Tuesday, December 03, 2013

How to shoot yourself in the SASE

Over the holiday week I received six or seven queries in a short amount of time.

All of them**** closed with this phrase:
If you would like to read a copy of (book title), please contact me.

well, ok, no.

This is the exact same problem of salesmanship (salessharkship?) we saw in yesterday's post about shooting yourself in the foot.  When I said aim higher, I meant AWAY FROM YOURSELF.

Don't offer an "if you want to read this" option.
Assume the agent will.

Don't put the idea in my head that I don't even have to reply if I don't want to read it.  Do not encourage this scandalous behaviour that other agents are fast turning into standard business practice.

Assume you will receive a reply. Assume it will be positive. Write accordingly.

This is how you close a query, NO FUCKING EXCEPTION: Thank you for your time and consideration. 

(the uniformity of the last line, and how closely they all arrived leads me to suspect a querying workshop finished moments before I started reading my email.)


Anonymous said...

It is odd to get that same last line several times - I'd bet on that query workshop too. Those poor people - all they had to do was read your archives and they could have saved a few bucks.

At any rate, I've learned to be straightforward and to the point with correspondence - while not seeming like a twit.

This was hard for me to do b/c:

1)I worry over every word (like in this comment even)

2)Everyone gets tons of emails/phone calls/texts, drop in visitors, etc etc. Time is money.

3)I'm southern, therefore I tend to want to be solicitous - even though I don't know the person.

Communications in any business is all about knowing the do's and don'ts. I worked in Corporate Communications during my last tenure, and that particular aspect of my job was high stress when you were having to address a global audience in the thousands.

Beverly Diehl said...

Thanks for this bit. It's hard for a writer to walk that tightrope between confidence in her work and arrogance, and underneath is always a yawning pit of self-doubt.

Anna Roberts Moore said...

This post and the one yesterday have had me trying to figure out why we make such an ass of ourselves when we query, and I came up with this analogy:

It's like we're asking you out on a date (go with me on this one). We've hopefully developed a relationship with you (agents) over a period of time through blogs or twitter - some of you, it's a blind date because you don't have a blog or twitter handle - and we're trying to make the best impression we can.

We spend forever working on ourselves (our book). We get a haircut, then cut it again. We try on several outfits, trying to look casual but professional, serious yet charming, well-spoken yet not pedantic.

We call you by name in the email, but we don't want to act like we're besties. We're not even sure if you like us yet, but we hope there's a chance. We try and match exactly what you're looking for, but we also want to do something that little bit different to stand out from the crowd. But we're not the type to go overboard. We’ve seen those ripped asunder on the Queryshark.

And when we do get the chance to finally approach you and ask you out (i.e. our novel is finally complete and edited and re-written and re-edited and complete again), we are so damn nervous that our query comes out like we have forgotten how to string words together to make a sentence. Let alone a whole book of sentences.

I don't know if this is how other new writers feel, but now that I actually have a work for which I am seeking representation, I get that heart-racing, dizzying feeling when I begin to type a query. Let alone when I hover over "send." Even after I’ve sent the query, I suddenly question whether I remembered to sign my name, or include the pages (or not include the pages, depending on your preference).

I know that this is what you do. You see thousands of queries a week (a day maybe?). I also know it looks different from your side. For example, I work at a global health insurance company, and I still wonder how people can’t figure out how to complete the dang claim form correctly. So, if possible, cut us a tiny bit of slack. We’ll be happy with form rejections, as long as we get a rejection.

By the way – any plans to bring back the Saturday Night Emporium?

french sojourn said...

I think Vegas has the over / under at 6 for the next month of you receiving the last line in query's as follows:

NO FUCKING EXCEPTION: Thank you for your time and consideration.

Name of Author.

Yvonne Osborne said...

I like your succinct bluntness. It's why I usually read your posts.

Janet Reid said...

Anna, I wonder if you're confusing two different things? The Saturday Night Emporium seems to be "Friday Night at the Question Emporium" mixed with Chum Bucket (which happened on Saturday night)

The Question Emporium is now running most of the time. The blog posts answering questions start with Question: (title) There's a category called Question Emporium in the blog archives on the right side of the blog where you can see all of them.

The Chum Bucket closed when I closed to queries, cause it was "Queries for Realz" ie you had to be legitimately querying.

I miss it! I miss it so much I'm hoping to reopen to queries in January SOLELY to be able to do Chum Bucket.

Janet Reid said...

French S, I'll take those odds! (but I know someone will, if only for a good laugh---much like Snookums has popped up on occasion)

Lance said...

These two posts about not shooting myself in the foot (or anywhere else) are extremely helpful. Thank you. Why hasn't anyone asked you how you saw six or seven queries over the holiday if you are closed to queries?

Terri Lynn Coop said...

I got sued by a disgruntled never-really-was-a-friend (long story.)

One of her complaints to the court included something like:

(Recitation of my alleged evils)

and ended with:

"Upon request, I will supply the court with the evidence supporting all allegations."

Since I won/settled all the claims in all the courts, I guess theerri court was unimpressed with her kind and gracious offer.

The phrase "Upon Request" needs to reside right next to "If."


Anna Roberts Moore said...

Ahh yes! The Chum Bucket. That's what I was talking about.

Looking forward to it! I finally have something with which to query.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

If you would like to read a copy of NO FUCKING EXCEPTION, please contact me. It's about being left at the alter by my fiance of ten years. Oh sorry, typo.
If you would like to read a copy of my book, NO FUCKING RECEPTION, please contact me...or was that about Larry the cable guy.
You might like a full of my earlier memoir regarding infertility, NO FUCKING CONCEPTION.
Okay I'll stop now.

Janet Reid said...

Lance, I get 10-20 queries a week even on hiatus. I have an auto-reply for them.

Lance said...

The Hiatus Queries is a memoir of despair from the sterile, electronic world of auto-respond and auto-delete. Unresearched query letters falling into a jittery slush of null and active states, zeroes and ones, ons and offs. This startlingly inspirational story is complete at 195,000 words.

NO FUCKING EXCEPTION! Thank you for your time and consideration.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this - I was just sending queries out for my screenplay (oh, didn't I mention - la dee dah) and read some advice that I should finish with a "if you wish to read ... I will happily sign a release"
It felt wrong so I just wrote the standard thank you/consideration thing. I worried afterwards that I've been doing the wrong thing all this time.
Now I know I'm correct. Still unpublished, but correct damn it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip! I've been using the "if" closing on all my queries, and I used to work in sales (although I wasn't a very good closer, go figure). BTW If you'd like to read any of my stuff ... Whoops! Just a very hard habit to break.

Steve Stubbs said...

My favorite is one I read about somewhere. I call it The Pity Close. This is from memory (meaning I don’t remember where I read it), but as I recall the way you use The Pity Close is to end a query letter with the statement: “Please publish this damn thing, Snookums. Everybody else has rejected it and you are my last hope.” I never have tried The Pity Close but believe it is extremely effective, It would certainly work with me, but I am a softie who is not also a literary agent, and not a literary agent who is also a softie.

Send it to softies only. There is probably no point using this with any hard noses.

Shauna L Bowling said...

This is the best advice I've ever read - and in layman's terms, no less! Love it!