Monday, October 20, 2014

You have to ask the right question

Recently, I've gotten several voice mail messages from a writer asking me to call her back to tell her if "I'm accepting new clients."

I'm not going to call her back (now, or ever) because it's clear from the question that she doesn't understand how this query process works, and I don't want to spend 20 minutes on the phone doing Query 101, or worse Publishing 101.

She's asking "Are you accepting new clients" much like you'd contact a physician or dentist to ask if they are accepting new patients.

That presumes there are a certain number of slots and the next person to ask gets the one that's not filled.

That's NOT how querying works at all.

Even if I'm not eagerly searching out new clients, I'm always willing to read your query.  Frankly most agents are. We're always on the hunt for good projects.

So, the right question to ask YOURSELF is "how do I query this agent?"  To answer that you look at his/her website.

You don't call to ask.
You don't email to ask.

You just send the query.
I reply.

It's so splendidly easy and simple that it's mind boggling, I know.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ring, ring.
Janet Reid?
She’s out of the office.
Fresh or salt water?

Amateurs practice a shot until they make it. Pros practice it until they can't miss.

Colin Smith said...

Stories like this make me shake my head. The only thing I can conclude is that some people either can't or don't know how to do research. Simple research. Like many other readers of this here blog, when I finished my first "publishable" novel, I researched how to go about getting a novel published. Through that I learned the best way (at least at that time) was to get an agent. From there I learned how one procures an agent (querying). I looked up query success and failure stories. I found QueryShark, and read the archives. I found other agent blogs and followed them. I learned about the business, and double-checked things I read to make sure I understood as well as I could how this all works.

This research isn't rocket science. Anyone with a computer, an internet connection, and Google can do it. And I don't consider myself the brightest bulb in the chandelier. Come on, people!

Kregger said...

Two things pop out on every website I've researched.
Do not call and no attachments.
I did, however, send an agent gift-wrapped chum in a bucket. I got a restraining order. Who knew the address to Save the Dolphins is next door to FinePrint?

Julia Munroe Martin said...

What??? Writers call agents? And...repeatedly? Whoa.

Craig F said...

Damn I wished I lived in the same world as you guys. Regretfully, I don't. I live in a world that has 'The Entitled' in it. I know it sounds like a horror title. At times it is.

They start phone calls with "Do you know Who I Am?" Those who make things worse if you admit that you don't know or care who they are.

If this is one of those people it knows the rules but the rules are for cattle. In the old days there a some Literary Agents who pandered to these people. Now they probably think they all will do it.

May god bless you and keep you from getting to know any of these people.

LynnRodz said...

@Carolynn: You crack me up about as often as Janet does!

@Janet: I'm still laughing about the "...for whom the bell tolls." post several days ago!

@Craig: I think you're right.

@Colin, Kregger and Julia: That was my reaction as well.

Yes, it's simple to understand. Easy, well that last part "You just send a query." not so much. My WIP is coming to an end, but I'm still working on a FTW query. More than a year of reading good and bad queries and writing numerous 250 word (trial and error) letters I hope will one day entice an agent...that "Eureka, this query is the one!" still eludes me.

Anonymous said...

I could hardly get past the first sentence. I believe:

1) This person is CLUEless.
2) This person is crazy.
3) This person is out of touch with reality. (see #2)

We have a call block feature on our phone. If you don't have this, you should make a special trip to a big box store and get one. I get soooo much pleasure out of hearing that one ring, then ZAP! Silence.

Aside from being absolutely annoying, the only other thing I'd worry about is if you get that spidey sense someone is stalking you. Do sharks even need spidey sense?

Jennifer (MM) said...

@donnaeverhart Sharks have a slight tingling in their fin. And then they have lunch.

Although I should confess I shamelessly stalk Janet's blog, Facebook, twitter, QS...Such great resources, besides the fact that they're fantastically hilarious. Thank you, Janet!

From all I've seen, agents will say directly on their website if they're currently closed to queries. Usually because they're busy busy busy. Why waste their time (or their Awesome Assistant's time) with a phone call?

Lisa Bodenheim said...

@ LynnRodz: I agree. Sending a query is NOT such an easy piece of the process.

I've been bouncing back and forth between writing my WIP and a query for the past...year? I've been using my queries (yes, many, unsent) to try to help me diagnose issues with WIP.

It's great to have blogs like Janet's to find out what mistakes I don't have to make in public. Now, if I can just retain everything I've been learning.

Elissa M said...

It would never cross my mind to dig up an agent's phone number rather than look for a website and/or blog. Cold calling is absolutely not my thing, even if it WERE an acceptable way to contact agents.

Despite being clueless, I have to admit this writer has guts. Not sure that makes up for a lack of common sense though.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I, for one, am utterly thankful that one's introduction to an agent is (typically) a written missive which is supposed to operate within somewhat clearly [hah] outline parameters. I feel I write far better than I speak. I'm also given to making jokes people don't get. I mean,

I still do that in comments and on Twitter and stuff, but am less likely to do so in a query letter, especially after reading the archives both here and on Query Shark.

Amy Schaefer said...

I think that violates Rule #1 of the Introvert Writer's Code: Don't talk to anyone when you can write to them instead. *tsk* doesn't anyone read the manual anymore?

When I was in university, I worked in the textbook department of the campus bookstore. Every term, students had the option of ordering their textbooks online and picking them up from us the next day. It was a simple form, and it said WAIT 24 HOURS in big red letters. Unmissable. And yet, every term, someone would order at the kiosk across the hall, then walk the 10 seconds down the hallway to our room to pick up their books. With varying degrees of politeness, I always probed my fellow students on how they thought the physics of that worked. Forget the big red letters - how exactly could we locate, process and produce their books in that space of time?

Read the instructions, people. It's not that hard, and it generally saves you from looking like an idiot.