Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Recovering from a #queryfail of epic proportion

You're querying.
You've prepped your sub list.
You've honed your query.
You've got everything ready to go.

You hit send.
You hit the tequila bottle (or the teapot) with relief now that this is done, done, done.
Yes, yes, yes.

You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when your reptile brain says "you sent the wrong thing."

You look at your outgoing mail folder and sure enough. You sent something so wrong, it's not even going to make a right turn to get back on the right path. It's not in left field, it's in the dumpster, and it's on fire.


Recently, #QueryFail looked like this:

In case  you're wondering why: no attachments when you query unless specifically directed; query one project at a time; include a query letter (you can't tell from this image, but there was no query.)

My assumption when I get something that is clearly this wrong is the writer doesn't know anything about how to query.

BUT it's entirely possible the writer knows a LOT about querying and had some sort of #EpicMalfunction

IF this happens to you: DO NOT DESPAIR. Do not weep and rend your garment. You can recover.

First, know that when I get something like this, I toss it. I don't record the name of the writer, I don't save it to my file of "idiots to never respond to" or "clueless wonders to blog about."

I just throw it away.

Which is VERY good news for you.
You can just query (CORRECTLY) and that first salvo won't even appear on my radar.

The trick is to NOT to tell me about that first mistake.
Just query like you would normally.

This is true of every other kind of terrible mistake you can make. Just query again. Don't say "sorry I called you Mr. Reid" (cause I really didn't notice); or "sorry I misspelled Herbiverousville" cause I don't spell check your query; or, "gosh I'm sorry I did X" cause most likely I didn't notice.

Here's the thing to remember: you slave over every single word in your query (and you should) but I read them like you read your email: to get the info I need and get on to the pages. I don't read it to assess it, correct it, analyze it, or make sure you did 27 things correctly. I just read it.

You can recover from a major splat.
Get up, dust yourself off, step up to the plate and swing for the fences.


CynthiaMc said...

Just like in theatre - whatever happens, pretend it's in the script and move on.

Kitty said...

"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard ... is what makes it great."
-- Jimmy Dugan

Colin Smith said...

The Query has ONE JOB: make the reader want more. All the other query tips and rules are a means to that end. Which is why querying is so easy, yes? :D

You can recover from a major splat.
What about that drunken call to the New Leaf offices at two in the morning rambling about my... uh... one's latest masterpiece and leaving every number and email address associated with the caller just be sure Ms. Reid or Ms. Volpe or anyone else can return my... uh... the caller's call? I'm asking for a friend. :D

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

There's no crying in queryland.
Oh hell yes there is.
That's what tissues and Rocky Road ice cream are for.

The deleted comment above is mine because even though I'm not supposed to tell you, I screwed it up and had to make a correction. I want to apologize for my error.

Bowl, spoon and freezer here I come.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

First, Colin No worries to your “friend”- calls from Carkoon are not much noticed. Don’t ask how I know this, but I have it on excellent authority that these calls are translated into prank calls to one Wheezy Buttonweezer who loves to dress up as a Literary agent, especially at Halloween.

It’s horrifying. Wheezy has crafted some legendary rejection letters that are seen framed in prominent agencies throughout the known and yet to be discovered literary world. In case that writer ever queries. You know the one? Queries a fiction novel with copyright typed in all caps asking why he/she/it should hire said agent, Demands immediate 6 figure advance. Female MC is described as beautiful and buxom. Yeah, that guy.

It is good to know you can recover from accidental kinds of blunders like the one described in blog post. But what if the writer sends the actual query and wakes up at 2PM - writers are typically nocturnal beasts- and realizes the query sucks eggs. How does one recover from that? Is there a 12 step program?

Yeah, I am not asking for a friend. Would that I were.

Amy Johnson said...

I'm thinking everyone who regularly reads this blog is oh-so-very-very-very careful about every little tidbit of everything about their query letters. And mistakes still happen. (I've made some.) It's good to know all is not lost. Thanks, Janet.

CynthiaMc said, "Just like in theatre - whatever happens, pretend it's in the script and move on." Yes! Years (and years) ago, I had to juggle scarves in a musical. (I chose scarves because they fall much more slowly than balls or swords or chainsaws.) For one performance, I got out onstage and realized I was missing one of the scarves. So, I very deliberately put one hand behind my back and juggled the two scarves with the other hand. With gusto! After the show, someone came up to me. "I thought it was great how you juggled with just one hand!" lol (I came clean and said what had happened.) :)

Megan V said...

Like others, I can definitely relate to the blunder or two. This post is a nice reminder that you just pick up and move on.

Writers make mistakes. If you don't make mistakes, you don't learn. If you don't learn, you're a know it all. Nobody likes know-it-alls. They're basically a**hats.

