Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Elaine's take on Twitter, and ::Gasp:: #Queryfail

Several weeks ago, as mentioned here on the blog, the Knight Agency started Twittering. I’d been hearing about Twitter for months, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon and see what all the fuss was about.

These days the internet has provided us with an endless array of outlets for social networking: Blogs, MySpace, Linked-In, Facebook, Message Boards, Yahoo! Groups, I could go on with more for quite some time. Regardless of the social-network, one thing remains constant, to be successful at building a network you have to invest a good bit of time in it. For people to be really interested in you and to gain a following, you need to keep your profile updated, active, informative and interesting to read. Up until now, none of the aforementioned venues really *did it* for me. After “browsing around” Twitterworld I liked what I saw and decided to give it a try.

For anyone not familiar with Twitter, here’s the deal. The whole premise is based off of short messages called “tweets.” You log into an account throughout the day via web or cell phone and update what you are doing. The trick is it has to be in 140 characters or less, so brevity is key. It’s quick and easy. You can also browse the Twitter network and find other people you want to follow. Once you’ve selected the “Twitterers” that you want to follow, their updates are compiled into one long list. You can get up to speed in a matter of a minute or so throughout the day on everyone you are following.

So after three weeks on
Twitter, I have to say that this is the one for me. There are many positives I could go into. First, like I said, it’s quick and easy, not a huge time-suck or distraction (because really, who needs more distractions on the web!). I’ve “gotten to know” tons of new people in the business, agents, editors, and authors, through a combo of following their tweets and getting into @reply conversations. I’ve found an easy way to stay up to the minute with what’s going on in the publishing world by following industry news source tweeters such as Publishers Weekly, NYTBooks, booksamillion, and even select publishers such as Harlequin Books.

But the best part for me is that I’ve found a way to make myself accessible to you, the author. I do not know 90% of the people that are following me, but I’m OK with that. Agents are here to help you sell your book and guide you in your career. I’m Twittering to try to help those that are pushing towards their dream. Over the last month I’ve answered questions from people about projects, commented on books I’m reading, talked about what I do all day, made comments about what to and what not to do in submissions, talked about my likes and dislikes, and talked about me, just me as a person, so others can get a feel if I would be the type of agent they might like to submit to.

And then last week #Queryfail happened and the floodgates opened. For those of you not “in the know” about this great debate, let me summarize. Last week another agent out in Twitterland decided to invite other agents and editors to participate in a day where our posts would focus on query letters and more specifically, what didn’t work in them. It caught on like wildfire. By the end of the day it had been picked up by GalleyCat, by the end of the week bloggers far and wide, and this week the Guardian UK even wrote an article on it.

And of course, then the backlash started. Many, (and I would even venture to say most), people thought this was a great learning exercise that pointed out common flaws in queries while giving everyone a good laugh along the way. And as many people pointed out, these queries are the reality for agents and editors. It was a great opportunity for us to show people why we stress over and over, like broken records, the importance of following submission guidelines. But then there were those that started to chime in with their commentary on how it was a cruel exercise to make a mockery out of authors that are just following their dreams. How did we have the audacity to sit back and make fun of people sending material our way when they are the very people we expect to make our living off of? Some people were so offended that they created lists of all participating agents and editors in the #Queryfail experiment to ensure that they never submit to one of those insensitive monsters again.

As you might have guessed by now I was in fact one of the agents that participated in #Queryfail. Do I regret it for a moment? No. Do I think I have anything to apologize for or defend myself for? No. Do I think everyone is entitled to their opinion? Yes. And so now I am going to chime in and offer mine.

As an agent it’s a part of my job to educate people on the business. I attend conferences, speak on panels, give presentations, participate in online interviews, do online guest blogs, speak at chapters, participate in online chats, you name it — all in the name of educating and answering questions. Anyone that knows me knows I am an incredibly giving agent to the writing community, not just for my clients, but to those that I have no personal connection to. I try to offer constructive criticism and encouragement. I point people in the right direction and tell them when they are just really not hitting the mark.

#Queryfail was no different. Yes, it had a rather sarcastic tone, but come on, that is certainly nothing new, anyone remember
Miss Snark’s beloved blog? I mean how could you forget it? It has become an industry standard of where to go to get the tough love answers to what you need to know. I’ve attended many events and seen online forums where people have offered up first pages only to have them torn to shreds “American Idol” style.

