Tuesday, April 12, 2016

So, you realize the error AFTER you hit send

Moments after sending my query to an agent with whom I am extremely impressed after reading her blogs, one Ms. Janet Reid, I realized I made a mistake. I had stated that the antagonist's backstory would be developed further in the sequel which has already begun to be written. The problem is that I had not used the antagonist's name in the query, but in the line about the sequel I used his name.

Since I really want... did I mention I was impressed with this particular agent through her blogs.... this agent to consider my work, should I drop her a line and own up to the mistake in the hopes it can be forgiven, or should I just chalk it up to experience?

Oh man, how well I know THAT feeling. OOOPS of epic proportion.
There are two choices:

1. Resend the query having fixed what you think of as the error, or;
2. Trust I'll figure out what you're doing.

If you resend the query, you should say so at the top "I sent an earlier version on 3/x/16 but found an error."

If you trust that I'll figure out what you're saying, well, nothing to do but wait.

This isn't the kind of thing that would make me reject a project I wanted to read.

I overlook all kinds of whacko things when the project is enticing.

All too many times writers focus on these small details, and attribute rejection to these small details, when in fact, they're pitching a book I don't want to read.

I'm seeing a lot of books that sound like something I've already read, many times:

1. Damaged hero: he's an ex drunk, ex cokehead, ex something. His wife and mother and dog were killed by a bad guy (horrifically of course)  He saw too much in the war.

2. Damaged hero seeking a refuge from conflict finds himself smack dab in the middle of conflict.

3.Hackers. Of any kind. Ever. Particularly ones who can breach the firewall at the Pentagon.

If your plot would find a place on a 70s TV show without a bump, you've got a problem.

I'm looking for fresh approaches to stories that have classic elements. It's hard to describe. I know it when I see it.

Don't worry about the antagonist's name. Make sure s/he is interesting. As in "think s/he is the hero of the story."


Lucie Witt said...

Oh, OP, I think you will find much sympathy amongst the Reiders. I have spotted errors in a query after sending, and worse.

The person I am working with on an R&R happens to share the same name as my best friend. One day I'm emailing my best friend to have her look at my work-in-progress website. I said something along the lines of "I feel silly having this fancy website when I'm not even published, but fake it until you make it, I guess?"

Then I promptly sent the email to NOT MY BEST FRIEND but the editor waiting on my R&R.

I was horrified.

The other party was extremely kind and understanding.

I've found that since most people have been on the mortified side of the equation, people are pretty understanding about these kinds of mistakes.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Well frankly, if a hacker isn't good enough to breach the Pentagon, I'm not interested in reading about them ;)

(a crowning moment of achievement for my hacker character in a Shadowrun game was hacking something with military security. Except...it happened off table and none of the other characters saw me do it.)

In the course of doing the Official Edits for my anthology story, I/we came across a typo that had clearly been there since I wrote the story in the early aughts. I cringed, thinking of the other 10 places to which I had sent said story. I know that one word or whatever isn't a dealbreaker, but, ugh.

DLM said...

Option three? Send Ms. Reid a question for her blog. :) For a shark, this is one forgiving agent - when it comes to things she finds enticing.

And I veeerrry nearly typed fines inticing up there, because: not even seven-thirty, and I don't have my glasses on. It's a good thing that, with 30 years of secretarying under my belt, I "feel" errors (when I can't see them) and autocorrect.

But with queries there's no autocorrect. Have a friend (a Reider friend!?) on hand before you query the UBER-SPECIAL agents and ask 'em to give you a once-over before you hit "send" to the agent's email address. It can be HARD to wait, yes. But ... worth it? I have a couple on-call friends who have helped me with exactly this. And for a query you might not even need a writer, just ask someone with fresh eyes.

Janet, enjoying the glimpse into damaged goods and hack work ...

(And, after our recent pronoun conversation - "make sure THEY are interesting" ... ?) :)

Donnaeve said...

Lucie - ouch. That's not as bad as a speakerphone not on mute and you thinking it is while ranting about your work load, though. Trust me.

Yes. We've all made this mistake - more than once. This seems like a nit, but yes, the WWC's (wee wood...) will worry, fret, and drink heavily over it.

I have to say though, when I read this list? I think I heard SCREAMING:

1. Damaged hero: he's an ex drunk, ex cokehead, ex something. His wife and mother and dog were killed by a bad guy (horrifically of course) He saw too much in the war.

