Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Aw, screw it.

A recent query arrived in 16pt Bold Exasperation font, dripping with frustration.  The first paragraph said the writer had spent years trying to get an agent's attention by following the guidelines and had gotten nowhere. Now s/he was just saying the hell with it, here's my ms, let me know if you think you can sell it.


Ya kinda gotta sorta admire the honesty. At least s/he told me why s/he'd disdained the bare minimum guidelines (like not attaching anything.)

Unfortunately, that opening paragraph meant I wasn't even going to respond to the query, let alone read the work.

Setting aside the piquant notion that guidelines are there to help you (I know it doesn't feel like that) remember the SECOND purpose of a query letter? It's to demonstrate that you, the writer, are not an asshat. In other words, show me you're someone I can work with over a long period of time (we both hope) and through what can be trying circumstances. No one wants to think about trying circumstances and I'm not going to give you a list, but let me just assure you: they're damn real.

This querier demonstrated that when the going gets tough, s/he gets impatient and throws stuff at the wall.  This is an ineffective technique for dealing with frustration most of the time (after the toddler years), and certainly as an introduction to an agent.  It will not get you what you want. It will not even tell you anything about your work because I Did Not Read It.

If you're getting nowhere with your query, of course you're frustrated. And angry. And probably convinced it's my dimwittery, not your writing, that's the problem. Maybe it is, but knowing that and getting me to read your work are two VERY different things.

The way to deal with it is to stop querying and start getting some eyeballs on your work. There are lots of ways to do that: conferences, classes, critique groups.

Or if you're sure I'm a dimwit, self-publish and see if the book finds an audience.

Publishing is a very long game and it's filled with all sorts of things that would make even Carrie Nation turn to drink (for medicinal purposes only of course.)  Learning to both control your impatience, AND to not let that impatience seep into your emails is a really important part of the process.


There are more good projects out there than I have room for on my list. Even if this querier wrote as well as Patrick Lee or Jeff Somers or Laird Barron, I still would say no. Life is too short to work with people who make my job harder than it has to be.

Unfair? Hell yes. Who the hell told you publishing was ever going to be fair?

62 comments:

Lucie Witt said...

Oh, man.

This is why you need writing friends. Not just regular old friends who know you write, **writer** friends who understand the glacial pace of everything publishing, the frustration of staring into the abyss that is the no-response means no, and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, who can talk you off the ledge when you think the above mentioned email is a good idea.

Venting about your agent search is fine if you do it privately. Doing it in a query letter (or on your blog or twitter or whatever) is not.

Kitty said...

Rules, schmules. The writer got your attention, enough for you to write 471 words (including 'title') telling us all about why there are roolz. Still, aren't you the least bit curious if the writer can write? Cuz I know would be.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

See, that's why you post the housekeeping stuff at the end of the query letter.


(no no, that's the wrong message to take from this)


(but I thought it was funny, anyway)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Are you SURE you're not writing and publishing books under a pseudonym?

Naw. We'd recognize your humor, wouldn't we

I had to look up Carrie Nation to see if she was a real person. Wow. What a fireball. I'd imagine she'd be a person publishers and agent would not work with since she used rocks, then hatchets (as per her husband's joke suggestion) to sway people to her agenda.

To keep doing the same thing while continuing to get the same results is self-defeating. There's a wisdom saying to this effect but I can't find the right file in my brain yet. Moe caffeine.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

As Lucie's lovely subheader reminds us, patience is a matter of survival in this business. And yes, publishing like life isn't fair and the sky is blue.

I returned to my dread day job after a lovely Thanksgiving break to another round of the "why is it taking you so long to publish?" interrogation of my co-workers. I endure the same from my family. When I explain, they look at me as if my goals are too lofty or I should just get a "real" job. It is frustrating.

I am slowly preparing a second round of queries. It takes time because I believe my query could be stronger. I recently (well within last six weeks) got an R&R which I am still working on. I want to finish that so when my next batch goes out,I am sending much improved material.

I thought my last query, submission round was very strong but hey, I am still on the hunt. Must be me.

I can't control how an agency filters through their queries, how many pages an agent requests, how long it takes them (a couple are still looking at my request after 90 days).

