Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Random Thoughts on Agents and Queries

No, this isn't a how-to or a list-of-top-agents. It's just my brain in query mode. (Remember that old commercial with the frying pan? The "this is your brain on drugs"? Yeah, that. "This is your brain on querying.")

It's an altered state, for sure.

Here's the thing. If you're able to reduce querying to what it truly is -- MAKING BUSINESS CONTACTS -- you may sleep a little easier while you're in process. Sure, your email "ding" will make you jump a little. And absolutely, there's a particular piece of your heart attached to this sort of thing that isn't involved in a non-arts business.

Nevertheless. Business letters. Several at a time, carefully chosen. That's it, really.

And you move on with whatever else needs to be done. Pulling out an older manuscript for a fresh edit. Working on revisions birthed from good crit-partner advice. Or madly plotting your next masterpiece.

One of the most interesting Twitter phenomena I've witnessed is the true "personality peek" it gives you. 140 characters isn't a lot, but it's amazing what a series of 140-word tweets, over time, can reveal about a person. Self-absorption shows. Altruism shows. Emotional dysfunction shows.

It all shows. Whether you mean for it to or not.

And this goes for all the tweeting agents. Yes, you can get an amazing glimpse into their daily lives-as-agents. But you can also get a feel for who they are. As people.

They are people. You knew that.

And honestly? Some of the decisions I've made concerning whom to query were directly related to what agent tweets revealed to me.

Mind you, not all the agents on my query list are on Twitter. I do all the normal research required of any aspiring author on the query threshold. (Yes, research. If you haven't begun to query yet, bear that in mind. Lots and lots of research before you start.) But Twitter has been a valuable winnowing tool.

Interesting, yes?

There you have it. Back to ignoring the "ding" and working on revisions.

19 comments:

Jamie B said...

Agreed 100%. You can tell a lot about people from tweets. If I were querying, I'd be doing the same thing. It's a great way to see who your personality might mesh with!

Lisa Katzenberger said...

I agree Authoress! It's a business process and twitter gives you and inside peek into the folks you're hoping to do business with.

-Lisa @FictionCity

Francesca said...

I agree wholeheartedly about what a wonderful (if insanely multi-paned) window Twitter has been into the world of agents and agenting. It has certainly informed my choices, aided my research and has made the whole process feel less daunting and mysterious.

It's also an interesting thought that even 140 characters reveals who we are, a potent reminder of how important it is to ask ourselves before we tweet, as well as before we speak "Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?"

(I admit that 'necessary tweet' might strike some people as an oxymoron.)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'll admit I haven't really done much with Twitter, though I do have an account and a follower. :D Now that I'm in query mode (and figuring out the whole Twitter thing), I'll be sure to check out the Twittering agents. ;)

Thanks, Authoress, for the advice!

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Oh wow this is soooo true. I never really thought about it, but I have noticed I look at certain agents differently based on their tweets--seeing who I feel like I'd work well with and who I wouldn't. Awesome advice.

Sara J. Henry said...

I crossed one agent firmly off my list - for me or for friends - after reading comments this agent left on blogs.

I don't judge tweets quite as harshly because some people don't think or write well in 140-characters bursts - and sometimes that "enter" key gets hit accidentally and the darned thing gets sent before you were ready - but blog comments can reveal a lot.

susiej said...

Sara- I agree but tweets can also reveal because they are more spontaneous, impulsive. And on the flip side, I've had to bite my fingers not to type replies to agents who've tweeted things like "im bored, so I'm starting an #askagent." I nearly typed- bored? how about reading my full you've had for 4 months? But reason prevailed. I took a deep breath and realized that everyone needs a break from work and reading my ms is work for them.

Elana Johnson said...

Good luck with your querying, Authoress! I'm sure you don't need, it but, yeah. There you go.

And good insight about Twitter. I try to tweet every day, but mostly I lurk. A lot.

Theresa Milstein said...

I wish you luck as well.

Speaking of queries, I just a strange rejection from an agent, which I just blogged about. Authoress and commenters are invited to read it, and let me know if you've heard of something similar. Thanks!

http://theresamilstein.blogspot.com/2010/01/agent-cheek.html

Annarkie said...

Ha! I'm doing a blog post today on querying and researching agents! I love coincidences!
Great post as usual, and good luck with your querying!
I just learned what a "dystopian" is. It was pretty close to what I guessed, unlike "Steampunk" which I thought was punk romance, like Sid and Nancy only with a happy ending, LOL.

lynnrush said...

Before I queried the agent I have now, I followed her on Facebook and Twitter. . .

Okay, "followed" sounds really wrong. . . but you know what I mean, right?

I interacted with her on Twitter and Facebook, watched what she posted, etc. I truly believe that's invaluable. If they have a blog, oh yeah. . . follow that too.

Gotta know if you click with the person, right? Because I didn't want to settle for "just anyone" since I'm in this for the long haul.

Sorry I rambled a bit. Great post Authoress. Best of luck on your queries.

Kristin said...

Just wanted to say best of luck, and I agree!!

Ant said...

We're in the same boat right now, Authoress. Querying and waiting for emails can be maddening! Sometimes it's hard to remember that agents are people, too! Thanks for the reminder...and good luck to you!

Jemi Fraser said...

Nice post!

I'm almost at the write-the-query stage. Somehow more terrifying than the write-the-novel stage. :)

Anonymous said...

The love of your life is a product - whether you like to think it or not - and a product which must be sold to a business.

I think many writers forget that.

I often think that the query should be written by anyone other than the author. I've seen queries which are tooooooo close to the plot to see the forest. And sink in a bog of irrelevancies that would make the ten commandments pale into insignificance.

Pennyoz

mkcbunny said...

Just started the actual letter-writing part of the query process after years of blog-reading and weeks of research. And I agree, it's a lot less frightening once you get rolling. I feel in control now.

Jemi: It gets better once you submit.

(That could be taken several ways, but of course, I mean it in business terms.)

Mystery Robin said...

What a fabulous post! My brain is on queries, too, and it is an altered state. It's basically a state where I constantly obsess over my gmail.

And I completely agree about twitter. I've become more excited about certain agents b/c of twitter, and less excited about others. ;)

ajcastle said...

When I queried my first book, I was in a constant state of nervousness. I both looked forward to and dreaded the 'ding' of my email. It was really a horrible experience.

Once I took a step back, decided my first book wasn't 'the one,' I continued working on my WIP. I wrote the initial draft quickly and had a couple betas read right away to make sure the plot itself made sense and flowed well for them. When it did, I dug into revising. After sending it to my beta's two more times and then revising a final time, I felt like I had it shining as well as I could.

Two weeks ago I started querying again, and let me tell you, it's been a WHOLE new experience this time. I hardly even remember I've queried until a reply hits my inbox. There is no stress this time, no anxiety. Maybe it's because the responses have been really good so far, or maybe it's because I just decided the stress wasn't worth feeling. I can't be sure.

I do agree 100% on the tweeting thing. I've actually been a little turned off by a couple of agents on Twitter. But, they are human, they do get discouraged and frustrated too, so I try not to draw too many conclusions from what I read there.

melodycolleen said...

I feel so old and uninformed. I don't get the whole Twitter thing - I can't figure out how to read a specific person's comments. I guess I need to go back to school just so I can understand Facebook and Twitter!

But best of luck, everyone, with your querying.

And, if you have an opportunity, check this out. It might be a great way to get some invaluable feedback!

http://Kidlit.com/kidlit-contest