2. Damaged hero seeking a refuge from conflict finds himself smack dab in the middle of conflict.

3.Hackers. Of any kind. Ever. Particularly ones who can breach the firewall at the Pentagon.

I can't help but wonder how many folks "out there" have just read this, had you on their radar for their 100K almost ready to query WIP and fit this list?

Uh. Oh.

Donnaeve said...

On the positive side - if you see your query inbox go suddenly light, this list was effective.


DLM said...

Oh Lucie ... OUCH. But, in all likelihood, what you inspired there was a smile, nothing worse. I smiled. Through the wince.

Fake it till you make it sounds reductive: until you try it. Those who've made it probably know that.

Scott G said...

You all probably know this, but I have found it best to send queries from an email address that does not, and I repeat does not, have the automatic reply feature turned on saying you're on vacation and to contact your assistant if they really have something important they want to tell you. Just sayin.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I had a scare recently when I thought I had emailed something confidential to the wrong person. Talk about hearing the sound of many, many, bridges burning. Until I unfroze and checked my Send box. Not once but several times.

I've also been on the receiving end too. It was either before or after a job interview when I received an email from the HR person who addressed someone else and their background.

It sounds so easy when Janet says "fresh approach" to stories with classic elements. But not. Although, when I read the flash fiction contests that happen here on the Reef...

AJ Blythe said...

Shoving ms with ex-drunk hero seeking refuge from hacker war only to find himself smack bang in the middle of the pentagon which is under attack by the revenge seeking ex-wife into the bin...

Colin Smith said...

I know I've mentioned it before, but one way to help mitigate against sending emails to the wrong recipient is to enter the address LAST. That gives you time to make sure you get the correct recipient. It's not foolproof--you might still pull the wrong address from your address book--but it should at least slow you down a bit and give you time to think.

Janet: Would you say that all these similar plots come from not reading widely in the genre and knowing what's been done? Or are these all thinly veiled fan fiction?

Celia Reaves said...

Everyone at my job knows I have a saying: There's No Such Thing as The Last Typo. No matter how many times you read something, and how many people you get to look at it, there's always one mistake you find later and cringe about. Anyone who won't cut you some slack about a minor, occasional mistake is probably not someone you want to work with, and therefore is not our awesome Queen.

AJ - I'd read the heck out of that story!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Every time I send a query, I immediately get a sick feeling in my stomach. Perhaps, I should have proofed the thing one more time. Then I read the thing in the sent folder, and think to myself “this agent will think I’m an idiot. Oh dear God, is that the correct spelling of her name?”

I do love the OP’s moxie in choosing option C – send a blog question. I suppose if I feel I have sent an egregious error in my query, I could just ask the agent to go and read Janet’s blog. Ah well, onward. As Norm used to say, “It’s a dog eat dog world and I am wearing Milk Bone underwear.” Back to work I go now that my idea for the thriller novel about an ex-junkie hacker breaking into the pentagon via computer virus has been shattered into dust.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

And Celia, no kidding. No matter how many times I proof something, it seems like I miss a typo or when correcting one typo introduce another. It's maddening.

Scott G said...

I'm dying to hear about all the times agents send out form rejections only to realize the horror after they press send that they meant to send out an offer of representation. I bet it happens more times than one might think.

In all seriousness, I think writers put way too much stock in these types of innocuous errors. I have to believe that successful agents know good writing when they see it and are willing to look past them, up to the point when the errors indicate bad writing and the writer doesn't have a clue. Should writers do everything in their power not to commit them? Sure. In the end it just comes down to writing a damn good novel.

Lennon Faris said...

The repeats! I always like seeing these lists.

Colin - I think falling into these lists probably has *something* to do with not reading widely. But I also think it has a little to do with being lazy with your imagination, without even realizing it. You've seen a story element a few times (maybe in the 70's) and so that's your story's default.

Lucie - oh man. That's painful. It did make me laugh, though. (Not at you, but in sort of a horrified, hand-over-mouth kind of way). I've been on both ends of that train before!

Julie Weathers said...

Re-send it with the explanation. If the agent rejects because of that, do you really want them. Having said that, for pity sakes, don't press your luck. Don't keep redoing it.

I think all good heroes are damaged. Perfect people are pretty boring. Flawsome is awesome in the right hands.

Colin Smith said...

