But that doesn't exclude the possibility of getting help if offered? For example, say I run into Lee Child at some future Bouchercon (in the book room, of course):
"Hey, are you the Colin Smith who writes flash fiction?"
I nod sheepishly because, you know, it's Lee Child so my brain has seized (this happened to me for real when I met Colin Baker, the Sixth Doctor--but that's another story).
"Oh, I loved that one you wrote for A-to-Z... um... 'Used to Be Bad' was it? With the ice box?"
Sheepish nod. And a grin.
"Are you working on a novel? If so, here's my email. Send it to me when it's done and I'll put in a good word with my agent."
Wonderful Bouchercon staff hurry to scrape me off the floor.
Okay, clearly I write fantasy now. But does that kind of thing happen? If YOU, dear Shark, were the agent Mr. Child contacted, would you say, "Sorry, Mr. Reacher--I mean Mr. Child--but I must see a query first!" or would you immediately put my ms at the top of your reading list?
I realize this is a very unusual situation, and it's not the same as the situation you wrote about because you KNOW Lee Child. But I'm curious what level of familiarity there needs to be with a third party before you would bypass the query and read a ms.
Hmmm... I wonder if I could have Lee Child riding away on a dragon...? :)
If Lee Child sent me an email saying he'd read and liked your book, I'd read the book when the author sent it. Notice: when the author sent it. If Lee sent it, I'd ask for a direct submission.
Interestingly enough he has sent me writers: twice. I sold both books.
Recently another publishing acquaintance wrote to me about a book she loved. I asked her to have the author send a query and the ms. Notice again: the author to send the query and ms.
And my friend was right. I did love the book. And signed it.
An editor gave me a heads up that she'd read and loved a manuscript and told the author to query me directly. I kept an eagle eye on the incoming queries to make sure I spotted the author's query.
I did like it a lot, but I wasn't the right agent, so reluctantly passed.
Here's the take away from this:
1. I knew all these people. In Lee Child's case I knew his writing (which I love and admire a lot) and his taste in books. We don't always agree on every title, but books he likes I generally like too. And I was (still am) thrilled to bits that a book I sent him with "you gotta read this" he liked AND talked about too.
2. None of these people told me they were sending to a select group of agents. They were sending to me, and me alone.
3. None of these people appeared to have a stake in the outcome. More than anything, paying someone to query bothers me. It doesn't cost money to query me. Anyone who starts making it cost money is not someone I care to work with, even indirectly. Writers have enough challenges in their careers without someone adding barriers without adding value. I don't mind if authors pay for expertise, or even for query letter help, but paying someone to send an email is money wasted.
If someone offers you help akin to that described by the author of "Lee Child at Boucheron" (CarkoonPublishing: 2017) here's what you need to find out before saying yes:
1. Does the person offering to help you actually KNOW any of the agents. I'm going to define know pretty loosely for me because I know a lot of you without having met you. If a regular blog reader like Amy Schaefer said "hey, this book is terrific" I'd pay attention. I know Amy. I know her writing. Same with a lot of you who read and comment here.
The gold standard here is they both know and have worked with the agent. That includes clients and editors. "I read her blog" and "I met her at a conference" aren't even close.
2. Is the person telling you to do something that sounds iffy? Jason Magnason's comment on Thursday about a lady offering help on queries who said "ignore the guidelines, they're just for show" is a good example.
I've said before, I'll say again now: the query guidelines are to help you present your work in the way most likely to get me to read it. You're welcome to ignore them if you want, but the chances of your work being read DROP like a rock when you do. Anyone who tells you differently is just plain wrong.
Have confidence in your instincts. If you're reading this blog, chances are you know a lot more than you think you do. If something sounds weird, fire up the Googlemobile and find out what agent blogs have said on the topic.
3. Is money involved? This is a huge red flag. In all instances I cited above, no one was paid to refer the writers to me.
4. The person offering to help actually knows you and has read your work. Genuine help is like the in-house buzz we talked about on Donnaeve's book last week. Someone who has read your book and loved it, and must, simply MUST, tell people about it. That kind of enthusiasm can't be bought, rented or purloined. We all know it when we see it. I've loved books I knew I was the wrong agent for, and sent the author to more suitable agents WITH that kind of enthusiastic endorsement. We all know that kind of thing when we see it.
Don't settle for anything less.