Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Don't outsmart yourself

Recently I received a query at the "wrong" email address.
Since this happens a lot, I didn't think much about it, just glanced at it briefly and moved it to my Incoming Queries folder to be read later in the day.

An hour or so later, I get an email from one of our hotshot godsends.  She monitors the general email inbox.  She'd received the same query, and was forwarding it to several of us here for consideration.

Within a minute, a third agent chimed in: she'd also received the same query.

So, CleverBoots/IDon'tNeedNoStinkin'Guidelines in one fell swoop positioned himself as a difficult client. One who didn't read guidelines, or couldn't be bothered to follow them.

In other words, not someone I'm eager to work with.

Am I going to read his query? Sure. I'm not going to miss out just because an author did something relatively stupid and self-sabotaging.

BUT, your takeaway here is knowing work that arrives like this has to clear a much  higher hurdle than the queries that arrive in proper order.

I've already drawn some conclusions about Clever Boots that aren't doing him much good.

When you query, and you follow the guidelines the best you can, you're SHOWING me you're someone I want to work with.

Yes, I'm looking for good projects, but I'm also looking for good clients.


Donnaeve said...

Rats! Foiled again!

*tiptoes off to check the possibilities of slithering through another loophole*

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Were these boots made for walkin’? (Honoring Nancy Sinatra this lovely day).
Clever or otherwise the only boots I own have a furry edge and are best suited for doing a few Dorothy Hamills on the way to my car in the snow.
Sneaky sneaks? I’ve got plenty of them (I only wear one pair at a time) because I am on my feet all day. Nike...!
Sandals? Nope, but I do wear summer footwear. Remember when flip flops were called thongs? Thongs? If you see me wearing a thong it means I have a flip flop sticking out of my ass.

Follow directions boys and girls because if you don’t you might drive off a pier into a pool of youknowwhos.

Have a nice ride gang. Hope we all get to where we hope to go.

kathy joyce said...

2Ns, If we could have emojis, I'd type 400 of the laughing so hard I'm crying. "A flip flop sticking out of my ass." Maybe 500! "[D]oing a few Dorothy Hamills" also gets a nod from me. Belly laughs are such a nice way to start the day!

Colin Smith said...

Yes, I'm looking for good projects, but I'm also looking for good clients.

I don't think this message is always clear from all agents. Perhaps because it's not true of all agents? I certainly want an agent for my career, not just my first book. This means I want my agent to stick around if the book sells and is a success, or if the book is rejected by every publisher in town. So, I want to act like a good client so I can snag a great agent. :)

Kregger said...

I'm going to play hampster's advocate on my spinning exercise-wheel of life.

There is a thought process in the world that even bad publicity is effective publicity, i.e. the Jenner, West and Kardashian family. In this case acting poorly in public, not following rules or holding minority beliefs seems to benefit their bottom...(I'm talking finances here) line.

In this case, New Leaf's policy is to not query more than one agent.

As stated in this blog, there are no query police or black-lists. (Unless that offered bottle of 25yo single malt is simply brewed tea.)

It appears that Clever Boots' blanket email campaign worked, at least in the sense that more than one pair of eyeballs glanced at the writer's missive and interoffice comment ensued. Isn't this akin to that Nigerian prince asking for help with his inheritance? Unfortunately, there aren't 330 million literary agents in the US.

Whether or not, the query yields fruit is another story. But then, most deluded writers think they've written the next NYT's(fill in the blank) Dino porn?

Personally, I'm still trying to get traction on my nonfiction story with flying unicorns. Email blast here I come.

Colin Smith said...

Kregger: Yes, ignoring the submission guidelines might work to get your query read. It might even get a manuscript request. But it might impact negatively when the agent is considering whether she wants to work with you. Especially given the choice between a potential client who follows the guidelines (i.e., respects the agent and the agency), and another who doesn't (i.e., likes to be a maverick, a possible loose canon who could get themselves and the agency into trouble).

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I just wonder how the query writer feels today, right now, assuming that the writer has read this morning's post.
On one hand, it got enough attention to make it on the Reider's daily missive and on the other, well, it ain't so positive.

Me? (Thank God it wasn't me) I'd be huddled under my shag washing away the dust and dog hair with my tears.
What's a writer to do?
Read and pay attention.
Um...that's Reid and pay attention to y'all.

Janet Reid said...

