Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Tuesday, January 19, 2016 query service

Have you come across It purports to be a new way of querying for writers and query management, up through publication, for agents. Could this be a new wave for the future and could it eliminate the traditional querying practice? Do you have thoughts on this industry evolution (or devolution)? Below is a quote from their website.


AUTHORS, Inc. is an Austin technology company dedicated to making the process of discovering new manuscripts better for the writers who write them and for the agents and publishers who publish them. AUTHORS has created a breakthrough service that puts everyone on the same platform for better communication, discovery, and submissions

I had not heard of this particular company, but I've seen this "new way of querying" before...many times.  It's trying to solve a problem we don't have. And by we I mean you the writer and me the agent.

There's a fundamental flaw in the logic here. "Making the process of discovering new manuscripts better for writers" implies that the process in use now doesn't work well. It works just fine. You write to me about your novel. I write back. There's direct communication. No forms to fill out, no perplexing multiple choice. No money changes hands.

If the problem is that I don't take on your project, that's not a problem with the process, and fixing/changing/altering the process won't mean diddly squat.

The problem with querying isn't the platform. It's that supply exceeds demand. There are more good writers out there than there are reader eyeballs. No change of platform will address that.

Any reputable agent and publisher will tell you that. From looking at the staff of this company, I'm not sure any agents or publishers are involved. They certainly didn't ask ME what would improve the query process. (And don't think I'm lacking in an idea or two on that front!)

And the first thing you always want to do is find out who's being asked for money:

And tucked away in the Terms of Use (which is utterly confusing since it refers to the company as Authors; the agent as Licensee; and godiva knows what they call the actual writer, I didn't get that far) is this:

I don't know a single agent willing to pay to receive queries.

The first rule of sales: talk benefits, not features.

I get more than enough queries right now. I turn down good and publishable work every single day, and twice on Sunday.

What's in this for me? Nothing as far as I can tell.

There is however one group of folks in the industry for whom this is a sumptuous all you can eat buffet: faux publishers. And by faux I mean the publishing companies who make money from authors not book sales.

What better place to find a bunch of those inexperienced, gullible authors just waiting to believe they can be a success with a hundred bucks and a query letter.

These kinds of services come along once every couple years. Almost universally they are started by people who have no experience in publishing (and think that's a plus) and claim successes without actually giving details.

The site has a thread on and the CEO claims "11 publishing deals have been signed."

The next question of course is "with who" but that information wasn't provided.

I also didn't see the terms of service for writer submissions, but some comments on that waved some major red flags.

Bottom line: a lot of people will tell you the query system is flawed. Generally they have a solution for you that involves your money and their pocket. Believe little, if anything, from them.

PS If you describe your service as "intelligent design" it displays an absolutely tin ear for sales and marketing.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

The system?
If is ain't broke don't fix it.
The book?
If it's broke, edit.
No cost.

nightsmusic said...

"Making the process of discovering new manuscripts better for writers"

Do they mean so writers can discover a better manuscript than the one they wrote? That was my initial takeaway after reading that sentence the first time and I'm not stupid.

Okay, silly maybe, but really, if they can't be clearer themselves on what they're trying to get across, how can anyone think they'd be able to help? Because that sentence alone is really bad.

Brian Schwarz said...

Yeah, it goes without saying that Janet is right...

Personally, when I see a too good to be true, I reverse it to see how it feels.

Am I, as an agent, interested in a matchmaking query website with 100+ pre-made and researched authors reaching out to me daily? Seems like there is zero utility.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Am I sensing a theme? diddy, ditty, diddly?

Nothing like trying to add an extra step to the dance for us wee woodland critters and, not content with messing up our rhythm, they'd grab our money too--money that would be put to better use for writer conferences and workshops or legitimately sourced editing of our MS.

Sherry Howard said...

What better place to find a bunch of those inexperienced, gullible authors just waiting to believe they can be a success with a hundred bucks and a query letter. QOTKU

I'm constantly amazed as I move through writer-world at the gullibility of writers who believe that putting pen to paper is enough, that quality is proven by quantity produced, and that making a quick buck is better than making an excellent book. And there are plenty of *companies* that thrive on catering to that mentality.

That sounds so negative, so I need to say something positive now. Butterflies, cotton candy, seahorses. Okay, better now.

Colin Smith said...

Of course, if our queries keep getting rejections, or no response (those NORMANs!), then the fault HAS to be with the system. It can't be my novel or my query because, like, my query's just awesome ya know, and if agents can't see that then it's because they aren't really reading it. That's why we need a service like this to make agents read my query so they can see how truly awesome it is. Ya know. ;)

Now, create an alcoholic beverage that will make every agent love what I write, THEN we're talking. I'll take a dozen bottles and a ticket to New York... :)

DLM said...

nightmusic, that's how I read it! Does this mean I'm not stupid either, because THAT is an even more exciting prospect than this 'yere website.

