6.06.2006

Five reasons I want to rip your query letter up and feed it to the pigeons

well, ok, that's a trifle overheated but there are days Miss Snark's tolerance for idiocy drops just enough that Mayor Bloomberg personally hands her a ciggie and says "here, relax"

1. You send your query letter and pages on a CD. Do I really need to explain why this is not not not a good idea?

2. You are a lawyer and you send your query on office stationery so Miss Snark thinks Dewey Cheatham and Howe is sending her something she needs to read. This annoys me so much I barely read the letter cause it is an irrefutable sign of pretension. Doctors too. English professors too. Unless you want to apply to be Miss Snark's personal physician don't send her letters from the clinic/hospital/morgue.

3. You get the name and address wrong, and you don't include an SASE. I'll spot you one stupidity, two is break even but three in one query indicates nitwittery in the extreme. I do NOT want to work with people who are careless about their stuff. Not here, not at the bomb disposal squad (aka the dog run porta potty) and not at the eyebrow styling emporium. Get your damn act together or don't be surprised at the results.

4. You send me a letter one week after I got the first one to ask if I have had a chance to read it yet. Short answer: yes, just now. Zap.

5. You don't include your email address. Yes I don't take email queries but if you have something I want, I email you. Or if you forgot pages and I like the query, I email you. Or if you are Mr. Clooney's valet with a tell all narrative, I will email myself to you.

Don't be stupid is really good advice.
I heard it from Miss Genoese first.

21 comments:

litagent said...

AMEN!

Agent Kristin said...

And I’ve got to add one to the list!

You send me a query which begins with, “I decided to query you because you have fallopian tubes.”

Unfortunately, I’m not kidding.

Anonymous said...

I used to publish a small press fiction magazine, and one particular doctor used to HAVE HIS ASSISTANT type the cover letter on office stationery, and he added the typical, unreadable doctor's signature. Thankfully, he couldn't write fiction for beans, so it was a legitimate pleasure to reject him.

BuffySquirrel said...

Now I'm wondering if Miss Snark really is strong enough to rip a CD into pieces. Scary!

Desperate Writer said...

At this point, nearly giving up on someone asking for a partial, I would really like to know how to start receiving more than the standard rejection letter. My aim is to get more contructive rejection letters. From there, maybe I can hope for a request for a partial.

Small goals. Starting over with small goals.

Anonymous said...

Despite the fact that I read the "Five Reasons" today, I sent out a submission sans SASE.

*pounds head repeatedly on table*

The chapters, synopsis, and cover letter are neatly typed up, proofed, and edited till my eyes were ready to pop out. And I forgot the damn SASE.

I'm thinking of calling the agency tomorrow and begging the receptionist for a reprieve. You think if I sent it tomorrow, a kind soul might take pity on my extreme bone-headedness and slip it into the package?

*groan*

Signed,
Two Stupid Four Words

Harry Connolly said...

You don't include your email address. Yes I don't take email queries but if you have something I want, I email you. Or if you forgot pages and I like the query, I email you.

*holds envelope to turban*

Karnak says: Another SASE debate!

*tears open envelope and reads it*

What is Miss Snark's latest post going to spark?

anna louise said...

Interestingly enough, I have similar feelings on all these points! *raises vodka Collins in Miss Snark's direction* Cheers, darling!

Chumplet said...

Good. So far I have it right. Now, all I have to do is get it to the right agent.

iudeho said...

Dear Miss Snark,
I am so happy to hear you rant about these problems that obviously appear in your slush pile. It means my query is at least better than somebody else's.
Please find it now and request the mss. :-) Thank you.
Your faithful snarkling.

(OMG-my word verification--temp. i.d.-- comes from the gutter!)

Mrs. Brain Bomb said...

I can see why these queries are just plain wrong and I'm only beginning to send out queries. These people are trying to stand out and its leaning toward the extreme end of looking unprofessional. I wonder if you can err on the side of caution, too. Can a query letter be so professional that it's bland? I have three short paragraphs in mine: 1) what I'm seeking from this agent and why this particular agent 2) four sentences on what the book is about and 3)closing -thank you and I've dropped an SASE in here. Since I don't have any professional accolades I keep my trap shut. Anyway, I'd really like to see more shining examples of query letters Miss Snark likes. I guess that's difficult because you get so many horrible ones.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little said...

Now I'm wondering if Miss Snark really is strong enough to rip a CD into pieces. Scary!

CDs are easy. You just fling them hard at the wall and they shatter into a million shiny, slender, sharp pieces.

Be careful walking around barefoot.

(First hand experience? Noooo! Whatever made you think so?)

Mark said...

I get contructive rejection letters, and requests for partials, but not necessarily from the same agents. My experience with CDs indicate they bounce off walls. Shattering would take more effort and tools.

archer said...

You are a lawyer and you send your query on office stationery so Miss Snark thinks Dewey Cheatham and Howe is sending her something she needs to read.

[Striking body builder pose] But we're lawyers. You can't do this to us. When we go into singles bars we sidle up to the nearest babe and say to the bartender, "I had a ROUGH DAY IN COURT, being a LAWYER and all. Lemme have a double." We give our wives birthday cards signed "Esq." It's 3 a.m. but I thought I'd take a quick break from PREPARING FOR TRIAL [shifting poses] and tell you all of this [flexing bicep].

Caro said...

Even when I was young and clueless, I figured that while it was perfectly fine to snag envelopes from the company I worked for (nice quality with high rag content), you should put a sticker over the company's address. Figured that I didn't want the editor to think they were getting mail from a bus company.

As for CDs -- take several CDs and stack them with paper towels between them, as well as top and bottom. Put in microwave and microwave for 1 second. The surface will melt and crackle in an interesting way that is useful for holiday decoration. (That type courtesy of the geeks in IT.)

former paralegal said...

Omigod Archer! ROFL! Scarily enough, I knew alot of lawyers like that in my day.

Anonymous said...

wince

In defense of the English professors, most of the poor dears really don't know any better. They're used to pitching academic manuscripts, and they've been told they must always use uni letterhead to pitch those. And of course, like the good little rule followers that they are, they do. ;)

Bernita said...

Begawd, Agent Kristin, you have to give points for egg-on-the-face originality.
Or something...

Mazement said...

I'm not sure I see the problem with sending query letters on a CD. Off the top of my head:

Disadvantages:
1 - Have to pay more for postage.
2 - Have to pay for a padded mailer.
3 - Takes more time to set up.

Advantages:
1 - Can make the query letter more memorable by adding mood-setting music and maybe a flash animation of unicorns dancing across the text.
2 - Can send the text in PDF format with printing disabled. This makes it harder for agents to steal my ideas.
3 - Can use the Windows "autorun" feature to automatically encrypt all the files on the agent's computer and then pop up an alert that the decryption key will be provided once I have a signed contract.

I really don't see much of a downside. Am I missing something?

Cynthia Bronco said...

mazement:
Thanks! I'm taking notes ... this is even better than enclosing shiny confetti in the query envelope!

Anonymous said...

What is up with Blogger today? Audio word veri?!? Takes f-
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v-
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Anywae--the CD thing may be related to a certain popular mid-size press book award this year. They are requiring submissions on a CD. Some (few, not all, not you) who live in the various provincial outposts of Genretannia may not know that just because the West By Dog press does it that way, that doesn't make it a 'standard.'