Saturday, April 28, 2007

Query Faux Pas

Okay, so I've hired yet another assistant to go through the snail mail, because it's just impossible to catch up.

Her first day on the job, she opens a letter from an author who complains that he sent me a query 9 months ago and didn't get a response, and a follow-up letter 5 months later and now. No query enclosed, no SASE, no email address and no phone number, yet he wonders why he doesn't get a response. It's surreal.

Another prospective author sent flowers during the holidays with only a piece of poetry as the card. No name, address or even reference to his work. I thought they were from an author for whom I had just closed a deal, but didn't say anything. I was waiting for him to say, "Did you get the flowers?" because the note was so cryptic. So, in the pile of April snailmail, I got a letter saying that the author was perplexed that I had never even given him the courtesy of thanking him for the flowers, and that he was still waiting for my reaction to his work. At least this indignant author included an email address, so I wrote to him telling him that I had no idea who has sent the flowers, but that I did thank him, and he should send an email query. Nothing yet.

Another author sent his email pitch to every agent's email address he could find. I replied by telling him it was considered bad form to mass email agents. He wrote back and said he considered it bad form to get impersonal form rejection letters from agents.

You just can't win.

8 comments:

BernardL said...

'Another author sent his email pitch to every agent's email address he could find. I replied by telling him it was considered bad form to mass email agents. He wrote back and said he considered it bad form to get impersonal form rejection letters from agents.'


That is a clever response, but it was nice of you to let him know it's bad form. Personal or impersonal, it's still just a rejection letter. How much of a personal response rejection can an author expect from a few hundred word query to an agent, who isn't interested in the idea. I think if an agent requests a full, an author should get at least a few personal words in a rejection letter. Even a simple 'your writing sucks' would be helpful. :)

Julie Rowe said...

I'm always amazed at what people think is an okay business practice in the world of writing.

I've had folks walk up to me and say I should write their memoir because they've had a facinating life (my mother-in-law included). They can't understand it when I refuse to drop everything so I can follow them around with a pen and pad of paper while they recite their life story.

My mother-in-law finds it difficult to understand why I want to get paid to write...she figures we'll both make millions on her memoir...

Actually, I think the query letter stage is really important for both editors and agents. It helps weed out all the nut cases and those who can't follow instructions.

JDuncan said...

Ha! Bad form. Some folks can be a bit petty,I guess. Even if you are sending out 50 equeries, is it really that difficult to send them individually? Uhm, no. It's what I've been doing, and other than a bit more time consuming, it's not a terrible strain. It's worth the little extra time to verify the agent actually sells your genre, has actually sold some books, is actually still at the agency they're listed with, is actively seeking clients, etc. At least a minimum amount of information, so you don't look like a careless, incompetent schmoe. Anyway, Lori I'm glad I don't have to deal with that sort of thing on a daily basis. It would drive me bonkers.

JDuncan
www.jimnduncan.com

Julia said...

Another author sent his email pitch to every agent's email address he could find. I replied by telling him it was considered bad form to mass email agents. He wrote back and said he considered it bad form to get impersonal form rejection letters from agents.

I've often thought that writers should take a couple of business courses in college. They way they would understand the concept of "buyers and sellers markets" and "supply and demand".

Ryan Field said...

The flower thing is a bit creepy, not to mention over-the-top.

By the way, there is a certain young intern working with you now who knows what he's doing. He was hard on me (almost brutal:), but I truly can't say enough good things about him because I felt as though he'd read my mind and found problems I couldn't objectively pinpoint on my own. I won't be surprised when I see this young man with very big books some day soon. Some advice you take with a grain, but there are those rare times you receive advice you'll keep with you for the rest of your life.

tessa said...

Julia,
Amen to that. It finally occurred to me that most writers have day jobs that pay them to work. Regularly. Like, every week. They can then pay the rent and buy groceries, which is a nice thing. Entrepreneurial enterprise isn't really in their experience.

Most agents' day jobs are agenting, where they don't get a salary unless they sell something.
No "company" is handing them a paycheck (well, maybe William Morris). It's pretty much like real estate, where you sell a house, you get a commission. You don't sell a house, you starve.

So agents are trying to pay their rent and buy groceries, and to do so they have to prioritize. Like, work on their current clients' deals that will pay something.

When agents say the slush is their last priority, it's survival, not attitude. Business courses are a good idea.

WandererInGray said...

"Another author sent his email pitch to every agent's email address he could find. I replied by telling him it was considered bad form to mass email agents. He wrote back and said he considered it bad form to get impersonal form rejection letters from agents."

You know, the more I thought about this, the more I wanted to take a bat to the guy's head.

I finally realized why. *laughs*

Working retail, I used to come across customers who were insulted I didn't remember them. For a while I used to patiently explain that while they only see me - I usually dealt with about a hundred customers a day.

Now I'm pretty good with faces, but not that good.

It's the same thing with agents. There's a lot of us and only a few of you. So to get worked up about getting an "impersonal" rejection letter isn't silly - it's just plain stupid, and arrogant, and rude.

Especially when you consider that the "personal" letters are still rejctions. *rolls eyes* Like Miss Snark loves to say "disregard the no - get to yes."

I don't care how many impersonal rejections I get - all I care about is the one that comes back "yes."

K

AstonWest said...

That author who mass-mailed so many agents should have used the blind copy feature... :-)