Oh, so true, Elise. When I send out queries, I use a basic template, and then customize with the agent's name, and any personalization I might want to throw in based on Twitter or blog interaction. So not all my queries are the same. Which leads to EXACTLY that feeling of dread. How many typos did I just add to an otherwise flawlessly spelled email? Did I misspell the agent's name? Did I just make a vodka joke to an agent that recently swore off alcohol? That was supposed to sound like a compliment, but did it sound creepy? I came across as such a dweeeeeeb, I know I did!! And I'm going to get form rejected for trying too hard!!! Why didn't I just send the basic query??? Argggggg!!!!!

Yep, been there. :)

RachelErin said...

I think most of us would agree that many good heros are "damaged" but rooting their pain the same old, same old does start to feel stale.

Why couldn't a hero/ine be damaged by finding out something they did at work had horrible unintentional consequences, and now they need to redeem themselves? What if they were damaged by an abusive best friend (instead of romantic partner), or became ultra-arrogant from compensating for being bullied by their teacher?

Or if they're veterans, what about being damaged by all the propaganda they needed to believe to survive? My grandfather struggled with this after fighting in the South Pacific in WW2. He loved me so much that when I showed him pictures of my school trip to Japan, the most he could do was stay silent. My dad told me he'd never seen his father NOT say something racist about the Japanese when he could. (The redeeming beauty of innocent grandchildren...instead of romantic love).

All of those have been done, of course, but they're not the default to the extent of the ex-alcoholic, seen-too-much, bad guy wrecked my life, characters.

I've been finding the more I read, the more books I put down because of overused story elements. And the more books I read twice because of exceptional brilliance.

And I love that Julie referenced America's Next Top Model. "Flawsome" makes my morning.

Unknown said...

Major post-query rumination? Check. Query writing can make me overthink things to the point where words and grammar don't make sense any more. (Now a synopsis on the other hand, that's fun stuff...)

Sometimes I am even afflicted by post-commenting rumination on this blog. Was that a pointless comment? Will someone take it the wrong way? Was my phrasing elegant? Should I delete my post to fix a tiny typo? Sigh, I surely am a wee woodland creature. At least it's nice to have company.

InkStainedWench said...

There's nothing quite like being a proofreader/copy editor/pedant who delights in correcting other people's errors, who sends an e-mail with a huge red zit of a typo right in the middle of it.

Lucie Witt said...

Mark, I do the same thing after I comment here ("was that stupid/oh god everyone knows I'm an idiot now/did that sound rude/etc."). After big social events I also replay things I said the next day and decide I'm the most socially awkward person ever.

I'm glad my story made a few people laugh! We've all been there.

I also once left the agent's name off the query. I guess better than misspelling it?

Lisa Bodenheim said...

It is so nice to find your tribe!

Mark and Lucie-yup, been there with the post comment ruminations, wondering if I should trash it before everyone sees how stupid/naive/weird I really am. But didn't I just read a comment, was it last week from the Shark herself, that all authors are a bit off-balance and it's a good thing?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Mark et al, I always feel a slight dizzing sensation akin to nausea after I comment. Did I say too much? Will I be banned from the blog or made to harvest duckweed on Carkoon?

Lucie- been there. I think I could give you a run for your money in most socially awkward person ever. I figured that's why the good Lord gave us alcohol. Or maybe not. I am going to hide back under my rock once more.

And Lisa, my yes, it is good to have a tribe.

Dena Pawling said...

Who is this agent Janet Reid?

Oops, I may have just posted this comment on the wrong blog.........

Option 1 sounds like a country-western song.

And Colin, yes I type the email address last. This is not so much to avoid sending to the wrong person, but to avoid sending the email before it's finished. This practice has saved me an oops email many times. My computer will pop-up a box that says “you have not included a destination address” and I realize I've accidentally clicked on send when I wasn't finished with the email.

This decision of “should I send a correction email or should I hope she understands” is soooooo painful. No matter which option you choose, if you get a rejection you will blame it on the chosen option and forever be kicking yourself - “If only I had chosen the other option.......”


But sending this error notification as a blog question? Talk about a fresh approach to a story that has classic elements!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

The first time - years back - I heard the idea of the antagonist thinking he/she is the star of the story, it blew my mind. It totally twisted around how I viewed my stories and all the characters' motivations. I've always enjoyed writing "the bad guy," but I really get into it now.

Julie Weathers said...

Rachel, I'm not sure about America's Next Top Model. I don't watch it. Is that their motto? I listen to mainly news, history (surprise, I listen to a lot of Civil War and ancient history programs), mysteries (Ripper Street is my latest guilty pleasure when I babysit), and a few cooking shows (Master Chef Junior is awesome though). I only have cable hooked up due to the upcoming election and following the primaries. I may disconnect it before I drive myself nuts, though.

