Monday, May 05, 2014

Rant: Not A

I've been getting a lot of email lately with subject lines that start: NOT A (query) (question) (something else.)

I've tried not to be annoyed by this because really, it's pretty minor, but c'mon guys. Do you really think I need to be told that something isn't a query? That it isn't a deal memo? That's not a notice from Shark Week that I've been selected as guest of honor?

Do you think I can't actually read sentences in English?

Amazingly enough, if you tell me what the email is actually ABOUT, it's more helpful than telling me what it's NOT.

It's not a zebra.
It's not a golden ticket.

It's not helpful.


Anonymous said...

That's definitely a different way to use the "Subject" line of email. When I was working in the corporate world, email etiquette was considered part of being a good "corporate citizen." We were told not to use "reply all" unless absolutely necessary, not to use CAPS as it was considered shouting, no endless back and forth exchanges over a problem (pick up the phone and call), be succinct, get to the point, and always, always, put the subject in the subject line.

Email interactions between writers, agents, editors, anyone in the pub world should, IMHO, reflect the similar practice of being a good corporate citizen. Even if you don't have any relationship with that particular person. It is still a business, and we should conduct ourselves professionally.

Blogs are different, more open, where we have the freedom to express ourselves, where even a polite rant is acceptable. (i.e. not troll'ish, not wrapped up with a bundle of cussing - although the occasional "f" bomb is sometimes appropriate - and funny - to me anyway) Sometimes I think people forget they aren't replying/commenting on a blog. To email an agent/editor about a writing "thing," should elevate it to a more formal level.

Geez. This was long.

Stephen Parrish said...

This is not a comment.

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Wendy Qualls said...

I get what you're saying, but I'm one of those authors sitting on the other end of the "We might acknowledge your query in six months or so, maybe, if we feel like it" gap and watching agents talk about how many hundreds of unread queries they have in their inboxes. So there's always that worry that my NotAQuery email is going to be buried for months and months because I'm not on your whitelist or something.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

I kinda like nota alot.

Jared X said...

I'm reminded of the early '80s song by Public Image Ltd called "This is Not a Love Song." For reasons lost to history, somebody at the label told Johnny Rotten, formerly of the Sex Pistols, to record a love song. He responded with several minutes of the line "This is not a love song" looped over an angry synth riff. Since that classic use of identifying something by what it isn't, all other attempts have fallen short.

Lance said...

Is this a manifestation of the fear and anxiety of aspiring writers that feel about agents the way the Lion felt about the all-powerful Oz?

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

ceci n'est pas une query?

Email subject lines seem to be a flash fiction art all of their own. In my workplace, I try to make them simple and clearly informative. In my "casual" emailing, I feel free to make them a bit more oblique.

stacy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Swaim said...

I'm guilty of this, but it was simply a case of, prioritize this below a query. In fact, prioritize this below the lowest email you've ever gotten.

I know it sounds dumb, but I sure didn't want to risk angering the one person who takes time out of her busy day to answer my dumb questions....

Like, what is the wing-speed of an unladen swallow?

Stoich91 said...

For all those concerned with an email being mistaken for a Query for priority's sake, I don't think that's the problem.

Differentiate your email, by all means! But do so by properly labeling it as what it IS, not as what it ISN'T.

That's like addressing a letter: "NOT TO 9811 Milwaukee Road, Sanford, FL"

Well, that's great. 1 address down - 40 billion to go! :D Better to just write where you want to get from the get go.

Faye Lynn said...

I wouldn't open an email with a "not a" subject line, particularly knowing the email dealt with looking for representation dealing with communication.