Sherry, how about some rainbows and unicorns?

Colin: totally, to the max.

Laura Mary said...

Hmmm... is it me or does the terminology seem deliberately tricky? Referring to the company as 'Authors' seems like it's asking for trouble.
Reading no.4 on the T&Cs I would assume *I* was the Author and that someone was going to pay me a fee! Which would be nice.
I hope the world is full of smarter cookies than me!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Yeah. Ok. What Colin said...

A big step for a new writer is the realization there are no shortcuts in this business. Standing out will not be accomplished through some website in Texas.

Go to conferences, join writer and critique groups, Hell, join us Reiders, and then write until blood explodes from every orifice and query until the abyss sucks your soul dry. If that doesn't work, reevaluate - is it the market or your writing? Write something else, self-publish if your work is simply too narrow for market or put manuscript on ice until a market opens up. You never know DinoRobotic Erotic Mystery may one day be a thing. But don't fall for a scam.

nightsmusic said...

DLM, of course you're not stupid! You're here, aren't you? :) That's the smartest move I ever made and I know I'm not. Stupid.

Amanda Capper said...

Nightsmusic, DLM, and myself, do not like how these entrepreneurs express themselves. That, in itself, is why no one should pay them any mind.

If the road is too easy, don't take it. There be dragons, 'cause every one knows dragons are lazy.

MB Owen said...

There is coming in February a way to match querying writers with agents looking for the same thing: it's called Pitmatch. It's hosted by Brendra Drake and #MSWL creator and literary agent Jessica Sinsheimer. No money is exchanged. No promises are given. If the OP is looking for a direct match-up for her (or his) query, this could be a good opportunity. **But be forewarned: you get one 140-character pitch per manuscript.

It doesn't take the place of querying, but it does shake up the (slow) process a bit.

S.P. Bowers said...

"There are more good writers out there than there are reader eyeballs."

As a book pusher I'm working on changing that. :)

Lucie Witt said...

I feel for writers who fall for these scams. Some are probably too green to know better, some are probably reacting to (seemingly) endless rejection. 

Simple truths can be the hardest to accept. The only thing that works is writing the best book you can and persevering in the face of rejection. Repeat infinitely. 

A friend and I once ran the numbers for a popular agent between queries received and clients signed: 0.01%.

We decided to call ourselves the 0.01% club. The only membership requirement is that you keep the faith.

Donnaeve said...

I don't know. Maybe it's me.

Seems a professional one to one email query directly to an agent is a writer's best shot.

Ya know?

DLM said...

Amanda, so true.

Donna: sez the lady with an agent AND a deal. I'll take that for authority! :P :)

Y'all (and my authorial pal Leila Gaskin) have me writing so much the past few days. I am most grateful.

I actually did sign up for something that looks a lot like this some time back; there was no CHARGE involved, and I actually did see agents I'd researched and was interested in with profiles. Stunningly, nothing came of it, but then this was probably in the final stages of heartbreak before I put The Ax and the Vase to bed, so I was in that sort of no-harm/no-foul mindspace with "try anything."

So the rumors of my non-stupidity may be premature, but at least I wasn't payin' for anything (nor signing up for anything that took my authorial status away from me).

Mister Furkles said...

I don't understand why you'd have a problem paying for this as long as all the queries come on 20 pound white stationery, baled. You could pay $30.00 a month for a guaranteed one ton per month and sell it for $250.00 a ton.

You don't have to read any of the queries either. Who can't use an extra 200 bucks a month?

Dena Pawling said...

>>There's a fundamental flaw in the logic here. "Making the process of discovering new manuscripts better for writers" implies that the process in use now doesn't work well. It works just fine. You write to me about your novel. I write back. There's direct communication. No forms to fill out, no perplexing multiple choice. No money changes hands.

Here's the fundamental flaw in Janet's logic. “You write to me about your novel. I write back.”

More and more agents are NOT writing back. Colin's NORMANs. Shall we blame all our writer angst and the proliferation of these query outfits on them thar folks who don't write back?

Jenny C said...

If you happen to have some extra money to spend on your query maybe a better investment would be one of those editing services that helps rewrite queries to make them stronger.

Donnaeve said...

Diane - "spoken with authority."

:) Not really, more like spoken with puzzlement. I would rather put my chances on my direct communication with an agent (even a NORMAN) than a scheme. I've seen similar ventures like this, maybe this is the one you meant? Autonomous (from HarperCollins) was one, I think that might have been similar. No money. Put your work up in teh correct genre, and agents/editors were looking at it. It has since closed shop after a few years.

