Caution: Cranky Agent Alert

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

Before I begin my rant–I mean blog post–let me say for the record that I’m usually an upbeat, easy-going, glass-half-full sort of person. Right? I normally avoid snarkiness and try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I was a writer myself before becoming an agent so I’ve never been a slave to query rules. That said. . .

I’m pulling my hair out these days with inappropriate query etiquette. Here’s what’s bugging me:

Writers who query me using a Facebook message. Or pre-query me, as in, “Are you taking new clients?” or “May I send you a query?” Sounds harmless, right? It’s not. It’s a pain in the neck. Facebook is not where I do business. It’s about a fun conglomeration of family, friends, old college pals, missionary friends, kids I taught in Sunday school, clients, editors, cousins, and I could go on and on. It’s friendly and relational. I hate to think someone has “friended” me just to get their query under my nose.

And from a productivity standpoint, a query that comes in outside of the proper channel cannot be logged in, referred to, filed and processed correctly. We have no system to process a query that comes through Facebook. It feels like the writer is presuming a relationship that doesn’t exist. It’s like saying, “I know you want queries sent a certain way, but I’m your Facebook friend so it doesn’t apply to me.” Not a great way to make an introduction.

And speaking of presuming a relationship that doesn’t exist, we Christian agents get dozens of queries every week saying something like, “Michael Hyatt recommended you.” We immediately know this person got our name off the list of agents posted on Hyatt’s blog. Finding a name on a published list is not a recommendation. We give serious weight to a recommendation offered by an editor, a client, or a publishing colleague. If a writer mentions a recommendation in his query and we haven’t heard from the person referring, we always pick up the phone to verify and get more information. It’s part of our due diligence. A writer shouldn’t claim a recommendation where none exists. It makes him seem careless with the truth.

And back to Facebook. It makes me more than cranky when someone “friends” me and immediately posts a pre-query or a link to their book on my Facebook page. It’s an embarrassing breach of etiquette. It’s like a guest at a private party who whips out his Amway catalog to work the room for sales.

And can I vent about the writer who cannot take six minutes to open our website and read the guidelines for submitting? What are the chances that that writer would follow guidelines in preparing proposals, filling out a publisher’s marketing questionnaire, meeting deadlines, etc? An agency’s guidelines are not draconian hoops devised to make writers jump to our tune; they are part of a system to make sure every query gets logged and read.

I’m not even going to go into the queries like the one received this week that said: I am a writer.  I have a very short book. I am looking for a literary agent.  Please advise.  I have attached the book so you can see.  The writing is final.  And I do not want it changed.  However the pictures will probably be brighter.  The problem as I see it is that the colors will cause this to be an expensive book.  I hope not.  I guess it is up to the printer. Let me know if you want to take it on.  It is a very good book.  Very well written.”

When I sent a polite email outlining our oh-so-easy submission protocol, I got this response: “You know, you guys make it very difficult.  You must understand I had to send about a hundred emails, one by one. One by one… But if you want to work me to the ground, you can forget it.”

I concede that it’s silly for me to be ranting here because those who send these queries not only don’t read our guidelines, but they also don’t read our blog. Still, this community has become a safe place to vent. We feel we are among friends–among professional writers with high standards. So I knew you’d forgive my ranting and maybe even pat my hand and say, “There, there.”

See, I’m feeling better already.

Okay, I started the ball rolling today. How about you? Got a rant or two you need to get off your chest? How about a pet peeve?

194 Responses

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  1. I’ve got quite a few…but I’ll stick with the big ones, first. Then we’ll see if more pop up throughout the day.
    1-just because I’m Canadian, does NOT mean I say “eh” at the end of every sentence. I do it sometimes, yes, but I also say “huh” a fair bit too. I do not know how to make an igloo. I don’t speak very good French. My dog is a poodle mix and cannot pull a sled. It gets to be 100 degrees here in the summer. I don’t like maple syrup.
    2-just because I’ve been blessed with more curves than a racetrack, doesn’t mean I’m lazy, ignorant or happy to be this way. And no, I’m not ‘jolly’ either.
    3-deaf people CANNOT hear you better when you yell or talk slowly.
    4-not all Arabs are Muslims. Some are quiet, unassuming Baptists who take handfuls of medication everyday to stay alive.
    5-just because I’m a redhead doesn’t mean I have a temper or like being called Pippi Longstocking, Duracell or Carrot Top.

    There, I feel all better.

    • Jeanne T says:

      Hmmmm,dare I ask what else pushes your hot button? :) Fun to read you here today, Jennifer.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      See? All that off your chest, you’re ready to have a good day. Here’s a piece of good news: there’s a whole generation coming along who have no idea who Pippi Longstocking is.

    • I don’t think you said “eh” one single time when we hung out!! 😛

    • Jenny Leo says:

      For what it’s worth, Jennifer, I add “eh” to the end of some sentences and I’m NOT Canadian. I have no idea what that says about me. My mom is Canadian (from that teeming metropolis, Killarney, MB) but I don’t think she’s ever uttered “eh” in her life. Anyway, thanks for starting my day with a smile. :-)

      • To Wendy: There, there. (hug)

        To Jenny: From my genealogical research, it seems the ‘eh’ originates from the Canadian prairie provinces. I found this out while transcribing the love letters of my hubby’s grandfather and grandmother on my Author Memories blog.

