Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Fricassee

I spent way too much time yesterday on Twitter, reading all the "query fails" tweeted by agents and editors.

Basically, agents and editors posted honest to goodness quotes from query letters -- things that aspiring authors actually wrote in a query letter than ensured an immediate rejection. Everything was done anonymously (you see, they do have hearts, these people), and nothing was made up.

What, you missed it? That probably means you had a more productive day than I did.

Still, there were a few gems that made it worthwhile -- real snort-coffee-up-the-nosers. Here are some examples (and I post these in full confidence that none of YOU sent any of these):

From Colleen Lindsay:

  • "I am a writer of some renown and a self-published author." Instant queryfail.
  • "Forty three years of toiling within my own mind have come to an end with this manuscript!" Um, okay.
  • "This book is The Notebook meets The Lord of the Rings." Speechless.
  • Book of "quotes and more, all written by (?) and in the author’s own flavor of grammar." I prefer the English flavor of grammar.
  • A re-writing of Kimba the White Lion as a polemic on race relations. In verse. * head desk*
  • My book is about a friendship based upon mutual vomiting practices in high school." AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!

From Editorial Ass:

  • did i tell u about the proposal 4 knitting potholders out of cat hair? or that it came with samples?
  • the worst part... the author didn't enclose appropriate postage for us to return her masterpieces.
  • "it's a unique combination of memoir and novel." oh good; we'll sell it on the barnes&noble memoir slash novel shelf.

From Greg Daniel:

  • "I am writing a book. What is the going rate for literary agents?" You're in luck! Special going on now. We're two for a buck.
  • "I have 9 completed manuscripts including 2 fiction, a SF trilogy, and 4 fantasy" Okay, just send them all to me. In a big box.
  • "Keep in mind that this novel is a bit of my imagination .." I'm just glad its not ALL of your imagination.
  • "My novel is a sumptuous feast of meticulously researched historical fact and superbly crafted fiction" Burp.
  • "This isn't my first published work I have published 2 articles in G4S Pipeline Trade Publication" REALLY? I never miss an issue!
  • I'm considering changing my name to "Sir/Madam." More of the queries would seem personal that way.
  • "I've queried more than 50 other agents with this and have gotten nowhere and now I'm querying you." You had me at 'hello.'

From Angela James:

  • The manuscript is complete. It is 320 pages in Font 10 with 178,313 words. It has 36 chapters. I am not a professional writer.

There you have it. Take notes.

Of course, if these folks had read my E-BOOK, they never would have made such silly errors in their query letters.


Anyway, I'll admit that, despite the laughter this exercise provoked, I found myself feeling a bit snarky by the end of it all. We often read the woes of agents' filled-to-the-brim email boxes. We wait weeks for response from simple queries, and sometimes we get no response at all.

To think that so much -- so much -- gobblety-goop is clogging up the pipes and stealing time and energy away from well written, effective queries, is...well, annoying.

Worst of all? The aspiring authors who need to learn this -- who are often the least open to even hearing it -- are the ones who aren't paying attention to things like "queryfail" and writers' groups and Miss Snark's First Victim.

So. Congratulations on not being "one of those queriers." (Looks like a French word, doesn't it? Pronounced quee-YAY.)

Hugs to you all. Keep writing, keep editing, keep learning your craft and learning the business. Stay open, be teachable. Press on.

I will be among those cheering and throwing confetti when you succeed.


  1. Hey, Authoress - thanks for giving us the highlights. I knew about "QueryFail", but have not succumbed to the shiny lure of Twitter. Yet!

    I agree with you on the snark - with so many queries out there and so many *queriers* not following the rules (or approaching this career in a serious manner), it's no wonder many agents decide to close submissions or utilize the "No response means no thanks". Disappointing for us writers who are working hard at querying properly.

    I'm off to write (and check my query for possible idiotic statements :)


  2. I couldn't stop laughing when I read some of them. Until I realized why it takes so long to hear back about my queries or partials still floating out there. Who has time to read them with all THOSE scary queries jamming things up.

    Too bad those writers couldn't be bothered to read the agents' blog to whom them were querying. Then they would know about the mistake BEFORE they made them.

    Oh well. What's a wiser writer to do?

  3. #queryfail was great. I hear it'll be a monthly thing!!

  4. But wait! One of those was mine!!!


    Just kidding.

    Wow. lRachelle Gardner blogged about this today as well... about writers who need to be reading agent blogs and learning about the industry. Great Fricasse, Authoress. :)

  5. Yes, Twitter sucked my life away yesterday, and now, since Colleen posted the twitter-links of some other agents and "bookish" people, it's going to suck away more time!

    Twitter is evil.

  6. I too agree about feeling snarky as it went on. I was thinking, 'Maybe agents would have more time for the rest of us, if you losers weren't pointlessly clogging up their inboxes.'

    Then I closed my browser and focused on doing work.

  7. My god! After reading your excerpts, I feel so much better about my own writing ability.

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  9. What got me was the fact that so many people who 'were' following the #queryfail threads where griping about the cruelty and obnoxiousness of the agents.

    *shakes head*

    How do they expect people to learn not to make mistakes in the first place?

    I appreciated those agents coming out and showing the common mistakes. For people (like me) who want to excel and do things right the first time - it was all very informative.

    One of the queryfails that humored me was the one that was 'differentiated' from Twilight, because the vampires had wings and were halfbreed angels. :]

    I laughed, because I'm not a Twilight fan and I'm having problems making sure that my novel (with lots of beautiful guys with superhuman powers who feed on energy) can't be confused with certain books with sparkly vampires.

  10. Well, what else do you do with all that cat hair? LOL Priceless! :-)

  11. This is true entertainment! Thanks for the laughs. And thanks for yesterday's post which made me realize I should send out my requested partial and stop trying to make my first 30-or-so pages "perfect." I'll be six feet under before that happens.

  12. When I see these things, I want to cry all over again. Time after time I send out queries. I do not do any of these things. I am professional. I research agents. I've got a book that has been through a rigorous set of critiques from a very good writer's group. Guest speakers come in and say I can write. But in two and a half years of sending queries, not one agent has asked for pages, or even sent me a kind word. How can I find out what I am doing wrong?

  13. Momwoman, I don't mean this in a bad way, but maybe you should write another book. It's as much a matter of right person/right time as much as whether or not you can write.

    I, too, appreciated #queryfail. It gets me how authors could be annoyed at the snark because honestly, if you don't laugh you'll just cry!

  14. I can't get annoyed because agents need to blow off steam too. I figure that #queryfail is akin to my mocking and complaining about irritating and stupid customers to my family and co-workers when I come home from work. I simply laugh at the mistakes, thank my lucky stars I never thought to make them, and just move on to my own writing. After all, if you are submitting personable and well-written queries, it will easily leap above all the dreck it is sandwiched between.

  15. I'm sad I missed it! Sounds like hilarious fun. :D

  16. Reading those kinds of queryfails makes me sad...they degrade my profession and make all of us writers look bad.

  17. Holy Crap! 178,313 words in 10pt...talking about bleeding from the eyes!

  18. What were some of the queries that worked?

  19. If I could comment on a comment, the one about those kind of queryfails making you feel sad and degrading the profession. Are you sure that's the way you want to go? I'm thinking bring on the cat hair, the frogs, the unicorns, all of it. That kind of ubiquitous nonsense has got to make my stuff look quite good in comparison. Besides, I bet that book of wizards and giants and taking snakes had to be one tough sell.