Monday, February 26, 2018

Five things you've done/said that make me wonder if you really understand how all this works

1. "Things I'm looking for in selecting an agent".
This evokes images the fruit stand at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 40th Street and picking out which three of three hundred bananas I want to buy.

At the query stage you're not selecting anything; you're querying. Or if you are unsure of what querying means, you're introducing your work to literary agents who will respond with their level of interest.

If there is a lot of interest, you might get requests for fulls, but you're still not selecting anything.

Only if you have offers from several different agents would you be selecting anything.

2. "I can't find your email address."
This one makes me reach for the pass key without even wondering what you're writing. My email address is both on two websites (New Leaf and my own) and listed in as many agent-tracker type websites as I know about, AND if you google "email Janet Reid" it's in the first item returned.

I'm willing to accept a low level of industry knowledge in new writers; just cause you don't how publishing works doesn't mean you can't learn.

But if you don't know how to solve problems, or at least TRY to solve problems on your own, then it's a big red flag. If the first thing you do is ask me how to deal with something, you're going to be a time suck.  That's not encouraging.

3. Including a book trailer with your query.
For starters, you never include an attachment with a query unless the agent specifically requests you do so, and then, it's the pages you attach NOT a book trailer.
I have no problem with you futzing around and making a book trailer; I get that doing that kind of stuff is often a break from writing that you need. Just don't send it to me.  A book trailer is a publicity tool. You're not publicizing your book right now. You're querying. If you don't know the difference, that's a problem.

4. Listing the genre as "fun" or "adventure" or "dating"
Do I need to explain why?

5. I'd like to pique your interest, so here's my bio.
Unless you are Idris Elba shopping for a new wife, you aren't the first thing I want to hear about. And people who think their lives are interesting are generally wrong. Have you noticed that?


E.M. Goldsmith said...

It is hard to imagine writers doing these things after swimming around here for a time. Of course, in Carkoon, this is standard procedure. After all, agents are a type of fruit on Carkoon. So if the writer has only recently arrived from Carkoon with their latest fun, dinosaur dating adventure, then...

Well, you get the idea. I am off to see about having Monday cancelled due to a lack of interest. Our queen blew up my TBR list again, and I must retreat back to my hovel to catch up on my reading. I am sure my boss will understand.

Kathy Joyce said...

I always feel smug when I read agents' posts about others' mistakes. "Hah! I know better than that." Then I keep editing and see how much I still have to learn.

Mister Furkles said...

And I thought a ‘book trailer’ was that big boxy thing, full of MG books, hauled around to schools by the county library. Learn something new on Janet’s website almost every day. One day it’s Dino Porn is real. Another day and it’s ‘domestic suspense’ has nothing to do with the maid.

Dena Pawling said...

It's Monday morning and I guess that means I'm being disagreeable.

>>Only if you have offers from several different agents would you be selecting anything.

Well, at the beginning of the query process, I'd be selecting agents to query which appear to be a good fit for me and my ms. So there's that aspect of selecting.

>>If the first thing you do is ask me how to deal with something, you're going to be a time suck. That's not encouraging.

Then there's a “good time suck”, like a client who ends up causing an auction. But perhaps the term would not include the word “suck”.

>>4. Listing the genre as "fun" or "adventure" or "dating"

Goodreads lists an adventure genre - “Adventure fiction is a genre of fiction in which an adventure, an exciting undertaking involving risk and physical danger, forms the main storyline.”

Kregger said...

If I knew how to retweet this, or truthfully if I had any followers, I would.

This is from Kate Nash and #tenqueries. It could be #6 on the list.


Please find the first 10,000 words of my manuscript and synopsis.

Kind regards.

Synopsis (link)

MS (link)

Field day, anybody?

The Noise In Space said...

I have to admit I'm with Dena on points 1 and 5. Maybe "selecting" isn''t Her Sharkliness's favorite choice of words, but it certainly fits the situation--the first step in querying is to figure out which agents rep your genre and might be a fit for your book. It's a perfectly appropriate word.

And for #5, obviously not "fun" or "dating," but I've definitely seen "adventure" used in multiple places. As Dena pointed out, Goodreads is a big one, but Amazon has that section, too. ( It may not be a traditional category (though both Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island are often listed as "adventure," and they're hardly "new wave") but it's certainly a viable one now.

Theresa said...

I'm with Mister Furkles on the book trailer. We could use a whole lot of those with all kinds of books inside.

Stacy said...

Dibs on Idris Elba if he's shopping for a new wife.

Steve Stubbs said...

From the picture I found of you on the internet, you have a LOT of hair. Or you did when the picture was taken. To deal with stuff like you describe in this post and still have hair, you either have to have a weak grip or weak biceps, 1 of the 2.

Have a great week.

The Sleepy One said...

Steve, how is anyone's physical appearance remotely relevant to the discussion at hand?

As far as the word "selecting": while we select the agents we query, it sounds awkward to use it in the query letter. It sounds like personalization goes wrong, too.

The Noise In Space said...

@The Sleepy One - Oh, I completely agree--"select" has no place in a query. It never occurred to me that someone would actually put that in a query letter to an agent--that makes much more sense. But talking to other writers should be fine.

Kregger said...

Holds up hand: "I've got this, Steve."

The Sleepy One, Steve was reminding us of another embarrassing remark that query writers have made in the past. And you are correct, as Steve was obliquely pointing out, it has no place in a query.


Janet Reid said...

Goodreads is playing fast and loose with the term genre.

Genre is the following: science fiction/fantasy, crime, romance, western. Others may include literary fiction (I don't consider that a genre.)

