Monday, July 26, 2021

So, I'm slow, but I get there

 Recently Twitter coughed up this gem:

I attended a writing conference where a literary agent said during a Q&A panel that he didn’t appreciate it when writers sent queries via email in the evening. He wanted them to look at what time zone he was in and send it during his morning. Does that seem reasonable to you?

 My first response was eye-rolling disbelief.

Then I sputtered and spewed for a day.

Then I realized it had to be a joke. (Yes, I am slow on the uptake.)

Clearly some acerbic, mordant wit of an agent got tired of the question "when's the best time to send a query" and had some fun with the audience.

Of course he didn't realize that authors have almost no sense of humor about submission guidelines.

 Why does it have to be a joke?

Because no one I know reads queries the moment they come in.

And anyone who expects people to calculate time zones clearly doesn't realize that sometimes even if you know a state, you could be led astray (Oregon, Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Florida, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alaska all have more than one.)

Even if your address is NYC, a lot of agents are working remotely.  At least three I know of aren't even in the country. 

Even Rick wasn't sure:

“If it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?”

So what's the take away here?

When you see something this absurd, don't just think "oh gosh, this is from the horse's mouth, I better pay attention" cause it's actually from the other end of the horse.



KMK said...

So glad to see this post, and not just because I'm always glad to see word from our Queen! Your take is the best one I've seen -- I checked the thread on Twitter, too. It HAS to be a cruel or extremely snarky joke, doesn't it? After all, writers are going into a very tough business and want to work with people who are at least human if not actively kind. So the agent can't WANT to appear petty and mean...can they?

Julie Weathers said...

I missed that.

That being said, I would have wondered. I never try to second guess what goes on in the minds of agents. It's like trying to understand Gage the Wonder Dog.

In my last round of submission hell, I had an agent request a full within two minutes and another within five minutes. You'll note I still have no agent so what does that mean? Nothing except maybe those agents had either lost some kind of bizarre bets or they were really bored.

Even so, I am like the perpetual Scout and go prepared. I always carry three knives in my purse, mulitple pens and highlighters, and a notebook. I never query until that sucker is ready to send out within minutes if an agent requests.

Good to see you again, Miss Janet.

The Noise In Space said...

I agree with KMK. It's pretty cruel...and even if it is a joke, it's certainly a good way to guarantee that people won't want to work with him.

Amy Johnson said...

Maybe that literary agent was joking, howeverrrr ...

Several years ago, I came across some querying recommendations from an agent who said to wait until business hours to email query letters, as doing so is the professional thing to do. The agent added that if a writer composes a query letter during non-traditional hours, she should save it and wait until business hours to send it. The context, as I recall, was a list of querying recommendations; the agent was from a well-respected agency; the other recommendations seemed reasonable; and the tone wasn't humorous. Given that recommendation, I didn't think I'd be a good fit for her, though she might be a fine agent.

Wonderful seeing y'all, ReefFam!

Colin Smith said...

I've read some agent "guidelines" that would make me believe this could be for real. However, I would give the agent the benefit of the doubt and presume they're attempting to be humorous. Sadly, what makes it humorous is the fact that there's an element of truth to it.

I like to believe that regardless of wacky requirements, most agents won't pass on a killer novel unless they know they couldn't give it the representation it deserves. But maybe that's just my wishful thinking.

Hey, Reefers and Reiders! How's everyone?

Leslie said...

A new Queen post always starts off the week with a smile! I hope everyone is doing well.

As for the topic at hand:

At my very first Writers Digest Conference oh so many years ago, I attended a session that covered etiquette in the publishing world. The presenter wasn't an agent or editor, but maybe worked in book PR or something like that?

Much of what she had to say was obvious -- my favorite: if you see an agent or editor go into the bathroom during the conference DO NOT FOLLOW AND TRY TO PITCH YOUR BOOK.

When it comes to emailing queries, she said to keep it to business hours. Her reason? Because of smartphones, many people have business emails that come to their phones and the last thing they want when relaxing on a Sunday afternoon or late at night is an incoming query on their phone.

