6.19.2006

Fawningly yours...sorta

O Ace One,

During the past year, I've spent some time working in an Australian publishing house, and although query letters aren't really the norm in Oz (a very brief cover letter, a synopsis and sample chapters are more common) we're receiving more and more "true queries"


Since the number of query styled letters (some diligently including at least five sample pages, but others accompanied by nothing -- which is a little irritating, as our website invites the full manuscript) has risen, so too have the lengthy pitches, the random credentials and oh, dear Dog, the grovelling. I just can't get past the awful servile attitude that seems to be popular in these queries. I can understand writers being overjoyed that someone is going to read their MS but the sickly sweet praise and thanks just about turn me off the whole package.


Here is a choice (and sadly verbatim) extract:

"Thank you so very much for your time and consideration in taking the time to read my novel. I can be contacted at any time that is convenient for you on".. or "Please don't hesitate to contact me at any time if you have any further questions. Thank you very much again. "

I particularly dislike the ones that apologise for their manuscript, or for taking up said time.

Miss Snark, I imagine you'e used to sitting down at Snark Central, surrounded fawning toy-boys bearing palm fronds, gin pails and general worshipping. So, as someone who is surely used to lavish praise and grovelling, do you find it (insurmountably) annoying? Could you work with a writer so insecure that they feel the need to thank you ad nauseam for taking the time to look over their damn letter?


Thank you for listening O Most Glorious Person of High Repute, and thank you Magnificent One for affording me precious moments of your most valuable time,



Yours Undeservingly,


A Humble Snarkling.


PS. Thank you so much for your time.



Palm fronds and cabana boys? Geeze, I may have to move to Oz if that's what you've got down there (raucous howls of mirth at the idea of leaving the 212...but well...)

Anyway. Frankly, (and try not to scream dear writers) I don't pay much attention to that stuff.
I figure you probably got the wording out of some book and probably if you met me, you'd rip your ms from my carefully manicured claws anyway, so I just read your writing and ignore the fawning. It's not genuine, it's like courtly behaviour from the Court of St. Parsnip the Green.

Writers real sentiments are carefully concealed until the follow up email that starts "you muddle headed, addlepated twit, you call yourself an agent, all your taste is in your mouth"..and gets worse from there.

39 comments:

Melinda said...

Hey, I thought Oz was in Kansas.

I totally agree about the fawning Aussie's seeing. If folks would just shoot from the hip, things would be so much more comfortable. Not to the point of being rude or unprofessional, of course, but just friendly and straightforward. It freaks me out when some stranger tries to kiss me on the cheek. But if they rib me, then I rib 'em back, and it's fun.

Whoa, did that even make sense?

virginia said...

I thank people for their time if I don't know them or have just written a particularly snarky missive. If I don't know them, the gratitude is mildly sincere; if I've just been a bitch, thanks either soften the blow or drive in the final barb. Context is everything.

Sariah S. Wilson said...

I'm sure that the second someone left out the proper expressions of gratitude for an editor or agent reading your work, someone in the publishing industry would write you an email about how rude writers are and they can't even include a simple thank you in their cover letters.

I think there's a difference between "thank you for taking the time to read this" and "Oh Holy Editor, I am not worthy of your attentions, please cast your all-seeing eye in another direction so that the putridness of my work does not offend you."

domynoe said...

I have yet to submit a novel since my novel is being particularly difficult in revisions, but I do say thank you for your time to editors all the time -- and I do mean it. and I wouldn't call "Thank you for your time and consideration" fawning. It's a polite recognition that your time is valuable and others are demanding a piece of it. Even if you tell me you're not interested, at least you read my work.

Chumplet said...

I think I'd better look into the Aussie market. The chances seem better than the current 'nil' of getting my ms read.

Auntie Corinne lives in New Zealand. I wonder if she'll take me in while I do my book tour?

ello said...

Honestly, I agree that "Thank you so very much" is a bit much, but "Thank you very much again" wasn't that bad. I think this person is overly harsh. People are always going on about how the world is getting ruder and manners are being lost, and then you get someone who is being nasty about people being overly nice.