Supply and Demand. Because I'm a microeconomics sort, this speaks to me as THE true issue. As much as we'd hate to hear it, there are (last time I checked) about 1,300 agents in the U.S. I think. I can't speak for elsewhere. Even QOTKU has mentioned she gets around 20 or so a day ( which (if Sat/Sun is included) = 140 per week or 640 per month - aye yi yi.

Let's say each of those agents gets the same number as our Ms. Janet - that would be 560 queries per month x 1300 agents = 728,000 queries - a month. (???) Sure, some get more, some get less, but it's enough to boggle the mind. Maybe my math is flawed, cause I'm thinking hold up, there's only 300M people in the U.S. and that would mean almost 8.7M ms queries in a year. (again with the ???)

I can't even finish my comment now. I have to go run and think about the numbers because they are truly daunting for both sides of the fence.

Donnaeve said...

Notice my correction - it's 560 queries per month. I forgot to correct the first # (640 per month)

brianrschwarz said...

MB is right - and I can't advocate for this event enough.

There are 3 teams. A team of authors, a team of agents, and a team of editors working to make "connections" between Manuscript Wishlist entries and author pitches. It's a very clever way to try to mix things up and get what an agent is looking for into their hands.

I may be biased, but I think it's a brilliant idea and I expect it to be a recurring yearly event. I certainly am looking forward to it!

Grace Wen said...

Detailed information on the quarterly #PitMad Twitter pitch event here:

David said...

A link to this place was posted on the Kidlit411 FaceBook group. Here's what I found after a little research:

I wouldn't trust it.

5 mins of research would steer me clear:

Domain registered just over a year ago = new service.

Associated with "Gold Brothers Entertainment" AKA "GBE InterActive, LLC" which specializes in creating and developing iPhone games & app. so looks like this isn't their main business interest.

David OBrien is Creative/Founder of and the person who is listed as the owner of the domain. He's the founder of GBE as well and (expired domain)

The same group used to have a domain called "",-LLC

Publisheeze is a web and mobile exchange that brings writers, agents, publishers and self-publishing companies together for the first time on one platform to discover new publishing opportunities. intelligently matches writers to the right publishing opportunity, whether it is traditional publishing, self-publishing or scripted work for the entertainment industry. becomes the standardized platform for agents, publishers, self-publishers and producers to view submissions only germane to their business in a unified format. No more mis-matches. The two platforms work as one. Writers achieve better representation of themselves and their work, far greater than the one-page queries or emails in use today. Agents and publishers benefit from the wealth of information at their disposal delivered to their personal dashboard which enables them to manage with far greater efficiency and effect.

Sounds familiar :-)

I own over 100 domains (make a living from them), you don't let important domains expire unless they have failed. My guess is the old website failed, so trying again.

If the old domain had any value they'd have 301 redirected the old domain to the new (you visit the old domain and it takes you seamlessly to the new). That suggests they had no agents/publishers/customers, if they had some that traffic is now lost to the new domain and their old publishers etc... won't know exists!

Looks like a group trying different things until something sticks that makes cash.

Took 5 mins to find this, so if you consider trying it do a more detailed search of who they are and what they do (I could be wrong).


Donnaeve said...

And now I'm back with a frozen face and a runny nose. (Ewww) So, to continue - cause I know ya'll are all waiting on the edge of your seats...*insert quizzical eyebrow raise*

Back to Supply/Demand, my point about the huge number of queries compared to agents would be relative to QOTKU's comment, "The problem with querying isn't the platform. It's that supply exceeds demand. There are more good writers out there than there are reader eyeballs. No change of platform will address that."

And that's my three for the day.

BJ Muntain said...

I once had to break the heart of a young writer, who had been so excited about 'being accepted' by a company that would take care of all her queries for her. I (privately) explained that these services were scams, and that no one would accept queries from such places. I felt so bad, but I would have felt worse if she'd wasted her money on that service.

This one sounds no different. Why the heck would an agent pay them? And does that mean that the 99.999% of agents who won't pay them are not queried to by this company? Then what the *blankety-blank* are the writers paying for?

Regarding the gullibility of writers: How many young actors and actresses would go to Hollywood and wait tables while waiting for their 'big break'? Enough that there was a song (or more) written about them. Enough that they became a cliche.

People have dreams. Some people have very strong dreams - and these are the people who will work to reach them. But the publishing industry is a huuuuge learning curve. You're told one thing in the news. You're told another thing in your local writing group. But you have to really dig to find out the truth behind publishing. And then, once you know what you're doing, it takes even more work to do it properly.

But if people don't know that what they're seeing in the news ('self-publishing will get you discovered!', for instance), then they might not look deeper. Until they're taken in by one of these scams.

While there are frustrations involved in the query process (such as NORMANs), I honestly believe that the writers falling for these scams don't know any better. It's not a failing in the system itself. The problem is all the misconceptions out there regarding publishing. It's those misconceptions that the scammers are playing on.