        Noah’s family moved from Ontario to what would become Saskatchewan in 1903. Ethel was the girl next door, or rather the next farm. Noah went back often and the courtship letters start in Feb 1911 after a Christmas visit.

        Noah says ‘eh’ often in his letters. When Ethel says it, she encloses it with quotes – at least up til the current letter of Mar 14th, 1911. That tells me she’s quoting him. Why would she quote a word that was used often? She wouldn’t unless it was something he said and she didn’t. By this time, Noah has been in the west for about 7 years and has had time to pick up on the local dialect. I believe the word, eh, was part of that education.

    • Wow, I had no idea you were a deaf, Arabic, redhead who hates maple syrup and is grouchy. Maybe I’ll use you for a character in a novel.;-)

    • Jennifer, it’s all those Mackenzie brothers fault. What a couple of hosers. They should take off, (avoiding that word)?

      It’s funny you mentioned yelling at a deaf person. I see a lot of people do that with non-English speakers. Perhaps it’s a short circuit in the human synapses?

      My friend from Bible College was an Arab. He works for Campus Crusade on the Jesus Film Project.

      As far as the redhead thing goes, you’re so right. You don’t have a temper because you have red hair. You have one because you’re a mom. 😛

    • Love the poodle pulling a sled!

  2. Wendy, Rather than listing my pet peeves (too numerous to mention), I’ll commiserate with you…and with editors and writers. When I got into this crazy profession, life was simpler. Writers could submit via the slush pile or personal contact with editors. Having an agent was a bonus, because they worked out contracts and took care of their clients. Editors acquired and edited.
    Now, pub houses are in upheaval. Agents, in addition to their other work, have become gatekeepers for editors. And writers are left to navigate a maze that includes side trips to the puzzle of self-publish vs. seeking traditional.
    To quote from The King and I, “’tis a puzzlement.” I feel your pain, but to be fair, there’s enough to go around.
    That having been said, I’m happy (and fortunate) to be represented by Books & Such.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I always love reading your comments, Richard, because you are a keen observer of the industry.

      It’s true. We are navigating a new world with so many options that we never had before, including entry into what feels like the personal lives of once-mysterious agents and editors via Facebook. It’s no wonder writers feel connected (and take liberties) they’d never have even considered before.

  3. Sue Harrison says:

    Oh my goodness, I KNOW people like that, Wendy! I once had a woman call me (from a neighboring town and ask me where she should send her just-completed novel for publication because she was hoping to get an advance in 3 weeks. She was really short of cash.

    As a writer, my pet peeve is having people come up to me and tell me that they have a story just perfect for me to write for them, and they’d let me be listed as co-author.

    Life is always interesting and full of strange give-me people, but also full of people who can bless us with a smile and a cheerful hello. Thank you for the being a glass-half-full kind of person, Wendy. You add sunshine to all our days!! (But your pet peeve post was lots of fun!)

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I received a query from a writer whose home was in foreclosure and she hoped we could expedite getting her book published. Heartbreaking.

      And as to the people who want you to write their story. . . oh, goodness, do we all know.

  4. Well, I could rant about my White Sox losing 10 out of the last 13 and not making the playoffs, but I’m over it now. :) Aren’t you all relieved?

    I worked for a small publisher and sorted through the slush pile. It was so eye-opening to see how few writers followed the directions or even checked to see what kind of books we published. If you follow instructions and have some writing skill, you really stand out.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      You are so right, Sally! Every agent and editor talks about the huge number of submissions received but the truth is, the number of stellar submissions is a tiny drop in the bucket.

  5. How do you really feel, Wendy? :-)

    I’m Irish, and as such can rant on a dime. However, I’ll keep it down to a single pet peeve in an effort to stay positive.

    Way back I posed a question on Rachelle’s blog expressing my concern over the plethora of misconceptions regarding the Christian Fiction genre. The Cliff Notes: Whenever I mention my writing style includes a Christian element, whether in group discussions or one-on-one, there is always one person who reacts like I’ve set a bag of puppies on fire!

    Even before I share pages – I’ve been judged. *angry face* I point out NYT bestsellers that fall into the category, but it never seems to quite erase the bias. In fact, I had such strong reactions I shut down my Twitter and blog and started fresh in an effort to weed out the more…*ahem*…strong feedback.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Isn’t it strange when you receive such a visceral reaction? I guess it is in the nature of the avid reader (or writer) to offer critique. Of course stereotyping doesn’t fall into the category of literary critique. Romance writers used to suffer the same prejudice.

  6. Jeanne T says:

    There, there, Wendy. I’m so sorry you have had a rough week (month?). :)

    I have so much respect for agents. They must deal graciously with writers, publishers and others. I had to laugh at the “query” you received that was “firm.”

    I do have pet peeves. I think when I see people trying to get around the rules my “strong sense of justice” rises up and I get irritated. Like when people take the short cuts rather than the proper routes to drop kids off in the carpool area at school. Okay, I’m not going off, but that is one thing that bugs me.

    I’ll pray your day is a good one, Wendy. :)

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Life is difficult for those with a strong sense of justice. I’m with you. My kids use to tease me about being a rule follower. Like when I’d use my turn signals when turning into the garage on our ranch– a full quarter mile from any road.

      • Sarah Thomas says:

        Ha! I get grief for that, too. And following the lines in the EMPTY parking lot.