The only thing we as writers who seek representation, traditional publication can control is the quality of our work. So I keep after it, praying that my persistence and endurance will pay off. But I do understand the frustration of this endless limbo that is the agent hunt. I could write a book.

Susan said...

I really love the restraint you show in this post, Janet. Restraint that, I'm sure, the writer could have benefited from.

I think every one of us feels the writer's frustrations--especially when you see success stories of debut authors who sell their books for six figures and a movie deal while allegedly not needing any edits. Publishing is enough to make you second guess yourself when second-guessing ourselves is second nature. Sometimes, you really do want to throw your hands in the air and toss the rules to the wind and see what will catch. But you don't. Because feeling those frustrations and acting on them are two very different beasts, and rules are in place in an already saturated industry for a reason.

Lucie: YES to the importance of having writer friends who understand! Example: all of you :)

Jennifer: I think that takeaway's spot on ;)

Lisa: I think that's the definition of insanity.

Colin Smith said...

Comedians break rules all the time. But they don't break all the rules all the time. Good comedy is about knowing which rules to break, and the right time to break them. Just listen to Victor Borge play the piano badly. As a talented classical pianist, he knew the pieces, and he knew how to play them well, so he also knew how to mess them up to the greatest comedic effect. The same is true for any of the great stand-up comics. They know which lines to cross, and which not to cross to get the best laugh out of an audience.

This querier (or queryist) clearly doesn't understand which "rules" to break for getting their query read. A 16-point bold Comic Sans bad query is no better than a 12-point Normal Times Roman bad query. Neither will get you past first base. Indeed, the stupid font will get you sent off the field before you swing the bat. The best rule-breaking queries are the ones that know which rules to break, and do so in such a way as to make the novel sound compelling.

But I'm preaching to the choir here. :)

Thomas Brennan said...

If "Frustrated Author" follows this blog then at least the person knows the query letter was read and the agent responded. A Pyrrhic victory perhaps.

nightsmusic said...

I know exactly how that querier feels. I also know that though I might write something like that, I write it to blow off steam and once done, it's deleted and I trudge along with the regular formats. Not the, you know, throw a brick at the agent ones.

Dena Pawling said...


My #1 son told me many tales about boot camp, where the mantra was “do NOT get yourself noticed, either for good or for bad”. He spent nine weeks trying to (1) stay awake on very little sleep, and (2) be the ultimate wallflower. Once he actually fell asleep WHILE MARCHING. I suppose that's the best place to do it, because you're the least apt to be noticed for it.

>>16pt Bold Exasperation font

I want that font!

I agree. This querier certainly got your attention. Now she has the attention of every one of your blog readers. Gotta at least admire that.

Susan Bonifant said...

Jennifer R. Donahue, that CRACKED me up.

Also, the time on that email could explain a lot. The queryist was probably fresh from a few rounds with drunk, supportive friends all piling on with the suggestion s/he go home and-just-kick-some-agent's-ass-why-the-hell-not-what-do-you-have-to-lose.

I would love it if there were a conversion tool to create slurry talk.

S.D.King said...

Nightsmusic hit the nail on the head. We have all felt the frustration that our efforts are leading nowhere, but we keep that despair to ourselves. We don't share it with the very people we hope to impress. It communicates that we are "marked down and on the clearance rack" - nobody wants us.

Susan Bonifant said...

Also, Janet Reid needs to put a one of her hilarious dog expressions here, I think.

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

You mean, like this one?

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Yeah, I get Opie's frustrations.

I've got beta-readers and critters who think my work is ready and agents who think it's not.

Who do I believe? The people who've read it, or the people who know the business?

The problem with the current practice of agents requesting sample pages with query letters means that when they reject it, you're not sure if it's your query or your sample pages.

The first round for my current WUS (work under submission) was almost standalone query letters. Got a few partial & full requests from that. No bites, alas.

Second round was to agents who requested sample pages with query. Got a lotta form letters.

Had a few trusties go over the book. They assured me it was okay.

Third round has only just got out. Most with sample pages, some query letters only.

We'll see what happens.

