one of them.

Jessica said...

To funny! How do they think this is really going to help?

WhisperingWriter said...

Uh. Wow.

And what's with the Quaker thing? I'd have wanted chocolate. Kidding.

JS said...

Janet Reid wrote: JS, I edited out the name of the query writer, and the name of the agent and agency. It says "A gift from (query writer name) to the world's greatest literary agency (agency name)"

Ah. You are good with the Photoshop!

I just thought the graphic on the mug was a bit blurry and ungrammatical, not realizing that you had digitally altered it to preserve people's privacies. (How thoughtful of you to remember.)

K. M. Smith said...

You know, you could make this work for you, posting a list of needed household items. Maybe someone could print their query on the side of a new car. When I was teaching, I sometimes got "treats" instead of completed homework. I smiled, thanked the kid, and promptly gave them a zero. These kids grow up to try to become writers.

Meredith said...

I think the "Mug of Shame" idea is a phenomenal one.

jurassicpork said...

But are you using the mug, anyway?