Donna's link to Janet's blog post When do agents read queries

Grace's link for #PitMad... although #PitMatch works differently.

David's links about the unscrupulous company:

David OBrien, founder of GBE

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Another pay to play scheme.

Colin, you have a great idea. A cocktail to celebrate no response means no. We could call it a Norman Cosmo. Drink 3 months after query is sent.

Nectarine schnaps
Old Crow
Rebel Yell
Aftershock® Thermal Bite spice schnapps
Nutmeg, just a sprinkle

Craig said...

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends

If you want to attend push that big red start button

Then you can learn for yourself the one truism on the human condition

"There's a sucker born every minute"

Brigid said...

Hell, if the Norman Cosmo makes anybody like a book, I'd take it just to get through the second half of my degree—suddenly I'd relish those textbooks. And if I sell sips to fellow students struggling with certain chapters, well, I might just make it through with no more loans.

Also: "Generally they have a solution for you that involves your money and their pocket."

Colin Smith said...

I really want that "Norman" monicker to stick. Two reasons:

1) I would love to go to a writing conference and hear conversations like this:

WRITER 1: Did you query Mister Agent?
WRITER 2: No. Is he a Norman?
WRITER 1: I queried him a few months ago--nothing yet. Could be...


WRITER 1: How's the querying going?
WRITER 2: I queried 10 Normans last week, that's how desperate I am!

2) I want it to be a label Agents avoid. :)

Angie: Sounds like a great idea. After 3 months, a drink for every Norman you don't hear from. Two for every responding agent. :)

Amy Schaefer said...

These "services" are the query equivalent of a fad diet. Everyone wants a shortcut that simply doesn't exist. If you want ripped abs, you have to live on chicken and broccoli and put in the long hours at the gym every day. If you want to sign with an agent, you have to craft an effective query and put in the long hours writing every day. If your query isn't working, get feedback, think hard and change it. Ditto x1000 your manuscript. Joyfully put in the long hours, because, guess what? That's a writer's life. If you don't like it now, you're certainly not going to like it later on.

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and for the confused, "NORMAN" = NO Response MeAns No." :)

Lucie Witt said...

Colin, I want it to be a thing, too. We're going to make Norman happen (unlike fetch).

Stephsco said...

@David: great additional info, especially about the registering of domain names.

I really feel for the authors who don't know better or who are so desperate that they will pay these snake oil salesmen for a product that won't deliver.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Colin, please let me know anything I can do to assist you with the Norman project.

Donnaeve said...

Breaking the rules to insert this - which is sort of OT, but given the NORMAN dialogue, maybe it is a bit of a fit too?

(BJ, thank you for linkage magic earlier!)

Maybe I should try again...with that pesky HTML thingy Colin supplied.

Colin Smith said...

Donna's link:

Mark Ellis said...

Years ago, when I thought that screenwriting was my ticket, I tried a service, ostensibly run by people with Hollywood cred, that promised to scattershot a pitch for my script all over Tinseltown. For $100 bucks they rewrote my pitch (made it better, actually) and pushed a database button. When I got home from work that day I had approaching 200 emails. Most were form rejections, many were out-of-office notifications (one from Farah Fawcett Major's production company) and about six requests for the script, which came to naught (there were inherent flaws in the script).

Manuscript querying is a horse of a different color, of course, but I didn't feel the pitch site ripped me off, because I got six requests and had my chance. Later, at a conference, a big-time Hollywood agent told us that when he or most of his collegues recived such mass pitch emails, they were summarily deleted.

Colin Smith said...

OK, so I'm bending the rules here, but I've been thinking about the whole querying dilemma, which is, as I see it:

Writers want agents to be more responsive to their queries. Agents don't feel they have the time to respond to every query and take care of their clients. Hence you end up with NORMANs, and "services" like today's subject.

Is the problem quantity of queries? i.e., NORMAN agents tend to be those who get a large amount of queries, and want to be seen as reasonably responsive, so they want to keep their slush pile as small as possible. By being NORMAN, they can throw out a large amount of queries without feeling any obligation to take the time to respond (which slows down the process of working the slush pile).

I wonder, though, if the reason these agents get so many rejectable queries is a question of quality? In other words, if writers had to stick to the "rules" of querying, writers wouldn't be so quick to query, and agents would get fewer and better queries?

One solution to this problem might be for every agent/agency to have a Query Form on their website. This form would have fields like: NAME, PEN NAME (if different), AGENT TO QUERY, HAVE WE MET (Conference, Twitter, Comments, etc.)?, TITLE, WORD COUNT, GENRE (as best you can determine), COMP TITLES (optional), BRIEF DESCRIPTION (250 words), PUBLISHING CREDITS (if any), OTHER BIO, BLOG (optional), WEBSITE (optional), CONTACT INFO (email, phone), FIRST FIVE PAGES (copy and paste).