      • Judy Gann says:

        Wendy, my dad would love to follow you down any road.:-) People who don’t use their turn signals are his pet peeve. I’m a rule follower, too, and think of my dad every time I use the turn signals.

        A rant of mine is parents who don’t supervise their children (preschoolers) in the library. They drop them in the children’s area and expect the staff to babysit them.

        Unfortunately, the library isn’t the safe place parents assume it is. Not to mention babysitting isn’t in our job descriptions and we may need to leave the area to help other patrons.

        Now I feel better. :-) Thanks, Wendy!

  7. Sarah Thomas says:

    Oof. I love directions. They’re the sides on the bridge I’d otherwise drive off of.

    As for pet peeves? People who say “whalla” when what they mean is “voila.”

  8. Tiana Smith says:

    Isn’t it sad that there really is no way for you to reach out to these people (since they don’t read your website or blog) so there’s nothing you can do? I hate that feeling.

    My pet peeve would be people who assume that because I’m a writer, I must not have better things to do with my time. Or because I’m a writer, that must mean I have all the time in the world do do their errands, or meet on *their* schedule because obviously, *my* time is soooo flexible. Ugh.

  9. Ha ha hahahaha.
    Way to go! This made my morning. You sound like some pastors I know.
    Facebook is a big pain in the butt. Can’t weed that stuff out… but normal people get it.
    BTW, I’m attaching an idea for a project… and I was hoping you’d talk to JKG about it, and I think it’s going to make a great movie… I’ll call you..

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I can’t even imagine what a mixed bag Facebook would be for pastors of huge churches (like yours). You want to be part of FB because you can stay in touch with family, seminary friends, and people in past pastorates, but by participating, some in your church will think you have too much time on your hands (like connecting with people is not what you’re called to do) and others will become your new best friend, friending your friends and commenting on everything you post or say from the pulpit. Read:stalker.

      I tell you, the most difficult job in the world. . .

  10. Oh, this post made me laugh, Wendy.

    But seriously, I do thank you for ranting just a little. It helps me understand a bit better what agents have to go through.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Happily, it’s only a small part of what we do. The crux of our job is working with an intensely creative group of people who are literally changing the world, one word at a time.

  11. Wow, Wendy, you make me want to grab my pom-pons and megaphone!

    I so love connecting with folks and making new friends. Nothing is more disappointing than “following” someone back only to meet with “If you ‘like’ me, you’ll LOVE my book, website, etc.”

    Of course, it’s obvious I’m just another number. Drat. And I thought I was special. (Please don’t disillusion me. Pollyanna is one of my favorite movies.)

    And really?? I was waiting for the punch line when you spoke about the recent query you received. You must have the patience of a saint. I’m having another cup of Starbucks in your honor just now. :)

    (Jody Hedlund had a terrific blog post that touched on similar issues today: http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/2012/10/5-obnoxious-marketing-techniques.html)

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Cynthia, thanks for pointing out Jody’s blog. Excellent. She says it so well.

      As for the patience of a saint, not even close, but with that query I don’t share it to mock the writer, just to show how difficult this path is to traverse. In any other endeavor than writing it might not be such a strange approach. I have a product. I think it’s good. I’m not open to having it tweaked at this time. Are you interested or not?

      But in our industry (like in Hollywood) we realize how narrow the opportunities and how complicated the path in, so most writers who’ve done their homework come with eyes wide open.

      • I appreciate the laugh (and the truth of it). Donning my editor’s hat, I’ll share a few of mine.

        Pet peeve: Queries in which the writer actually says he’s submitting according to our guidelines, but obviously hasn’t read them, is myopic, or meant to query some other publisher.

        Pet peeve: Queries that include subject matter or words we’ve specifically said we won’t consider–especially when the writer argues that he’s a Christian who merely writes realistically.

        Pet peeve: Writers who send self-published books for me to review–and not because they want to give me a gift.

        Pet peeve: Writers who try to convince me that I’ve made a mistake when I reject their work.

        And isn’t Facebook a fun place for those messages?

  12. “You’re a writer? Oh that’s cool. I have a great story—perhaps I’ll get it published. How hard could it be?”

    or

    “You publish that book yet? Why not? What’s taking so long?”

    :-)

    • Oh my gosh, Nicole. People ask me when my book will be published all the time!

      I tend to say in a light-hearted way something like, “Thank you for asking about it, but you will not believe what a long journey it is to get published. It will be worth it though and I will make sure you know about it.”

      I try to take their comments like this and turn it into a compliment (even if it’s not), because after all they ARE “thinking” about my book which means they will most likely buy it when it comes out and hopefully be a good source of word of mouth to others. :) We must look on the bright side of life.

    • People outside the industry definitely do not realize what a long road it is to publication, especially if you want to traditionally publish.

    • Camille Eide says:

      Oh, Nicole, I get both of those too! Just the other day, I was told, “You’re a writer? Cool. I have a book I’m planning to write.” Why is this such a common response? Makes me want to tell people I write instruction manuals for unibombers, just to see what they do.

      And there, there, Wendy. Rant all you like. We’re here for you and promise not to send you anything on Facebook that’s book related. Would you like to play a mindless game? Come to my non-existent, virtual book launch? Be included in a conversation with 488 other people about my kid’s fundraiser? Did you know I added you to 14 FB groups you’ve never heard of? (oops…slipping into rant mode, sorry…)

      :)

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Followed by, “But my friend wrote a book in one month and two weeks later it was up at Amazon.”

