Tuesday, December 07, 2010

How to find out if your agent is an idiot

Ask to see their pitch letters.

How many mistakes can you spot here?

-----------------------------------

(recent date)



Dear (Editor first name),


This past Monday, (date redacted) I sent out a round of email queries in regard to a client’s novel. Just a couple hours later Editor X at Imprint of Publisher One  responded: “Thanks for your submission. We have this undergoing review.” That novel is entitled TITLE ONE (link to author's website) , by AUTHOR. It is quite an interesting work, and if you’re curious you can read more about it by following the link.


Encouraged by that I’ve decided to strike while the iron is hot and send out a query for another of AUTHOR'S novels to some editors at other PUBLISHER ONE's imprints. This novel is entitled TITLE TWO (link to author's website) and was mentioned in my query to EDITOR ONE insomuch as readers of AUTHOR'S other novels will be led to TITLE ONE (link to author's website) and vice versa. TITLE TWO (link to author's website) is a semi-autobiographical novel set in the (industry redacted) world  of (location redacted), and was inspired in part by the author's experiences writing novels while working in (location redacted) and around the country as a (job in industry redacted.) It is a most unique blend of fiction and autobiography, humor and romance, and among other audiences, will appeal to those who enjoyed (comp title one) and (comp title two).  To read a synopsis and sample chapters of TITLE TWO (link to author's website) follow the link. To get a quick taste of AUTHOR'S style, I highly recommend taking five minutes to read this amusing chapter (link to author's website) from TITLE TWO on the author’s blog, which, while woven into the fabric of the novel, is also a stand alone piece of fiction.


You can read more about AUTHOR and his novels at his website: (link to author's website)


Just before IMPRINT TWO was absorbed by the PUBLISHER TWO I submitted another of AUTHOR'S novels, TITLE THREE (link to author's website) to a senior editor there. These were the exact words of his response to me: "Though I responded to this novel on a personal level...I'm sorry I must pass, but am genuinely glad I got to read TITLE THREE" (link to author's website) "I wish you and the author much luck with it."

Thanks very much, and if you’re not the right editor for AUTHOR but call to mind someone more appropriate, your steering me and/or this email their way will be greatly appreciated, as is your time.


Regards,

Agent

59 comments:

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

What? This made my eyes cross.

L. T. Host said...

I would LOVE to see a Pitch Letter Shark on this. Hint, hint...

Okay, I know you can't do it. But it would still be awesome.

Rachelle said...

It's one big mistake. Totally convoluted and unreadable. If I were an editor I'd click "delete" before I got to the end.

myimaginaryblog said...

WOW.

It will be so easy to avoid idiotic agents since all aspiring authors have access to potential agents' pitch letters . . .

Joni Rodgers said...

It's not so much the typos/tech issues as the overall bad writing. If this was a query from a writer, no one would read past the first 50 words. Urg.

Jess said...

Please tell me you made that up.

Rick said...

I... wait, what?

Laura Maylene said...

This is a joke, right? Please don't tell me an actual working agent (a legit one) wrote and sent this. It just can't be.

I would be a better agent than this, and I have no agenting experience, knowledge, or industry connections. Yikes.

Leona said...

I gave up editing after first paragraph. I feel bad for the author who has no idea that this has happened. If you don't get offers, is it proper etiquette to ask to see the pitch letters? Are they something agents regularly share with their clients?
I am at a loss on how that end of things work, but I could start my own agency and do better than that as my grammar is generally okay. Seems that there is something rotten in Denmark... Maybe they were on cold meds at the time?

Liz Czukas said...

Oh my giddy aunt.

Can we seriously ask to see pitch letters?

- Liz

trishstewart said...

Mention of more than one book, outside links for book descriptions, quoting a rejection, submitting the same book simultaneously to two editors in the same house.
for starters...

How can we find out about agents like this before we accept them as our representatives?

Valerie Keiser Norris said...

Can we really ask to see their pitch letters?

And wow. I felt like we were assembling a piece of furniture with instructions written by someone who only speaks pig-latin.