If every querying writer could ONLY use such forms to query agents, might this help increase the quality of queries? It would certainly help agents get to the info they need, and force writers to be succinct and keep to the point.

Just a thought. :)

(Hey, I have to have something for Janet to throw tomatoes at in the WiR... ;) )

Theresa said...

I'm already growing very fond of Norman.

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and VERY IMPORTANT: I am not suggesting Janet do the above!! Just to be sure we're not misunderstanding, here. No no no. But most web developers could throw together such a form in less than a day. A few hours, even.

nightsmusic said...

Colin, I hear Carkoon calling your name...

Colin Smith said...

... sorry... I just don't like to gripe about something without at least offering a solution... :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Oh, poor dear Colin... Nightmusic, It is my understanding it won't be Carkoon the next time Janet exiles one of us. Apparently there is something more horrifying than kale for the misbehaving writer. I shutter to imagine what fresh Hell awaits us bungalers who displease QOTKU.

Although, I am with Colin on the Norman issue. I get about a 60% response rate to my queries. Some are rejections. Ok, most are rejections. That is fine. Expected even. The rest are radio silence, even on a couple of partials that were requested ages and ages and ages ago. And I can't get that Norman silence to stop buzzing around in my head.

Lennon Faris said...

Every agent I research has their querying guidelines outlined in detail. All ask the writer to write some kind of a letter and then x and x (stuff to include). If an author's goal is to get a good agent to get traditionally published, I'd think breaking those 'guidelines' would be the fastest way to annoy the agent.

I am glad Norman's was explained... I was about to look up this annoying agency who never writes anyone back!

Colin Smith said...

Lennon: It seems to me anyway that for every one of us who bother to go to the agent's website and check the guidelines, there are 20 who just grab the agent's email address from who-knows-where and query that agent however they want. Making the guidelines an unavoidable part of the querying process would, it seems to me, get around that problem. But it's just a thought... a suggestion... a wild and crazy idea... not asking anyone to do anything... :D

And now I need to shut up or I'll be sent to Carkoon to fix my verbal diarrhea... :\

Janice L. Grinyer said...

I believe it is all about a person's vulnerability and the ways nasty humans take advantage of it - Writing books, losing weight, curing illness etc. - people can make money off of those who are looking for easy solutions.

I remember after being told I needed surgery to remove a lime sized tumor sitting on my iliac vein, I made the huge mistake of sharing the news. There are people today I look at with disdain, because of their "good" intentions to "cure" me with "special healing foods, of course that I MUST buy from them. Or special oils. Or special prayers, whatever. But I have to pay THEM to get it, because they are doing "special" things, wanting to help others. Uh, no thank you. I'll take the debulking surgery. Sheesh. The sad thing is, these were supposedly friends with good intentions. There are many innocents that are part of a larger scheme, really thinking they are helping people while earning money when in fact all they are doing is padding someone's business, and taking away money that could benefit the person with an illness. It's sad.

Then you have this group the Shark has written about above. They are thinking "Writers are vulnerable. Let's prey on that and make some money while giving them false hope." I bet you modern day Snow would have a few choice words on that (my nasty FF last week)

So same goes for the writing. No shortcuts. I'm over here getting stabby because I'm at the point where I'm pretty sure I can't even author a freakin' grocery list. *sigh*

Lucie Witt said...

Donna: thank you for sharing that link. Just what I needed to read today.

nightsmusic said...

Completely and totally off topic but I keep forgetting to mention, ya'll can call me NM if it's easier than trying to put the whole name in. I know not many comment to me, but it's generally what people do when they get tired of typing the entire moniker...

Back to our regularly scheduled program...

Colin Smith said...

NM: Can we call you Enem? You know, like Opie (OP)? OK... really shutting up now... ;)

nightsmusic said...

As long as it doesn't end up being enem-a, that's fine! (end up...get it?)

Okay, I'm slinking back off to my day job now...

Dave Rudden said...

Now you tell me this is a bad idea. I just sent them $1000 and promised them my first born child.

From what I am reading, agents get buried with query letters. The numbers seem to fluctuate between 50 - 100 a day. If I had that much work dropped in my lap every morning, I would be running through the street screaming "DIDDY!" (I found a new way to use Janet's word of the month.)

And since we are talking about unicorns and ice cream check this out

Donnaeve said...

NM - HAAAAAAAAA! Snort laughed. Yer a hoot!

Lucie - you're welcome! Yeah, I loved it.

NORMAN'S - Colin is a true IT dood, we live by this sort of stuff - that "we" is a loose term since I no longer work IT - but I do remember my husband telling me my Nortel conf calls used to sound like a whole other language to him.