    • Alex Schnee says:

      Oh my goodness. So true.

      Or when nonfiction/speculative fiction/not-even-close-to-what-your-agent-represents writers say they are going to submit a query to your agent.

      I want to tell Rachel to run in advance.

      • Wendy Lawton says:

        And Alexa, not only do they query your agent but they make sure to tell her that they are your friend. :-)

        (Don’t worry, Rachel can tell the difference between a referral and a fishing expedition.)

    • Jeanne T says:

      Oh yah, I’ve heard that one.

  13. Lori says:

    My pet peeve is “Have you finished your book yet?”

    • Sarah Thomas says:

      Not to mention, “When will it be published?”

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      You have to love the clueless.

      But we are not alone. When I used to design dolls, we were considered one of the top collectible doll companies in the world and yet if I went into a fabric store to pick up a piece of fabric to complete a prototype, the clerk would invariable ask what I was making. I learned to deflect because if I ever told the truth I’d get, “Oh, my friend makes Barbie clothes.” No clue the difference.

      You have to accept that no one but another writer understands what we do.

  14. Jennifer Valent says:

    Everybody needs a good vent sometimes, and I have no doubt you have plenty of reason. Hope you have a good supply of chocolate and coffee to get you through the day!

    I always tell people to do their research, that they can’t just jump into this business blindly. Rules and requirements are in place for a reason. I can’t imagine how frustrating it is to have people try to get their foot in the back door instead of doing the work required to be invited through the front door.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      And the trouble is, if you manage to slip in through the back door, without understanding the industry, once you’re in you stand paralyzed like a deer in the headlights.

      • Jennifer Valent says:

        Gotta be even worse than a deer in headlights because I’d done my homework and still felt like one when I walked through that door. Good thing I had a great agent to guide me through it! 😉

  15. Did you ever notice that the irritation and irregardless (a non-word) start the same? If my husband uses the word irregardless one more time…

    But I digress away from publishing rants. :)

    Definately. I don’t know if I should blame my drill sergeant 8th grade teacher’s relentlessness with spelling and phonics, but even though my spelling isn’t purrfect, I work hard at conquering bad spelling habits. Queries, proposals, and even emails lose their professionalism with commonly misspelled words. It’s not def-in-ATE-ly, but def-in-ite-ly, as in two i’s. People have two eyes. So does the word definitely.

    In this age of computerized help with spelling–though it too is impurrfect–it’s hard to fathom why serious writers would hang onto habitually misspelled words.

    Beloved agent of mine, I hereby apologize for every time I’ve tempted you to rant! Can I get you a cookie?

  16. Wendy;
    I’m so relieved that this is what you’re venting about today, because I thought you might have been venting about your clients, like me, not getting you that new book idea yet :-)! Maybe that’s tomorrow’s blog :-)!
    Seriously though, I loved your rant…gave me a good laugh about my own experiences with people’s perceptions of us as writers…people can be so funny!

    Barb

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I would never vent about a client who is so busy doing ministry that he can’t write about doing ministry. It’ll come and when it does it’ll be wonderful.

  17. Jill Kemerer says:

    My pet peeve is that there are just TOO many writers out there who behave the way you described. They don’t follow any set of etiquette rules, they blatantly angle to stand out (and have no problem using others to do it), and it makes the rest of us look bad or disappear into the woodwork.

    It’s frustrating. I’m tired of getting DM’s from new Twitter followers who urge me to like their Facebook page or buy their book. And, yet, I get so many of these, it makes me think the majority of writers nowadays just don’t get it.

    Yeah, I’m on a high horse right now–I’ll dismount in a minute–but I can’t imagine asking a complete stranger, whom I’ve never met, to “like” my FB page. What does that even accomplish? It’s another false number that becomes meaningless.

    I feel bad for publishing professionals like you. If little old me is tired of blatant self-promotion and lack of understanding, I can’t even imagine what you’re going through.

    To be fair, though, most of the writers I am personally friends with would never act this way.

    Ugh.

    Double ugh.

  18. *pat, pat* There, there, Wendy. (I swear I was going to write this before I saw Jeanne’s comment above. LOL.)

    I actually didn’t even know if it was kosher to try to friend agents on Facebook. I’ve only friended a handful, and only if I’ve interacted with them extensively (over several months) or chatted with them in person. I would never want to presume a relationship that isn’t truly there.

    My pet peeves…hmmm.

    My biggest is when I follow someone on Twitter and they send me a DM letting me know that I can buy their book or view their blog.

    Can I really? Oh, goody. Thanks for pointing out that THAT’S what that link at the bottom of your profile is for.

    (I’m not usually snarky either, but I figure, EH [Jennifer, that was for you], why not join in the spirit of this post?) 😉

    • HAHAHA!!!
      Good one, huh? 😉

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      It definitely IS kosher to follow agents on Facebook. If they didn’t want followers, they’d simply ignore the friend request. But it can be confusing because you’ll encounter the whole person there, not the professional person.

      I’ll confess, I’ve read several editor’s pages and when I see them playing Farmville during the work day when I’m waiting for a contract I have to step back and remember how complicated all of our lives are and that the editor probably escapes the craziness for forty-five minutes at lunchtime with a sandwich in one hand and her mouse in the other.