Now, in fairness, the one complaint I will entertain (but only for a moment, see below for explanation), is that with #Queryfail authors didn’t know that their material was going to be made an example out of. But remember it was only 140 characters (approx 15 words) with no personal identifiers. So it was completely anonymous. No fingers were pointed and no one suffered public humiliation. It was an exercise to point out what not to do via “live” examples.

Remember how I said I would only entertain that complaint for the moment? Here’s the kicker for me personally. I was a participating agent in the experiment, right? I’m not the submissions coordinator (aka query evaluator) at The Knight Agency. As outlined on our website and all over the web, all queries sent to The Knight Agency are supposed to be sent to a special submissions address. My email address isn’t even published on the website. Follow my drift? I shouldn’t have had any random queries to comment on, no one essentially has “permission” to blind query me, nor have they ever. (Side note, at times I get recommendations and such and then of course it’s alright to query me directly) On average I get 3-5 queries a day to my personal email address. And do you know why that is? Because of people’s lack of following the submissions guidelines. People are questioning why Agents and Editors have gone to such extremes to educate people, but I’m questioning why people seem to go to such extremes to not just pop over to our website and see the proper way to do things. As a result it’s become our job to continue to try to reach as many people as possible by as many means as possible, example, #Queryfail. But I digress.

I’ve said this a million times in a million places. Publishing is a business. In order for me to be successful and make a living, I have to act like a professional and in turn I expect those that are corresponding with me to offer up the same courtesy. On our website we not only offer guidelines but we offer dos and don’ts. We offer writing resources and websites that will help make you better. We do everything we can as an agency to help you as a writer. As an individual I feel I represent the company in the same way. I really have no problem being “blacklisted” on the blogs that have compiled those who participated.

For anyone that chooses to not submit to me because of my involvement, I think there is a bit of hypocrisy involved. Think about it. You’re judging me and my character as an agent simply off of my involvement in #Queryfail. #Queryfail happened to be an exercise where I was basing your talent as a writer off of the strength of your query. If you would take the time to further educate yourself on the process (as we were encouraging in #Queryfail as a means to make you a stronger query writer), I can guarantee that any of my clients, and many others that I have worked with in this industry, would agree that I’m not in fact the uncompassionate self-aggrandizing gal that many #Queryfail critics would have you believe. And that is true for many of the other agents and editors that participated in the event that day.

Now here’s the fun part. I’ve decided that tomorrow I’m going to repost my tweets from #Queryfail. Check back tomorrow and judge for yourself if my comments were cruel mockeries or helpful insights.

48 Comments:

Blogger Jenn Nixon said...

I didn't think anyone was mean...I watched most of the day. I blogged about it too. People need to stop being thin-skinned. They'll never make it if they can't take the #queryfail comments.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 12:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Tarot By Arwen said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 12:42:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Amanda said...

I appreciated #queryfail for what it was. An exercise in what doesn't work for a query. A few agents and editors even posted a few #querywins for what does work.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 12:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Mel Francis said...

I bought an extra pack of big girl panties that I can start passing out if I need to. SRSLY, there is no reason to get upset. If people recognized themselves in 140 characters then they needed to do their research better or write a better query. It's as easy as that. And it's sad to think that these folks won't learn from their mistakes because they're too busy blaming the agents instead of applying the advice.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 12:46:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Elaine, 'tis Pirate Annie from Twitter, arrrr. :) As a writer, I thought it was an incredibly useful exercise, and I took no offence whatever. (not that I've queried yet - have to finish the novel first!)

But yeah. I agree with Jenn ... folks have to develop a thicker skin if they're not even going to bother reading guidelines.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 12:47:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Bradley Robb said...

I think #queryfail was a good thing for all of the industry because, after following it for about 15 minutes, it showed just how pervasive the same few mistakes are.

As a writer it's very easy to get tunnel vision, trapped away from the business mechanics of others. Events like this opened up the business just a little by prying back the curtain and showing in public what didn't work.

Many agents and editors did come away from the ordeal looking more humanized. Moonrat comes to mind, as she waxed about wanting to publish a book that obviously had no market. 140 characters or not, there was genuine emotion there.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 12:48:00 PM EDT  
Blogger TJ Brown said...

