Thursday, November 17, 2011

Can you find all ten mistakes?

This letter was sent to an editor in NYC who works at a publisher that does not accept unagented projects. (Read this, and you'll understand why!)

Can you spot all ten errors?

Hi (editor's name redacted)

I would like to speak with you and your team about an instant book project entitled (redacted)

We anticipate this book will be a blockbuster for this Christmas, as it profoundly captures the (redacted) and [is] a prophetic revelation concerning the outcome of the 2012 presidential election, who will win and why the Lord has chosen him.

You can learn more about us at (redacted)

Please give me a call at the number below so we can discuss this further. The book is complete and ready for market. I will send you all a PDF of the entire manuscript upon request.

1.  Don't  EVER plan to speak with an editor to pitch a  project. You've got to entice them fully at the written query stage.

2. Most editors, even if they work in a large publishing company, do not have teams.  This is not a Japanese car assembly plant or the NY Yankees.

3. Instant book project.  These are "crashed" books, and they're normally for breaking news or current events with red hot interest. They are not initiated by query letters from unknown writers.

4. Blockbuster is a term from the movies.

5. Christmas release is not a term you'll find in publishing.  Christmas books are released in October and November. In other words, you're too late.

6. The outcome of the 2012 Presidential election will be old news the day after the election. Which is just about when this book would be published.

7. Don't expect an agent or editor to go to your website for information that should be in a query.

8. Don't expect an agent or editor to call you. Most initial contact is by email.

9. "Ready for market" implies that all the publisher has to do is slap a cover on it and ship it to bookstores.  This demonstrates a complete and utter lack of understanding about the value a publisher adds to a book, and the publishing process.  More than that, it tells me the writer will be someone who does not appreciate those things and thus will be VERY difficult to deal with.

10. Editors and agents generally prefer text documents for manuscripts. They're easier to reformat and transmit.

and the obvious one of course is that this query went to an editor who doesn't take unagented submissions and whose area of expertise isn't even close to what this book is about.


Liana Brooks said...

1. Sent to an editor who doesn't take unagented submissions.

2. "Instant Book Project"

3. Use of the word blockbuster to describe their own work.

4. This Christmas? No, sweetie, things don't happen that fast unless you self-publish.

5. The projected time frame for the book. It shows they didn't do their homework.

6. Giving a web address and inviting the editor to go there to research them.

7. They want a phone call.

8. They think the book is market ready. I'll bet it's not.

9. A PDF? Surely they meant RTF.

10. This isn't a query, it's a tagline with blather attached. It tells you almost nothing about the book and gives no credentials for the author.

Do I get a cookie?

Adam Heine said...

1. Sent to a publisher that doesn't accept unagented projects.
2. What the heck is an instant book project?
3. Claims it will be a blockbuster.
4. Crazy (believes God cares who wins an American election).
5. Asks the agent to give call them.
6. PDF?!
7. Ridiculous gamble (what publisher would risk being wrong about an election? Why?!).
8. No word count, genre, etc.
9. Does not talk about the book.
10. Does not entice you to read on.

Adam Heine said...

"to give call them" is totally grammatically correct. Shut up. *facepalm*

Anonymous said...

1. Informal greeting with
2. no comma.

3. "Instant books" (topical books about stuff recently in the news) are written in-house. Makes 'em more instant.

4. Editors do not speak. They email.

5. This Christmas? Ain't nothin' that instant.

6. Who the hell knows if it will be a blockbuster.

7. Who is (or are) "we"?

8. The Lord doesn't get to choose who wins the election. If he's a U.S. citizen, he gets one vote, just like everybody else. Howsomever, with a name like The Lord, I'm thinking he's not a U.S. citizen. God might be an Englishman.

9. The whole tone is too "This is your lucky day" where it should be more "I am not worthy".

10. A PDF? WTF?

Marisa Birns said...

Oh, lordy. *does sign of the cross*

1. Doesn't say what kind of work it is. (fiction, non-fiction, memoir)

2. No word count

3. No paragraphs showing what book is really about, and enticing one to read it. Prophetic revelation? Ah, so angels wrote it.

5. Was it one heavenly creature? It's "I" in first sentence and "We" in second paragraph.

6. One doesn't tell agent that book will be blockbuster. Unless there's car chases, naked people, and lots of shooting. Even then, no.

7. Agent doesn't need to go in search of learning more about group.

8. No sample pages are sent. PDF? Pfft.

9. December release? Heh.

10. No email address

Anonymous said...