Side note:

Pinning your own flaws onto a character is one the best part of being a writer.

RosannaM said...

I hate making mistakes. I hate it even worse if they are hashtagable ones. (I see # and my mind says pound)
In fact there is a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach just thinking about it.

And, I am sorry to say, I am an over apologizer. I even apologize to inanimate objects when I bump into them. So obviously this post was written just for me. I am printing it out and posting it.

Sorry if this is too long. It is all my fault. I won't do it again!

Craig F said...

You can always slap the wall on your way down and then pop up with a Cheshire smile and as much insouciant nonchalance as you can muster.

Then they might think it was a pratfall and not a meltdown. To do that you have to, no matter how it hurts, wait until off stage to wince or cuss.

Unknown said...

As a father of strong girls, I LOVE that photograph. Is it from a movie? If so, probably a must see movie for my family.

Yeah, what Janet said, I've definately had those major splats. I've definately had to, "get up, dust yourself off, step up to the plate and swing for the fences'" Let's all keep on batting.

nightsmusic said...

This would be why I love Boomerang for Gmail although even with that, I only have ten seconds or so to recall the email. And the way my brain works, I don't often realize the mistake I've made within that time frame.

RosannaM, you and I must be sisters from another mister because I do the exact same thing! Apologize to inanimate objects, the dog, other people...myself when I'm having a private conversation between me and me...oh yes. Been there. Many times. :)

gypsyharper said...

Amy and Cynthia - we always called it "the magic of live theatre!". Brilliant save with the scarves. The show must go on, after all!

Kitty said...

Robert Ceres, that picture is taken from the 1992 movie A League of Their Own. It's a fictionalized account of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL).

My quote and Carolynnwith2Ns' are taken from the movie.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

OMG I had to delete another comment, the bold thingy-dingy didn't work.
Anyway, to ROBERT, as Kitty said, the movie is A League of Their Own. In our family it is required watching for females, especially sisters. We love it.

My actual quote is "...their is no crying in baseball."

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

To survive being an earthling with your confidence intact, one must learn to take it easy on oneself. Acknowledge and accept that you're not alone in making social and professional blunders. Just don't become a professional blunderer.

Back when I was querying my women's fiction ms, which is now collecting dust in a cyber drawer, I made a horrific and gruesome (read: mortifying) mistake. It was only sent to one agent, but I was so tormented by this mistake that I did the next wrong thing and sent an "I'm an idiot" apology. It's comforting to know he probably didn't even read my follow-up grovelling.

Nightsmusic and RosannaM, I get it on apologizing to everything. I'm in the process of clearing a section of woods on our property. I holler out, "I'm sorry!" to every tree I whack with the bush hog.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I am NOT going to point out that I used the wrong "their." Really I'm not.

Barbara Etlin said...

There is no crying in querying.

nightsmusic said...

Melanie Sue Bowles, Oh. My. Gosh!!! You made me laugh out loud. And if it's any comfort, that would be me as well.

Too funny.

Lennon Faris said...

Oh yes, that is a horrible feeling. Silver lining: if you don't hear back from them, you can just blame it on the mistake. Not sure if that works for anyone else.

I loved A League of Their Own! It made me love playing baseball as a kid. I dreamed of doing a split to catch the ball.

These 'sorry' stories are cracking me up! I holler apologies (sorry sorry SOOORRRRYY!!!) to indoor spiders that I have to squish.

John Davis Frain said...

"I'm not telling you it's going to be easy. I'm telling you it's going to be worth it."

I think that's Jimmy Dugan also. There goes another writer making a Hollywood star sound brilliant.

Colin Smith said...

I only apologize to people. But I will say "excuse me" when I sneeze, even if no-one's around. :)

Megan V said...

I now have the song from that movie stuck in my head and can't stop humming it. I blame you lot. *sings very loudly* Batter up, hear that call, the time had come for one and all TO PLAYayAy ball! Sorry, not sorry

RosannaM said...

nightsmusic, otherwise known as sister, Melanie otherwise known as kindred spirit, Colin, otherwise known as a guy with impeccable manners, Lennon, otherwise known as humane dispatcher of arachnids, and all the rest of you woodland critters--you make me laugh, smile and sometimes wince, and cringe. And that is a very good thing.

Joseph S. said...

I’m pretty sure I make an idiotic mistake in every query. My mind is evaluating so many things in it I miss the obvious, or, my signature flaw, I make a last minute change that blows the whole thing.

Since baseball wiggled its way into this thread, please root for the Astros against the Dodgers in the World Series game tonight.

Unknown said...

