11.14.2006

This isn't about me.

Well, ok, it's always about me, but really this time it's about you.



Dear Miss Snark--


Should you ever mention that you read an agent's blog and/or website and/or online interviews? Particularly if the agents mentions something specifically that pertains to your work. Example: an agent blog says the agent is looking for a character who loves both gin and poodles, should I mention that I noticed she wanted this specific thing? Or a blog says her favorite book is The Life and Times of George Clooney should I mention that I like that book, too, even if it has nothing to do with my work (outside of being in the same genre)?

Very very tricky stuff this.

You're most likely ok with very straightforward things like "I read you are looking for dark urban fantasy featuring pink tammed poodles" or "I also liked the true crime story Poodle Passion at La Perla" or "I like what you said about the dearth of mirth in Firth in your Media Bistro interview".


Where it gets tricky is the stuff with connective tissue such as "cause": "I think you'll like this cause you like poodles"-no no no. I always cringe when I see those kinds of statements because they are often wrong wrong wrong.

More important though, none of this NONE of it has much to do with the only thing I care about at this point: can you write. Tell me what you've got, give me a sense of the conflict, cough up some pub credits if you've got them, and maybe one or two enticing things about yourself that don't include spouse, spawn, or spirtiual affiliation.

I don't care if you've pored over the blog, read everything I've ever written, and are in Grandmother Snark's fan club. This isn't about me. It's about you. This is your chance to tell me about your fabulosity. Don't hide your light under the gin pail. In fact, why you're even holding the gin pail is beyond me. Give it back.

20 comments:

Jean said...

Relinquishes gin pail to Miss Snark.

Heather Janes said...

(Found this blog a couple weeks ago and have been busy catching up, and I can't thank you enough for the time you put in here to help the wannabe authors of the world, Miss Snark)

I know Rachel Vater, in her queries she posts responses to, sees a number of people who indicate that they've read her blog, and she never seems bothered by it. I've seen a number of places suggest personalizing that intro paragraph in a query to indicate why you're querying that particular agent. Blogs can show a lot about what an agent likes -- for instance, I know NOT to query Rachel because political thrillers, which I'm writing, aren't her thing. But by the same token, anyone reading her blog knows she likes fresh urban fantasy, so, why not indicate that in the query? It tells the agent you've done your homework, you know what they represent, etc...


Heather

Simon Haynes said...

I recently queried an agent about my novels, and during the couple of weeks he was considering them I stayed off his blog & a couple of forums where he posts insights into the publishing industry. I didn't want to come across as some kind of needy stalker, and felt it would be best to let my query stand on its own.
After he accepted me it was a different story - now I can stalk to my heart's content. (Joking, John. Just joking.)

Anonymous said...

What if the book was actually inspired by a comment they made in their blog? No an "I'm looking for..." comment, but a random comment that for some reason lit a fire in your head? Should you mention that?

ex-ed said...

I'd say it depends on how you present it. If it looks like you're grabbing any excuse, not so good. If you can sound like you're talking civilly to another human being, probably fine. There's a line to walk between having done your homework and being stalky (you know you're over it when you think that they HAVE to take you on because you've spent all that time researching them). Mind you, one of my rules of thumb was that someone who sent a weird, psycho-like covering letter was low enough on the people skills to be bad at character writing too.

But unless your letter makes you sound like an absolute lunatic, the agent will read your work, and that's what it'll come down to. Good luck with that.

Catja (green_knight) said...

Kristin Nelson said on her blog that she likes it when queries are personalised and she gets to feel that the writer wants her, specifically, as opposed to her-the-successful-agent. So, mileage varies.

Jane said...

When I had my own imprint at Harcourt, I usually went to the mss. pages first and the query letter after. What interested me the most was how well the STORY drew me in. Only afterwards was I interested in the author's thoughts on the book and/or the author's personal history or attempts at being charming.

There are people who spend all their momentum on the query letter and have little left over for their actual writing.

Just a comment from an ex-editor.

Jane Yolen

Shirley Jump said...

This has nothing to do with your blog today, Miss Snark, but People's Sexiest Man Alive for 2006 was just revealed on Good Morning America and it's...drum roll...

George Clooney. And it's a picture of him that you are going to want for your wall. Maybe a billboard for your bedroom. Okay, wait. I think I'm going to have to have that billboard. Might make my husband a bit uncomfortable, but he'll understand. It's research for the next book. Really.

Anyway, figured that was breaking news you really had to have :-)

Malia said...

Damn, I knew I needed another character in my dark urban fantasy -- pink tammed poodle it is.

River Falls said...

Grandmother Snark has a fan club?

Anonymous said...

Um, if Killer Yapp is a poodle, then why is there a picture of a Bichon Frise on the blog? Is he just in disguise?

Bethany said...

It wasn't a blog, but I once had some success with a short story this way.

An editor had mentioned online that he wasn't seeing enough stories in third person, with female protagonists, or with a plot that wasn't based on the author's life. When I submitted my story, I mentioned in the cover letter that my story had all the above. I got my acceptance email in two weeks.

Of course, the acceptance might have been in spite of my cover letter...

SherryD said...

I once submitted a short story to an editor and warned him that it had been accepted four times previously. All four of the publications died before printing my story. I told him the tale might be some kind of jinx or have a curse on it. He bought the story and it was finally published.

(Wow - Jane Yolen reads this blog?)

Claire Litton said...

Just as an aside:

Can I tell Miss Snark exactly how happy it makes me that she says "poring" over the blog rather than "pouring" over it, an unfortunate error I have seen not just in online correspondance, but in newspapers, books, and supposedly literary magazines.

If you are pouring over something, you'd better hope it's something washable.

And don't get me started on the difference between "scan" and "skim". Miss Snark SKIMS her slush pile. She SCANS the things she enjoys. Damnit.

ex-ed said...

Good for you, Bethany! That sounds like a very sensible use of the information the editor had put in public about himself. And congratulations on writing a story good enough to sell too...

susan said...

I think, considering Miss Snark's stated fondness for the gin pail, that both 'poring' and 'pouring' over the slush pile would apply. Possibly the second is a direct result of the first.

veri word = ghrlz. I love it.

BuffySquirrel said...

Umm, what about the difference between correspondence and a correspondance? Yeah, I had to. I'm sorry.

Snarky, you want that gin pail back right away or would you rather I filled it first?

murm said...

the only insight i have about this is, if you plan on doing it, make sure & double sure you have followed the agent/editor's submission instructions to the t.

from reading a.l. genoese's blog, i know that it is super annoying to her when someone gushes over her blog & then doesn't include a sase.

Anonymous said...

I think the personalisation of the query should be evident in the slant of the pitch - tweaking it to acknowledge the agent's taste. They know which books they love, what they wrote on their blog, and what they’re looking for. And that’s the knowledge you have gained through research. Use it to write an appealing query.

aussiemouse said...

Poring, pouring, and then there is KY *pawing* over the slush pile ...

(apologises)