Friday, February 27, 2009

Tact? As in tactical armor, right?

Here's a link to a post of advice for agents from author Hope Vestergard.

Needless to say I'm probably on her shit list. Take a look at #3.

The funny thing is, she missed the obvious one: respond to queries. As far as I'm concerned that should be number one. All that other stuff might make querying easier, but not getting a response makes writers crazy.

As for "tell us who reads our work": Assume someone else is reading your work. Just assume it. I read all my own queries, but I also solicit opinions from other people in my office. Yes that includes our cadre of invaluable interns. I am not putting that on my website or in my guidelines because it varies from day to day, project by project. If you let this kind of thing bother you, you're in for a world of hurt. Lots of unknown people will be reading your work at every stage of the game. Get used to it now.


Angie said...

Nah, I don't think you'd be in violation of #3 at all. For the record, you don't come off as tactless or snarky -- at least not to me.

Perhaps it would sound snarky to someone who regularly ignored submission guidelines, etc., but I'm willing to bet they aren't reading your blog anyway.

Lydia Evans said...

If you're going to have a problem with interns reading your work, are you really ready to have it read by an entire planet of hyper-critical readers? Anyway, I think it's good to keep writers in a state of high agitation. Otherwise they get comfortable and their writing gets all disgustingly happy. :)

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Thanks for pointing this out Janet. I'm in a heck of a lot of trouble...

--Jessica Faust

Tara Maya said...

Could we get book reviewers to agree not to be snarky either? I would really like it all reviewers of my books universally loved them and said so repeatedly. ;)

Agent blogs which rip apart queries are one of the few places a writer can read the heartless feedback no one else will give. Mom won't, bff won't, even writing partners aren't ruthless enough.

If there's at least some samples of query letters gone right, like in query shark, it helps.

And I think blogs like this also help writers remember that agents are just human beings too, treat them as one should treat a human being, not a faceless demon. :)

Julie Weathers said...

I'm sorry, but that list quite astounded me. I also don't think an author has a clue what an agent or editor's life is like just because they get fan mail with people asking for advice.

Anonymous said...

I am heading right over to learn from what you have posted.

Sarah Jensen said...

Tara, my fam will give you the, "this sucks, what were you thinking" feedback, but I agree, most wont. ;)

I don't really agree with her. Okay, when I get an agent, yes, I want them to work with me. That should be a given. But would I expect perfection? No. Why? Because I'm far from perfect.

I assume that most agents won't even read my query. Not unless said intern loves it. So I figure that in many instances, the intern will also read my ms and say whether the agent should take the time to read it too.

Isn't this stuff a given?

And if I don't get honesty from an agent, I wouldn't want to work with them. I'd expect someone to tell me when something is good and works, but also when something just doesn't.

And part of the deal is learning to promote yourself. If you're too scared to speak in pubic, maybe a good idea would be to take a public speaking class. They often help you build the confidence needed. Just a thought.

Mim said...

Personally I really appreciate your blog. I think the advice that you give is great, and I like the insights I've gained into the publishing world. I don't think I'll be querying you, but that's because we aren't a good match. I've read your submission guidelines and my genre is one that you don't want.

Thanks for all that you do!

ryan field said...

She underestimates the tenacity of serious writers with that list.

Diana said...

That's quite a list.

I will say, personally, I agree with the need for a web presence. Whether it's rational or not, I find myself wondering how much of a grasp an agent has on modern technology if there is no web site. I also really like getting a feel for what the agent likes and expects - something that is easier to get from a web site than from an entry in Writer's Market.

I agree with you about the response to queries. I don't need anything fancy, or even personal. I just want to know that my query was received, reviewed, and decided upon.

McKoala said...

It looks like she's had a hard time at the hands of agents and editors. But, given that she's a published writer I did think that #3 was a little weird.

But, to kind of reverse one of her comments, I wonder if her agent/editor has read this?

MAGolla said...

Give me a break.
Most of her bullet points are what I would expect from a business relationship.
Janet--I love your blog, and the much missed Miss Snark, because neither of you would put up with crap.
I'll take honesty over blowing smoke up my a$$ any day. If I want that then I'll have my mom/hubby/friends read my writing.
And yes, my pet peeve is the lazy agent who can't even be bothered to generate a standard 'no thanks' to a query.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Oh, well ... it's true, some agents are rude. I have a list. And it's true that rejections are icky. I hate rejections. And it's true that submitting can be stressful.

But things are as they are.

My biggest complaints center on two things. Top of the list is failing to reply. That, my dears, is bad behavior. The second thing is rudeness. I don't respond well to it.

Right now, I'm a small time author, published but only in a small way. But, I'm a very good writer. (Hey, if I don't say so, who will?) So this may not always be the case. I won't burn bridges, but I will remember it if you are rude to me.

I wasn't kidding about my "list." It's just a mental note, not an actual list. Those who made their way onto it did so by being rude, nasty, self-important or a Bankity-blank Liar. This includes a few names you might recognize.

Reject me if you must. I understand business realities. But do not use my query as the basis for your blog post and lie about it. And do not do it at all without asking me first. Do not make personal comments. Understand that typos get past even the best editor. Understand that a real person is on the other side of that query. Understand that as well-known as you may be in your field, the person querying may be smarter than you are, prettier than you are, and possess a long memory.

Agents and editors gossip? So do writers. You pass along information about us; we do the same but about you. We're clueless? Often. You're rude. Some of you are. Rudeness isn’t what Janet does. That’s teaching.

A form rejection letter is part of life, including life beyond writing. A bad tone in a rejection letter is unwise. Have someone else, not an agent, look at it. Heck, post it on your blog, let your blog readers tell you.

There are really nice people agenting. I have a list of those too, and most of them have rejected me. (Insert giggle here.) But they did it nicely. Just suggesting that you're really nice doesn't mean you are. You make that suggestion about yourself, and it's probably not true at all. But your friends like you? I’m not your friend. I’m a potential business associate, and I’m not obligated to see you as your friends do. Besides, your friends are probably lying to you.

Rejection is fine. Insult is not.

You don't owe us an explanation for your rejection, though that's always nice. We aren't obligated to worship you, buy your book, or accept your self appraisal.

You invited our submission. The invitation is implied by your choice of profession. Failing to respond is a sin. It's the sin of vanity. You see yourself as too important to bother. We note it.

John said...

The concern about additional, unknown readers was counterintuitive to me. I figure that even the most brilliant manuscript will appeal to some people and not to others. The more pairs of eyes look at a work, the more likely that at least one person will be hooked and will advocate for that work within the agency/publishing house. I say: Pass it around, please!

Editorial Anonymous said...

I'll tell you, I thought for sure she was talking about me when she was complaining about the "sarcastic, condescending" people... and then I turn up under "respectful and professional". LOL!

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...


I agree fully with you. Back in the day ... when I was collecting rejection slips ... one of my favorites came from Baen. The editor send me their readers comments. They were so nice! Unfotunately, they ended with "not really Baen material."

Who cares that he didn't read it himself. He passed the comments on, and those comments kept me submitting and writing.

Jonathan E. Quist said...

Is it just me, or is the advice:
[Do have a website, however minimal. If you don’t have one, we will be forced to google you and glean information from random sources.]
appearing directly beside a cover of a Writer's Market book the height of irony?

(Agents, take note: If you put up a minimal web site with wonderful lies about you, potential clients will not bother to corroborate that information through independent sources.)

Still, the post does bring to mind the words of W.S. Gilbert, which isn't all bad...

As some day it may happen
that a victim must be found,
I've got a little list,
I've got a little list,
of society offenders
who might well be underground,
and who never would be missed,
who never would be missed.