I'm busting up the rules again to comment on Colin's form suggestion. It's not a bad idea, it's just I'm not sure I see how filling out the online form solves the volume? I don't think placing a form as the front end mechanism will lead the writers to a better query. Or reduce volume - which is really the crux. Maybe both?

The 250 word description is where I see the red flag. Having them fill out the form and limiting it is likely not going to help them give her the story in a way that makes her leap out of the water to snag that slippery writer before they get away! I would point out the latest Query Shark she mentioned on WIR. Ouch. That was a tough.

Good one, Colin, but I think I can hear shark screams from here.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Colin, If Norman are the non responders, then what do you call those who do respond? We need a cocktail for them too. Something with champagne.

I haven't yet queried lit agents for a novel. I can understand the frustration caused by having to follow every different agent's guidelines. And the frustration from rejections. Asking agents to unify their guidelines seems like the beginning of killing an art form. Any kind of standardization is the death of creativity. Including this awful scheme by

They query letter is part of the selection process. Writing is an art and a craving. Commercializing art is business. In a business no one wants to work with a whack job. A query letter is a the first business contact. Didn't Stephen King write about how many rejections slips he received?

Surely those Normans who didn't respond to J.K. Rowlans and other big authors are biting their knuckles. They'll realize, one way or another, that responding is better. Or maybe they have too much to handle and are happy with their workloads.

John Frain said...

I just checked on and even they say this is a scam.

Okay, not really, but y'all already took the good answers and I haven't had time to get here till now.

It's easy to lure people in to somewhere they desperately want to go.

Karen McCoy said...

Thanks for the links, BJ! You and the other Reiders help with the learning curve significantly.

A scam indeed. And what Diane said got me thinking. What happens when those promised publishing deals don't pan out? Do people get their money back? If not, how is this legal?

All these grease-ball salesmen do is create more noise when there's already a mosh-pot full of it. It's hard enough for good writers (Colin especially! How dare those Normans!) to get noticed without adding more vitriol to the fray.


tell me later said...

Colin - I think another big part is that it can be hard to tell which writers will take a rejection gracefully, and which will track you down and slam your head into a steering wheel. Your system sounds like it'd make it easier to figure which was which: the people who tend to get aggressive (digitally or physically) probably wouldn't bother with the form. But then that leaves the problem of rejecting them without giving them something to obsess over.

I don't think NORMAN-ing is a good idea from a business perspective, but I can't really blame the agents for it.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Angie - "Asking agents to unify their guidelines seems like the beginning of killing an art form. Any kind of standardization is the death of creativity."

This. I agree! Agents need to be able to do their job; select great writing. For writers, although being rejected does not feel good, it's part of the process of growth for us. Most importantly, the growth process is part of the creativity process - where great writing comes from!

It reminds me of a book I purchased for my girls when they were young - "Mistakes that worked" by Charlotte Johnson. Those inventions probably never would have evolved successfully if there was standardization limiting it's progress.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Whoops, That is Charlotte JONES, not Johnson :)

"Mistakes that worked" by Charlotte Jones"

Colin Smith said...

Angie: I don't think a form would kill the art. After all, the art of the query is in those 250 words. The art of storytelling isn't destroyed by limiting it to 100 words. And if the author can cut-and-paste their 5 pages, those will also demonstrate the author's skill and imagination to the interested agent.

Also, I wouldn't expect every agency to use the same form. They would adapt according to their own guidelines. Though I think (and I believe Janet has said as much) query guidelines can get a bit out of hand, and much trouble is stirred by not keeping things simple.

Now stop making me comment. I'm supposed to be shutting up. ;)

LynnRodz said...

What can I say that hasn't been said? Live and learn, or read Janet's blog so you don't have to learn the hard way.

Angie, I'm sure you know, good champagne doesn't need anything added to it, but if you want to go with a bubbly then a kir royal by all means.

BJ Muntain said...

I'm happy to linkify for people. It makes me feel useful. :)

Agents for whom 'no response means no' is policy RARELY do this for requested materials like partial or fulls. If you haven't nudged those agents a couple times (and even if they don't want nudges for queries, requested material is different) then nudge them now.

There's a chance your e-mail got lost, or their computer ate their e-mails or something. They might even still be waiting for you to send it in. Or it might be waiting behind a hundred other requests, because the agent got a bit over-nice one day and requested a lot.

I don't care if agents go NORMAN. Yes, you would really like a response, but if you're querying enough, you'll always have enough queries out there making the rounds that you don't even notice you never heard from someone.

I also have no problems with following every agent's guidelines. Heck, I research every agent I query to see what some of their preferences are (personalization/no personalization, prologue/no prologue, etc.) I also take their names and the names of their agencies through Preditors & Editors, just to make sure. As with job applications, I want to put my best foot forward.

