Query Letters, entitlement, and both sides of the park

Dear Miss Snark,

I've had a rash lately of e-mail queries, which I don't accept, from writers who make it sound as though they're doing me a huge favor by allowing me to consider their work. Authors would be understandably irked if I in turn came across like I was doing them a huge favor by bestowing my time upon them. How is it they don't realize what a turn off this is? I'm wondering if you would be interested in addressing this on your fabulous blog. The close timing of all these queries makes me think these writers are getting bad advice from somewhere else.

I've had a rash of email queries recently too, and they're all beyond awful. My guess is some guide or other just updated and forgot to sprinkle clue dust on the pages.

But, the thing is, most agents DO make it sound as though we are doing people a favor by looking at their work. We have lists of Do's and Don'ts and threats of extinction for not following the rules. We even ask them to pay for the postage to tell them 'no dice'.

That said, from purely a utilitarian, supply and demand standpoint, it makes no sense to annoy an agent at the start of the query process if you can help it. And you can control the tone of your query letter.

Things along the lines of "here's a great chance to make some money" "here's a great chance to be known as the agent of someone famous" and "I want to give you the chance to see this" are all non-starters in the enticement category. "Please get back to me soon" and "I know you'll be interested in this" are ones that make me want to say no before I've even read a page of text.

And if an agent doesn't take e-queries, don't get all bent out of shape when you don't hear back. I used to have a form email I sent people saying "mail only" but that just invited people to respond with some variation of "I'm entitled to query you any way I damn well please". Now I just delete them, usually after looking at the first line (my email browser lets me do that without opening the email) and laughing.

But, I'm preaching to the choir here cause anyone who's done a modicum of research and certainly anyone who's read this blog for more than five minutes will already have Clue One about this.

It's the people who won't ever see this blog, or buy a copy of Writers Market, or any other writing reference book, who will populate the rent controlled (so they never leave) Clue Free Apartment Building of Life.

Part of our job as agents is not letting those folks make us crazy. There's always going to be a nitwit in the bunch. Suck it up ...but save the really good stories for me at the bar!


Lady M said...

I used to have a form email I sent people saying "mail only" but that just invited people to respond with some variation of "I'm entitled to query you any way I damn well please".

Are you serious?

I'll apologize for those people ahead of time. Something is seriously wrong with them.

The mentality that you cannot be nice - seems to be "catchy" in this world today.

Everyone should try to play nice. I know it isn't "the real world" where people now trash each other for fun... But if people would just make an effort, the world would most certainly be a better place.

Anna Louise just said exactly the same thing -- and it's true.

Lady M

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I believe people lose their sense of propriety when they turn to e-mail. Perhaps it's that they feel more anonymous. At the very least people often write less formally in an email than they would in a letter they post.

But, some people are just jerks. They're jerks in person, in e-mail, and in a posted letter.

Now, which of you agents wants to make a bazillion bucks with my book, oh and that weird red-headed agent who's so famous is reading it. (Sorry, I can't tell you her name. It's totally secret.) You have to sign me up now or lose out! Write back immediately or sooner. This is the chance of a lifetime. Do you take bribes?

M. G. Tarquini said...

I check out agentquery.com but I always check the agency website, if there is one because I've found plenty of times when agentquery.com says an agent accepts email queries and the website says the agent doesn't. I've found on occasion, with the bigger houses, that different agents have different submissions requirements.

Here's one: agentquery.com said the agent does NOT take email queries. Their website says they do, their page on PM says they DO NOT.

Or VICE VERSA. And some DO NOT take snail mail queries with the same vehemence Miss Snark DOES NOT take email queries. Agent Kristin made a wonderful post on the subject a few weeks ago. Some places want paper queries, but DO NOT want an SASE, they'll let you know one way or the other by e-mail.

So, any agent wondering why an author has that funny twitch and talks with that odd tic when they finally get hold of him/her to sign 'em will understand.

Anonymous said...

You do realize it's a conspiracy, don't you? This behavior helps weed out the clueless so the rest of us real writers have a better chance. Heheh.

Shadow said...

Re: contradictions between agency websites and AgentQuery.com:

Just drop AgentQuery an email to let them know of the discrepancy. They'll fix it in a jif, and send you a nice email thanking you for helping them keep their database up to date. I've even pointed out typos (including some really funny ones) that were promplty corrected.