I'm going to go with:

1. Informal greeting (it should be Dear, not Hi)
2. "Instant book project"
3. They don't give a word count
4. Out by this Christmas? Seriously?
5. The whole "this is prophetic revelation" angle is... not a winner.
6. The book probably isn't ready for market
7. PDF is not the correct format for requested partials/fulls
8. They queried an editor who doesn't take unagented subs
9. It doesn't say what the book is actually about
10. There is no polite sign off ("Thank you for your time") just "Yo, gimme a call! KTHXBAI!"

It also doesn't entice me to read the book, except maybe for the lulz.

Josin L. McQuein said...

The 1st post decided for the serious, so I'll go for the silly. (Shocking, right?)

Yo! S'up?

There is no 'I' in team, and as I find that I cannot write a personal communication without using 'I', I've simplified things by firing my team. Therefore, you cannot possibly speak to them. Also "Instant book" sounds an awful lot like an Espresso book machine POD project, so fughedaboutit. The only Espresso we have around here is the kind you drink, buddy.

I'm dreadfully sorry to inform you that our blockbuster quota has been exceeded in excess for this Christmas. We do, however, have a few openings for middling success and dismal failure on the roster. Could I interest you in one of those? Also, political books tend to be polarizing, and as we use many electronic devices, we cannot possibly allow anything magnetic into the office. Sorry.

This constant use of "we" is alarming. 1, it makes me think that this is a team effort, and I just got rid of my team (as explained above). If there is no team, then I worry that I may be corresponding with a personality which did not, in fact, pen the manuscript. Therefore, I'm concerned that I'll have to say all of this all over again. I hate repeating myself.

We don't use phones; we use email. I typed your number in and hit send, but the MailerDaemon said it was a bad address; you should contact your carrier. Reference to a complete book, rather than a complete manuscript, implies something bound and ready for shelves, and I believe I've already mentioned that I'm not interested in POD projects. Also, PDF isn't going to work for me. I'm a bit old fashioned when it comes to reading submissions. Please include the full text on tin-type plates ready for inking and insertion into our press.

Don't forget the SASE.

Editor Redacted


Anonymous said...

There actually is such a thing as an "instant book"-- my editor mentioned writing one. You know how sometimes you'll see a book in the stores about something that just happened? That's an instant book. It strikes while the iron is hot.

But you don't submit an "instant book". A publisher decides to publish one.

Adam Heine said...

Thanks for the info, Alaska. I had no idea. In that case, I change my #2 to "Out by Christmas? Seriously?"

Unknown said...

1. Failed to acquire an agent (direct author submission, but this error is the freebie)

2. Failed to use a professional voice in the query ("Hi" and so forth.)

3. Failed to provide word count.

4. Failed to identify ideal reader or genre. (Is it political science? Is it religion? Is it fiction?)

5. Failed to entice with "query" (fails to "show")

6. The "query" references external content (on the web.)

7. The "query" claims the manuscript is complete; the query itself is anything but complete. Use of phrases like "instant book project" and "book is complete" lend themselves to the notion this is a print on demand book the author wants to market through a traditional publisher (this almost never happens, this guy is not Paolini.)

8. Use of sensational words to describe the subject and the expected reader response. (At least they're not predicting that everyone on the planet will be buying 14 copies each, right?)

9. Telling the editor what format he'll receive the authors manuscript in (PDF), instead of conforming to the editors specifications.

10. Failed to provide acceptable contact information (a webpage and a phone number don't cut it.)

Rose said...

1. Sent to an editor, not an agent.

2. Unprofessional tone

3. Is an instant book like instant oatmeal?

4. This Christmas?

5. Agents do not call.

6. Editors do not click "learn more!" links.

7. No one can say it'll be a blockbuster. Everyone knows politics are boring.

8. God anoints kings with holy oil. So, we'll just look for the guy claiming to be king with oil in his hair. Also, the book will probably be published after the 2012 election, which means the copy edits can revise the work to the correct winner, but... no one will care. (Er, it isn't enticing.)

9. It's not actually in PDF format, it's in .WTF format.

10. No contact info for God (the book's other author, I'm presuming).

ryan field said...

Everyone else covered it pretty well so far. But I would think the first mistake is the way he/she addresses the editor by using "Hi," instead of "Dear Mr. or Ms. "Hi," is way too informal unless you know the editor personally. If I were an editor I'd stop reading after that. It almost sounds like one of those facebook messages we get from someone we don't know who is promoting a book we've never heard of. It's too pushy.