Kregger You make an interesting point. Let me respond.

Yes, it's true that three of us did see the query.
And if the query is fabuloso, one of us might consider it further.

But the cold hard reality is this: all that happened was the query got filed in the incoming query folder. No one jumped on it. No one read it right away.

And days from now, when I read it I'll remember this is the guy who can't follow directions.

I try to read queries when I'm not tired, not hungry, not hungover, not in a fierce state of mind. One's mental state when reading queries isn't something a lot of people talk about but I've noticed NOTHING sounds good when I'm in a rage about something.

Thus if I read your query rememberingyou're Mr. Clever Boots it will influence how I feel about your work.

And there's nothing I can do about that. That is textbook "unringing the bell."

Colin Smith said...

Janet: I guess this falls into the "agents are human, too!" category. We are naturally predisposed toward people we like, and naturally guarded against people we don't. I freely admit there are agents who rise to the top of my list simply because they have been pleasant, helpful, and generally nice people in their interaction with me, online and off. And, by the same token, I hope that with certain agents, my query might get a more favorable read than, say, a query from the current President of the US. Just for example. ;)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Nobody likes me. I am doomed. I would be a good client, a weird one yes, but good. And I try to follow directions but I am convinced agents have secret meetings on better ways to confuse me. All of them have different directions and loads with similar names. And my rodent wheel spun off its access and collided with Venus. Now, what am I supposed to do?

And my daughter has run off to Paris with her boyfriend. I am not even kidding. Yesterday she calls me with, hey mom, I am going to Paris tomorrow. Who does that? Hey, let's go to Paris for 4 days. The kid is a living freaking romance novel- big job with Showtime, music producer boyfriend who is too damn pretty to be a real person, and they're flying off to Paris together. Does that even happen in real life?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Axis not access. Ugh. Typos and day jobs

Colin Smith said...

Elise: Axis? Access? What's in a Word? Just Excel at what you do. That's my Outlook. And that's not just any old point, that's a PowerPoint!

I'll get my coat.. ;)

PS: At least your daughter told you she was going to Paris...

Colin Smith said...

Elise: Oh, and if nobody likes anybody, it's me! Or... wait... if anyone like nobody, it's me! Hold on... is that right? Oh, whatever. I vomment too much, breaking Janet's rules... guess who's going to get the slammed door when query time comes! Clue: Not You. :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Colin You at least can write a query suited to any agent's guidelines. I freeze up and start mixing up words (beer/bear access/axis) like a whiskey addled pantless, drooling fool. And our Queen already has one of those.

And she is probably the only one who wanted one.

Janet Reid said...

I like you E.M.
Even if your ungrateful loinfruit forgot to invite me to go to Paris with her and Mr. Canoodle.

Colin Smith said...

Oh my! What if Mr. Canoodle was an Australian living in Canada. He would be Mr. Canaussie Canoodle!

Where's Julie Falatko? I feel a Picture Book coming on... ;)

Colin Smith said...

Elise: You at least can write a query suited to any agent's guidelines. The query still has to be good, even if it has crossed tees, dotted eyes, and pants with a belt. Note: Despite two attempts at querying a novel, I still haven't enticed an agent to take on my verbal drool.

Doesn't mean we stop trying, though. eh? :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Your Majesty. I know, right! The loinfruit did not invite me either. And I am her mother. I have the scars to prove it. She was, however, all too happy that I am coming to visit her in Brooklyn for Thanksgiving. She won't have enough time off to come home, but she managed to get her bosses to let her go to Paris on 24 hours notice. How does this even happen?

Colin Smith said...

*ponders*... If Elise's daughter is her loinfruit, is my FirstBorn, the actor-baker, my loincake? :D

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Just wait, Colin One day your loincake won't invite you to Paris too. I suppose this happens to all parents. Mr. Caboodle gets involved and we become relics ... I need a drink. Is it 5 o'clock somewhere?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

And Colin I have a good feeling about your next venture into the query trenches. Persistence is the key. We keep writing until that stink of Carkoon is gone and we both have books on the bookstore shelves.

Colin Smith said...

Elise: Yeah... Mr. Canaussie Canoodle cuts in and we're left holding the coats. *sigh* Parenthood. :)

Thanks for the good feelings. Can I get a bottle of those? I think I'll need them when the time comes...

Anonymous said...