I love that Miss. Snark doesn't pay attention to these types of closings because I think that is more normal. People expect polite language in query letters, and whatever reasonable way the gratitude is expressed shouldn't sound off alarm bells, the lack of it is more likely to do so.


Blech, this person really annoys me. Ungrateful bugger.

Gavrielle said...

My agent read the entire ms, wrote me a page of suggestions for improvement (which involved a sweeping rewrite) then read the whole thing again when I'd done the rewrite before taking me on. You can bet I said thank you. That's fawning? It was no more than she deserved.

Ken Boy said...

I've written hundreds of business letters, and I probably included the phrase "please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions" in half of them. And I always thank people for their time when I ask them to do something. 'Cause, you know, they don't gotta do it.

As for the over-the-topness of the phrasing, some people can't help themselves, they are "so very much" about everything, so I wouldn't hold that against them. Unless it was on pink unicorn stationary.

I'm just saying.

kis said...

How about closing your letter with "Thanks a lot for bothering to glance at my blood sweat and tears, ya friggin' hack?"

Or is that going too far the other way? ;)

You always have to thank someone who does you a service, even if its only to read your letter. But Aussie's right. There's a point where it ceases to be merely polite and enters the realm of the sycophantic.

That said, O Wise and Occasionally Benevolent Miss Snark, I shall continue to worship you as a goddess.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I thank people for their time and consideration. It's simple politeness, and when I say it I mean it.

I don't understand why anyone would be offended by a thank you, even if couched in more formal terms.

Some of us were raised to be polite, considerate, thoughtful and, though not at all fashionable, condescending. And I don't mean condescending in the bad sense in which the word is most often used, but in its very best sense.

That anyone would be offended by simple politeness is a mystery, and says, I think, much more about them than about those who offend them.

the green ray said...

There are so many do's and dont's in this business. Are we too polite? Are we too rude? Isn't the most important thing that we just express ourselves sincerely? I just got a full manuscript request from an agent. She started the email by saying, "Many thanks for your query," and ended by saying, "I greatly appreciate the chance to read your novel." Did I think the agent was fawning? Not at all; she sounded sincere with me, and I liked it. I appreciate what the Australian guy is saying here; but, Yanno (I know, tm)- is it so terrible to be polite, to try to be civilized?

Alison W said...

I admit that I'm a bit taken aback by this exchange, mostly because I nearly always include some variant of "thank you for your time" in unsolicited letters to strangers. After all, I AM actually thankful that they've bothered to take the time to look over whatever it is I've written to them. And I feel that the least I can do is be polite. Am I undermining myself that badly, or is there a line one has to cross before a letter transitions from "polite" to "saccharine?"

Anonymous said...

I agree - I think there's a lot of false fawning and grovelling in queries. Saying thanks so much for your time and condsideration or kind attenion or whatever doesn't just sound forced, it sounds as though the author thinks the agent or editor shouldnt be giving that time at all

Elektra said...

I also thank people for their time and consideration--has gratitude really become that annoying?

Writerious said...

And here I thought saying, "Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon," was simply a civil closing.

Fawning and whining aren't professional, of course, but civility is.

McKoala said...

The funny thing is that in many ways, Aussies are more direct than most. I suspect that thanks to the internet many queries are starting to sound like one another, and many are starting to sound like US queries, as that is where most of the available information and sample letters are coming from.

Nothing wrong with a nice thank you, though.

Anonymous said...

"Thank you so very much for your time and consideration in taking the time to read my novel. I can be contacted at any time that is convenient for you on".. or "Please don't hesitate to contact me at any time if you have any further questions. Thank you very much again. "

Hi - as the original er.. question asker, I just wanted to clarify that the above was all actually meant to come out as one sentence. Im all for 'thank you for your time' etc... but lately, many people seem to go overboard.

Anonymous said...