    • I have stopped following too many people on Twitter or LinkedIn for that very reason, Lindsay. Actually, I think marketing people are the worst. Within momemts of following I have messages about checking out their Facebook page or their website. They want to tell me how to gain a bazillion followers in 30 days, yada, yada, yada. :)

  19. Amanda Dykes says:

    I have to say, one of the only pet peeves left to mention (since I had a splendid time laughing my way through and commiserating with the above comments) is my own learning curve. When I first started down this road, the very first industry/craft book I read was very good for craft, and very good for industry information…15 years ago. Oops.

    It took a few months of weeding through all of the online info out there to find a few gems (like this blog), soaking all the up-to-date information in, and kicking myself a few times for doing things wrong, before I began to catch on that I needed to slow down a bit, look before I leapt, and pause to see if there was something even a “freshie” like me could bring to the table.

    I’m still learning, and so thankful for wisdom and grace from people like you!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Here’s a secret for anyone who worries about making mistakes in their early years of contacting agents: I live by 1 Corinthians 13 guidelines and I “keep no records of wrongs.” And if I don’t write it down– which I don’t– trust me, when you contact me again I won’t remember that you ever contacted me before.

      We talk a lot about pet peeves and wrong things writers do but grace covers it all. Someday I ought to write about all the things I did as a writer-hopeful all those years back. (Vicki Crumpton could tell you a story of a proposal she received at Mount Hermon bound in a beautiful folder with handmade paper embellishments. Her comments showed nothing but grace.)

    • Lisa says:

      I love this. Being a new writer, I had to learn through some mistakes that I needed to slow down. I think that has been the biggest and most valuable lesson I have learned so far. Everything takes infinitely longer than I assume it will take in the writing world.

      I am so thankful for this blog as a safe place to learn and also connect with such amazing people.

      Hopefully those that have made mistakes will learn from them and be forgiven with grace. It’s the repeat offenders that give you headaches. So, thank you for all you do agents.

      (I am really shy, so luckily my mistakes didn’t involve ‘facebook friending’ or ‘twitter direct messages.) I was just scared to have anyone read and edit my work. Kind of a problem when you are a writer… ha.

      • Amanda Dykes says:

        Lisa, I’m shy too– it’s a scary thing to put your work on the line with people you love and will have to face again even if this writing endeavor falls flat on its face. I’ve learned (am learning?) to give my shy-ish pride in that area over to Him and walk in trust that He has me on this road for a reason, regardless of whether my books end up on shelves or not. I mean… I certainly hope they do, and think that He’s put that desire on my heart, but He’s tranforming that desire, honing it to surrender my words to Him, reach whomever He may along the way, and learn a ton along the way. I like to say I tiptoed onto the scene, most of my friends/family not knowing I was writing a book until it was finished and I’d signed with an agent– a beloved one at that.

      • Amanda Dykes says:

        –not that your timidity is prideful AT all. It seems more gracious and humble. :) Just speaking purely of my own and where I think mine was springing from.

  20. Oooh, along the lines of what Tiana said, above…it’s very interesting how the stay-at-home, homeschooling moms wind up having lots of extra neighborhood kids to babysit. As in, your kids are always around, so can’t my kids come hang out? I’ve got to hit the gym/goto the grocery store, etc. As if homeschooling moms (especially ones who are trying to WRITE on top of that, which is also not a recognizable career until people have seen your books on display in Barnes/Noble) are the ones with all the free time! I love having other kids over to my house–don’t get me wrong, but always ASK FIRST!

    • Amanda Dykes says:

      Heather, I loved your point about it not being a perceivably “recognizable career” until your books have hit the shelves. I’ve had to coach myself through this very point, to come to the point that validation of a writing career (including guarding your writing time) doesn’t come from shelf space, but from whether God’s called me to it. If the latter is true, then I need to be diligent to it and a good steward of that time and those words.

    • Sarah Sundin says:

      Sadly, it’s not even seen as a career AFTER your books hit the shelves :)Someone told me, “It’s nice you have a hobby that pays.”

      I finally had to learn (even before the contract) to guard my writing time and learn to say no – which is really, really hard for me. Granted, I learned that after reluctantly agreeing to carpool a friend’s child – who lived 10 minutes out of my way. Every day. For three years. Because his mom “worked” and I “didn’t.”

      Now I say, “I’m so sorry! I really wish I could help you out, but I can’t. That’s during my work hours.”

      • Sarah, what you said really spoke to me. It is hard for me to say no, even though I work full time at a local libray, have a home-based travel business (a thirty+ year career is hard to give up!) and write. I have family asking me to do all sorts of things ‘in my spare time.’ And I really want to write full time. It’s (hopefully) going to be a new career for me, if it’s God’s will. Thanks for sharing that experience.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I think it has more to do with the perception of having your office in your home than in the work you do. I’m guessing that an insurance agent or a software engineer who works from his home office suffers with the same assumptions.

      As time goes on and more people telecommute I hope these perceptions will change.

      • Ann Bracken says:

        What you said is true, Wendy. My husband works from home. I can’t tell you how often people ask if he plans to get a real job. As opposed to the TWO he’s currently doing?