I had no idea there was fallout from #queryfail. I'm an author and thought it was hysterical.

If people don't educate themselves on how to query, that's their own freaking fault. It's not that difficult. There are a ton of sites/classes/blogs on how to query.

If they can't follow guidelines and create a professional 3 or 4 paragraph letter on how to query an agent or editor, how are they supposed to write a good book?
Teri

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 12:48:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Arkansas Cyndi said...

I followed #queryfail from the first post. Laughed at a few. Learned a lot.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the next installment.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 12:48:00 PM EDT  
Blogger acpaul said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 12:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger acpaul said...

In today's day and age, the only way to not spark off a debate is to never say or do anything at all. But then, I'm sure someone out there would object to that, too.

As for #queryfail, I found it humorous and insightful. I never saw an agent identify the author of a given query. It was never a personal attack.

And if people are going to blacklist the participants, it's their own loss, not yours. From my point of view, they're only harming themselves, and giving me less competition.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 12:51:00 PM EDT  
OpenID selestial-owg said...

I liked #queryfail too (and blogged about it on my livejournal). My only complaints were I wanted more queries that DID follow guidelines (but were rejected for other reasons), and that it was a bit like watching a train wreck in that I couldn't look away and did nothing else that day.

I think the agents/editors who participated SHOULD stand up loud and proud. I'd rather submit to someone like that than someone who will hold my hand all the time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 12:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Gwen Hayes said...

I don't think anyone has anything to apologize for. Really. I waited all day to see if mine would come up (one of the participating agents has my query buried deep in the inbox slush pile). I was prepared to laugh at myself if need be.

My main concern with #queryfail is that the authors watching the agents and editors blogs and tweets are most likely not the uninformed ones making the mistakes. Because there we were--notebooks in hand as the day unfolded. We are the ones who do our homework and get a feel for the people we want to spend our careers with. We aren't the ones writing three paragraphs about why we started writing and forgetting to mention the book--so #queryfail did a lot of preaching to the choir.

But it sure was an entertaining sermon!

I'm hoping that the word-of-mouth is now trickling down to the people who really need it and they will watch for it next time.

What #queryfail did for me was give me a better sense of each agent and editor personality. And it gave me a better understanding as to why it takes so darn long to get a response.

And personally, I am glad a bunch of people made lists of who not to sub to based on queryfail. That means my manuscript will get to the top faster now.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 12:56:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Karen Duvall said...

Here, here, Elaine! I'm a queryfail advocate and thought the exercise was AWESOME! I'm also a tweeter and one of your followers. Though I already have an agent, I still like to follow the agents who tweet because they offer an inside track on the industry. It's a way to stay informed, and keep up the social networking, too. And I got to see a picture of Claude. :) What could be better?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 12:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger nightsmusic said...

I too am looking forward to the next installment. It was both really funny and sadly appalling (sorry about the adverbs ;) ) how many people don't bother to follow a simple set of guidelines. And they must be able to read. Either that or they have a ghost writer for their book and just write what comes to mind for a query.

I love this post! I really like the way you've summed up the agent's point of view.

And hey, if this is the biggest draw in authorland, whether people liked it or not, at least it's giving them the education so many are lacking.

Thanks!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 1:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Juli Heaton said...

I greatly disliked Ms. Snark. You were nothing like that. You educated while being funny, and I think you taught people a lot. There was nothing to identify specific people. Submitting is a lot of work for the author, agent, and editor. Authors should do it right. If an author didn't already know everything that you said, they haven't done the research necessary to further their career.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 1:24:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Deidre Knight said...

Acpaul, I was just thinking the same thing. It occurs to me that no matter what happens online with agents, there's always complaining and fallout, a chief reason why I almost NEVER post on any blog, jump in any discussion, or generally blog at all. Because I get so worn out from the constant sniping, whining and bashing that seems to always occur.

In short, what does the witch hunting/blacklisting of queryfail agents manage to succeed in doing? Keeping agents quiet, holding back any advice or input they might have to offer in the future. In this one instance, I did jump in because my general impression was that the experiment was meant to be *fun* and a learning opportunity for authors. Whoops. Guess I missed the memo where we were being cruel by the simple act of sharing war stories.