I have a spreadsheet. A query tracking spreadsheet. An A**HAT/NORMAN Jerkwad agent spreadsheet. The Asshats/NORMAN's are highlighted in red. These are the agents who are above their own rules. 4-6 weeks for a reply? Send me something at 8 weeks instead(or maybe nothing at all, because oh yeah that's what all us hard working authors want; radio silence in which our paranoia can whisper sweet nothings in our ear, fueling the already out of control flames). Sorry, but Mr./Mrs. agent, you've already been immortalized, logged in my excel sheet as someone I don't want to work with. Your adherence to your own rules is abhorrent! Don't expect me to follow yours if you can't be bothered to do the same.

The axe swings both ways, NORMANs!

Kregger said...

*throws down horse-hair wig and stomps on hampster law degree while winking at Colin's English heritage*

In my business, I must deal with asshats and rudeness, but fortunately not daily. It would be nice if people would announce themselves as such like Clever Boots has done. I have dismissed clients over the years from my business, and it is never easy.

It's nearly impossible to tell an asshat by looking at them. If a client becomes impossible to deal with...I give them a PIA upcharge and (hopefully) price myself out of their market.

When this doesn't work and the clients don't get the hint to leave...my staff giggles like Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble, and then (gloats) says, "Told you so!"

As Ms. Reid has pointed out, better to not accept asshats as clients in the first place.

Smart lady. Me, not so much.

Janet Reid said...

I really like the idea that the axe swings both ways.

(and get your minds out of the gutter, that's not what I meant.)

Craig F said...

As a sophisticated querier I do know better because I have been visiting this place long enough for a degree of some sort. However, there are times when the wait, wait, wait can get to even me.

It would be so easy, after half a bottle of Elijah Craig, to go to Query Tracker's agent list and go down the line. Click on an agent, click on their e-mail and send out a query.

I haven't done that yet, but the day is young.

Really, researching agents get so many conflicting factoids going. One agent I checked said, on the company website, that she answers within two weeks, usually. On Twitter, though, she said she only responds to what she wants to and if a writer really wants to piss her off, just nudge her about your query.

Should not the respect run both ways?

Lynne Main said...

Ooh, I wish I could visit Paris. C'est la vie is what I have to say about that. I agree with Craig F about respect running both ways, but sadly, it isn't always the reality with agents. Although I must say, all the agents I have dealt with so far--the ones who have responded anyway, still waiting to hear from a few--while querying my current book have been courteous (no, I'm not sucking up, just being honest!).

Now if only rejections hadn't been handed out with all the courtesy...

With Kregger mentioning how there wasn't 330 million literary agents out there, can you imagine if there were? Wow, I'd hate to see what my query spreadsheet would look like!

John Davis Frain said...

Regarding no publicity is bad publicity. Or bad publicity is still effective publicity, as Kregger adeptly pointed out.

I think you can make a strong argument that this is true in a macro sense. Get your name out there any old way, and pretty soon people don't know why they know your name, but mere recognition is a good thing.

But I think the argument fails in a micro sense. That is, if your audience is one or a few, such as with an agent or multiple agents within an agency. With such a small audience, they'll know exactly why your name is familiar, and you'll carry that bad publicity like a couple typos in your query. It'll be h-e-a-v-y.

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

Oh, if only this Canaussie could find a great Mr. Canoodle and spend a romantic holiday in Spain, ahhhh, or Italy.

Colin: You're right we can never give up. Never. A few days away from writing to return with fresh eyes, a new perspective, yes.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I have so much to say about all this... (axes swinging both ways, kids running off to Paris, cakes, queries, not giving up, querying badly, querying correctly, loincakes? EM thinks no one likes her? WHUT!!! Everyone loves EM. I can't even find the words properly weigh in. Or way in... so I'm going to bed.

Megan V said...

I'm with Melanie. It's hard to add two cents to this amazing conversation.

While it's not my job to make people hate me, somehow I end up with a new enemy (not my choice) every day (weekends excluded).

Le sigh.

So I guess it's the least I can do to make an agent not hate me.

And I want to go to Paris again too (if only to grab a line to London)
You know...I've been working on fitting into a suitcase. Maybe I could hitch a ride?

Lennon Faris said...

I can't add much to the intelligent conversation at this hour, other than this to EM: you like four-legged creatures, including dragons. I like you!

Panda in Chief said...

Sneaky is as sneaky does.