Jennifer D said...

This made me chuckle, as I had a similar experience to the OP, in that I sent my query to roughly a thousand agents, then suddenly realized that the query really sucked. Oops!

The good news is that the query has since been classified as a controlled substance for its sedating properties, and I've opened a clinic for insomniacs. I read the query to these poor, wide-eyed wretches, and voila! My cure rate is approaching 100%. So . . .you know . . .I've got *that* going for me.

Feels good to be helping.

[note that it also feels good that Chum Bucket cured me of bad query writing. I think . . .]

Matt Adams said...

Does that mean Janet's not a candidate to rep my novel about 8 bionic Amazon warriors., 4 of which end up married to billionaire businessmen with adorable butlers and the other four marry rich Texas oilmen and adopt minority children after their housekeeper dies while solving mysteries with their bar-owning and helicopter flying war buddies? Did I mention it's set in Korea, but is really an alegoy for Vietnam? Or that they crossdress and drive taxis and have a loudmouthed racist (but in a lovable sort of way) neighbor/father figure?


Donnaeve said...

I ought to share the biggest email OOOPS I've ever experienced. If this doesn't beat all, I don't know what does. Sorry for a bit of a long comment here, but it's too good (or bad) not to share.

In 2009, at Nortel, I received an email from a cabinet member I supported. The email contained a file about headcount reductions. I was doing headcount analysis and was supposed to determine $$'s saved by the latest reduction.

He didn't pay attention to the contents - he only wanted to know how his department was impacted. My name was in the file, under another department. Meaning, my direct boss was planning to lay me off within 30 days. Here's the thing. I didn't see it. I was focused on doing the work for the other guy and messing around in the tab related to his department.

So, my direct boss comes scurrying up within ten minutes of me starting to work and drops his hand on my shoulder. I realized I was getting the signal in *code* for "you are about to be walked out the door." I almost threw up, right there on my desk.

I was taken to my boss's boss's office. She said, "I guess you've seen the file with your name on it." (I hadn't!) I guess you know we're going to let you go in May. You have thirty days to get used to it. Who knows. Something could happen, but don't count on it."

I played dumb, like I knew what was in that file, but I remember only saying, "It is what it is." A funny thing happened. Within a week, the cabinet guy who sent me the file erroneously? He went to the CIO to bring me in under his dept directly. Those other bosses? They were all let go within a year. I stayed on till 2012, long after them. The company went from 95,000 down to 250. I was one of the 250 remaining.


Anonymous said...

I am querying Suzie Townsend today. I still haven't hit send. What am I waiting for?

1.) I don't want to get rejected by Janet's friend.

2.) Suzie is a remarkable agent, and if I mess this up I am never going to forgive my self.

3.)Although EM took a look at my query and Janet posted her feedback on Queryshark, with my query, I am still afraid. Is that crazy? Am I crazy?

4.) I am not sure I am ready for rejection.

I have read a lot of Novels, listened to even more. I have read Elements of Style and Stephen Kings On Writing. I have done online seminars, listened to Brandon Sandersons pod cast. I have even gone back to school for writing. Even with all of that I am not sure.

You know what, I have just decided. What the hell, what do I have to lose besides my sanity, which honestly I think left me a long time ago. I am gonna do it. You hear that writing gods, I AM GOING TO SEND THAT QUERY IF ITS THE LAST THING I DO!

Hey guys if they send me to the loony-bin for this please send me cake.

Anonymous said...

First; I am the OP

Janet's willingness to help new authors such as myself redeems my trust in the decency of mankind with the exception of lawyers, insurance companies, politicians and used car salesmen.

Feel my pain as I read Janet's list of non-interests. (Re: Donnaeve above)

My hero's mom is killed and so is his dog later!!!! OMG! His mother was murdered by her drug dealing boyfriend; he is the product of a rape by his uncle when his mother was 14;
he was raised in poverty by a mother on a constant drug or alcohol binge; after her murder he is in search of his mother's killer before the cops find him so he can kill Godzillard Pigenstein
himself all the while on an impossible search for his daddy because his mother denied her uncle was his father... that is about as damaged a hero as you can get.

Perhaps the part of him meeting, rescuing and marrying a rich half-Jewess, half-Cajun girl who has faith in his innate decency may be fresh... except for maybe that obscure West Side Story thing.

RachelErin said...


