Thursday, July 24, 2014

Question: The currency of queries

I was recently lurking around Twitter when I saw your retweet about your home skillet Brooks Sherman here: Pens for Paws

I had every intention of placing a last-minute 9:59pm bid and winning the whole shebang.
At the last second, I couldn’t click “publish,” and here’s the question that stopped me: am I ruining my chances with an agent by paying (even for a good cause) for them to critique my work? What if he’s my “dream agent,” but hates my first chapter + query after I pay to have him critique both?

The bloated final bid belched in at a staggering $324. Would an agent secretly frown upon the person who paid this amount of money for a query + one-chapter critique should the same person query them later? Or am I taking a really positive, fun, amazing auction and being crazy over-thinking it? Thanks for your time.

Of course you're over thinking this. You're a writer. I've seen writers parse out the hidden meaning of replies to a query received after midnight versus before midnight.  

However, since telling you not to worry is pretty much a non-starter, how about I tell you why you don't have to worry.

For starters, if I like your work I don't care how I find it: query letter stolen from slithery Barbara Poelle under the guise of tidying her desk, Chum Bucket, written missive sent to my office (sans glitter and any other cutsie items), a short story published in a magazine, a drunken brawl at ThrillerFest, or a contest.

If I like your work, I want to read it.

If I don't like your work, it doesn't matter how it found its way to me, I still don't like it.

In other words: the medium is not the message here, all due respect to Marshall McLuhan

And if I'm your dream agent (and you know I hate that very idea right??) I won't even know about it till much later if ever.

And if you think $325 is a lot to pay for a critique, boy have I got a rude surprise for you.  I know several agents who commanded four figures on a ms critique, and of course promptly gave four crits instead of one so as to raise more money for the cause.

I'm actually rather fond of the people who fork over money for my amazingly cogent and pithy opinions.  They're supporting a cause I care about and flattering my already quite robust ego. Win/Win.

So, don't work yourself into a frenzy here. Don't spend money you don't have thinking it's a good way to get special attention; it's not. But also don't think you've closed off an avenue by bidding for a crit
instead of just straight querying.

Gnaw yourself into a frenzy about the rhythm of your sentences, and whether writing in the second person is really a good idea.  You know you can.

PS Yea, I had to look up home skillet. I'm not as with it as I like to think I am.


Angelica R. Jackson said...

I wondered why I was suddenly getting a spike on the Pens for Paws Auction traffic (after the auction finished)--this explains it!

Yes, the bids have varied widely--I think the record for P4P was in the vicinity of $500 for a query crit. As the person running the auction (and I volunteer at Fat Kitty City) I love to see the bids come in, but I wanted to add that I'm also a critique success story.

I won a crit from an editor at a small press and ended up with an offer from them (my book comes out from Spencer Hill Press in May 2015). That said, I've seen some freelance editors who have another job in publishing (editor, agency, etc) who specifically say they won't look at submissions from editorial clients.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Way to go on Mr. Sherman's great winning bid. I got to meet him at Killer Nashville and he is both nice and funny.

I don't see anything wrong with "paying" for a crit this way, it is all for a good cause and at most gives you something to chat with the agent about.

Best case scenario, said agent opens the file over lunch and their salad wilts and the ice cubes in the scotch melts as they forget everything frantically emailing you for the full and then reading it while their clients all get sent to voicemail.

Worst case scenario, shelter kitties get kibble and blankets and you get some really good notes on your query and chapter, which, if you think about it, is also the best case scenario.


Karen McCoy said...

First of all, yay for the Pens for Paws auction! Angelica does such a great job of running it every year.

I bid last year for an agent critique and got one (the sticker shock was significantly less). The critique was extremely helpful, and while they didn't ask for pages, I plan to query them with my next project.

Sometimes it's difficult for us writers to remember that the sun doesn't rise and set around one book. But making connections and fostering learning opportunities is always money well spent.