Stephen Duncan said...

Dear Editor,

Inspired by a recent lit con in Vegas (attended for the books, I can assure you), I've decided to submit my author's books to multiple editors at your publishing house - casino style! How fun!!

Just like a lottery, none of the editors are aware of the other "entries," yet all can win or lose based on their response. Sure, it may be convoluted having coworkers unknowingly gunning for the same author, but IT'S VEGAS, BABY! How can something so awesome be a waste of anyone's time or energy!?

Happy bidding!

karen-w-newton said...

This is a joke, right? Either that, or someone is pretending to be an agent in order to try to sell their own work.

Patty Blount said...

I'm dizzy.

Larissa said...

Um, yeah. Couldn't even read the whole thing. Wow.

Suzan Harden said...

*wince* And I thought my very first query letter was bad.

Jame said...

I think it's a mistake to quote a rejection letter! UGH!

Man of la Books said...

Makes you wish for the timeless pitch of "you read my book now" :)

http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

Victoria_Marini said...

Wow. There are so many errors in there (of both the grammatical and tactical variety)!I agree with Rachelle, if I were an editor I would have deleted immediately or responded with "I have no idea what you just said."

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

I couldn't even get through it, let alone proof read it

Margaret Yang said...

1. link to author's webpage instead of an actual pitch.

2. Pitching multiple projects.

3. Where's the pitch?

4. Quoting one editor's rejection letter to another editor.

There are probably five or six more mistakes in here, but those are the most obvious ones.

Be careful kids, it's stupid out there.

Jaycee Adams said...

I thought that might be it; thanks Rachelle.

I suppose not every profession needs a complicated legalese. :)

So how should it have looked, since we, the meek masses, have no other way to know? We barely "get" query letters, you know.

Marsha Sigman said...

I became bored and starting skimming by the second paragraph.

Either it's that bad or I am developing sudden onset attention deficit.

Patrice said...

Okay. I'll bite. Just for starters: Agent sent it to a bunch of imprints, via email, all at once, and said so. "Round of queries?" Please.

The "encouragement" she got back is just a form acknowledgement of receipt.

"Quite an interesting work?" You're the agent, SELL the book. Your query is supposed to intrigue the editor. Don't make him/her go looking on the internets to find out what it's about. He won't.

She sends two diff KINDS of books by author to two diff imprints at the same time. She asks editor to go read it on website. She brags about the dead imprint editor's response as though it means something, and it doesn't. She asks the editor to pass the query on to a more appropriate editor.

Semi-autobiographical? Blend of fiction and autobiography, humor and romance? Make a choice.

On the up side, this was funny. Ha ha ha!

I laughed till I cried.

Jen McAndrews said...

Mercy. I'm pretty sure the only correct portion there is "Regards".
Scary stuff!

Teri said...

That is way too much gobbledy-goop for any busy person to bother with, so I'm guessing they won't notice all the problems because they won't even read it. What a disaster.

jdh said...

Janet-It is really rude to be publishing Poelle's letters like this. :)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Holy confusion, Batman! I especially loved the part about the exact words of the editor who'd passed. Brilliant!

Charlie said...

Dear Janet,

If by chance you are not the right agent for my brilliant masterpiece, would mind calling someone more appropriate? Your steering me and/or this email their way would be greatly appreciated, as is your time.


Should I end all queries this way?

Jael said...

Holy crap. Emphasis on the crap.

There are errors here on every level ("insomuch"?) but the fundamental blunders of strategy ("encouraged" by a standard note? quoting rejections? trying to get editors at multiple imprints simultaneously interested in multiple books???) are truly, truly breathtaking.

Cacy said...

My eyes literally kept jumping away from the screen in their attempts to protect my brain from trying to decipher that.

Kerri M. said...

I may have just rocked myself back and forth in the fetal position after reading this. Or cracked open a beer and prayed for an awesome agent. Great post!

Pamala Knight said...

I refuse to believe that the Shark read beyond that first paragraph. But, that first paragraph would be ALL I needed to see to determine that the subject line was true. So very, very true.