Flawsome was one of Tara Banks' sayings on ANTM, along with 'booty tooch' and "smize" (smiling with the eyes). She liked to tell the models that their "flaws" would make them stand out, and sometimes even emphasized them in their makeovers (increasing the gap between two front teeth, for example). (And I know it's kind of obnoxious reality TV, but it taught me a lot about story-telling in images.)

Now that you mention it, I have no idea if she originated the term or picked it up from somewhere else.

It makes me think of the line everyone liked from the article Janet linked to last week, about how messy can be more more compelling in novels.

And yes, I'm feeling insecure because I just admitted that I watched ANTM. None of my email oops are impressive. Clearly I'm not sending enough queries.

Julie Weathers said...


Suzie Townsend is made of pure awesome. I still have remarks set aside from an R&R she sent that absolutely improved the story 110% percent. She has a remarkable grasp.

I always hesitate to send on a query. It doesn't matter how right I know the query is or how perfect the agent. Once you hit send, that baby is out there.

With that in mind, I've decided to send the query for Cowgirls Wanted to Miss Janet on a pumpkin when the time comes. I want to stack all the odds in my favor. *sage nod*

Jenz said...

I think the real problem here is including a line about developing the antagonist's backstory in a sequel already being written. If the agent doesn't love this book, knowing you're working on the second is not going to squats' worth of difference. And if they are interested in this book, they would typically assume that you're capable of writing another.

So the line just adds word clutter to your query without adding real value. Focus on the book you're trying to sell now, not the next one.

Brigid said...

This comment thread is making me feel not-alone. I think I revised each of yesterday's comments for at least an hour. "Does this comment make my head sound fat?"

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Great story Donna.

Quietly adds Suzie Townsend to my query list. Slithers back under rock and headphones.

Julie Weathers said...


No need to feel guilty for watching reality tv. People are interesting. I watched Pawn Stars for a few seasons because they used to get interesting historical things in. Now it just seems silly. Gads, I'm boring.

I stopped watching tv for years after my son deployed to Iraq. I think I just never acquired a real taste for it again.

Now, if I can just cure myself of this food craving.

Adib Khorram said...

I've tried to learn to let go of tiny errors/typos, though it's a struggle. I absolutely agree with Colin's advice: I always put the address in LAST, and I always always copy/paste it directly from the agent's submission instructions.

As an aside, I wonder how many querying writers were caught by Google Mail's "mic drop" feature on April Fool's Day, and how many agents got GIFs of Minions in their inbox that day.

Craig F said...

Well, my hero was drunk the day her mom got out of prison
She went to pick her up in the rain
But before she could get to the depot in her pickup truck,
She got runned over by a damned old train.

Oh wait, that isn't my query. That is the verse that made the greatest country song ever. As written by a Chicago blues guy.

Sorry for the mistake.

eap said...

Celia Reaves, at my job we have the saying, "You can never proofread too much." Or just YCNPTM. It's so painfully true.

When I was younger I used to be absolutely floored when I found a typo in a book, of all things--books were supposed to be these perfect, unimpeachable tomes...but yeah, typos are just a cringe-y part of life for everybody, even publishers.

InkStainedWench, "huge red zit of a typo" is a delightful phrase :) Typos and puberty have a lot of emotional overlap.

Relieved to hear that other folks also receive visits from the Fraud Police and get a little nauseous after commenting. My train of thought after commenting here, or anywhere, is usually something like, "What did you think you were doing? Who do you think you are, acting like you know things and have articulate opinions--you don't know things, you can't even handle pants half the time, get outta here."

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I have no worries because I'm perfect. I nevr make misstakes and always hit send at just the write ty

Unknown said...

Lucie/Lisa/E.M./Brigid/[others?]: Thanks, I am honored to belong to such a distinguished group of comment overthinkers! And Brigid, rest assured that your comments have always made your head sound just exactly the right size.

Here is my recent, silly story of why to enter the email address last:

"Dear [person with an enye in their last name]: If I had an enye in my last name, I would want people to include it in their email salutations, so I tried to figure out how to insert an enye in Yahoo Mail. Yahoo Mail interpreted my attempt to do this as a desire to send my message to you immediately, so that is why you are receiving an email from me that consists solely of 'Dear [first name + first three letters of your last name before the enye]'. But I can't actually tell you this because it is all too silly, so I will just send you a follow-up note apologizing for sending the previous note prematurely. Sigh."

Donna, your story is great!

Brigid said...