Ah yes, A League of Their Own. Terrific film. Definitely, there's no crying in querying...try venting instead (works much better for me). Of course, mistakes happen. But damn, they seem to happen a lot in writing!

One must dust themselves off and move on...

And I just gotta say: Go Red Sox! Even though they didn't make the World Series this year...sigh. May the Astros win, Joseph. The Dodgers? Please. "Ever since they left Brooklyn, them bums haven't been the same." Those are my dad's words--he remembered when they bailed out of Brooklyn in 1957.

Since we're talking movies and baseball, does anyone recognize this: "Hey batter batter, swing batter batter!" What movie is that quote from, people?

nightsmusic said...

Lynn Main, Ferris Bueller's Day Off...I really wanted Cameron's house. Hughes was brillint.

nightsmusic said...

HAH! Evidently I, however, am not since I can't spell brilliant. I do have an excuse in that I'm trying to type around a doberman ear on my laptop keyboard. Still...

Unknown said...

And nightsmusic gets a gold star! I wanted the car that Cameron smashed through his window (before the smashing, of course). And I would think one typing with a doberman's ear on their laptop would be a strategic challenge! ;)

Unknown said...

And I just realized looking back at my first post, I may have inadvertently offended any Dodgers fans reading the comments. Wasn't my intention. Mentioning the team made me think of my late father (a lifelong Red Sox fan, incidentally) which is why I quoted him. So, I guess I made a mistake, when we were all discussing mistakes--typical me.

Again, if I offended anyone, I'm sorry.

nightsmusic said...

Didn't offend me, Lynn. I'm a Tigers fan. Talk about mistakes!! Oy!

Panda in Chief said...

I do not apologize to the shrubs and blackberries that I bludgeon into submission. Those who live in the Pacific NW know that one season's inattention can cause your house to be buried in an impenetrable blackberry thicket. As I pull up yards of nettle roots, I imagine them screaming in pain: "All my beautiful EVIL!!! I'm meltinggggggg..."

We have all hit the wrong key at the wrong time and watched in horror as the file you were trying to move to a different location goes *POOF* Glad to know this isn't a deal breaker. Unless of course it happens a lot. :o)

BJ Muntain said...

You guys are all Canadians. When will you do the right thing, and move up north? We INVENTED apologizing to inanimate objects!

Anonymous said...

A League of Their Own is a great movie. I'm sure it's historically accurate, but it bugs the hell out of me that Geena Davis isn't wearing a batting helmet in that pic.

I actually don't mind making mistakes. It means I'm trying. What I can't stand is making the same mistake more than once. It means I'm not learning. I once had a proverb from a fortune cookie tacked on my bulletin board at work, "The greatest mistake you can make is to never make one." I love how twisty Chinese proverbs can be.

That said, I absolutely would apologize if I screwed up and sent some hot mess of a mistake to an agent. Even knowing you're not supposed to. *sigh* Guess I need to work on adopting the "I meant to do that" attitude.

Julie Weathers said...

I'm so glad Miss Janet posted this. I invariably send abject apologies for screwing up a query.

At Surrey I apologized to a lady at the check-in desk when she looked my way. I was going to leave a message for Cheryl that I was in and would like to hook up with her. The desk clerk, instead of just leaving a message for her, rang me through to her room to my mortification. I was sure then she thought I was stalking her. Anyway, I was getting off the phone when the lady looked my way so I apologized, thinking she needed the house phone.

"Why are you apologizing to me?"

"I thought you needed the phone, I'm sorry."

She fled before I could apologize again.

John Davis Frain said...

I'm torn between my three favorite #queryfails. Anyone wanna vote?

A. Here's how to not win with a query: write in ALL CAPS, claim I will make MONET, and include an attachment.

2. "buy my book here {Amazon link} then call me if you want to represent me."

IV. "I see you represent middle grade, young adult, romance & science fiction. You'll love my novel because it's all these things!"

I gotta go with A because it's so funny twice! All caps AND MONET. I've said MONET five times and laughed out loud every time.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

LYNNE MAIN, Field of Dreams?

Kregger said...

*raises hand* "Oh-oh, I have query fail!"
I sent a query to the wrong email address. Something like MacAgent@... instead of McAgent@...
I got an auto response from the wrong email saying I had misspelled the agent's address.
So I guess I wasn't the first to do such an error.
Sorry for coming late to the game, I was indisposed in Amish country. It was all horse manure and no fudge.

Show me the MONET!

Unknown said...

Carolynn, haven't seen Field of Dreams in years! "If you build it, he will come..."

nightsmusic, oh the Tigers..the franchise that produced Ty Cobb has struggled for years. Just like the Red Sox did (I still groan at the memories of the 1986 World Series against the Mets).