DLM said...

Her Grace, I love "WUS"!

This is one of those situations where there is an opportunity to manage the stress by seeing just how elegantly you can express frustration, and turn it from self-indulgent whinging into a moment where it's possible to triumph. I take frustration to my blog from time to time, but try to express it in a way that invites my readers (many, but not all of them, other authors) in. If an agent sees it, they see it - but it's not like agents don't know authors get frustrated.

I'm brought to mind of Miss Manners, whose ability to encounter rudeness with grace, but also precision refutation, is legendary. If the lady ever became frustrated, she would hardly have said so; yet she could ... remonstrate ... like nobody's business. And remonstration is a better bet than defenestration.

If it's worth expressing frustration, do it beautifully, do it perfectly, do it universally so others can hear. I had a friend who once bought an $18 crystal goblet (28 years ago, that was a pretty penny for a single goblet for a college girl) so she could throw it at a brick wall. Find your way to vent the pressure, and/or choose exactly the way you wish to be destructive, and then do so in controlled circumstances. Control has a marvelous way of restoring equilibrium.

But ladies and gentlemen, please: never spew.

Miss Manners would not have the spewing.

Jenny C said...

Other than the few lucky people who send their queries to the right agent at the exact perfect moment, we are all frustrated with the glacial pace of publishing and the constant stream of rejections and empty in-boxes.

I say go ahead and write your guideline-free query. Break every rule. Use whatever font you like.

Then send it to a writing buddy or a critique partner. But don't send it to an agent. Publishing is a business. Yes, a business based on creativity, but still a business. If you are having trouble putting together a query letter that gets requests, there are lots of editorial services who will help you. Agents often donate a query critique to an online auction raising funds for a good cause. Sometimes blogs raffle off query critiques. Watch Twitter for all of this.

Good luck 16pt Bold Exasperation Font Querier! I feel your pain. Many of us do.

Donnaeve said...

I bet that opening gave you a knee jerk, which subsequently resulted in a very tall glass of Scotch you must have needed after reading it.

I get the sense that the querier was incensed. Maybe she'd just received her 100th rejection? Hey, it could have been her 1st for all you know - and she decided to allow herself the equivalent of throwing a virtual tantrum. If she forgot to enclose her ms - big oops. I mean, how do you correct THAT?

This is Writing Rage. Akin to Road Rage. As if the computer or the car has a cloaking device. We still "see," the lack of control, regardless.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I like this one of Elka, for her "tired of the world" expresson. (I think that link we'll work. We'll find out!). I know I have a very judgey one as well but can't locate it at the moment.

Brigid said...

It's hard to remember that not only is publishing not a meritocracy, when it comes to querying an agent, that's not even the point. It's about partnership. It's sort of like getting married: You want someone who believes in you and who's willing to work with you. You need someone you trust. Maybe they even like you, when you keep your dirty socks off the couch.

Adib Khorram said...

I confess, I too am curious where I can find this Bold Exasperation font.

A while back, there was a thing on Twitter about drunk querying. Namely, agents suggesting it was a Bad Idea.

Part of me wants to see a YouTube series of Drunk Queries. Kind of like Drunk History, but for writers.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I want the bold exasperation font for personal reasons.

Adib, yes, it would be fun to see a collection of drunk queries.

Here's an idea, let's all get drunk and have a query contest. Rules similar to the flash fiction contest only... Ok, maybe not. Sorry, I am in the midst of a writer on the edge crisis.

BJ Muntain said...

For Adib:

Drunk Query #1

Dear... uh... yeah

This guy... there's this guy, you know? He killed someone. I'm sure he did. Anywers, he feels realllly bad, so eh tries to go into a coven... contemp... convesti... nun place, but he's a guy, rite? So he gotsa sneek in. It's haliroius. The bartenk... bartu... drink guy said so, and hes sobur..sobru... not drunk.

Kinda like Whoopee in that nun movie. But he's a guy.

The guys at the bra thot it was a grate idea. It's compe... complu... fink... done. 25,000 words so far. I'm gonta fill it out tomrow.

hic

Dave Rudden said...