  21. Kirk Kraft says:

    I’ve been following the publishing industry long enough that I find it incredulous people still approach agents this way, Wendy. Do these people possess a shred of common sense? Lord knows I’ve probably tripped over proper etiquette once in a blue moon (and I apologize to anyone out there that may have been the beneficiary of my ignorance, agent or otherwise). It’s not my intention to be sensitive to those souls but there are countless blogs, tweets, Facebook posts that instruct writers to read submission guidelines BEFORE they think of querying. This is NOT brain surgery and while I’m sure we’re all grateful for the amount of grace professionals provide, it’s got to be terribly frustrating to see this repeated–ad nauseum.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Kirk, you’d be surprised how many writer-hopefuls are totally unconnected to the online information and to other writers. It still amazes me to come across writers who don’t have email and are not online.

      I just got a query in my mailbox– which tells me the sender never looked at our guidelines. I don’t even have a place in my office anymore for paper queries.

  22. Dale Rogers says:

    I can’t believe that terrible query, then response you received, Wendy! I can certainly understand why you get tired of inappropriate approaches.
    Maybe this post will help!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Not likely, Dale. If I thought that writer might read the blog and be embarrassed I never would have shared the exchange but I can tell he has no idea we have a website let alone write a blog.

  23. I thought of another pet peeve, entirely unrelated to writing…people who pedal their bikes on the arch of their foot.
    TOTALLY using the wrong muscle group and you look silly! Unless you’re 5 years old.
    Although, I don’t see it that ofTen.
    :)

  24. Donna Pyle says:

    The work, dedication, prayer, late nights, interrupted vacations, and more that you and your fellow Books & Such agents embrace is VERY MUCH appreciated by those who understand the value of an excellent agent. In a nutshell, YOU ARE APPRECIATED!!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Why, thank you, Donna. Truth is, we all–agents, editors, writers– sacrifice much for our love of the word/Word.

  25. Stephanie M. says:

    Ahhhh, Wendy, thank you. Whenever I read other people’s rants they leave me feeling all spent and serene. I think a little bluebird might land on my shoulder and we’ll sing a duet :)

    I got nadda, nothing. Life is good.

  26. I think it’s pretty safe to say that the person who sent you that last query is a self-absorbed and uneducated “writer” who doesn’t know anything about the publishing business. (I’d also go so far as to guarantee that of their 100 wasted emails, they will not receive one positive response.

    Very sorry that you had to face the ignorance of this person and the many more you receive, but unfortunately I think it goes with the business of being an agent. Very unfortunately!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Devils Advocate: In this writer’s defense, he could be one of people who is so busy doing life/ ministry, he is clueless about the industry protocol. (Okay, not likely.) But I do represent some people who have huge multi-layered ministries and their writing grows out of what they’ve immersed themselves in. Their first contact with potential agents might be through their administrative assistants. We overlook all that when we fall in love with the potential book.

  27. Christina says:

    What ever happened to etiquette? People amaze me. It’s like the driver who rushes to get ahead of you only to slow down. It’s like their time is more important.

  28. Cathy West says:

    I so appreciated this post because my single pet peeve is people who can’t be honest. People that tell you one thing and do another. People that continuously do not keep their word. I’m not a very patient person at the best of times – major understatement – so when I am told to expect something on a certain date and then its weeks and then months…well, yeah. That riles me up. Just be honest. I would be a whole lot less snarky if I sensed a sincere heart rather than a lot of hot air.
    Thank you. I feel better now. :)

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Oh, Cathy, I agree with you but I confess I feel a little catch. I know I’ve been one of those disappointments to others– especially writers who are waiting for me to make a representation decision– more times than I’d like to admit.

  29. This is a great post, Wendy. Do you wish you could email it to the people it refers to? :)

    My major pet peeve right now is people not following simple directions. I’m registrar for a local writers conference. All the people have to do is provide contact information: name, phone, mailing addres, and email address. I can’t tell you how many people don’t provide all the requested information. How can anyone who can’t follow simple directions expect to make it in this business?

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I wish I had the answer to that. Is it because we all too busy and never read anything carefully anymore? Is it because some have bought into the practice of multi-tasking? Is it distraction?

      Don’t you wonder what college registrars are seeing these days? If a professional writer can’t fill out a simple form, what doesa high school senior’s application look like?

  30. Thank you, Wendy! I love reading other people’s rants. It makes me feel better when I do it myself.

    Here’ mine: Why is it my children seem to think I have nothing better to do than taxi them and their bazillion friends all over town? Seriously, I ought to charge a fare. And for that matter, add bullet-proof (and soundproof) glass separating my seat and from the jabbering 13-year-old girls.

    Ahhh. That felt so good.

    So, can I query you?

    Haha. Just kidding.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      As long as you do it in a Facebook message. :-)

      I so hear you about the chauffeur duties, but how I’d love to go back and relive just one day with my kids in the backseat. Those days seemed to drag but looking back, they were not long enough.

  31. Brian Taylor says:

    There is often a difficulty in finding the separation between personal and professional in social media. This is partly because so many have begun to use Twitter and Facebook as a means of building their platform and marketing themselves. For those who are high enough on the “food chain,” they can afford to have a personal page as well as professional page and thus keep the two separate; keeping their personal between themselves and the ones they care for. I’m trying to find that happy separation myself, before things get out of hand. I wish the best of luck to you.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      The trouble is, if you have two, one will be a joy and the other a drudge. One will probably be neglected. I used to try to keep the parts of my life separate– writing, agenting, design, personal. I even have different phone numbers for different parts. It just never worked for me.

