Monday, June 05, 2023

But what if I piss off the agent?


I've heard variations of "I want to follow directions so I don't piss off the agent" for most of my career.


I heard it recently again, as a writer wondered about nudging agents who hadn't responded to her query.


My answer to her was "so what if you do?"


It's not like the Query Police will rip your pen from your hand, purloin your furred writing companion, and throw you into the fiery pit of burning fiction novels forevermore.


If the agent is annoyed (and they should NOT be) all they'll do is kvetch and move on. Querying writers aren't anywhere near as annoying as publisher's royalty statements.


And the honest to Garamond truth is you won't piss the agent off.


The reason agents hammer on "follow the directions" is NOT "so you don't make me mad."

It's follow the directions so I get the info I need to assess your work, without a lot of other stuff to wade through.


When you send a query and start with a synopsis instead of the query, yes it's annoying. It's annoying cause you didn't follow the directions of "send the query; I don't want a synopsis."


It means I have to dig around in your email to find the actual query.


But I don't even remember your name or title past that.


There is no blacklist.

There is no fecal roster.


About the only way to get blocked on my email is to scare me or insult me.


Scare me: Let me know when I can come to your office to discuss my sure-to-be-a-bestseller book with you.

Scare me: I know a lot of people will be very unhappy if this book isn't published.


Insult me: I've queried hundreds of agents and you're all clueless gatekeepers who would have passed on Jane Austen too.


Insult me: I really don't want an agent but I’m told I have to have one.


All human interaction involves friction of some sort.

The trick is to be polite.


If you're following up on a query, just say that.

No need to apologize or explain, or beg leave.


All that Uriah Heep crap just takes up words, and the best follow up emails are SHORT.


Any questions?






Steve Forti said...

Relieving to know. I'll still fret and hesitate and be anxious to send. But I'm probably that way to most recipients.

Good to see you back.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Happy summer, Janet. We have missed you.

And I am done worrying about pissing off agents. For very good reasons. More information to follow. :) I hope everyone is doing well. I miss this group so much.

Theresa said...

Wonderfully reassuring advice. It was a welcome sight to see a new post--a great start to the week.

I hope everyone is off to a good start to their summer. I'm at the beginning of a new nonfiction (women's and feminist history) project that will finally bring me to New York for research at the NYPL and may inspire me to query agents!

John Davis Frain said...

Theresa, that means you'll be right down the street from several agents. You might want to mention that when you query them.

Just kidding. Really... don't send me to Carkoon, it's blistering hot this time of year. Well, all times of year probably, the fires and whatnot.

I'm reading THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB to pre-empt what at least one single person was surely wondering.

Merry Summer, everyone!

Williebee said...

"All that Uriah Heep crap"

See? It's lines like that that remind me why you are awesome.

Laura said...

Question: are the scary/insulting quotes snippets from actual letters you've received?

Lennon Faris said...

Good to know. I think I've heard (here?) that 6 months was a good time to check in.

Nice to hear from the Reef! E.M., glad to hear there are good reasons!

C. Dan Castro said...

Any suggestions on the wording here? It would be easier if you queried the agent because they asked you to do so. But if you didn't? Maybe something like...

Dear Ms./Mr. Agent's Last Name,

I hope you won't mind a quick follow up to my query from November 21st, 2022. I write merely to confirm it went through to you. The query itself is reprinted below.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Kind regards,
Dan Castro

Mark R. David said...

Hi, Janet. Great to see the blog fired up again!

My biggest question around disobeying agent guidelines has not been follow-ups, but requested number of pages. If they ask for 5, but my killer first chapter has 8, should I step over the line? What about 10? 20?

Thus far, I have usually taken license. My reasoning: "If the first 5 pages don't grab them, they'll just stop reading anyway. If they're hooked, well then great! They won't notice the offense." Is this wrong?

Jo Conn said...

"...fecal roster."

NLiu said...

Hello everyone! And hurrah to see a post from Janet!!

My question is: do follow-up emails actually work? (I.e., is it even worth my time to send them?) I'm thinking here of the "I always reply within 6 weeks" agents who now haven't replied in... three years. Even after follow-up emails. Sigh.

E.M. I am very interested to hear your news! Do spill!