Becky Mushko said...

"TITLE TWO (link to author's website) is a semi-autobiographical novel": So it's a non-fiction novel as opposed to a fiction novel, right?

"Though I responded to this novel on a personal level..." could mean the editor threw up. Or laughed uncontrollably. Or possibly both.

lora96 said...

Holy Mooing Cow that was confusing. And probably unethical. And contagious.

Lynne Kelly Hoenig said...

My brain is making weird humming noises.

I was seriously about to post something about crouching in the corner to rock myself in a fetal position before I saw Kerri's comment.

Julie said...

That just gave me a migraine and I'm pretty sure I've never had one before now.

Livia said...

Okay, I really really really really hope that this letter is from some obscure, unknown agent. If this is an agent that's making conference rounds and generally visible in the industry, then I'm going to cry.

Rashda said...

Okay, I'll add my voice to the question on everyone's mind: can you ask to see agent pitch letters?

Dying to know the answer...

pegasus358 said...

This is the kind of thing I've seen from a slush query, and when I see it I immediately put it in my "to be rejected" pile.

Please say this isn't real!

-Beth M

Porter Anderson said...

Seriously, Janet. CAN one ask to see an agent's pitch letters? Do prospective clients ask this of you? Thanks!

Julie Korzenko said...

Wow! These books are entitled, to boot. Amazing.

stacy said...

I would think pitching more than one book in a query letter would be a no-no.

ARJules said...

Can I ditto what Rick said, as it was spot on and had me laughing. "I.... wait, what?"

Ummm.. yeah. That about sums it up.

wry wryter said...

Huh?
I thought agents were "Pitch Gods".

Before I cry I must uncross my eyes.

Ms Trite says:
Those that can do, those that can't try, and those that think they can but can't and try even though they really can't but don't know it so they try anyway...fail.

Like I said...Huh?

glasseye said...

You lost me at hello.

A3Writer said...

"most unique"? MOST UNIQUE? That is a capital offense against the language! I'm getting a rope. Someone's neck will stretch for this.

This is exactly the type of thing you rant about on queryshark about knowing the language as a writer's tools. Mistakes like this are not typos, but fundamental flaws in understanding the use of language.

Stacia said...

For those of you wondering how to avoid an "agent" like this, the best way is to only submit to agents who have legitimate NY sales.

I'd bet quite a bit of money that this agent has none.

I'd bet another large chunk of money that agents who do have some, don't write pitch emails like this.


Don't submit to agents with no track record of sales, or whose only sales are to micropresses, and you can be pretty confident that nothing like the above email will ever be sent on your behalf. :-)

Victoria Strauss said...

O...M...G. That's tragic.

I agree with Stacia--this person is probably a well-meaning amateur. (I'm dying to know who it is. Hint, hint.)

GalaktioNova said...

Oh wow. This is supposed to be an agent. Ooookay. I already feel so much better about my queries. Thank you :-)

Natalie McManus said...

Absolutely hilarious. It's nice to know there are people out there who can make struggling artists feel so much better about themselves...

Seriously, though, who IS this agent?! (I'd wager he/she charges reading fees)

Jeanettethewriter said...

I would almost think this is a joke if I hadn't experienced something similar myself. When an agent wanted to represent me I should have been happy. Instead I had seen red flags in all her correspondence in the form of poor spelling, format, and grammar. She actually wrote "copywrite"!!! Needless to say I declined her offer of representation for my novel.

Trisha said...

here's hoping I never get an agent like that :P

kmarkhoover said...

Hilarious.

mrcrashhappy said...

Me not see problum.

Marie Andreas said...

Oh. My. God.

Ok, seriously, this just scared the hell out of me! This is from an AGENT?!

I really hope she or he talks in person like they write so that an writer would have a fighting chance on running away from them!

YIKES!!

McWilliam said...

Gollleeee! Just a few months ago I couldn't even spell no words like AGENT. Now I are one!

laughingwolf said...

what?