      I stopped trying to separate out my friends and my clients, my collectors and my colleagues, my church people and my family. it’s not unusual for me to have a party with some of each all thrown together.

      At least at my funeral, they’ll all already know each other. :-)

  32. Wendy and the extended gang!

    This post and all the follow-up rants just made me smile! I have nothing to add because you all essentially covered it so well. LOVE IT!

    I’m so glad for places like this where we can all unload and not feel judged or gossipy, just relieved.

    Thank you for being vulnerable and real today.

    Blessings,
    Becky

  33. Well said, Wendy. Loved all the comments, too. If anything, you could make your guidelines a little more specific for us rule-followers. :)

  34. Laurie Evans says:

    I swear, internet etiquette gets worse by the day. I *cringe* when I see authors doing the things in your list. I’m a newbie, so I’m learning a lot about “what not to do” just by reading and surfing blogs like this.

    I really dislike auto DMs on Twitter urging me to buy a book. I wish people would stop this practice.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I wonder who is teaching that method of marketing? I don’t think annoying people works. And a writer who seems desperate for sales doesn’t inspire confidence.

  35. Elizabeth Kitchens says:

    I’m sorry, Wendy. I teach a lab that has a writing component and was distressed at the number of rough drafts that included the very things I specifically said not to include. These things were also mentioned in a tips sheet given to them the first day of class. Some people just don’t listen or read. It makes me think of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: “Don’t they teach logic in these schools anymore?”

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Don’t you think every student ought to be required to take a class in following instructions? I’d love to work on the curriculum, wouldn’t you?

      • I doubt the students would follow the instructions in the class in following instructions! My husband is a college professor, and he has one simple e-mail rule. The student needs to include their course and section number. Simple and logical, right? Not unreasonable for a professor who teaches over 100 students. Yet, it is absolutely unbelievable how many don’t include that basic information.

  36. Great blog title. Made me click right over.

    Sorry to laugh at your expense, but this was funny. And the comments were too.

    The stalking thing…it’s kind of hard because so often we read peoples books and blogs and feel like we know them. We weep with our favorite authors/bloggers and we laugh with them and we believe their kindred spirits. It’s easy to forget that they don’t know us.I know I’ve freaked out some of my favorite authors by acting like I’m their best friend. It’s not until they give me this really frightened look that I remember that they have no idea who I am.

  37. I had to laugh at “I am a writer. I have written a very short book.” I’m not sure why that struck me as funny. Maybe because it’s so on the nose.
    My pet peeves revolve around how others judge parents with special needs kids, particularly children with autism or emotional disorders that aren’t visible on the “outside.”
    Parents in my generation are carrying a huge burdern. You can be sure our hearts are breaking while every day we do the best we can. When we’re told “you should just do what we did in the old days,” it’s a slap in the face. Not because we disregard traditional wisdom but because these are NOT the good old days.
    Thanks for the freedom to rant. I didn’t know I needed to get that off my chest today, but now I feel better. :)

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      What a valuable rant. Instructive! I wish I could remember in which book I read the story of the person on the bus getting more and more agitated with a father who sat motionless while his two young children tore around, shouting and annoying people. The man couldn’t hold his tongue any longer and he said to the father, “Can’t you control your kids?”

      The father looked up as if coming from a long way away and said, “I’m so sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. We’ve just come from the hospital where me and my boys had to say goodbye to their mother, my wife. None of us quite knows what to do with ourselves.”

      I can’t remember the book but I’ve never forgotten that story. It made me realize that we only see the surface.

  38. Wendy, you have my sympathy, but one advantage to being a writer is that you can use almost anything. How about creating a character who does all those things and making something terrible happen to him or her? Revenge without a guilty conscience! Or you could have a sort of slapstick character in a comedy do them and look like an idiot. Maybe you could use them in a short story and generously send a free copy to people who submit things that way. Okay, I’m just kidding.

  39. Oh, wow. Somebody actually sent that to you?

    I’ve never understood why writers choose not to follow agents’ guidelines. You would think they would want to try to do everything in their power to make the best presentation possible.

    Yes, it takes time to personalize and get to know each agent before querying, but IMO, why wouldn’t you want to?

    If it’s someone you are querying, it will be someone you want to work with. I would hope anyway. So doing your homework beforehand would only benefit the writer in the long end.

    I think a lot of writers don’t realize how much work it really is. And most don’t want to go that extra mile. It’s too bad though that all you agents have to suffer with the choices they are making.

    Regarding the links to books shares on FB walls. I always felt that was a little disreputable. I feel a little used when that happens to me. Jody Hedlund just wrote an awesome blog post about obnoxious marketing authors should avoid. That was on there. Her whole list was right on. Loved it!

    And I LOVE your Amway simile. You hit it dead on.

  40. Oops, forgot to send you a happy face and hug from all of us. :-)

  41. My husband is an adjunct professor. If we had a dime for every time a student e-mailed him about course requirements WHICH ARE CLEARLY STATED ON THE SYLLABUS which is readily available to anyone via a click of the mouse, we could have a very nice dinner for two more than once. We are an instant society, and sometimes we are just plain lazy. We want to be spoon fed. As do the students who e-mail my dh, “I registered for this class. What do I need to do next?” Hoo boy. I didn’t realize that these people contacted agents, too. Gulp.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Your husband and my daughter would have a field day comparing notes. She also teaches at the college level. Scary, huh?