Colin: There are a number of agents now using online forms. Some of those forms are confusing, and I understand computers, programming, and HTML.

Janice: Bingo. And I'm sorry you had to deal with 'friends' like that during what was already a stressful time in your life.

Dave Rudden's video about unicorns and ice cream.

Michael Seese said...

But it says "Intelligent Design." So it's GOT to right, by god!

Julie.M.Weathers said...


"Now you tell me this is a bad idea. I just sent them $1000 and promised them my first born child."

I've been offering agents my first born for a long time. Imagine my surprise at the restraining orders to go along with the rejections.

Panda in Chief said...

Not much I can say that hasn't already been said and as far as I can remember, I will sing along with the chorus. It makes me a little sad (okay, actually totally pissed off) that there are people who prey on that class of people I think of as the insecure creatives. Every once in a while, someone asks me why don't I get an artist's agent (which is a completely different animal than a literary agent, when you are refering to fine art rather than illustration) When I do finally get an agent, I want a personal, direct connection built on mutual respect, just like I have with the galleries that represent my work.
How complicated can it be to look up an agent's guidlines and send an email? Um...answer: not very.

And if you can manage to stumble across, how much harder is it to stumble across SCBWI or, for instance, Janet Reid?

It just another huckster trying to sell me the magic paintbrush that will lead me to fame and fortune.

Completely OT, but a coyote just howled somewhere out behind my house. Round up the kitties, and whip me up a Norman Cosmo! It's cold and wet out tonight.

DLM said...

Donna, success speaks for itself and I was listening to that. Though the numbers do make for an inviting rabbit hole.

Here is my problem with this #Pitmatch event: I am a conscientious employee. The event is 1:00-4:00 p.m. Eastern time on a workday, and unfortunately I am not one of those for whom that becomes an irrelevant data point when I am excited about my thus-far unpaid career.

Suppose it's a good thing I have nothing to pitch then, isn't it.

Oh, hello horse. Is that cart in your way ... ?

Megan V said...

Belated birthday wishes to Angie and Congrats to the contest winners!

As to the post at hand:

There are plenty of NORMANs out there. That said, just because there are NORMANs, doesn't mean the system is inherently flawed. It isn't. Of course plenty of writers skip one of the key steps of the querying process: researching the agent. If a writer researches an Agent to determine if they should query them and the Agent is listed as a NORMAN, then the writer has received an rejection via omission after the allotted amount of time. I'm not a fan of the NORMAN policy because there are occasions when the spam bot runs amok. But you can't get more direct than from writer to agent. Why should a dairy farmer go to the store for overpriced whole milk if he can get the same dang thing for free direct from a cow that's cooperative and eager to supply the milk?

Julie.M.Weathers said...


"Here is my problem with this #Pitmatch event: I am a conscientious employee. The event is 1:00-4:00 p.m. Eastern time on a workday,"

You can schedule your tweets to post when you aren't around.

luciakaku said...

Shall we blame all our writer angst and the proliferation of these query outfits on them thar folks who don't write back?

As a wee woodland creature, if I didn't have that to angst over, I'd find something else, like how depressingly often I use the word "just." If everyone wrote back, I'm sure we'd find some other reason the system is flawed. But I despise a NORMAN when I see it as much as the next writer.

The proliferation of these query outfits is only because there's a proliferation of scam artists. No matter how streamlined or perfect the query system could get, artists want people to like their work, so there will always be desperate artists for the scam artists to prey on. Lay the blame where it belongs.

John Frain said...


I thought you did that on purpose, talking about a book called "Mistakes That Work" and then mistaking the last name of the author. If you hadn't called yourself out, you'd have been safe!

I rank agents on a 1-10 scoring system. More art than science, but if they give the lame "NO Response Means A No," they lose 2 points in my system. Doesn't mean I won't eventually query them, but they drop down the ranking.

I understand the explanation, but that doesn't make it any less rude.

Lennon Faris said...

Colin - just throwing this out there - maybe agents use their current system (i.e. no form) to see who actually is that '1 out of 20' people who look at their website and follow directions? Maybe the absence of forms is another step in their process. And if so, this puts you ahead of the ones who don't :)

Panda in Chief - I am not sure where you live but that sounds wild!

Dave Rudden said...


I got my restraining orders from sending topless pics. All that PhotoShop work did nothing for my image.

Thanks BJ

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

For anyone who feels Internetally Challenged, and because Colin is already on his way to Carkoon...

This is how COlin's pesky HTML thingy works. If you have an understanding of the parts and know how and why it works, you'll have more confidence to give it a go:

HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the simple coding one uses to create web pages, including hyperlinks.

Each code tag is encased in these signs: < > (officially called less than sign and greater than sign).

