Thursday, March 12, 2009

#queryfail Tweets Revisited

As promised I’m back to re-post my #queryfail threads that were a part of all the controversy. I have to admit I think its going to be pretty anti-climatic for anyone that was waiting on the edge of their seat to see how I contributed. I think that’s a part of what really got me so agitated by all the “fall-out”. I joined into the event late in the day and made a handful of tweets, five to be exact. Yes, that’s it, Five little 140 character posts have given a select group of authors the ambition to claim that I’m a insulting and insensitive agent. Like I said yesterday, I disagree wholeheartedly, but since this was an exercise designed to educate, I am going to repost with slightly (and just slightly) longer explanations as to why they were in essence a #queryfail.

::And anyone that’s just joining us late and has no idea what #queryfail means. It’s a term that has been coined to summarize a query that after being evaluated by an editor or agent, doesn’t quite match up to the standards we expect before requesting additional material from hopeful authors, and ultimately would receive a rejection response::

Tweet #1 “I have attached a few of my final chapters, I believe they are more powerful than the beginning.”

Now, this was a queryfail for a handful of reasons. First off, as indicated on our website, at the query stage we don’t request any portion of your manuscript material. In addition, (and also indicated on our website), due to internet security measures we are unable to open unsolicited attachments. To cap it off, if you are hoping to sell a novel the whole thing had better be strong. How am I supposed to fall in love with a book if I can’t see the first 200 pages? I would say this is a pretty good indicator that the material was unpolished and not quite ready to be submitted to agents yet. Would you agree? I stick to my initial response. #Queryfail.

Tweet #2 “I don’t have any new material to share so I’m attaching an already contracted novella.”

I make my living off of selling books. So tell me, what am I supposed to do with that? Unless I have an outstanding relationship with you and I’ve asked to see some of your previously published work, simply sending me a contracted novella doesn’t give me a clue about the type of author you are, or that you might be, or about the type of material I might be working with in the future.

I am adamant about one thing when signing on new clients, and I’ve said this time and time again. Above and beyond anything, I have to love your work. I don’t care if you have a contract on the table waiting to be negotiated, unless I love the material I’m not going to take the project on. Why? Because things happen. The day will most likely come when I’m going to be expected to take the material wide and get behind it 100% with my word and find you a new or additional publisher. I’m not putting my word behind anything I don’t truly think is fabulous. Sending me a query telling me nothing about yourself or your WIPs will always get a #queryfail from me.

Tweet #3 “I have been writing since I could hold a crayon, and before that I used finger paints.”

Honestly, I don’t know how to not be sarcastic when evaluating this from a professional angle. I have been eating since I first opened my mouth but you don’t' see me trying to be a professional chef do you? Your imminent writing talent as a toddler tells me nothing about your current professional status as an author that deserves to be published. This is a professional business. Your query letter acts as you first professional introduction to the agency, I want to see a formal bio that is relevant to the work you are presenting. #queryfail

Tweet #4 “I’ve sold over 200 copies of my book in less than 2 wks, however I don’t know how to go any further and I’m winging it as I go.”

Wait a minute, you’ve already begun selling your book? Your book is already published? So what is there left for me to do?

Also, I don’t expect people that are newbies in the industry to have a high level of industry knowledge, that’s my job. But I do want to see someone that is confidant and possesses a level head on their shoulders with a solid goal in front of them, whatever that may be, not someone that is “winging it as they go”. #queryfail

Tweet #5 “I’m interested in developing a series but I’m not going to do it until I sell it first”

This was the bulk of this query. This was not a sentence that was meant to indicate “I could foresee this project turning into a series”, which is a fairly common phrase found in queries. No, this person was letting me know that if I sold their idea, they would write a book, heck, a whole series of books. I expect a slightly higher level of work ethic from my clients, and I’m proud to report that they all exceed this by leaps and bounds. #queryfail

And that I’m afraid is it folks. I’m pretty much talked out on the subject but as always, I hope you were able to learn something new today.