I do some of my best work at night. Instead of sending it right then and assuming the person will see it when they come into work in the morning, I use the timer function in Gmail and set it to go out 7:30/8 a.m. (their time) the next (business) day.

(Many of the people I interview for my book are musicians and/or retired, and I generally try to avoid emailing at weird hours unless they respond to me at similar times.)

If someone responds to me at night or during the weekend, then I know I can do the same. I'm probably overly cautious, but that's my nature...

Katja said...

I'm afraid but this could be for real. You would need to hear the tone of Mr Agent, to be sure, but if he was the one I listened to for several hours at his 'course' (it was more of an ego-boosting rally!), then he meant it!

I rolled my eyes at the time and would roll them now.
He was someone I'd never want as my agent.

Hi Colin 👋, I'm fully vaccinated and fine while being sooo happy about your beta-reader comments on my recent stuff. 😍

Fiancé finally has a job and so the 22 months of TERRIBLE austerity are coming to an end very very soon. We can now buy new jackets and winter boots, get eye tests and desperately needed new glasses, and as much toilet paper as we would like.

I am SO relieved.

How are you, and how is everyone else?

NLiu said...

"It's actually from the other end of the horse" had me snorting with laughter! Good to see a post from you, Janet!

And Katja, I am SO GLAD to hear fiancé has managed to find a job! That's such great news!

I have nothing to add except that the joy of emails is they wait for you. And the joy of phones is you can schedule notifications to off when you don't want them. This guy, if as serious as a few Reiders suspect, would go on my "do not query" list, along with the ones who insist on only postal submissions. If someone doesn't understand how technology functions, how can I trust them to help me get books out there?

Lisa Bodenheim said...

A Monday morning post from QOTKU! It's going to be a great week though it promises to be hot and drought-like again this week in the Midwest.

What an odd thing to say. Remote jobs, social media, and professional service media all cross timezones. Aren't we all juggling the same thing? And we find ways to eventually master technology. I do not put facebook on my phone and, on days off, only look at my professional work email to see if any emergency has cropped up.

Hi everyone! Great to see you all again!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Querying does get us writers a little wound up. That's hilarious from the POV of someone not querying - but I get it. Poor writer. You want an agent so bad sometimes that want gets in the way.

Great to see everyone here. Good to see another valuable and fun post from our busy Queen.

Android Astronomer said...

The first agent I queried asked in her guidelines to know what the querier's mother thought of their writing.

And, yes, I took it seriously. I told her my mother didn't finish my novel, but she liked the parts she read.

John Davis Frain said...

I'd swipe right on this agent, we sound like a perfect match. He'd have a ton of rules and I don't follow any, so we'd be in communication ALL THE TIME. And, of course, since all his rules are tongue-in-cheek, we'd get along famously.

I'd contact him, but I'm playing hard to get. And yes, it's working. You wouldn't believe how successful I've been. Or maybe you would.

Timothy Lowe said...

Stompin Tom Connors once played The Horseshoe Tavern. His signature line was:

"Here's to a wonderful pitcher of water, from the Horseshoe Tavern of course.
Though it wasn't the shoe they drained it through, it was the other part of the horse."

Your closing reminded me of that.

As for the topic, it shouldn't be relevant, even if it's serious, so I choose to ignore it and expend my energy instead ignoring much more relevant publishing advice.

So good to hear from other Reef dwellers again. Thanks for the post, JR, so we can gleefully add some noise to an otherwise saturated Internet.

Craig F said...

It took me a while, but I finally figured it out. The agent was being helpful.

He/she/they might not even know it, but every query letter written should be saved and looked at again, in the cold morning light.

It is amazing how many little errors can slip by after dinner.

Happy Monday everyone. I should be working but the Olympics keep getting in the way.

Julie Weathers said...