Genre fiction is a subset of fiction. There are certain mores one observes in each of the genres.

Adventure can be a book in any of the genres, or just plain commercial fiction. There are no "rules" for adventure fiction (as in everyone can die, and it's still adventure fiction, as in The Perfect Storm)

Adventure is thus a category; book in a category can be genre, or not.

YA is a categoy; YA books can be crime, or SFF, or romance, or just themselves.

Lennon Faris said...

I like these posts. A few of the comments have me a little lost... So I'm joining in on the chaos!

The current official genres seem so arbitrary. Who got to pick? Why does the West get its own thing? (sorry Julie Weathers and all you other western folk). If I could make up genres, I'd pick 'friendship' and 'northern' or 'Alaskan'.

BUT I will never call my novel that in a query. Got to act professional!

julieweathers said...


Since I put on my grown up panties and deleted my long post, I will answer. Because we're special. *preens*

Like romance, it has very specific benchmarks it has to hit to be a western. Just being in the west, doesn't make it a western genre. It is popular enough that it has earned it's own place.

Zane Grey was one of the first millionaire authors. 90 books, $40+ million sales which is impressive considering he died in 1939.

Then you add in Louis L'Amour.

Timothy Lowe said...

I for one am happy to leave genre in the hands of the industry experts and simply try to write "a damn good book." I don't know whether "damn good" is a category or a genre but I do know it can be elusive.

Colin Smith said...

We all gripe and complain about rules and such. Agents are not consistent (do you want a bio or don't you? Comps??), synopses suck, Goodreads and Stephen King don't agree, and international rules very. What's a writer to do but complain?

I have a suggestion that I hope Janet would endorse.

Take the advice of the person whose opinion matters most. When writing a query, who gives a flying fengshui what Stephen King says about querying? He never has to read a query, let alone write one. The people who care most about queries are agents. So go with what they say.

But agents don't agree! So follow the guidelines of the agent you're querying. You don't like their guidelines? Then don't query that agent.

Sure, this make querying a longer process. And it rubs us the wrong way because it makes our lives harder. But if you want an agent, you've got to suck it up and play by the agent's rules.

If you don't like that, there's always self-publishing... ☺

Colin Smith said...

... And the relevance of my above comment? If you're querying Janet, then go with what she says "genre" means. You aren't querying Goodreads. ☺

AJ Blythe said...

I console myself with the fact that those aforementioned queriers will hopefully make my query look fabulous next to theirs *grin*.

Lynn Beard said...

BOOM. <>

John Davis Frain said...

Here's the picture I got from this post.

Ya know how sometimes you're looking for your sunglasses (don't act like you've never done this) and some kind soul clears their throat, ahem, and lifts their eyebrows at you because it's not in them to say "They're on your head!"

You take the hint. Reach up on top of your head. Sunglasses!

So, I read #2 and thought to myself... Somebody emailed Janet and said they have a great query, brilliant opening chapter, but don't know her email address, so they couldn't show it all to her.

What's that?

Oh, you're saying they CALL and ask for an email address because it's so hard to find?

Never mind. I was just looking for a way to continue my procrastination, hiding from my WIP.

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

Sunglasses on my head, oh yes. Prescription , no less, and I'm in the water, swimming, totally forgetting I had them on my head when I jumped in the lake, because I'd also had on non-prescription glasses which I'd just taken off from my face! Lucky I had a second pair of prescription sunnies up in my car. This little ditty not as dramatic or shocking, or unfortunate, as one other that happened at the same lake - a bat flew into my hair. It was the middle of the afternoon, full sun! I almost convinced myself I was suffering sun stroke and was seeing things. No. Looking to the side, there he was, a baby bat crawling along the ground with his bat wings!

Like you, John D. Frain, I'm taking a lil break from my WIP. What a nice (?) diversion.

Dena Pawling said...

>>I'm willing to accept a low level of industry knowledge in new writers

This is nice to know, because I personally can't fault a querying writer who has done his research for calling their ms an "adventure" novel if even Goodreads uses that term.

Allison Newchurch said...

Janet, regarding point number 5, all I have to say is:
"I'll fight you for him."

Craig F said...

Yes, that incredibly expensive pair of progressive prescription Maui Jim Stingrays. Maui Jim because their polarization is light years above everyone else's. The Stingrays so I can look like I'm going fast while standing still. They also look bad ass.

Thank you, John and Ginger. I needed some levity today. I am in a very bad place today. The emotion is oppressive here and has managed to soak through everything within a mile or two radius.

Now the first responders are adding to the mix because they were held back. Probably because the security camera loop at the school was twenty minutes out of sync.

Each new thing refocuses the pain. I certainly caused my friend to fall off the edge again.

Sorry for being a bummer but I had to blow some things out so I can be strong, no matter how badly it hurts.

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

I'm happy I could provide a little bit of comic relief. So sorry you have close ties to the Parkland shooting tragedy. I'm so sorry and saddened that this happens at all. Hope you find tomorrow easier.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Goodreads notwithstanding, "Adventure", "Adventure and adventurers", and "Adventure stories" are all library subject traces. Brodart and Demco are where my library most typically buys its genre stickers for spine labeling, and "Adventure" and "Action/Adventure" are stickers sold by both of those vendors (they're UGLY but they're available for sale....).

So while "ESCAPE FROM CARKOON is an adventure story complete at 75,000 words" evidently seems like an amaterurish or ignorant part of a query letter, it is very certainly in the lingua franca of the book reading and circulating world.

(I would've replied yesterday but I've got Mondays off, so I wanted to be at my work desk and looking at library resources)