Jason: It's intense, isn't it? Best wishes! I'll have my pencils crossed for you. (Not fingers. Because then I couldn't write, and that wouldn't do at all.)

Julie: Oh please do. And please post photos on your blog. Then even if you get rejected, you can have pumpkin pie.

Lucie Witt said...

Donnaeve, I feel decidedly better about my story now.

2Ns, you're funny :)

Donnaeve said...

Ah, but Preston, take heart!!!

Yes, reading Janet's list is likely to send some over the edge. However, how many stories have we read which have the same elements/concepts/plot/etc, but WORK because the writing is SO DAMN GOOD, who couldn't love it?

Let's take BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY - only because it popped into my head. Here comes the tired old/same old song and dance. Middle aged woman married to a good man, has had a good enough life, but she's having herself a good old fashioned mid-life crisis. Along comes handsome stranger. And next thing ya know, they're in the bathtub. Among other places. Choice comes, hubby or fling? Hubby or fling?

All that to say, it's trotting out something that has been trotted out for centuries - CENTURIES. But it worked because of The Writing.

Who knows? Even if her list of what she doesn't want to see matches your story to some degree, okay maybe a lot, doesn't mean your writing won't make it work. Actually, your short paragraph about it was interesting - to me.

That's my two cents.

Anonymous said...

As a journalist for 17 years, there is nothing in my story that I have not seen in real life: the destruction of families through sexual abuse and neglect, the insidious effects of drug abuse, the hopelessness of undereducated inner city lives, a justice system working for the wealthy but not the poor, the cheapness of life on the streets where a grandson will murder his grandparents. The burnout rate among journalist on a court and crime beat is very high.

All of that is in the story, yet somehow the hero manages with the help of a woman who loves him, to rise above it all.

What is sad is that the fiction part is not the bad things that happen - it is that someone believed in him and he managed to step back from his event horizon. Perhaps I have gone off subject here.

Anonymous said...

You guys I did it! I hit send. I queried Suzie Townsend. Ugg that was so hard. So now I wait two weeks. That is the their in and out time. So here I am sitting in front of two bottles, one bottle of Tullamore Dew and one bottle of 12 year aged scotch.

Now when I get a request for pages, I drink from the 12 year aged scotch, when I get silent rejection then I drink from the Tully, either way is a win right?

Sherry Howard said...

The query is silver; the manuscript itself has to be gold. JR has always tried to remind writers of that. She's the query shark, but she's the book guardian at the end of her shark day. No query is good enough to get a bad book published. Conversely, no query is bad enough to keep an excellent book from being published. Try to get it right, then chill. If your book sings, someone will notice that.

BJ Muntain said...

I think we've all made these mistakes. Some are more embarrassing than others. I once sent a query to an agent with another agent's name in it - embarrassing. I re-sent the query, apologizing. I don't think I ever received a response. Oh well. More embarrassing? Running into a former boss at my new work, and he asked me where I was working now. I said 'ABC'. And he looked at me funny. "Where are you working now?" he repeats. I said 'ABC', then realized, no. His company was ABC. I was working for BCD. (Yes, both were initialisms.)

After you gather enough rejections, they don't scare you as much anymore. Yes, you're going to try your damnedest to entice an agent, but a rejection is no longer felt to be a punishment. It's just a fact of life. You're going to get a lot of rejections. Worrying about each one will drive you nuts. Were you rejected because you misspelled the agent's name? Oh well. Just make sure you spell the next agent's name correctly.

I've been known (or not known) to delete comments here, if later I think I was unnecessarily confrontational. Unless someone has commented on my comment, in which case, I won't embarrass them by removing the comment.

I have a damaged hero. But in a job where violence is the norm, it would be odd to not have the hero affected by it in some way. But if he finds himself smack dab in the middle of conflict, it's because he put himself there - or even caused it himself.

Jason: Suzie was very quick when I queried her, but she was a newer agent then. I got my response the same day. That said, even if her site says 2 weeks, you may need to wait longer. Don't go nuts if you hit the 2 week mark without a response.

BJ Muntain said...

And Jason: Congrats on hitting send! We'll make a querier of you yet!

Craig F said...

I think the point here is what belongs in a query and what is backstory. To me, Preston, all of those real world things you listed should be backstory.

Regretfully it seems that every other young person in fiction for the past ten years has been bounced around foster homes and probably sexually exploited. Let that lie in the manuscript and don't put it in a query.

Start you query with just a line or two about your Protag and them jump straight into your inciting incident, the thing that sets up the conflict.

