Thursday, July 17, 2014

Question: Talk about Grand Schemes!

A writer friend of mine writes adult historical fiction and has recently connected with an ex-literary agent who has offered to work with her on her query letter for $1,000.00. Honestly, I think it's nuts. My friend is a seasoned writer, highly educated, and has a firm grasp of her manuscript, query letter, synopsis, etc. She is tempted by the offer because she's been unsuccessful in garnering an agent's interest and feels this money may be well spent.

So my question is: Does this sound reasonable and fair to you? Any advice you can give would be most appreciated. As you know, the path to publication for an author is murky at best, and can sometimes cloud our judgment.

Wow, if I'd known giving advice on query letters garnered a thousand bucks a pop, think of all the dough I could have gotten from this! What are we up to now? 261?

Of course I think this is nuts. But I'm betting Miss X gets a bunch of people giving her money. She probably has to fend them off.

It's so so so beguiling to think the only thing standing between you and YES is a measly thousand dollars and The Secret Sauce of Acceptance.

I'm not going to rant too much about Miss X because if she's an ex-agent it's clear that she didn't make enough deals to keep her business afloat and is now busy making money the old fashioned way: snake oil. I feel sorry for someone who has failed at a business and has to become a literary busker.

Getting advice on your query is a good thing. Paying for it is not the problem. Paying THAT MUCH for it, and getting ONE person's opinion is.

Your writer friend is MUCH better off to use that spare thousand she's got lying around in her sock drawer to attend a writing conference (see yesterday's post) and talk to SEVERAL agents, and hit a workshop or two.

Writers who are butting up against the glacial embrace of rejection will often try everything and anything to melt the ice.  Paying this much and getting an opinion won't kill you but it's NOT the most efficient use of your resources (neither time nor money.)

I'll bet you twenty bucks and a shark bite that she does it anyway though.


Jessica Bloczynski said...

Wowzers! That kind of thing should be killed with fire. I hate predators.

Joyce Tremel said...

I don't understand why someone would pay for a query critique. There are so many places to get query help FREE. It's insane to pay for it.

Colin Smith said...

So I've started a new game where I read the question and try to guess Janet's answer before reading it. I give myself points for how close to her answer I am. After yesterdays q, I'm calling this game SHARKO!

And I got 8/10 for today's game of SHARKO. I lost points because I didn't think about going to writer's conferences (duhh!). But there are so many ways to get query critiques for free. Even asking writer friends online for tips is better than shelling out a grand for one person's opinion. After all, how many best-selling writers today paid 1000 bucks for the query that landed their agent? And as Janet pointed out, QueryShark is free, and has the best query advice available anywhere (IMHO).

How did everyone else do with SHARKO today? I'm betting if you read this blog regularly you did well. :)

Mary Sutton said...

Wow. I have no words. I guess desperation can make you think anything's a deal, huh?

jack welling said...

I was robbed once.

I called the ex-police. They didn't find any ex-crooks.

I think I did. I didn't regain that which was stolen; but, I got something out of the deal. That's about all I got out of my ex-life.

There's that going for me.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ha, I once paid the daughter of a co-worker, she was a lawyer's assistant, (the daughter not the co-worker), 500 bucks plus a 100 dollar restaurant gift certificate, to copy edit my first novel. It was like a buck a comma and typo. That was back when I had money and no brains. Now I have no money and the brains I currently claim I call smarts.

Just because you pay an extra high price for a bag of premium bakers from Maine doesn't mean one of those brown beauties won't be rotten.

Gee I wish I had that money back. I'd donate it to The Fellowship of Shark Research.
BTW Janet are you related to Katherine. She comes from waters a little north of here but I understand she's vaca-ing in Florida.

Dena Pawling said...

Even if the $1000 worked, and resulted in an agent requesting the manuscript, that's no indication the actual manuscript is good. I'd rather pay the $1000 for a full manuscript review, not just for the query.

I paid $200 to a freelance editor for advise on my entire 60,000 word manuscript PLUS my synopsis AND query letter. I learned that, in her opinion, my query was excellent, my synopsis needed a little tweeking, and my manuscript had a few glaring errors which I hadn't seen but when she pointed them out, now they're obvious.

But I can certainly relate to wanting that "magic bullet."

Susan Bonifant said...