I think it's important for writers to know how much craziness and unprofessionalism agents and editors deal with on a daily basis. So, yeah, I did participate in #queryfail, and let's see...I posted about a full manuscript that I once received, reeking of pot. About a woman who threatened to send the hounds of hell after me for passing on her query, ("prepare to meet your maker"=direct quote), and about the time a decade or so ago I received whiskey and candy corn in the same fanny pack along with a submission. How did I miss my moment of cruelty? Gee, and here I was think the only cruel thing was that I experienced a death threat and had to call the Iowa City police about it. Wow, color me naive and misinformed. LOL.

In short, the lesson here is keep our mouths shut. Apparently authors would rather not know a little inside scoop, said in the spirit of fun and group camaraderie (I thought we and the authors were all sharing together--not that the agents were talking down to anyone. How can anyone be specifically called out in 140 characters when no names are mentioned???)

Anyway, GREAT post, Elaine. You do so much for the writing community that most people never realize or glimpse--from judging contests, to that extra help or word to an aspiring writer, to the 20 + conferences you attended last year in your own free time. I think your kindness and integrity go without mentioning, but wanted to do so here, anyway.
Big hugs
Deidre Knight

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 1:42:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Well, I didn't participate in the #queryfail twittering. Mostly because I was swamped that day and didn't have the time to join in, however, not for lack of material. As Elaine mentioned, our emails as individual agents are not on the TKA site, nor do we open ourselves up to open queries as individuals (except by invitation due to conferences or recommendations). Yet, I too have a near-constant barrage of queries. I often simply respond with the url for our submissions guidelines, but others I take the time to read queries. I almost always regret doing so. One writer, after my polite rejection of his query--for a book in a genre I don't represent--told me to go play in traffic. I expect this author would not have been thrilled with #queryfail.

I, however, thought it was a fun idea, and useful too. No one's names were mentioned, and so if anyone recognized the particular rejection it was purely by chance. And truthfully, they might have been wrong. We see the same issues over and over and over... The rejection highlighted might very well have been addressed to someone else.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 1:57:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Amanda said...

I hope the people raising a stink don't scare off the agents and editors from doing it again. There are probably just as many people who enjoyed and learned from the #queryfail.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:13:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Margaret said...

Hi Elaine,

This is a great summation of the idea behind #queryfail and I look forward to seeing your tweets because I got a little overwhelmed and couldn't keep up.

However, I'm reminded of the old tagline about publicity and how no publicity is bad publicity :). How many interested authors found out about #queryfail because they stumbled over someone bitching about how horrible it was? And the other side too. How many horrible, guidelines-ignoring authors now WON'T darken your doors ;). More power to them...and more room for those of us who appreciate all your efforts to make the process less mysterious.

Cheers,
Margaret

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:14:00 PM EDT  
Blogger AC said...

I am not on Twitter (might join now cuz it seems like #Queryfail was a blast!). However, I have seen these fallouts all over the Net. Instead of appreciating the insight that I'm sure the agents were attempting to provide, it was taken negatively. Now, I'm a firm beleiver of 'if you live and breathe negativity, that's all you'll ever have in your life'. Hence that's the author that doesn't research agent guidelines, sends the wrong thing, gets the rejection and then rages about it. I don't like to burn bridges, in the literary industry or in life generally. Just not worth it in my mind.

So I'm babbling, but my point is just from reading your post Elaine, I don't see that you did anything wrong. If authors can get together and complain about agents and editors, why can't agents comment on what ticks them off? Like I tell my kids, 'if you don't know what ticks me off, how can I expect you to stop doing it?' LOL

Have a great day and keep on Twittering. :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:19:00 PM EDT  
Blogger clindsay said...

Elaine -

Thanks for participating in Lauren's and my odd little Twitter exercise. I really enjoyed your and Deirdre's contributions and hope that you'll all join us when we do Queryfail 2 (Electric Boogaloo? Queries Never Die? )

And thanks so much for posting this. I've received a lot of positive feedback from writers and still believe that #queryfail was a success.

I can't wait to do it again!

All the best,

Colleen

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:23:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Karen Duvall said...