At least he/she didn't add an unsolicited attachment.

Sarah Allen said...

Let me guess. Some Mormon fool talking about Mitt Romney, and the learn more about us here was *facepalm*

Sometimes some Mormons give the rest of us a bad name.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

Let me save you all some wondering: the word count is 5. Here is the book in its entirety: "Jason O'Mara. Because he's awesome."

Unknown said...

1. No agent
2. No water (for the "Instant" book)
3. No respect (Hiya!)
4. No disclosure of all authors
5. No authority to speak for God
6. No knowledge of the publishing industry
7. No sense of reality
8. No groveling
9. No hook
10. No chance in hell (or at least not New York)

Joel Brown said...

This reminds me why your blog is one of the highlights of my week.

Or as QR Markham will soon say, "This reminds me why your blog is one of the highlights of my semi-fortnight."

I hope you and your family (in and out of the office) have a great Thanksgiving.

(My CAPTCHA is "coatorb". I didn't know it had a setting for discarded .com startup-sounding words.)

jesse said...

I'd request a full. Firewood is getting expensive.

Anonymous said...

I think Rose's #10 is the most important. Because really, how is a publisher going to get this "instant book" fact-checked if there's no contact info for God? Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

When did "redacted" replace "omitted" or "censored?"

ryan field said...

"5. Christmas release is not a term you'll find in publishing. Christmas books are released in October and November. In other words, you're too late."

This is one of those times when I probably should keep my big mouth shut. But this isn't totally accurate anymore. I've had "Christmas Releases" in late December that have sold many copies, in the past three years. I know other authors who have had releases like this, too. There's a huge surge in Christmas e-book sales after Christmas because people get iPads, tablets, or dedicated e-readers for Christmas.

CoreyHaim8myDog said...

"Redacted" replaced those when spook lingo took over the world.

Lara said...

In regards to "this Christmas." this is like the freshman at my university asking for peer-reviewed articles about Joe Paterno getting fired yesterday or Hurricane Katrina, when it happened last week. It shows no knowledge of the publishing process and timeline.

mypalsammy said...

I am not an editor but I can imagine the volume editors are grappling with on a daily (hourly?) basis.

I am a writer and have dealt with editors at my newspaper and magazines, comic book company and in the process of getting my book published.

While I can agree with much of what's written here, including many of the comments, I can't agree with 2 aspects.

1) Informal greeting...this "offense" comes across as arrogant and antiquated. It may be naive to pass up the possibility of a good book proposal (which in this case it's not) over something so silly but this is a mundane slight. Ultimately respect has to be earned, it can't be demanded or enforced. That's like "respecting" a terrible teacher just because she's a teacher. That makes no sense.

To slight or even reject an author for informal greetings retards publishing, which is already struggling to find its place in 2011. There's no value in that action.

2) "Blockbuster is a term from the movies." Absolutely Blockbuster is foolish but that idea is false...not using the word. The best design incorporates elements from all kinds of sources, it should be the same with all mediums. There are no walls in the global village. We're way past that now. Therefore Box office bomb is relevant (even though books don't have a box office), sleeper hit and other similar movie terms.

Again, it's 2011, we have to vigorously go forward, not backwards.

Unknown said...


1. It's bad form to compare the editor to a horrible teacher-- since the implication is that the editor is horrible-- and if that is the case, why would you submit a manuscript to them?

Courtesy is never wasted.

Furthermore, I expect a single error does not a query rejection make. Multiple errors, however...

2. I appreciate the essence of your point, however, I would like to point out that this is an industry where the product is a collection of words and the communication of ideas. An author should communicate creativity, not carelessness in the words they use.

A query is like a first date, if you make a bad impression, you'll rarely get anything meaningful out of it.

ryan field said...

"A query is like a first date, if you make a bad impression, you'll rarely get anything meaningful out of it."

Now that is a simile I love!! Well stated.

mypalsammy said...

@John Williams

Courtesy is fine I’ve no beef with courtesy.

You unscored my point though as this is all about creativity.

Creativity is fluid (just like language), committed to innovation and progress, if it’s not it’s just as lazy and boring as a zoo animal.

For sure a query is like a first date but nobody does dinner and a movie anymore. That’s played out, like Archie and the Riverdale gang.

As you wisely pointed out this is an industry but does this industry allow flexibility for how an author communicates his/her creativity? In a way that accurately reflects the author’s vision? And in a way that is reflective of our times?

If there’s certain rules to the game then it’s no longer about creativity.