I sort of feel bad for this guy/gal, only because they seem to be making their own headaches. As I read this post, I had an image of a person complaining that they are running up a hill instead of taking the stairs.

When I made my first attempt at query letters, I received a few rejects, but mostly silence. Now I have done my homework and learned a lot about the process and what agents are looking for. It seems to be taking longer to complete the query letter and synopsis then it did to write the book in the first place.

Hanging in there Opie. Eventually every hill gets conquered.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Dena,

Your son's experience is spot on. Will went to basic his summer between junior and senior year as a seventeen-year-old. He quickly learned the goal was to not get noticed for good or bad and he's a quick study. At the end of basic one of his drill instructors looked up and said, "Where the hell did you come from?"

"Been here all the time, sir."

"Hmmm. Good job."

Sometimes querying feels like basic. Even when you're doing everything right, you still don't get noticed. Unfortunately, we WANT to be noticed for the right reasons.

I've said this before, but it may bear repeating. When Eileen Cook read my query in a blue pencil session, she couldn't find anything to change. "The only thing this query needs is to get in the hands of the right agent. I'd want to read more."

And there it is. Even good queries need to get to the right agent at the right time. I've had rejections based on the agent repping something too similar or just signing someone who writes similarly. (Another good argument for never saying nothing like yours is out there. Ideas are not original, execution is.)

I watched an interview with an agent who is very successful, as I've said before. He says point blank he's very successful, so he takes on few new clients. He has a very explicit list of what he wants in a client. If a person queries and says, "I've been working on this book ten years." he's not interested. He wants a book a year. Don't shoot yourself in the foot and invite rejection by saying the wrong thing right up front. Make them work to find out how clueless you are.

All your beta readers and besties declare it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. Then Hopeful Writer thinks this querying thing is going to be over faster than a knife fight in a phone booth. Somewhere along the line reality sets in and you either decide to keep pushing forward, doing everything right, or you give up. Sending out a query like the one mentioned is giving up.

Whether you say you can or you can't, you're right.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Sometime querying feels like this.

LynnRodz said...

I like S.D's analogy about the clearance rack, but I have to disagree with Kitty and Thomas. Yes, the person got Janet's attention to write a post about it, but it sure didn't help them advance one iota on the road to publication. The writing is important, but showing an agent that you're someone they would enjoy working with is just as important.

Btw, Janet, I'm a little late to thank you for all the work you put in to this (and every) WIR, but when you spend the weekend in Brittany with 49 other people to surprise a friend for her birthday and you literally spend 12 hours a day at the table wining and dining together ("eating" doesn't cover how wonderful the food was) there wasn't much time for anything else.

Dena Pawling said...


Lol Julie yes. When my son's unit graduated from A-school, they all waited with great anticipation for their orders. Everyone got orders except my son. He'd been inadvertently dropped from their list. It took him three weeks to get reinstated and get his orders. For those three weeks he bummed around A-school like a vacation. He wasn't a student or an instructor and in fact possibly not enlisted (except he still got his paycheck lol) so he had no assignments and no restrictions. He jokes about it because A-school was on an Air Force base and his Navy enlisted uniform very much resembled an Air Force officer uniform, so he spent his time strolling along the base getting saluted by the Air Force newbies =)

Then he was assigned to Mississippi and had to get to work.

Kara Reynolds said...

The "is it my query or my pages" dilemma is a hard one. So over at Operation Awesome (operationawesome6.blogspot.com) we devised a query contest where instead of requesting fulls, the agent panel is offering feedback on entrants' queries and first pages.
If that's something that interests you, there will be an official announcement post on the blog later this month.

Donnaeve said...

I've been reading the comments, and a few are thinking this is someone writing in (like an OP), but this is about a query QOTKU received and she's kind of venting - very politely.

I'm curious, Ms. Janet, as to how you responded? Silence? Form rejection within 10 secs?

I'm NOT tolerant of this sort of behavior at all. I've had to bite my tongue more times than I've taken a breath in my entire life while working in the corporate world, and yet, when my company went Chp 11 and from 95,000 employees down to 250 - guess who was among the 250? I always played nice. I was always polite. Maybe I'm less tolerant b/c like so many have said, this is a business. And regardless even of THAT, there are rules for every aspect of how we should conduct ourselves. I'm sorry but this was unacceptable, and the crazy thing is, this person queried one of the few agents who looks beyond a query and really would like to see the writing.

