Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You don't have to be stupid or clueless to outsmart yourself

I received a query from a prospective author today.  He had all sorts of accolades; mentions in national newspapers; blurbs from authors; lots and lots of visibility.  Of course he was querying me for a novel, and that doesn't require platform or visibility, but what the heck, it's nice if you've got it.

His query letter, sans links to articles about him, and the pages of the novel, was 515 words.  I cut and pasted it into my word program just so I could count.

The other thing I counted?  How many words there were about the book he wanted me to read.
That count: 14.
17 if you count the title.
2 words are adjectives describing the protagonist;
2 describe the world they live in.

How many words give a sense of the plot? 0
How many words give a sense of the choices the main characters face? 0

How many words entice me to read on? 0

Chances I'll read the pages? 0

28 comments:

Sarah Allen said...

Specific examples are always helpful to me, so thanks for this. One really does have to wonder, though, about the thought process of someone querying without saying anything about the actual story. So it goes, though. Best of luck!

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Sarah said...

Good thing I have the opposite problem! :)

Margaret Yang said...

Somebody tried to sell you the sizzle and forgot the steak.

Josin L. McQuein said...

*face/palm*

I guess he was hoping the book didn't matter if he had enough credits to be enticing.

How do you query for half a page and only mention your book for two lines?

Kathryn said...

Talk about succinct.

Marsha Sigman said...

LOL. I like it when you do math.

sue harrison said...

I don't know how many times I've repeated the mantra, "I am NOT what I create." Nevertheless, any rejection of my work (or fear thereof) somehow becomes a rejection of me. When that happens my "outside" voice shouts my own accolades so loudly that it drowns my "inside" voice, which is whispering, "Shut up, Sue. Just shut up!"

Bookfraud said...

Maybe not stupid, but clueless. Or perhaps this was a jujitsu strategy -- he did something so clueless it was obvious he couldn't realize it was clueless, and got himself mentioned on a literary blog.

Just a thought.

JS said...

Thank you for this very specific analysis of a mistake I myself could so easily make!

Scooter Carlyle said...

I tend to be so concerned with getting the little details perfect that I overlook something big and make a very silly mistake.

Example: I planned a large wedding complete with a homemade dress, hundreds of guests, a reception with a meal, and a punch fountain. What did I forget? The punch.

I've never been more embarrassed in my entire life. Hopefully, I don't repeat a similar kind of mistake with my queries.

Me said...

Did the author never look at the QS blog? BIG mistake

Ricky Bush said...

So? It's a plotless book without character.

tericarter said...

Is it wrong that this makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss janet! i been reading lots one doing a good query. i didnt ever do one yet. for sure i couldnt wanna read that guy stuff on just only that little bit. i been learning its just soooooo important to do a good query letter. for sure when i do one its gonna just reach out an grab onto you. :)
...smiles from lenny

Kirk Kraft said...

I guess I can see how he would want to promote himself but good gravy --- if you want to sell the book, you might want to talk about it a little.

This is a good reminder to never get too caught up with your own credentials. Wow.

A Funny Daddy said...

Here's a scary thought: There are some who are equally clueless, who have been published either because they are who they are or are well connected.

A further scary thought: Some haunt the corridors of power, and pretend to run countries and corporations.

Nice thought: when confronted with a scary, black suited type: think of them sitting on the toilet, with lower garments around their ankles.

sue harrison said...

Oh Scooter, I love the punch story!

Kristin Laughtin said...

Goodness, I don't even know how I would condense a story into 14-17 words and expect anyone to have any real sense of what it's about. I think if I had enough accolades to write 500 words, I'd mention one or two and then link to a website that lists the rest of them. Maybe I've been reading these blogs too long, but talking mostly about the story you want the agent to represent just seems to be common sense.

Cathi said...

Nice, gives me, an unpublished nobody, some hope!

wry wryter said...

Oh Janet...I love you.

So I'm guessing you want more then a logline and less bull----.

Sounds good to me.

Shannon said...

Well, my Grandma (before mentioned ... I borrowed her Depends) was born in 1918 and her mom died of the Flu and she went to live with her Grandpa on a farm in Wyoming. When she was 12 she met the man she'd marry at 18 (get your mind out of the gutter! It was purely innocent ... I'm sure of it!)

Anyway ... wait. I had a point.

Oh yeah, I think I just bested your query with meaningless chatter. YAY me!

Bri Clark said...

Wonder what the chances are he is reading this blog?

Donna Hole said...

EEk, and I'm trying to enter ABNA. Let me go look again . .

.......dhole

Janet Reid said...

Bri, 0

Keisha Martin said...

I really like the way you broke it down, it reassures me that although it's nice to have a few credentials, the key is slam dunking the query letter basic format and entice an agent.


Team Janet!

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I'm very upset by this post. I worked very hard on that query!

Janet Reid said...

Come to think of it, that letter WAS signed "R.Gregory Brown" but since it didn't mention Bill Cameron, I assumed it was an evil imposter.

Beth said...

There's a school of thought out there that advises prospective authors of fiction to focus more on themselves and their platform than on the actual work. I have always assumed that was bad advice. Now I know it is.