Highlight the things that make your writing something special. Don't make it sound like a country song.

John Frain said...

Addendum to Craig Allan Coe above: Unless it's the greatest country song ever written.

And c'mon, Craig, you never even called me by name.

Cindy C said...

I've been on the sending and receiving end of some email miscues. When I worked in HR people in other departmens forwarded emails to me when someone complained about their manager, the leave policy, whatever. My job was to figure out the problem and respond to the original sender. Imagine my surprise when one of the forwarded emails was from someone complaining about me. I managed to resist the first 100 options I came up with and just sent it back saying, "I don't think you meant to send this to me." Luckily all 3 of us were able to laugh about it later! That's probably still the most adult moment of my life.

Kate Larkindale said...

Good on you for hitting send, Jason! And good luck. Suzie is my agent (along with Jackie Lindert - so I get two for the price of one, which is even better) and she's awesome. My books are so much better after she and Jackie offer suggestions for changes.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"No query is good enough to get a bad book published."

Sherry Howard 12:07

I nominate as a sub header.

Joseph S. said...

Point 1:
Steve Goodman who penned “You Never Even Call Me by My Name” (with the drunken assist of John Prine) was a folksinger, not a blues singer (Among other songs, he wrote the classic “City of New Orleans”). For those who’ve never heard the wonderful Steve Goodman or “You Never Even Call Me by My Name“ (which I call Darlin’ Darlin’) here’s both in one enjoyable video:


Steve Goodman was from Chicago and was a big Cubs fan.

Point 2:
I wish I had your ability to craft a good query. You make it sound easy.

Joseph S. said...

All I know is if I make a last second change, I'll screw it up.

Joseph S. said...

Preston -You must get that story published. Even if there are a thousand of them written every year (and I have no clue if there are), you have the perspective to make your novel the best of the lot.

Craig F said...

Joseph: It is much easier to give others ideas on queries. You don't have enough information to second guess yourself. With your own stories you have so much information to deal with that it can paralyze you.

I have yet to craft a good enough query for myself. I am still trying to learn all of that I can. A query is an art of its own and I am not that practiced at it yet.

I remember Steve Goodman as having played with a blues band early. That is why I said a blues guy. My personal favorite of his is "A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request." Maybe because Dallas Green trier to ban it from being played at games.

Donnaeve said...

Joe Snoe - I seem to have a touch of Julie W today as I have a story about The Song being discussed.

I was up at Smith Mountain Lake about, oh, 15 years ago, when a very good friend of mine threw a big party up at Smith Mtn Lake. The band he hired started playing that song. I and another guy - not my hubby although he was there - started singing it. The lead singer brought the mic over and we sang it, all the way through to the end and got... a standing ovation. *I can't sing. I think it was just the fact we belted it out.

I love that song!

John Frain said...

Donna darlin',

It's all that I can do to keep from cryin'.

Since two of the people are still alive, I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to tell my You-Don't-Have-to-Call-Me-by-My-Name story.

And Craig, I think Dallas Green tried to ban baseball being played for most of the years he managed the Cubbies. But yeah, Steve Goodman is a fun guy.

Joseph S. said...

"A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request" is a classic. It should be updated though. Keith Moreland isn't a household name anymore. Steve Goodman wrote so many good ones. I think I'll pull up one of his shows now.

Julie Weathers said...

Back in my wild west days, I used to hang around a girl who sang like Patsy Cline and knew all the old songs including the Patsy Montana yodeling songs. A girl with a voice and a guitar, a campfire, and a rodeo grounds is an instant story. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Not that they all need to be told, but it was good to live them.

I can identify with Donna's fun.

Donnaeve said...

Hey, I'll hang around, as long you will let me.
I never minded standin' in the rain.

Sadly, the party thrower is gone now (stomach cancer) but I owe him and his wife - she's still my best friend, a ton of my good times back then....!

Julie W.... I would have loved to hear your friend sing! I used to have the best of Patsy Cline on CD. I bet I still have it - somewhere.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Jennifer D, I did the exact same thing. I spent months agonising over a query letter. I finally wrote one I was satisfied with, and send it to my top forty favourite agents. Two gave me personalised rejections, the rest--form letters. (For those who practice Rejectomancy, this is a sign that your query letter sucks.)

So I asked a few fellow authors to have a squiz. "Yep, your query letter sucks," they confirmed. Le sigh.

Time for a rewrite. I hate it when I can't see when I suck. That happens far too often for my comfort.

