Thursday, May 14, 2009

Resistance is apparantly futile, so at least do it right

There's an overwhelming temptation to include blurbs, or quotes, in your query letter. "So and So said this fabulous thing about my novel!"

I understand that you want me to know people other than your mom or your clever dog have read Fabulous Novel and liked it.

And it's fine to include those things if you can't resist (I pay no attention to them, just so you know.)

What you need to remember about those blurbs is that they are effective only if:

I know the person lauding you.

Not necessarily personally, but at least by name. At the very worst, if I google "Lauder's Name" and "author" and I don't find anything, this is a useless blurb.

The corollary of this rule is that you must use the person's name. Both of them. HoneyPie, a reader, is useless. As is Famous Novelist who wishes to remain anonymous.

Also useless is a professional designation without a name. I see this a lot from people who are querying for novels they entered in the Amazon Breakout Novel contest: PW said this and that about Fabulous Novel.

If you don't know this you should: PW did not say that about your novel because it was not printed in the pages of Publishers Weekly. A person working for PW read contest entries and made comments. Those two are NOT the same thing.

It helps if you put the name in context as well. Example: "Sophie Littlefield read my manuscript as part of a critique group. I know you adore Sophie, and she adored Fabulous Novel (insert quote here.)"

If you take a class from a famous writer or editor who reads your book, you mention that's how they read it: Mrs PiggleWiggle read my novel when I took her class on Fascinating Dialogue and she said (insert quote here)

The bottom line is that introductions or references aren't needed but if you can't resist including them at least make them effective: full name, quote, context of how the quote was obtained ALL need to be there:

Janet Reid, SharklyAgent, read my blog post and says "Too kind. Be meaner" when I accosted her at the local watering hole and held her scotch bottle hostage.


Laurel said...

This seems self-evident. Something you would do in a conversation either professionally or socially or even in a cover letter or business call. Hmmm.

I love what my spouse said. "After a few pages, I forgot I was reading something you wrote and just got into the story." High praise indeed, but why on earth would I put it in a business letter? I would never tell a potential employer, "My significant other thinks I would be perfect for this job. He works in banking so he should know." Neither would I tell someone that in college my economics professor said I was the best student he ever had. (Never took econ, purely hypothetical.) Unless maybe the interviewer went to the same college and had the same professor and even then I would wait for the interview stage.

I think some basic job hunting tips would apply in agent searching. Maybe we shouldn't all be reading so many books about writing and start picking up titles like the ubiquitous, "How To Knock 'Em Dead at the Interview."

Anna Letha said...

That example had me laughing. That poor scotch bottle, an innocent bystander.

I enjoy these entries because they're to the point and I can read them easily in between tasks at work or at home.

Stephanie said...

I admit, I've used the PW review from ABNA in my recent queries. I didn't say "Publishers Weekly said" though. I did say that it was an ABNA semifinalist and that the PW review read in part (line of critical review, as opposed to synopsis).

So is ABNA/the PW review useless?

amberargyle said...

I've tried doing this in my query letters. It never seemed to help. Though it did when I approached a publisher and one of their authors called and put in a good word.

Steve Stubbs said...

Well, I was going to tell you God read my book and said it was the greatest thing since His own book The New Testament. But I was afraid you might want His telephone number to verify the attribution.

Nobody can even get the pope on the phone nowadays. Getting through to God might be a bit of a stretch. If He did not return your call I was afraid you might not believe me.

Would a shout out from (the recently deceased) Norman Mailer do?

Whirlochre said...

"My imaginary friend loves this book, and unless you wish him to devour your soul, so should you."

Sandra Cormier said...

"Janet Reid hasn't read any of my jokes, but she laughs at my books." Oh, sheesh, I got it backwards.

Kimbra Kasch said...

What about if it's a super-famous someone, like . . . Elvis?

Miriam Forster said...

Mrs. Piggle-wiggle?!?! I haven't read any Mrs. Piggle-wiggle in ages. Hahaha... To the library!

Eric said...

As always, thanks for letting us newbies know what NOT to do. Common sense would have told me not to do this anyway (I hope), but it's still good to keep in mind.

Neve Maslakovic said...

My logic in quoting from the ABNA "PW" review in my query letter was to show that someone in the publishing world read and liked my manuscript. It seemed better than saying the novel made the Top 100 in the contest (which doesn't seem that impressive even to me.)

Is ABNA best not mentioned, then? (Unless you're the person who won it?)

Gamer Girl said...

So you're saying scotch is a good bribe then....