Blogger Julie Weathers said...

You're preaching to the choir here. I saw it up close and personal and queryfail was not the event people are making it out to be.

People need to stop looking for reasons to be offended and spend that energy on writing a danged good book.

The road to failure is paved with excuses.

Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 3:42:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Candace said...

As far as the fall out, please. People need to get a grip. When I was unpublished I would have given anything for the kind of insider info the agents and editors were posting on Twitter. It was invaluable as far as knowing what not to do!

It was no different than when an agent/editor does a query class and brings examples of the good, the bad and the ugly.

And you need to tell me who said you were insensitive. I'm gonna put some of my superb ninja moves on them. :-)


Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 3:45:00 PM EDT  
Blogger NerdSnark said...

I haven't seen the "upsets", but I find it interesting that a blanket "don't query these" agents have been applied. Even if I found one #queryfail twit offensive I wouldn't blackball all of the agents/editors who particiapted. But some people just believe you should only talk about bad things behind closed doors.

Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 4:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Gina Black said...

I think #queryfail was great, and thought so at the time. To some extent I worried that it was all "preaching to the choir" because most of the people who are following agents on Twitter know enough to look at submission guidelines before they submit.

But in the week or so since QF, I've realized how it was more than that. Seeing what agents have in their email boxes on a day-in, day-out basis was very illuminating even if you DO follow submission guidelines and carefully place your queries. It means that a good query has to *really* sparkle so it stands out. I knew that, but now I *know* it. :)

Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 4:06:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're being too nice! People who get upset at such mild comments are too sensitive to be writers.

Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 4:15:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Melissa Mayhue said...

Wait...wait. Let me make sure I've got this right... you're an "insulting and insensitive" agent because you posted five examples of what people should NOT write in a query if they want you to request their work.

And... now there are people out there who have "blacklisted" you for being an "insulting and insensitive" agent and they'll never submit their work to you.

Fine. So be it. Their loss.

Speaking as one of your current clients, I can only say these are people who obviously know nothing about you or how hard you work for your clients. Or how much you do to give advice to people you don't even know.

So, put your lovely smile back on and think of how many people out there saw those examples, learned something from them, and felt grateful that you kept them from making a similar mistake.

~ Melissa

Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 4:20:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Starry said...

Perfectly legitimate reasons for fail. There is no way to attack them or not to accept them.

It's rarely the agent's comments that make these tweets sound sarcastic and unprofessional but rather the outrageous contents themselves, which come directly from the author, so sadly, they are berating themselves.

Thank you for this! Both entries were very educational and exactly echo my sentiments about participation. I'm also glad I did it and will write a blog entry with my tweets and explanations for rejection. Sometimes there's just not enough room in 140 characters to sound reasonable, I guess.

Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 4:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deborah Blake said...

I'm sorry, but I'm still laughing too hard to take offence. I agree with Candace (well, always, but in this case in particular) that the queryfail was in fact, highly educational--for anyone willing to be educated. When I started submitting to agents, the first thing I did was try to get as much information as possible on how to do so successfully. That included "how to" and "how not to" advice from various agents.(Which is exactly what this was, in condensed form.) And especially, examples of BAD queries, so I wouldn't make the same mistakes. And frankly, people, if you can't hold on to your sense of humor, you're not going to last long in the challenging and often discouraging world of professional publishing.Elaine, you're still at the top of my "Agent Wish List," no matter what you tweet!

Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 5:15:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Maureen McGowan said...

I'm shocked how people got all worked up about #queryfail.

Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 8:26:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Maree A. said...

What Candace said! I look back on my old queries and I cringe at how naive I was...well, not as naive as most of the queryfails but then, I did actually do my homework before querying. Back then, I would have given my left hand (being right-handed!) to have access to the kind of insider industry knowlege you've just shared, rather than a form rejection. Thank you for your refreshing honesty.

Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 8:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Shelli said...

i laughed at the crayon one!!! ha :)

Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 10:15:00 PM EDT  
OpenID ash-krafton said...

I'm a writer. If I can't convince you to sell my book, you won't convince an editor to buy it. This is the essence of FAIL.

#queryfail showed something more than the typical form reject and made an event out of it. I'm a writer. I want more than the form reject.

I'm surprised more people don't agree.

Friday, March 13, 2009 at 8:12:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Amity said...

First: I love the idea in concept. I want my fellow authors to stop wasting agents' time by sending obviously flawed queries.

Second: I'm not sure how great this worked...clearly the 'failers' are not checking other query info sources on the web, so how much will this really help?

Third: This post is great--it explains WHY #queryfail twitters failed. There's no risk of an author going "really? I thought it wasn't bad..."

Finally: I think the upset stems from one thing: permissions. When an author sends a query to Query Shark, they are prepared (and mature) enough to take the heat, knowing that their query may be exposed as worse than terrible. True, authors want feedback--but often not so EVERYONE can see. I know some agents get upset about personalized rejections being posted on the web by different is this??

Some agents I think handled this better than others...I only have a problem when specifics or direct quotes were used. In particular, I'm thinking of a failed logline that many responders made fun of. I'd hate to be that author--s/he's a laughingstock on the internet. S/he sent what was a one-to-one business communication only to have it posted in an event many called 'hilarious' 'unbelievable' etc by followers, despite the creator's good intentions. And again, the twitter did state the logline failed, but not why...there could be a mortified author out there who tried his/her best and still doesn't know why s/he fails...

Friday, March 13, 2009 at 12:07:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Starra said...

Julie - I love it! "The road to failure is paved with excuses." That really hits the nail on its head. Not only am I going to say that to myself (when needed), but also to people who have told me their book plots, and have yet to write down one word!

Also, are you'all sure this was #queryfail and not queryBloopers! That's all I have to say! : )

Friday, March 13, 2009 at 6:46:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Treethyme said...

I have been following this controversy, but I really don't understand why the #queryfail comments would be considered any more negative than the comments found regularly on QueryShark.

As someone who is still struggling to perfect the query-writing process, I find it helpful to see what agents and editors hate, because I don't want to cut my own throat by repeating those mistakes.

After reading the comments posted here, I am even more surprised that people are taking offense. These seem like no-brainers, but maybe the other agents were more harsh. I've read some of the comments, but not all. I still think it was a useful exercise for writers who want to improve their queries.

Friday, March 13, 2009 at 10:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Criss said...

I remember reading all these Tweets live, and, seriously, there is no need for an explanation as to why these were rejections. The faux pas are pretty obvious.

Now, while I'm not going to be dumb enough to query you with no book, it made me realize that YES, I do need to COMPLETELY finish my ms before querying. It's written, but needs serious edits. I've been tempted to start sending out letters (I've been reading too much about queries, I'm ready to get started!), but querying an agent with a book that needs serious edits (even though the story is already written) would be just as dumb as querying a book that's not finished or not yet written.

I'm not going to tell you I wrote novels with my finger paints, but this made me think twice about what writing credits I include in the letter. I don't have any fancy credits, so I should just state that instead of trying to make some up.

Thank you for participating in #queryfail. I look forward to the next one!

Saturday, March 14, 2009 at 12:20:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous chip said...

This is wonderful stuff! Thanks for sharing. I love a good laugh.

Saturday, March 14, 2009 at 4:52:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jenn Johansson said...

I think the fallout is ridiculous. Most of the people that were actually following it had no problems with it. It's a couple of overly sensitive people who took it the wrong way and saw fit to snowball it. Shrug it off, you did nothing wrong and we still think you're awesome. :)

Monday, March 16, 2009 at 11:57:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one serious about getting published will mind that the complainers blacklist you... less competition for your attention!

Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 1:19:00 AM EDT  

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