I get this. Several years ago, I finished my first book long before I understood all that would go into submitting it. This created a huge sense that EVERYBODY knew more about the biz than I did and spending money on query assistance, which I did, seemed reasonable. I gained skill and confidence with time of course, but in the beginning, I wasn't desperate as much as I just wasn't wise yet.

LynnRodz said...

Sometimes I come here and I can't believe what I'm reading. Today happens to be one of those days.

whiporee said...

I ended up paying about $3000 to betas and copy editors over the course of writing mine. I never minded the money because I thought it kept me on a better track than anything else I'd done -- made me accountable to get actual writing done. Some of the betas were good, some were lousy, but I never thought of it as a waste.

However, I paid someone $300 to look at my QL and my synopsis. That was a waste of money and I feel as though he operated with bad intent. He read my stuff, made a couple of suggestions I didn't use and asked me to tell him my success story when I got one so he could use it on his blog.

Long winded way to get to my point This weekend last year I went to to my first writer's conference and took a weekend seminar from a couple of NY agents. The group spent one of the two days working on query letters, and when we were done, the two agents asked for copies so they could revise them and send them back to us nearly, in their minds, perfect. They didn't follow the Shark's format, but it was good insight to have. But when I was ready, one of those agents asked for a full from the QL she'd helped write. I figured she was just being polite, but damned if she's not my agent today.

That's a long way of saying the Shark is right in this. The conference and actual feedback were much more valuable than the money I spent getting the QL edit. And she's also right than once the Rs start coming in, you'll do anything at all you think might help.

Anonymous said...

"The Secret Sauce Of Acceptance."

Love it.

This is interesting as I've been approached by another writer with a unique concept. A new online business that offers to take one's manuscript and using focus groups, offer feedback - something like up to 25 pages of critique. Right now the price for the soft launch is $100 bucks. I'm considering it. The only thing I'm hesitant over is...what if my agent's opinion differs from theirs? Who's would I defer to? Probably his...but $100 bucks? There's also a little paranoia - on my behalf b/c the terms/conditions are well laid out - about copyright - and in the past I've heard/read this is such a newbie issue. Still. It's a startup. How do I know who these "Readers" are? IDK. Pondering...pondering.

french sojourn said...

Maybe, just maybe...the Emperors new clothes are quite stylish. And we; the great unwashed can't appreciate all the details and the use of that wonderfully diaphanous fabric.

Or maybe not?

Cheers Hank.
(This week has been such a great string of posts. (pun intended))

Laura said...

$1000? Surely that is a typo. Real, working agents, representing whatever genre you need, offer query critiques for less than $100 via their websites and/or Writer's Digest. I used one after months of little progress with an ms and got advice that led to 4 requests in the next month. Similarly, there's a Writer's Digest Pitchslam in just a few weeks where you can talk to 50 agents in person - and it's still less than $1K.

Susan Brooks said...

Thanks for mentioning Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Janet! We appreciate your high opinion and we really strive to offer high quality workshops.

For those who would like more information, Colorado Gold is September 5-7, 2014

Susan Brooks
Conference Chair

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

$1000? That's a mortgage payment.

Keisha Martin said...

I would never pay an agent to critique my query letter for a fee, there is no reassurance at the end of that arrangement I would snag that agent. Also I don't want an agent that wants money unless I sign up for an online workshop and participants will earn opportunity for agent to critique query letter or few pages I have seen a few of those online from notable authors but to give my hard earned money to an agent in the context you mentioned Nope.

Stephanie said...

There are companies doing this for far less. I know of one in particular where it is run by highly successful young adult authors and they charge $20 for a query makeover. $50 for a query and the first five pages. I've been quoted $300 to edit an entire 100k manuscript. This lady clearly thinks her services are extraordinary if she's charging that for just a query review. If she's willing to fork over $1000 to an ex agent, there better be a lot more included in that.

Ilex said...

If this person offering the query letter help is an ex-agent, has she ever actually written a query letter that resulted in many requests for a manuscript? Does she have a portfolio of letters she helped with that go with books that actually got published? That $1000 fee makes me assume she must have a fantastic track record, so she'd better be able to prove it.

Anecdotally, when I passed various iterations of my query letter around my writing group and got comments and attempted rewrites, my reaction was generally to think, "That's not what my book is about it all!" and then go back to revising it to try to distill exactly what I wanted to say about it. If I'd paid big bucks just to end up doing that, I would have been really ticked off.