Monday, July 21, 2014

Query Question: Friends in high places

Some years ago, I wrote a non-fiction book as a work-for-hire for a book packager. It was published by Huge Trade Publisher. I worked quite pleasantly with an editor there, and she respected my work.

I have since finished my first novel. Pleasant Editor is now Executive Director of Humongous Trade Publisher. I am wondering if it would be a clever idea, or a terrible idea, to contact her and ask if she knows an agent who might be interested, or if one of her own editors might take a look. She of course doesn't acquire projects, and the publisher does not consider unagented submissions.

I'm quite sure she would remember me, but I don't know if my little plan would enhance her memory or besmirch it with excess chutzpah.

I'm not familiar with the title Executive Director. Executive editor yes, but exec eds acquire all the time.

But the key piece of info here is that the publishing company doesn't take unagented submissions, and that is essentially what you're trying to bypass. (I know you don't think so, but you are.)

In order to recommend any agent or any of her editors, Pleasant is going to have to read something about your book. And remember, it's a novel this time, not non-fiction work for hire, so you're not even asking her about something you're sure she knows much about. (Many editors at publishing houses specialize in fiction or non-fiction)

The temptation is strong to get a leg up on this querying madness, I know, but this one isn't going to help you even if Pleasant does help you.

I can't tell you the number of queries I get that say "so and so recommended I query you" and it's for a novel I wouldn't rep (or READ) in a quadrillion years. The truth is editors have no idea what agents are looking for. They only see the work we show them. Some of my closest editor friends are shocked when they hear I rep history and biography (or any non-fiction) because all they see from me are high-octane thrillers.

And of course, I get queries with "so and so said to query you" and I have NO idea who so and so is. Even when I google the person, I find I've never met them and have no idea why they would send a writer my way.

Where your connection will be of use to you is when your agent goes on submission with your novel and can call Pleasant and say "you've worked with her before, and now she's got a terrific novel."

In the meantime, start making lists of agents who rep novels and get to querying.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I tried this once (sort-of) with a connection I had through dishes, yes dishes, (long boring story).
Anyway, she was a big muckidy-muck, I mean huge, she was so high up in a publishing house that the glass ceiling above her had been smashed 20 years ago and a stratosphere below her. When I finally got a thirty second chance to pitch her, I found out she had retired, had become a writer, and was trolling through writing friends and connections to find an agent.
Dumb, I know, but I was disappointed because I figured I always had her to fall back on.

To me, God went fishing with his son's 12 buddies hoping to snag a job.

Anonymous said...

No connections here to speak of, but I could understand why this person would want to try. Don't we all want (need) a break? Which, I think, is why folks also try to become somewhat familiar, any way they can (while attempting to not seem stalker'ish) with the likes of you, and others out here in blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

I understand the rational behind the Shark's reluctance for this writer to bug the bigwig. However, if I was this writer, I would definitely contact my former editor. An editor/writer relationship (work-for-hire or not) is a close one. And IMHO, the chance that this bigwig can help (or at least be interested) far exceeds anything negative that can come from approaching her. 80% of the people in this country got their job because they knew someone. Getting a book published can't be all that different.....

DLM said...

Hee, after donnaeverheart's comment I feel like I need to stop commenting so much ... here, on her blog, on Carolynnwith2Ns ... ;)