Sunday, June 20, 2010

What on earth are you thinking?

1. You told me you don't read novels but you don't really have to because this one stands alone.

1a You tell me this is the thriller you've written cause there aren't any good thrillers being published right now.

1b. You've written a very clean but steamy romance that's not like all those other dirty books being published today

2. You describe the lessons people will learn from reading it

3. You describe the political leanings of the people who will read it...and those who won't like it.


My reply to all of these is a form letter but oh man I'd like to say more: More like you've GOT to be kidding, right?

1. The idea you'll write a novel without reading is like saying you'll play pro basketball but not practice with your team. You'll just show up and people will throw you the ball.

1a. The idea that you think there are no good thrillers today tells me either you don't read at ALL, or you really have a wacky sense of what's good. There are a LOT of books published these days. Surely one or two of them don't suck?

1b Dirt is in the eye of the beholder bucko. I'm not sure why you think all romances are dirty books. Maybe you've never seen some of the very popular and very nicely written books published by Steeple Hill.

2. I don't read fiction to learn lessons. No one does. They read for entertainment. The take away lessons are collateral value. And there's nothing worse than an author with a visible agenda. It's like visible pantie line. Or invisible swim trunks.

3. There's not a chance in the world you'll ever get this right. If you want to publish novels to promote a political agenda you'll need a more subtle approach. See: Clancy, Tom; Thor; Brad; Flynn, Vince.

14 comments:

Laurel said...

It's like visible pantie line. Or invisible swim trunks.

I am going to plagiarize that. A lot. I mean...alot.

Kasey said...

I'm curious about your disdain for stating lessons learned. I understand, and empathize with, the bile-inducement that is "author agenda" - however, are you more put off by the fact that they 1) feel the need to squander valuable query real estate by stating it (i.e. overt, proselytizing) or is it that you are more concerned with the book's entertainment value, (i.e. give me the "agenda" but first let me look at just how velvet your velvet hammer is?)

I personally *love* an entertaining read that leaves me with questions (see every Franzen, Cleave, Palahniuk, B.E.E., and McCarthy ever written) but only *while* I'm being entertained. So I would think I want to know something of the underlying themes, Though I probably don't want those pages of the coloring book already filled out for me. If the book is well written, I should get it, even on my worst day.

Janet Reid said...

Kasey, not so much the problem with taking up valuable real estate in the letter but that the primary enticement to read a novel is: what is the story.

Of course we learn things from novels. I love the novels of Dick Francis and think I've learned a lot about horse racing from them.

But I didn't pick up a Dick Francis novel with the idea of learning something. I picked it up cause I knew it was a ripping good read.

Focus on that. It's ALL you have time for in a query.

Kasey said...

Coolio. That's what I thought you meant. Plus it seems kind of desperate when you have to come out state what should be obvious, in a literary, subtle way. Thanks for the clarification/amplification.

If I want to be browbeat, I go non-fiction ;)

Josin L. McQuein said...

1. The book stands alone because no one will come near it.

1a. Apparently the writer is a psychic because the books being published right now aren't on shelves yet... maybe they stink. :-P

1b. The book is obviously set in a shower or sauna, hence the clean steam. No one likes dirty steam, it sticks to your skin and gets your clothes all icky. Also obviously, the writer likes porn since all they read are dirty books.

2. Does it come with a workbook and study guides? Otherwise, how do you know they learned the lesson?

3. I don't like leaning politics. People shouldn't lean, but have a clear platform. If their platform is tilted then how do you know where they stand. (They likely can't stand on a tilted platform at all, but will fall in your lap and make you spill your half-caf vanilla latte and get 3rd degree burns. Then you'll hate them and change political parties anyway.)

MoreWritingThanWriter said...

This is unfortunate. My 2 cents-less:

Writers - All of the statements 1-3 are legitimate motivations--yes I said it--to write. Understand that you are speaking from your perspective. So by God, write for whatever reason you want. Every voice, idea, or genre starts somewhere.

Understand though that agents are likely better read than you will ever be, AND they are human. Guess what? They have their own world view, and likely don't care about yours. If your ant. is named X, and an agent/editor/publisher is named X they may take it personally based on their world view and nothing else. Right or wrong, that is perspective.

Agents - Customer service is a tough gig. Sometimes have to listen to the crap; baseless, unprofessional, or ignorant as it might be. I'm sure most of it is, but sometimes, it might just be what that person uses to inspire or motivate them to undertake enormous tasks with slim odds. Every once in awhile they might even be right.

Either way, it is not always personal. Sometimes I'm sure it is, and that's a tough part of the job. A lot of jobs at every tier of prominence and pay are like that.

***takes the asshat and antagonist persona and wears them so everyone can feel a bit better about their perspective--and breathe***

Andrew said...

there's nothing worse than...[a] visible pantie line. Or invisible swim trunks.

Actually, both of these things can be quite enjoyable, from the right 'author'...

terripatrick said...

1a... Does the querying author understand that you as an agent, your fellow agents and associates, and your editor friends are the ones that have invested TIME, EFFORT and PASSION into getting those books-that-suck published?

WOW.

Joseph L. Selby said...

I have to agree with Andrew. An invisible swimsuit is both classy and edgy.

Mesmerix said...

"A visible agenda is like a visible pantie line."

Brilliant!

Thank you for not holding back, for telling it like it is. We need it.

christine tripp said...

Found this newish annon blog regarding queries and slush pile hell today. Nothing I am sure all agents and Editors haven't said a dozen times over but fun to read all the same (I personally like the "June 20".

http://slushpilehell.tumblr.com/
"A grumpy literary agent wades through query fails"

As for query's, I personally know nothing about them, have never composed one, not an author but unless a book were non-fiction, there is no lesson I wish to learn from a novel. I assume such a mention in a query is hinting toward a moral lesson that will undoubtedly not mesh with my morals and so...no thanks!

Loretta Ross said...

you don't read novels but you don't really have to

I've never studied brain surgery, but I'd like to cut your head open and see if I can't do it. Cool?

Dana King said...

You give the non-reader too much credit. It's not like playing basketball and never practicing with your team; Alan Iverson had a nice career doing pretty much that. It's like trying to play on a basketball team having never seen a basketball game before. You might be able to stumble through it, but you're not going to be any good.

Sugar said...

Ooh I may have to inject invisible swim trunks into my story... :)