Android Astronomer

I would be so screwed. My mother asked me to send her a cope of the magazine I wrote for so she could show her friend what I did. I sent her a couple of copies, including one that had a story which had been nominated for a presitgious award. It was a human interest story about the last campaign of an older trainer who had taken a nothing filly bought by his young, struggling groom to a championship. A real underdog story as she had sold for $500 and wound up defeating horses who sold for nearly a million dollars at the yearling sales.

I asked Mom what she thought of the story and she said, "Oh I don't understand all that furlong stuff, so I didn't read it."

Well, obviously, Mom. I never write Thoroughbed stories, which are in furlongs. Quarters, Paints, and Arabs, which I covered, run in yards.

Colin Smith

"Hey, Reefers and Reiders! How's everyone?"

Doing well. The Rain Crow is on submission. You died gloriously in a beautiful woman's arms, you'll be happy to know.

Dr. Frain is still alive and well, but who knows for how long. He is a spymaster after all.

Janet Reid hid out a man is being chased by the Pnkertons under her shoop skirts. He used to be her piano student and she likes him. Though she's a dipped-and-dyed Lincolnite, she's perterbed with Pinkerton and his sgents including her nephew who she threatens to poison.

That scene had to go in the rag bag for now due to word count. It may reappear later if there is a second Rain Crow, which I doubt.

And you know what you do while you're querying, write something else. So I am.

Laura Stegman said...

Oh man, that agent's "rules" reminded me of my own "rules" when I was querying in 2019. In order to maximize the chances my query would most likely catch the agent's attention (or so I thought), I never sent them on Mondays (in boxes too crowded from weekend mail) or Fridays (folks getting ready to head out for the weekend). So it was only Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and never after 12 noon Pacific because, of course, it was almost end of day back east. So how did that work out, you may ask? Ultimately no agent offered but I did get quite a respectable number of requests for fulls, including several that came on -- wait for it -- weekends. Ha!

Amy Johnson said...

Dear Agent:

My book is amazing – that’s all you need to know about it at this point. When you email me to request the full manuscript, please be considerate of my schedule. My e-mail reading times are weekdays, 9:04-9:37 a.m., 1:12-1:43 p.m., and 3:26-4:02 p.m. Please only send me emails during my email reading times.

My schedule can vary, so do be sure to email ahead to check if it’s an acceptable time to email me your request. As I find that my “life happens,” it can be best to send a second email to double-check that your timing is acceptable to email your request. However, please refrain from triple-checking, as that can clog my inbox.

And do be sure your emails arrive in my inbox according to my schedule in my time zone.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Schmamy Schmohnson
P.S. This is a joke.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: Glad to hear you're doing well. And very glad to know I go out gloriously in the arms of a beautiful woman. Hopefully, those arms are attached to said woman? I mean, that would be quite the twist... ;)

AJ Blythe said...

I've just taken time over lunch to read everyone's comments. So delightful to hear from you all! *waving*

As for today's topic, I would have no hope on earth of being able to send an email in a correct timezone. I could only ever work out the Flash Fiction deadlines by Janet's handy linky to the time. Plus I would have to consult an atlas everytime I had to send an email because I don't know my US geography well enough. I work on the assumption that Janet put forward, that for the most part agents won't be reading my query when it lands.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Hello Reiders!

I've sadly seen this specific "query sent during business hours" discourse more than once this year (or was it within the last year? What is time?) But, you see some wild things while querying, while on twitter, and in the vistas of your own imagination!

For instance, the query I sent out last night *gasp* where the agent's QueryTracker form didn't actually want any of the novel, just query and synopsis and whether you have endorsers lined up and who your audience is and...

Anyway. There's only so many queries I have left in me to send out on this novel. Not because I've lost faith in the book, which I love dearly, but because the process is grinding me down. "Write another book" they say, and I have. Rewritten another. I've written two novellas as well, and 19 short stories, and some of the latter have already been accepted and published already (and one of the former has been self published, Run With the Hunted 3: Standard Operating Procedure, and RWTH4 will be out in October.)

Donnaeve said...

Better late . . .

Who knew there was another agent dappled in snark?


All good here, fellow Reiders, or Reefers - whichever you prefer.