Is it partly just a question of transpacific differences here?
Good manners are in the eye and ear of the recipient. The Aussie submission style sounds much more like the British one UK snarklings are used to, and not just in skipping the query-letter stage.
Brits often find the more fulsome US style either comic or hypocritical (and fulsome over here is in itself a mildly offensive description, which says something in itself!) 'Have a nice day' from the supermarket assistant still makes us double up with mirth at the absurd OTT-ness of it, or sneer at the insincerity. 'Thank you so very much for your time and consideration in taking the time to read my novel. I can be contacted at any time that is convenient for you on...' sounds crawling, and over here would prompt an ironic lift of an eyebrow in the agent, not a warm appreciation of the writer's gratitude. 'Thank you,' and 'I hope you will be interested,' seem to us quite warm enough.

A Polite Australian said...

As an Australian I use the phrases "Thank you very much for your time and consideration" or "Please don't hesitate to contact me at any time if you have any further questions" and similar on most business correspondence. I thought this was normal . . . and nice. I get such lovely replies back, too.

Is this a US /AUS cultural thing? Was the original letter writer not born in Australia?

Longtime Polite Australian Lurker
(Who only comes out of lurkdom to comment on Really Important Issues.)

Thank you all for your time in reading my post. I appreciate it.

Quick said...

chumplet - the market here is pretty lean and I get the impression that chances are a lot better in the US.

Whoever said the bit about pink unicorn paper - very funny.

archer said...

I probably included the phrase "please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions" in half of them.

Every time I write that line I imagine a guy who looks like John Q. Citizen reaching for the phone, and he's trembling and all worried-looking, and he calls me, and I imagine screaming "DID I TELL YOU TO CALL ME? WHO ARE YOU! I AM VERY BUSY! WHAT IS IT!" Then I imagine him hanging up and crying and writing me an apology.

BuffySquirrel said...

Here's an idea for agents and editors: create a template on your website containing the form of address that's considered neither rude nor fawning in your particular neck of the woods, with a big NOW INSERT YOUR QUERY TEXT HERE, for the author who isn't psychic (which is most of them).

Thank you for taking the time to read my comment. If you laughed, thank you even more.

FreeSpirit said...

"Thank you so very much for your time and consideration in taking the time to read my novel. I can be contacted at any time that is convenient for you on".. or "Please don't hesitate to contact me at any time if you have any further questions. Thank you very much again."

Wow. I don't see anything wrong with the above. I use similiar lines every day in business letters and in my humble opinion, there's nothing fawning or groveling about them. I think it's called being professional, or maybe it's just being polite. How else do you want authors to address you? (I might be tempted to tell you, but mother always told me if I didn't have something nice to say, say nothing at all.)

Demented M said...

Umm, no. I can't believe that standard business protocol is now fawning. Don't tell us to treat this as a business on the one hand and then exclude standard phrases and expressions commonly used in correspondence throughout the corporate business world. This is the kind of stuff that makes it seem like publishing has a secret handshake.

Hell, I write these types of phrases in Spanish in my corporate day job. They are taught to us as part of polite business communication--they are standard, stock phrases.

And you can just as easily perceive the examples as expressions of earnest sincerity as you can fawning, the fact that some people choose to believe it is fawning, says a lot more about them than it does the author.

Although, I do agree no one should apologize for sending a submission--that's not a good move.

M

Anonymous said...

I read a critique of a query on another blog that said the query was too pleading. That fits in with what you are saying, but, as I said before, that is the basic intent of a query as far as I can tell. Pleading with an agent to read your shtuff. -JTC

Jane Lebak said...

If this "humble snarkling" is so hacked off at a one-line "thank you" closing on a single sheet of paper that doesn't take any time to read, doesn't add to his workload, and can easily be thrown away, then he'd better get a prescription for Valium right away.

The world is going to have a lot worse problems for him to deal with.

Sherry Decker said...

Well thank goodness I can't be accusesd of groveling! Not by those standards at least. Too brief and not 'enough' groveling, maybe.

Bernita said...