Like those who "blacklisted" the agents who participated in QueryFail, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if a few agents did a bit of blacklisting themselves. Some of the naysayers were downright rabid. Regardless of how good their book might be, who wants to work with a writer who's that tender skinned and bullheaded? There was this one commenter on Nathan Bransford's blog who was so abrasive and obnoxious, he had to delete a few of her posts, and she turned around and got mad at him. Lots of crazies out there. Agents are not obligated to kow tow down to them, either.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:35:00 PM EDT  
OpenID inkwench said...

I'm still shocked by the vitriol over #queryfail. I think it was fabulous, and it's the reason began twittering.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Carey_Corp said...

Queryfail was hilarious and educational...and a wee bit deflating. Which author hasn't made some fatal query error or another when first starting out? Queries are pretty counterintuitive for us. For the most part, we are creative, unique risk takers. Too much of that in our queries, however, might just land us on Queryfail. :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:44:00 PM EDT  
Blogger WandererInGray said...

Excellent post!

As I mentioned on my Twitter, I'm not looking for an agent to hold my hand. I want someone who's going to take my career seriously, which to me means knowing when (and how) to employ the big stick method.

Katy

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:44:00 PM EDT  
Blogger December/Stacia said...

I really, really enjoyed Queryfail; I have an agent but certainly were I still querying, I'd be looking for someone who deals with some of the things we saw and STILL LOVES THEIR JOB. Someone who spends a day reading fifty or a hundred or however many queries and is *still reading*, still looking for the gem in the rockpile, still keeping their sense of humor and optimism. Someone who thinks teaching writers can be fun, and wants to have fun with writers (lots of us were watching and playing along).

My agent says working with "creative people" is the best part of his job. (I still can't get over his inclusion of me in that category.) Last year we met up for a drink; when I asked him why he does it and how he got started his face literally lit up. That an agent can deal with the threats and boredom and work and rejection and everything else that goes along with their jobs, and still think "Let's do this fun thing, and have a laugh, and teach some people," is pretty astounding to me; and that's the kind of person I want to work with (although my agent isn't on Twitter and so didn't participate). I want to work with someone who still sees their job as fun and exciting and has that kind of enthusiasm.

What gets me is I can't believe the people complaining have never blogged about a rude customer at their job, or a rude person in the street, or something funny that happened to someone else. No names were mentioned. Very few identifying details.

And don't writers beg for that kind of feedback? How many submissions did Miss Snark get for her Crapometers? How many entries do blogging agents get when they run query or blurb or tagline or whatever contests, with writers lining up in droves? How many times do we see writers complaining about form rejections which tell them nothing?

Here was a group of agents and editors ready and willing to help, to give feedback; to give writers exactly what they asked for. And they're being vilified now, and that's a shame. And I don't think any of them deserve it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:44:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Dakota Cassidy said...

I have absolutely no idea what happened at Queryfail. I only recently began to tweet. I'd joined Twitter, but it sat dormant for a time because I didn't get it. I know, big go fig.

So I didn't get serious until this week--and I only briefly saw a tweet with the word queryfail in it.

Now that I understand what it was about, I'm here to say that no matter what list they've put you on, no matter what anyone says, you're a great agent and you're always compassionate when I whine like a preschooler who's missed her nap :)

Dakota :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Mary Lindsey said...

I loved #queryfail. What a blast!

Naysayers are always the noisiest. #queryfail has legions of silent fans.

I'm looking forward to the next one.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:48:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Criss said...

Most of the negative comments I've read on blogs are from people who don't even Twitter and didn't even read #queryfail. So that tells you how highly I regard their opinion.

As an author, I found it enlightening and educational. THANK YOU for taking time out of your day to give us a glimpse into what you have to deal with, and letting us know how to avoid instant rejection (but, as someone else mentioned, I agree that most of the people taking notes on the sermon were the choir).

As a high school teacher, I felt your pain. And I know that no, those queries were not made up (as someone suggested on one of many comments sections). *sigh* You'd figure aspiring authors would know how to read and take the time to do it, but, alas...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Julie Weathers said...

Elaine, I followed the last one and the first one. I linked it on my blog because I thought it gave a lot of insight into what agents receive every day.

The problem is, people, for some reason, can't be bothered to do some research and follow the rules. Seriously, "what are agents going for these days?" How do you respond to that? "A buck a pound?"

Emailing an agent and asking them how to contact them?

I would think that was a Laugh In routine. "Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?"

Several of the agents also answered questions others tossed out.

