As an agent but also as a human with a warm heart under a sharkly exterior, would you ever consider giving a repeat querier gentle advice about their prospects of success?
I know of a person who has been querying the same couple of MSs for a lot of years (at least 5) - fake name Alex. Alex is earnest and enthusiastic, but just cannot write. Alex pitches terrible plots that make no sense and can't write even a sentence without an error. Twitter pitches, queries, samples of the MS - they're all riddled with mistakes. The MSs have literally hundreds of rejections (300+) but Alex continues to query the same MSs - their response to a rejection for one is to query the same agent with the second a month later, then wait a few months and repeat the process. Given this, I'm sure at many agents in Alex's chosen genre have received dozens of these queries over time, and some at least must recognise the name and plots by now.
I know a bad query is a form reject. Presumably when you notice it's the same novel, form reject again. But for a clueless but polite serial requerier, would you ever be tempted to write a gentle note back to the author telling them that they might want to think about just shelving the novels?
Obviously it is none of my business if Alex wants to keep doing this. It's not hurting anyone. Dreams are great. But on a human level it just makes me sad that Alex is wasting their life working on these books over and over that no agent is ever, ever going to pick up. The writing is not getting any better. They are just going to keep beating their head against the wall over and over for...ever? Rejections still hurt Alex's feelings so it is just a bit heartbreaking when they seem like a kind, nice person. So sometimes I hope that maybe an agent will gently tell Alex that they should rethink things, and maybe they would listen to someone in publishing? Clearly no-one in their regular life is telling them this (or Alex is not listening if they are). And then if Alex wants to write and publish then self publishing is available
Is this ever going to happen? Would you or anyone you know ever decide to do that?
One of the hardest things I've had to learn, not just in this business, but in life, is that you can't help people who don't want help, or don't want to learn.
Given that I have devoted EIGHT YEARS to helping people revise their queries to be effective**, I am at peace with the fact I will continue to get terrible, no DREADFUL, queries because some people just aren't going to get it.
The good thing is: it sorts them out from the writers I do want to work with very quickly.
What you and Alex don't know is that after about three repeat queries, I no longer see his emails. They've been flagged as junk, and are diverted by Priscilla, Queen of the Just Desserts, my spam filter long before it reaches my inbox.
I'm sorry for Alex on a general humanitarian level. But if he does the same thing over and over, expecting different results, his biggest problem isn't his writing.
I've seen writers who realize their skills aren't up to par take steps to change. They've enrolled in classes, hired editors, or just worked hard to improve their skills on their own. THESE are the folks I'm willing to invest my time and energy with. Someone who doesn't even realize they need to change? Not so much.
**QueryShark was launched in April 2008