There's a reason I haunt the pages of my stat counters. I find links to blog posts like THIS. With a tip of the hat to Screaming Guppy.
Aside from colorful language choices that wouldn't find their way to my blog, I nod my head in emphatic agreement with the author. In fact, I had to chew the inside of my cheeks for a day or so before typing this. I didn't want anything to come out, yanno, overly snarky.
Because I love my blog readers. I do.
But I have to say this, so bear with me.
The inboxes of agents and editors are littered -- LITTERED -- with inappropriate queries. By "inappropriate" I mean unprofessional, unresearched, neophytic pieces of poo that SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN SENT.
And because of this poo overflow, the professional, carefully researched queries are buried in the muck of why-did-I-take-this-agenting-job-in-the-first-place. Imagine, if you can, the difference between reading a good query with FRESH, INVIGORATED eyes, and reading a good query with TIRED, I'VE-READ-A-BOATLOAD-OF-CRAP-ALREADY eyes.
You KNOW not to send your query to an agent who doesn't represent your genre.
You KNOW not to send your query IF YOUR MANUSCRIPT ISN'T EVEN FINISHED YET.
And you KNOW that I trust you to follow the same rules on this blog. Not because I'm "special." Not because I want to be an agent when I grow up. (I don't.) But because IT'S THE WAY THINGS ARE DONE IN THE PUBLISHING WORLD.
If you think it's okay to bend (or ignore) the rules in a blog contest, might you be tempted to do the same when you start querying? Or have you (gasp!) already begun to do the same whilst querying?
If you think you're successfully sneaking in a snippet of your unfinished manuscript just because you're dying for some early feedback, might it have escaped you that YOUR FLOPPY WRITING WILL SHOW?
And if you somehow grab the attention of the Secret Agent with your UNFINISHED MANUSCRIPT, do you think the agent is going to break into an exuberant happy dance when you tell her you haven't actually finished the story yet?
My blog has an honor system attached to it. There is no way I can police you; no way I can determine whether your manuscript is actually finished when you decide to enter the contest. If you break that trust, make your own rules...well, I can't stop you.
But as a fellow writer, I've got to point out that this is So. Not. Cool.
Think about it. Most of my contests fill up within the first ten minutes or less. I have to turn people away -- people with POLISHED, FINISHED MANUSCRIPTS who deserve a chance to have their carefully edited, I've-followed-the-directions work seen by the Secret Agent. If you get in with your unfinished work or I've-fudged-the-genre-just-to-squeak-in excerpt, YOU HAVE TAKEN THE PLACE OF SOMEONE WHO QUALIFIED FOR IT.
And that's what happens in agent inboxes. Every time an aspiring author breaks a querying rule (if you don't know them, LEARN THEM), it takes valuable time and energy from the agent doing the reading. And the agents can't stop the behavior, either. They just keep wading through the poo.
My agent empathy level has risen exponentially. And I don't even have to send rejection letters.
Well, unless you count the horrid "I'm sorry, the contest is full" emails I need to send. HATE that. Really hate it.
So. Learn to follow the rules EVEN IN THE SMALL PLACES. Like here. If you can't do that, what's going to stop you from breaking the rules when you're ready for the big query leap?
Honor. Integrity. Professionalism. It's all a part of being someone WITH WHOM PEOPLE WANT TO WORK. And along with writing a great story, you need to be one of those people.
Feel free to purchase a copy of AGENT: DEMYSTIFIED right now, to assuage your guilt. And if you're not guilty, and haven't gotten your hands on a copy yet, grab it anyway. You'll be glad you did. It's agent-endorsed, reader-loved, and it's got my SECRET HISTORY in it. (No, not my name. Just my history.)
The collective potential here is ASTOUNDING. I mean that. And I want each of you to rise to your own. It's an honor to be a part of your daily blog reads and your journey toward publication. Step up, raise the bar, and be even better than your best.