Not only is the response limited to 140 characters, most time the agents and editors didn't even use it all and much of the time they weren't direct quotes.

If an author is so delicate they are traumatized by this, they need to find a new hobby.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger nomadicdragon said...

Excellent post. People seriously need to grow thicker skin if they want to make it anywhere in the business world not just in publishing world.

I'm amazed that people feel the need to slam something that was witty and educational for someone truly looking to find an agent.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:56:00 PM EDT  
OpenID selestial-owg said...

Stacia's comment about authors wanting feedback hit the nail on the head. As people searching for that elusive contract, we can't whine about no feedback out one side of our mouths and bitch when we get it out of the other side. I'm debating labeling my next round of queries with "queryfail friendly" because I would LOVE some feedback.

Silly of me, I know :P

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Criss, I had the same thought--that probably most people who are complaining didn't even participate, or have the chance to see the spirit in which the entire experiment was conducted. Thanks again, Elaine, for a great post! Deidre

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 3:03:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Shelli said...

actually Im going to query the agents b/c now the submissions holding mine in the queue will go elsewhere :) I liked it and learned alot.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 3:56:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Lucienne Diver said...

Elaine,

You go, girl! I thought #Queryfail was a noble idea and didn't participate only because I didn't have the time. I was also a huge fan of Miss Snark's blog. Sometimes the truth hurts and soft-pedaling just doesn't get it across. Offering tidbits of truth anonymously takes the bite out of the teaching, in my opinion. And I can certainly vouch for the fact that you're neither cruel nor heartless!

-Lucienne

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 4:09:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elaine, I'd be interested in reading your response to this:

"As with most humor, #queryfail doesn't represent a balanced transaction.

No matter how informative #queryfail is, no matter how much some writers really DO need to do their research and use spellcheck, acts of regular blogging and/or twittering don't affect the balance of power between those who submit, and those who accept. Whatever else has changed since we all got glued to the WWW in 1993, that basic transaction hasn't.

If a group of writers chose to have an #agentfail day, even if the guilty were depicted at the same level of anonymity? The consequences for the writers would be dramatically different. I've only been an editor for about three months, and already I've had some chances to see that for myself.

So as much as I did find it amusing and now am going to be a joykilling asshole, #queryfail was a little like watching the cool kids in the cafeteria trip the kids who are going to still be living in their parents' basements when they're 40. Is there a point, besides that it's funny? Really?"

http://tinyurl.com/bg7ndc

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 4:13:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous tracey solomon said...

#Queryfail taught me much about what NOT to do. I appreciated the inside scoop. In fact, my new goal as a writer is to never have a query bad enough to tweet.

The one question I have after reading your post is this:

Is it only wrong to humiliate people publicly?

Had I been following the tweets, and saw something that said to me: "THAT IS MY QUERY" I'd have felt the blush rise on my face...and I'm Italian, we don't blush much. It takes a lot. I'd have felt humiliated, publicly or not.

Granted- had I not followed the submission guidelines, I'd have also learned the hard way-to do so in the future.

I'm taking this experience as both a reminder to follow guidelines, and to remember that I need to develop a thicker skin.

The bummer is there is usually the painful process of blistering that comes before the thicker skin and callouses develop.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 4:18:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Michele Lee said...

Not saying anything new here, but I was very glad for queryfail (and er, in the same spirit I posted an agentfail or two to give the other side). I greatly appreciate the inside info, even if it doesn't apply to me (not my genre, or mistakes I'm past by this point).

It's a huge shame that a few bad apples continue to ruin these things for the rest of us, who try to educate ourselves.

I feel like pleading to agents don't stop responding, don't stop giving personal rejections, don't stop giving us the insider info, just because of a few jerks.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 4:19:00 PM EDT  
Blogger nightsmusic said...

@Anon 4:13

At the risk of getting in trouble here, whoever posted that states quite clearly that they came late to the party, so missing the many #agentfails that were also posted.

And they make me wonder if they recognized something in one of the agent's posts that reminded them of themselves.

A subjective thing, writing. If one can't take getting a poke anonymously on a query, how are they going to react if they ever do get published and get slammed by those reviewers who go after the book as well as the author, claiming both suck?

Just sayin'

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 4:20:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous kestrelrising said...