So, should I be bold and send my new and improved query to some of those agents who sent me a form letter (in case they rejected me because my query sucked)? After all, I am Mighty Heidi and if I am to fail, it had better be with a bang and not a whimper.

I do have about two hundred other agents I haven't hit up yet. They'll get the New'n'Improved and won't know any different.

But those forty, they were the top forty for good reasons. It hurts that I sent them all a sucky query letter.

Why must the fate of my career hinge on 250 words?

My query letters suck because I find it difficult to convey that the brilliance of my novel lies in a complex plot with fast pacing and unexpected twists. (This I know because my beta-readers tell me so.)

Donna, love your email oops. Did your job survival happen because of the email oops, or was that a coincidence because you were a brilliant worker?

I like to put about the idea that if you find a typo in a published book, authors consider that good luck.

Speaking of buena suerte, Good luck with Suzie, Jason. Let us know how that turns out.

BJ Muntain said...

Your Grace, I'm sorry, but I don't think you want to send the new query letter to the same agents. As I understand it, once they pass on a story, it's passed.

But I could be completely wrong. I've been wrong a lot. That's just my understanding.

I know it really sucks, but there are new agents - good agents - joining the ranks all the time. Brooks Sherman, whom Janet can't say enough good things about, was one of them not that long ago, and look how far he's come!

That sounds like the old adage "There are plenty of fish in the sea" doesn't it? I know it doesn't salve a broken heart, and it doesn't make a mistake suck any less. (((hugs))) You'll find the best agent ever with your new query letter. Best of luck to you!

(And form rejections don't mean your query sucks. They just mean that the agent isn't interested in your novel. Even good query letters get form rejections.)

John Frain said...

That look on my face, Your Grace, Heidi? It's called confusion. I thought you already had an agent and your story was going to end by saying you sent a new & improved query back to your Top 40 Billboard Agents and #2 signed you.

Does all that happen in the next episode and this was just the pilot to get us hooked?

Scratching my head on the other side of your world

Judy Moore said...

A few years ago I was the plaintiff in an ugly lawsuit with a big corporation. I had one lawyer, my trial-lawyer husband. The defendant corporation had NINE, from three firms. All the correspondence went through my lawyer/husband, and he would forward me all of their emails. I responded to the wrong email. Instead of sending it to my lawyer/husband, I sent it to one of the defendant's lawyers..."Well, THIS is certainly an interesting twist. I love you. xxxxx" That was awkward.

Joseph S. said...

Your Grace
You reopened an old wound. Law reviews are student run; and they typically change editorial boards each March. The prestigious University of Virginia Law Review rejected an article I wrote (my law articles are 50 to 80 pages long in print). I refocused the article and resubmitted it to the Virginia Law Review the following March.

I returned to my office one day to find a voicemail from an articles editor at the Virginia Law Review asking me to call him. I called immediately. He didn’t make me an offer. Instead he said he called to explain the board’s policy was not to consider an article rejected by a previous board. Thank you very much.

(The article ended up as the lead article in issue 1 of a volume of the University of Miami Law Review so all’s well that ends well.)

Joseph S. said...


Your story is great and reminds me of this old joke (story):

A Minneapolis couple decided to go to Florida to thaw out during a particularly icy winter. They planned to stay at the same hotel where they spent their honeymoon 20 years earlier.

Because of their hectic schedules, it was difficult for the couple to coordinate their travel plans. So the husband left Minnesota and flew to Florida on Thursday, while his wife planned to fly down the following day.

The husband checked into the hotel. There was a computer in his room, so he decided to send an email to his wife. However, he accidentally left out one letter of her email address, and sent the email without realizing his error.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Houston, a widow had just returned home from her husband’s funeral. He was a Baptist minister who was called home to glory following a heart attack.

The widow decided to check her email, expecting condolence messages from family and friends.

But after reading her very first email, she screamed and fainted.

The widow’s son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen which read:

To: My Loving Wife

Subject: I’ve Arrived

Date: March 21, 2012

I know you’re surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send emails to your loved ones. I’ve just arrived and have been checked in.

I’ve seen that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.

P. S. Sure is freaking hot down here!!!

Karen McCoy said...

I hate it when I can't see when I suck. That happens far too often for my comfort. The Duchess is right--and I also nominate this for a subheader.

Especially after I spelled Suzie Townsend's last name with an h, when I'm fully aware it doesn't have one. Silly keyboards...

Julie Weathers said...

Joe, that is hilarious