Reading fawning subservience into common business courtesies seems like the parallel deconstructing of "not right for us" rejections.
Who would have thought?

Ken Boy said...

anonymous wrote: "'Thank you,' and 'I hope you will be interested,' seem to us quite warm enough."

I don't believe "warmth" has anything to do with it. It's more a question of respect, in my opinion, a recognition that the agent's time is her/his own, not ours to use as we please.

Bay said...

Timely. Thank you. I'm given to both fawning *and* denigrating myself. Both quirks tend to make query-writing more difficult than it should be.

Beth said...

I don't understand the complaint. The example given seemed like a display of normal good manners to me.

Beth said...

Anonymous said:

'Have a nice day' from the supermarket assistant still makes us double up with mirth at the absurd OTT-ness of it, or sneer at the insincerity.

How very sad. Should we just all snarl at each other instead?

kis said...

archer-

Hang up! Hang up! that agent could be calling right now! :)

Don't hesitate to call, sure.

Don't hesitate to call whenever it is convenient for you, as if some four a.m. phone call is gonna be just fine? Especially if there is a time-zone issue involved. What the hell are these writers thinking?

jaded business writer said...

Eh. There's polite and there's overly effusive. IMO, the repeated use of "at any time" and "very much" tipped it over to the negative side of the scale.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

So, if I should ever submit to an Australian Publisher (highly unlikely), I should frame my letter thus:

Dear Aussie Editor:

Here's my manuscript. You better read every last page, or I'll hunt you down and force-feed you day old soy-based formula.

When you're done, I want some groveling. No thanks to you, I'm a great writer, but you're a twit. You should thank me for sending this to you!

Best regards,

R. M. de Vienne,
Princess and Author Supreme

michaelgav said...

Sheesh, we overthink just about everything when we're trying to break in...

I thought I was pathetic for burning an hour and a half digging around for info on which side to join in the great Courier vs. Times New Roman war of 2006. As if there would be an uproar at Agent Central if I'd sent them a terrific query and compelling pages and blew it all by not CAPITALIZING THE TITLE.

It's hard enough making a query work in one page; devoting two or three lines to a formal closing paragraph strikes me as crazy. They KNOW I'd be pleased to send them more. (Christ, I'd hire a messnger to bicycle them up from Florida.) They KNOW I'd be willing to answer any questions they might have. (Including "What is the average annual kilowatt output of Indian Point Reactor Number Two?") So all I say at the end is, "Thanks."

Now I have something else to obsess over.

"Thanks."

Anonymous said...

My preferred?

"Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you."

Your letterhead tell the recipient how to reach you. Generally, that's plenty and it's still a) sincere; and b) to the point.

JMHO, of course (an author who's the product of WAAAY too much law office work. Heh.)

anonymiss said...

Well, the anon who says they're the 'question asker' said the whole 'thanks' 'please dont hesitate' thing in the post was all meant to be one sentence... That doesnt seem likely, but hey, if it all was one sentence I can understand being annoyed. Ive seen a few queries where there's too much polite grovelling - I think apologising for queries is stupid. Anon did say they 'were all for thank you for your time' politeness, so take a chill pill people - the point doesn't seem to have been don't be polite. The point was don't grovel.
Also, question asker': I hate it when people post anonymously.

Anonymous said...

I'm a new yorker, and I have very little patience for the need to babble on an on about nothing and call it politeness, but I always say thank you for your time and consideration when submitting something, and I mean it. It's not because I think lit mag staffer/screening intern or grad student X is a better and worthier human being. It's because I think they're a person like me-- a student who sincerely cares about literature, and is taking time from their life to read submission after submission, many of which are godawful. Reading carefully and talking about submissions does take a hell of a lot of time, and it's not the most lucrative career move, I don't see why a sentence sincerely thanking people for that should be groveling. I assume "your welcome for the opportunity to read my work of brilliance," would be equally frowned upon. Thank you for your time and consideration implies nothing of the writers opinion of his or her own work, it's just an acknowledgement that there's a human being on the other end of the letter.