They'll never know now what might have been.

Elissa M said...

I do feel bad for the OP. There isn't a person born who hasn't felt this level of frustration at least once in their lives (usually immediately upon exiting the womb). But, as many have said, feeling frustrated and expressing that frustration are two different things.

We're writers. We're supposed to be creative. A better way to release those demons would be to write a revenge story.

I fully understand Janet's desire not to work with writers who implode when faced with difficulties. The OP most likely just had a bad day and is normally the sanest person in the room, but we can't tell that from the query. No matter how much talent that writer may possess, you get to a point in your life where you just don't want to deal with the crazies any more. Let someone younger and hungrier pamper the prima donas.

french sojourn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Ellis said...

Put me in mind of the time (true story) an agitated writer bullied his way into the monthly meeting of Willamette Writers here in Portland while some volunteers were still setting up, claiming he "needed to see a literary agent." Roughed-up a volunteer before running off into the night. Police were called, but they never found him.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Donna,

When I was at Surrey I was astounded when a writer vented about southern b!tches. I've known him for a long time. He can be very abrasive and blunt to the point of rude. He chalks it up to being raised up north where people are honest.

It drove him nuts when a woman would come in with her Georgia drawl and say, "Now, would you be a darling and make sure this report is ready by next Tuesday?" To him their sugary sweet darlings and honeys and bless your hearts only masked their disdain for him.

Bless your heart doesn't always mean go to hell.

At Surrey at our first lunch with the Compuserve crew the waitress was taking drink orders and I said, "Do y'all have sweet tea?"

A friend patted my arm. "Oh, honey, bless your heart. This is Canada. No, they don't have sweet tea."

Anyway, some people just think it's best to express their feelings openly. It's honest.

I asked him would he prefer a woman tell him, "Get your a$$ in gear and have this report done, you rude bastage!"

"YES! That would have been honest. I knew they didn't want me in their office, so why were they pouring on the phony sugar?"

"Because in the south you get more done being polite and asking nicely than acting like an a$$. It would never have occurred to those ladies to be rude to you no matter how you acted."

Regardless of how you really feel about the query process, it's best to put on your big girl panties and act like you're happy to be at the party.

CynthiaMc said...

LOL Dena and Julie - I tried to fly under the radar at Air Force basic and they made me a squad leader. Go figure. There would have been times I might have fallen asleep while marching except I was the one calling cadence. Good times!

Adib Khorram said...

EM: Edge of what? Do you need someone to talk you out of sending ill-thought-out emails?

DON'T SEND!

Seriously though, I hope things are okay.

BJ: See? The show practically films itself!

Mark: That sounds terrible but also kind of exciting.

CynthiaMc said...

Julie - reminds me of when we moved to New York when I was little and my mother ordered iced tea. The waiter brought her a cup of hot tea with an ice cube in it.

My brain just exploded at the concept of a Southern bitch. We are carefully schooled all our lives to be the exact opposite. Some people just don't get it, bless their hearts.

Thank you all for a wonderful lunch break. I haven't laughed this hard in a while.

Donnaeve said...

Julie, this exactly, "Regardless of how you really feel about the query process, it's best to put on your big girl panties and act like you're happy to be at the party."

I was in Raleigh yesterday and took Mom Christmas shopping. (speaking of "bless your heart", well bless her heart - she lost her cane in the very first store we entered. Nothing says shopping with Mom like hearing this over the store's loud speaker, "Associates, anyone find a cane?") I found it hanging on a rack near the baby clothes. Meanwhile Mom asked anything that moved if they'd seen her cane - employee or no. Aye yi yi.

At any rate, I went to a Chick-fil-A afterwards to buy us lunch. I stood in line and there was a lady in front of me, and I detected nothing wrong by her mannerisms or the sound of her voice when speaking to the person taking the order. As she got her food, she turned around, and like I tend to do, I smiled at her, and stepped aside to let her pass.