Code tags often come in pairs, fr'ex a hypertext link (aka Colin's pesky HTML thingy)--one to open the tag and one to close the tag. The closed tag will have a slash at the beginning of it.

For example, the code for italics would look like this:

<i>your italicised text here</i>

(Showing you guys this might earn me a one-way ticket to Carkoon...)

So... this is what a hypertext link looks like:

<a href=""> Address! </a>

The a stands for "anchor". This is an anchor tag. It's used to anchor a link to a particular piece of text or even an image. Whatever is within its brackets (fr'ex, Address! as above), is anchored to the tag.

href is a hypertext reference... or what address you want to refer to. Include the full address, including "html://..." so the web browser knows exactly what you're referring to. For clarity and completeness, addresses are encased in quotation marks " ".

The closed anchor tag is simply </a> you don't need to include all the definition stuff from the open tag.

It's that simple. Be mighty, be courageous and give it a go.

Yes, my Day Job is in IT.

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

I'm up with popularising the term "NORMAN" or Norman, as it may become: "Over the past month my WUS got two full requests and eight form rejections. I suspect the five outstanding queries might be Normans."

Normans frustrate me because I don't know officially if my WUS has been rejected or if the agent is simply taking a long time.

I believe it's not best practice to have more than one MS on the query train at a time? If it is okay to query more than on ms at a time, by gum, I'm sending out Of The Dark tomorrow. Otherwise, I'll be patient and finish this Regency Romance with shapeshifters.

Diane: I feel you. #Pitmatch, for me in Australia, would be 1:00-4:00 AM. thank goodness for the ability to schedule tweets.

That said, I love #MSWL and her sisters. Many of my sales came because I knew what the editor wanted to buy and I could deliver. It's a corollary of the supply'n'demand issue. If I'm offering what they want, they're more likely to acquire it.

BJ Muntain said...

Duchess, I think it's perfectly fine to query more than one book at a time. Waiting to finish with one book is time wasted when you might be able to sell the second faster.

As long as you don't query two in the same query (but I know you knew that).

It's just a matter of keeping track of who has your manuscripts at one time. And if the agent you sent to is a NORMAN, wait three months before sending it to them.

Now there's something I need to say about NORMANs.

These agents will say ON THEIR WEBSITE that they won't be contacting you unless they're interested.

So if you sent your query to an agent and didn't get a response, and if the agent doesn't actually say they're NORMAN -- make sure you nudge them. Send them a follow-up. Ask them if they received it. After 3 months, nudge. After 1-3 more months, nudge again. If you don't get a response then, that is when you assume you're not going to get a response.

Like people say, spam filters are not perfect. It is possible your query was lost in cyberspace.

Most agents (and not just NORMANs) will say how long it might take them to get back to you. They'll say, "It can take 4-6 weeks", or they'll say, "It usually takes us a few weeks, but if we're busy, it may take longer." They'll often tell you how long you should wait before you follow up.

NORMANs will usually say something like, "If we don't get back to you in 3 months, assume we're not interested."

Don't just wait, and don't assume they have that NORMAN policy, unless they say it specifically on their website.

I've nudged a few agents. They usually thank me for nudging, or they say, "No, I didn't get it. I'm sorry. Please re-send." (Yes, I had one agent apologize because she didn't get my query. She's such a sweetheart.)

Agents are usually pretty nice people. Even NORMANs.

Sorry for the rant. I've just been seeing people saying that they don't know if the agents they queried are NORMANs. If the agents don't say anything on their website, assume they WILL respond. Otherwise, you might be missing out on a great agent because you didn't ask if your query got lost in the ether.

(And sorry for two long posts today. My excuse for this one is that it's past my bedtime, and I have a hard time being succinct when I should be asleep. I also tend to rant more... maybe I should go to sleep now.)

Janice L. Grinyer said...

John- I can be my own worst enemy :D

Thank you BJ ~ we are on year number four headed to five this fall. Fingers crossed that it will have a happy ending...without quackery involved :D So far so good!

And sometimes I think busy people like to use other people as a human post-it note. Counting on others to remind them on what needs to be reminded. I think there probably are some Normans who fall into that category. But as BJ said, if someone doesn't state 'no news is no', then by all means, prompt!

DLM said...

Julie and Her Grace, thank you! Even if I don't have anything to pitch, I do appreciate the tip.

lucikaku, "just" and "actually" are my bugaboos. And, though I don't use it in life or anywhere else, in my creative writing, "enough" comes up far too often as some sort of man-voice modifier begging a silent "but" ("I was eager enough" "She was attentive enough, but it was plain she was distracted").

Lisa Womble said...

Thank you. I received a link to the site from Writer's Digest, so I took a look. Decided to check reviews and find yours very helpful.