Friday, February 25, 2011

Pay attention to who you pay attention to

A lot of people are glad to give you advice on how to query.
I'm one of them.
This blog is full of it.

But you've got to be careful who you listen to.
Not all advice-givers are created equal,
and some are downright wrong.


I posted about this earlier but  was reminded of it again this morning when I got a distraught email from a querier asking her query be discarded. Turns out she'd listened to another writer about how to format her query, and it was exactly wrong.  I looked at the query.  Sure enough: disaster on toast points.


The arrival of the internet has introduced a transparency to publishing that can serve writers well.

It also gives gravitas to the person with the loudest voice and biggest platform.

Beware.

Listen to the advice of people who do the actual reading and deciding about your query before you listen to anyone else.  We may disagree with each other about some of the finer points, but we're not going to actively give you bad advice.

And yes, this querier gets a mulligan. In fact, every query this bad gets a mulligan because we don't  keep track of them.

If you find you've done something really really cringe-worthy (like not tell me what the book is about or calling it a fiction-novel) then just re-write and send again.  What's the worst that can happen?

Oh well, ok, you'll get the Mer-Bear stare







but she won't actually come to your house and smack you with a stuffed shark.


We save that for clients.

20 comments:

BuffySquirrel said...

I'm holding out for a bashing with a real shark.

Keisha Martin said...

I am home drinking water and it flew out my nose. (Bish Please) Janet you are classic.=)

Girl Friday said...

I mostly want to know what the green and yellow thing is? A toy snake? Also yes, I pray I'm never on the receiving end of the Mer Bear stare.

Jenn said...

Oh my! I started giggling at "Mer-Bear Stare" and by "smack you with a stuffed shark" I was fully, audibly laughing!

Candyland said...

LOL!!! The Mer-Bear stare looks like my face (pretty much all day).

Richard Gibson said...

This is excellent advice for everything on the Internet. Or on TV, and even, dare I say it, in books, given the ease today with which anything can be printed on paper - just a few steps and dollars more complicated than "anything" appearing by way of electrons. The query-agent-publisher-retailer process has WAY plenty value, not least in helping eliminate some of the chaff. And I say that as someone who believes that self-publishing is abundantly reasonable - in some circumstances.

Valerie Keiser Norris said...

I owned a book on writing query letters which advised starting with rhetorical questions. After reading a few of your posts, I threw out the book. So happy you gave that other querier a mulligan. You're not as mean as you pretend to be!

LizzieFriend said...

Great post, but now I'm so curious to know what the bad advice was!

Josin L. McQuein said...

I'd love to know what the advice was that writer was heeding by mistake.

The advice you get from non-industry types is fairly consistent and yet, still shocking. I told someone the other day that my brain was mush from editing 70 pages in one go and they looked at me strange, then asked why I'd want to edit something before I sent it out. Shouldn't the agent get it first and then tell me what to change?

head/desk

Anne R. Allen said...

This is so sad. I see this all over the place. People read old books like the one Valerie mentions or stumble on some idiot's website and start spreading the ignorance. Synopses must be at least 10 pages long! Make sure you tell the agent lots about your personal life so she'll "connect" with you!

Also, it's important to note that not all agents subscribe to the Shark school of querying. Most UK agents are insulted if you jump right into the story without making introductions first--something only done by "rude Americans."

So the most important rule is READ THE GUIDELINES on the website. If they don't have one, QueryTracker has usually tracked down their likes and dislikes and posted them on the comments page.

Charlie Pulsipher said...

I hear disaster on toast points is somewhat tastier than it sounds. I am also wondering about the giant snake thing in the picture...
Funny Stuff I Write And Draw

Theamarie said...

Loved the advice; makes complete sense. Wiping coffee off the keyboard at the moment, praying nothing is shorted out. "Bish, please" and the look on her face. I can relate. Priceless.

Kristin Laughtin said...

It's like I tell patrons in the library all the time: look at the source of the information to evaluate how trustworthy it is. Another writer? Maybe OK for basic reference if they've been published. Better to look at the information provided by the agents who will actually be reading the query.

Deb Vlock said...

OK, but I've gotta ask: what's a bish? Not sure we have those in Boston. :D (Smiley face courtesy of your friend Teddy.)

alwayscoffee said...

Wait, so I'm *not* supposed to put Lisa Frank stickers on my query letters? Damn it.

Seriously, that is very sage advice. I've fallen into that trap before, and I've taken advice from the wrong person (yes, even regarding query letters).

Also, I'm totally borrowing (stealing) the phrase "disaster on toast points." Fantastic phrasing.

~Ali

Valerie Keiser Norris said...

Deb--I think Bish stands for Bitch. You probably have one or two in Boston.

Kim Kouski said...

I can't echo this enough. I've posted my query on writers' forums only to be given WRONG, WRONG, WRONG advice. Get your writing tips from experts, not amateurs.

Libby said...

A fiction-novel? Yes... I now want to put that in all of my queries.

Ron at CM said...

The thought of being on the receiving end of the Mer Bear stare is almost enough to switch to something easier -- like brain surgery.

I don't have enough fingers, toes, or other appendages to count the number of times I've heard...

"If three different agents have different guidelines, do I have to make three different versions of my file?"

No, the minute and a half to select all, change font, or
select all, change line spacing, is way too much for anyone
to ask of you. You've already spent forever on this first draft and you can't wait for an agent to tell you what's wrong with it so you can start editing.

S.A. Green said...

Thank you for this post. I go into a downward panic spiral every time I make a mistake. It's good to know that agents don't refer back to them or beat you with stuffed sharks (or real ones for that matter).