I got an evil glare and this, "It isn't funny! Not one bit!"

It was one of those mood souring encounters, but what can you do? Do I dare bring back the FROZEN song from last year??? LET IT GO! LET IT GO! (you can thank me for that ear worm later)

Adib Khorram said...

Donnaeve, I can "improve" upon that ear worm, if I may:

"Let it Go" according to Google Translate

BJ Muntain said...

Donnaeve: Don't let that woman hurt your smile. Any other person would have smiled back, which is the logical and proper response to a smile. That woman was just rude.

A smile is the best thing you can give a stranger.

Elena said...

Lucie, "MOST IMPORTANTLY, who can talk you off the ledge when you think the above mentioned email is a good idea."

Yes! Ha, we all need trusty bs-callers in our lives, especially when it comes to writing =)

Slightly OT, but if anyone's interested in further "aw, screw it" sort of reading, this entry from Query Shark is one of my favorites:
http://queryshark.blogspot.com/2013/01/234.html.

Obviously a very different situation than today's post! In that case throwing formatting caution to the wind didn't deter Janet from requesting pages, but if I had any delusional, woodland creature, "well maybe guidelines don't apply to moi" thoughts cavorting inside my head, that post put them down.

Sure, exceptions happen, and everything in publishing can be wicked frustrating. Does that make it worth it to say, "aw, screw it"?

For me, that's a big nope. I'll leave both the rule breaking and completely-understandable-but-still-inappropriate frustration-fueled actions to my characters. There's a reason why "Be Brave" and "Be Bold" aren't the sole items under the "Rules for Writers" sidebar on this site.

Both "16pt Bold Exasperation" and "HomonymTypoFuckers" would look great plastered across a band's drum set. #justsayin

S.P. Bowers said...

BJ--hilarious!

We've all been on the edge before. Maybe the best writing advice ever is to give it enough time. Time before revising, time before editing, time before proofreading, time before hitting send.

DeadSpiderEye said...

You let something slip there Janet, "...I wasn't even going to respond to the query, let alone read the work". Which, although I've harboured the strong suspicion, that reading a submission is an optional step after a reply, it did raise an eyebrow to have it confirmed.

Poof! said...

Adib - funny spoof of "Let It Go!"

One of the earliest attempts at computer translation from one language to another and back resulted in "hydraulic ram" becoming "water sheep."

Returning to the topic: Thanks, Janet! I love the image of Carrie Nation, the most intemperate of the temperance movement, turning to drink. And I, too, am looking for the Bold Exasperation font.

Donnaeve said...

Adib - *wipes tears* I still have the thing playing in the background. This is HEEELarious! Thank you.

BJ, thanks for that too. I'm too crazy to let someone's sour mood stand in the way of a silly grin for too long. Besides, Mom put some Aromatics Elixir on her hand before we left the mall, and of course I had to good-naturedly complain all the way back to her house about how my vehicle smelled like a bordello.

We had fun.

dellcartoons said...

Well, yesterday I asked what qualities you value in writers more than being meticulous.

Obviously, patience is one of them.

Lucie Witt said...

The boot camp comments are great. I smiled reading them, thinking of the stories my husband has told me about his boot camp days and what happened when you stood out.

That of course got me thinking about his approach to boot camp, which was to always have his shoes the shiniest, to always run in the fastest mile group, and he set his sights on one day being soldier of the year in his region. He survived bootcamp, studied his ass off, kept making sure those shoes were the shiniest, and I'll be damned if I he doesn't have his soldier of the year plaque over his desk to this day.

If that's not a metaphor for getting through the slush and landing an agent I don't know what is!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hahahaha, Thenhank you Adib, pretty much sums up what we're picking at,
"give up".

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Wish we had edit. Thenhank was supposed to be thank.
Yup, "give up".

JeffO said...

The question I have is, if you were to give in to curiosity and read even the opening pages of the attached manuscript, would you find a piece of genius work that has been undermined by the author's inability to condense his/her brilliant story and exquisite writing into a single-page query; or a person who just can't comprehend that either their concept or execution (or both) is mediocre at best?