I thought Queryfail was brilliant. It was a real eye opener for me. I shall certainly be thinking more clearly before I hit the "send" button.
I'm looking forward to the next one.
Upside/downside to the whole event: I am now hopelessly addicted to Twitter.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 5:21:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Starra said...

I wasn't on the #queryfail Twitter event, but I'll chime in anyway. I'm an actor and a writer, and I've seen so many actors/writers get bitter when their dreams have not been fulfilled. Everything's fair in love, war, acting, and writing! They can't take things personally. If they can't take criticism, then they shouldn't pursue acting or writing.

I was lucky enough to get published my first time out, but now I'm dealing with rejections. I could choose to be bitter, but I prefer to enjoy the creative process. I know when the time is right, I will achieve another success.

So, please keep giving us advice and your nuggets of wisdom. They are graciously received by many of us authors. : )

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 6:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Anne Rainey said...

Honestly? I've been writing so I missed all but a few at the very beginning.

I'm on Twitter too. I need to go hunt you down! :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 7:04:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Denise Lynn said...

A cruel exercise? Wow. Back when I was blindly submitting material for the sacrificial fires I wish an editor or agent would have been so "cruel". It's no wonder some industry professionals don't want to stick their necks out. Mega Huzzah to those who do take the risk to educate writers. And {{{hugs}}} for when you get thwapped for doing so.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 8:42:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Shannon McKelden said...

I know I'm days late on this topic, and I'm not on Twitter and didn't participate, but while reading this it struck me...what would all those complainers say if agents refused to tell them how not to query? Really? If you were asked as an agent, what turns you off in a query (which I have heard asked at EVERY agent panel I have ever attended), and you said to them, "I'm sorry, I can't tell you that, because it might make that person feel bad," How long before they were starting throwing around accusations about how you weren't a helpful agent or wondering (aloud and in public forums, of course) why you refused to cooperate?

I think those who protested probably really didn't WANT to learn to write a good query letter, and that's their loss...as they will probably find out in the long run.

Sunday, March 15, 2009 at 1:03:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Elaine, so glad that you also posted your tweets on #queryfail, which truly highlight that it was all in the name of helping writers. Nothing personal, nothing recognizable--just a composite of mistakes people can make. And Shannon makes an excellent point that this exercise was no different than what agents are frequetly asked at conferences. Thanks for all the great posts, everyone.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 2:32:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the main whines that I saw frequently was that writers did not follow submission guidelines. What agents sometimes do not realize is that their submission guidelines VARY from place to place. On the Twitter post about which you all are writing, the host Twitterer (a very nice person to be sure) had three different set of guidelines. Two were on Agentquery.com, and the other was another website. On Agentquery, the first place which listed her, asked only for a query. If you read her entire profile on Agentquery, however, it mentioned a query plus a synopsis; and on the third site, it was query, synopsis and sample chapters. Her first reply to me (query only)was to follow the guidelines. I was not going to make an issue of it but checked further on her full profile and saw her second list of requirements. (query and synopsis). So as a good old Catholic School girl, always willing to obey, I said, "Mea culpa," and tried again. I sent a query and synopsis. Her relpy was to tell me again to follow the guidelines. Then, getting a bit rattled by now and knowing I must be infuriating the poor agent,I went to a third site and read that I was supposed to send all three (query,synopsis and sample pages). I do not remember if I sent in the entire thing, since by then I was convinced that the agent had lost any respect she ever had for this dodo, if she ever had any. The advice that this wretched writer would give to anyone getting all stretched out of shape because you are not getting the submissions exactly the way you want them is, get all your duckies in a row. Check every site that has information about your submissions policies and coordinate them so they all say the same thing. The last time I read anything, this otherwise wonderful and talented agent was off to check her listings. There was no acknowledgement of any responsibility. My advice to all agency heads: Tell your agents to review all of the places where their names appear and have their guidelines identical in each. It will be less stressful for everyone.

Saturday, March 21, 2009 at 8:10:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Tarot By Arwen said...

"Anonymous", why would you not look on the agent's website first? Seems like going straight to the proverbial horse's mouth would have been better. Of course, I was a fan of #queryfail. I actually think it was a kindness of the agents to take time to try to educate those of us who are serious about this and willing to take instruction.

Saturday, March 21, 2009 at 10:01:00 PM EDT  
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 1:20:00 AM EST  

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