Have you ever actually looked at something like this that flouts the rules, or is it always an automatic flush?

Steve Stubbs said...

I did not see The Work, but I suspect you did the right thing by passing it over. I have read lots pf unpublished work by people who said they wanted an opinion, only to discover they do NOT want an opinion. What they want is rapturous psalms of praise about how great their writing is. And, like George Washington, I cannot tell a lie. Their stuff is not great. It sucks. I can’t get rapt about crap.

The problem though is not that Their Writing Is Crap. The problem is that they are impervious to feedback, however pleasantly offered, however badly needed. They have no intention of learning or improving. One fellow told me he believed in his “stubbornness.” I did not believe in it. I was right. He died a year or so at the age of 76 of terminal scrivenerous incapacity. A lot of what gets diagnosed as a natural death from old age is really terminal scrivenerous incapacity. Really. Unhappily, I just received word that he was kicked out of hell for trying to sell his stuff to the devil. Even Satan couldn’t stand it, and said, “No fire and brimstone for you, Tom until youlearn how to write. Sorry.” Nobody knows where he is now. Regardless of what those old Yogi Berra commercials implied, there is no disability insurance for fiction. If it doesn’t work, don’t apply for benefits. You don’t get paid anyway the way you do if you hurt your back.

Lance said...

Re-channel that frustration into writing a passionate query that burns the socks off the agent's fins and thank the agent for their time and consideration. Follow the guidelines "with real religious fervor."

Karen McCoy said...

Oh, the noise. All the noise. And so many adding to the noise by making their written letters bigger. Or their queries bolder. A man hitting a nail harder is still hitting a nail. Or what was it John Green said? "Pissing on fire hydrants"?

Love the noise of this blog though. You guys are cracking me up today.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

I know I've posted too much today, but I had to share this short documentary about querying authors vying for agent attention.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFqeWTfVi3I

And, of course, the agent's reaction.

AJ Blythe said...

At times like this everyone needs a way to vent (and that doesn't include hitting 'send').

When I was at university I had a Professor who was a bully. My parents were renovating at the time and I went home one weekend and they asked me to help remove tiles from a wall. I wrote the professor's name on the tiles with texta and then went at it. Unfortunately my enthusiasm put holes through the wall (not quite what Mum and Dad intended). But I did feel a whole lot better!

BJ Muntain said...

Julie's link:

short documentary about querying authors vying for agent attention, on YouTube

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

BJ, Love that drunk query.

The querier needs to look in the mirror and have a serious heart to heart.

Kate Larkindale said...

This querier needs to be thinking ahead to the long game. Yes, querying is trying. It's slow and painful and full of rejection. But then you get an agent and go out on submission and the cycle starts all over again. If you aren't good at a) waiting, b) handling rejection and c) endless rounds of revision, you're probably not cut out to be writer.

Now excuse me. I have to go and work on round 453 of revisions before sending this MS back to my agent...

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I wonder what the querier thinks after reading this post and all the comments. Maybe they never stop by because if they did I don't think they would have approached the teeth the way they did. Just wondering though.

Laura Mary said...

Just goes to show, it's not just your writing you are trying to sell, it's yourself too.
Agents are busy folk who have little time for putting toys back in the pram - if that's the kind of attitude you put across, your work had better be nothing short of literary genius to make you worth the while.
And even then some sharks will still think you're not worth a bite.

Isn't there a list somewhere of rules of when not to query? Never query drunk, never query angry...I'm sure I've seen one somewhere!

Patti Phillips said...

Bless your hearts, ya'll, I can't stop laughing! Shark bites seem ever so tasty when tempered by the hilarious comments in the shark pool.

Masterful post from the Queen, because not only did QOTKU tell us that the querier had made a mistake, but why it was a mistake and what to do about getting back on the right track. Cool.

The Teddy Bear Family said...

LOL Thank you for making my day!

One other thing about querying agents that might be helpful -- researching who they are. Agents aren't the only ones who don't want to work with an azzhat. Writers don't either. And, Ms. Reid, you are so wonderfully NOT an azzhat! Thank you! I've been suspecting agents aren't. You just proved it. :D