  42. Sarah Grimm says:

    There, there. :)

    I bet that would be frustrating. We all need an outlet for a good rant now and then.

  43. Phew! Having sent off a query to your agency yesterday, I thought for sure I’d recognize mine in your rant. Sigh! I think I’m safe. I read your blog and love it … Did you hear that? I LOVE it!!! I know, I know, I still need to follow the guidelines and—dare I say it—have a good story with a compelling hook :o). I’ll wait my 30 days for a reply and move on—if I must—truly appreciating the load of mail you guys get.
    Actually, I am glad for this rant. I have been wondering about the FB friending thing myself. I see lots of people “friending” agents and editors they haven’t met and wondered if this had become a standard practice. However, it never felt right to me. So though I follow lots of industry professionals on Twitter, Facebook is a whole other story.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Wouldn’t it be awful if you’d just sent me a query by FB? We all worry so much about the doing the right thing. I wish it were easier.

  44. Argh, i sympathize with you, Wendy. I’ve always been a person that if there are rules, they’re meant to be followed. For everyone. While I’m not an agent, I do understand about being pestered and irritated on Facebook. One ‘friend’ took every opportunity to post her book on my wall, on my fan page, on any groups we were both on – multiple times – as well as send personal messages that said, “Buy my book” with the link attached. I understand trying to promote your work – I try to promote my own, the right way – but that was overstepping bounds, rude, and obnoxious. Finally, I had to unfriend her and completely block her so I wouldn’t get so irritated. Sorry that happened to you. But, on the flip side, thanks for sharing your vent so we can learn/remember what we’re not supposed to do.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I genrally hide the things I don’t want to see on my page. (I hope that the person is not notified that I hid them.) But, yes, when someone doesn’t take the hint, we need to remove the constant irritant.

  45. Hillari Delgado says:

    Sorry, Wendy, I’m still giggling over that picture of the harried editor with a sandwich in one hand and mouse in the other: one mistimed bite… So thank you for the day-brightener and your sinning ways of tackling hard topics. What? Oh–‘winning,’ not ‘sinning’ ways… Autocorrect is my current pet peeve.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I agree. I spend way too much time correcting author-correct. And you, better than others, know of my sinning ways. :-)

  46. Ann Bracken says:

    Oh, Wendy, I needed this today. Thank you. Sometimes misery really does love company.

    Pet Peeve #1: coworkers who refuse to believe how long something actually takes. My personal favorite: Can you do a 48-hour extraction on this and get me the results tomorrow? Not unless you have a time-turner!

    Pet Peeve #2: People who think that because my husband is on the city council that they can call or come by at all hours of the day and night (yes, 2 am is too late to call), any day of the week, to solve any problem, even if it’s not a municipal function. Trust me, he can’t do anything about the schools, the highway patrol, or tell your neighbor to paint their garage a different color.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Have you ever said, “What part of 48 hours don’t you understand?” Right. It’s probably the person up-line, not down.

      Bless you (and your husband) for being public servants. I can’t imagine a more selfless job. Or a more difficult one. Especially these days with ever-squeezed budgets.

    • I can identify. I used to write freelance feature articles for a newspaper and had a friend who would call me and complain every time there was a problem with her paper getting delivered – as if I had any control over that. But some people just don’t know any better.

  47. I’m a homeschooler who’s planning an entire series of posts because so many people make stupid homeschooling assumptions. A few myths on my list:

    1. I wear pajamas for school.
    2. I don’t have homework (or “after-school” work, or whatever you wish to call it.)
    3. I don’t take tests, or my Mom helps me with tests/quizzes. No, rude person, we still call that cheating!

    I have a list numbering over 20 at the moment.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I want to read this when you post it. Be sure to come back here and reply to your comment with a url for your post so I can go take a look.

  48. Gayla Grace says:

    Lots of laughs reading the comments today. Had to add one because it happened to me today. Received a call and an email from an editor asking for information I’ve sent twice already so I can be paid. I try to be courteous to editors and give them all the information they need upfront so there isn’t a lot of back and forth. But I don’t know where it goes???
    Love your blog.
    Gayla

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Of course when a check depends on this we don’t worry about the system breakdown we just give them the info over and over, right?

      We’ve seen more accounting mess-ups lately than in a long time. Sometimes it’s due to a changeover in accounting systems, but, it’s frustrating none the less.

  49. Kate says:

    Dear Wendy,

    I read your post and all the delightful comments while sipping my afternoon tea. I nearly choked trying to shout “Amen” mid sip.

    Having spent several years teaching Kindergarten I’m sure I instilled, (wish I could have installed) the “following directions” button…so I don’t know what happens to those beloved students between kindergarten and college…?

    Don’t you think Facebook is an archetype of our society in general, and I mean all over the world, not just our western culture?

    Rudeness and self-centeredness isn’t limited to a specific place, time or social media. I’ve been shoved onto the Bullet Train in Tokyo. I’ve had my shopping cart rammed in Mongolia (the person wanted ahead of me in the checkout line) and I’ve had an annoying woman follow me around a local grocery store asking questions about my infant daughter who didn’t look like me. (We adopted our daughters over twenty five years ago from Korea).

    On the other hand, a Tokyo taxi driver found my husband’s wallet on the cab seat, drove back to the airport, had my husband paged and returned the wallet. (Nothing was missing!) A store clerk in Mongolia noticed the above mentioned cart incident, apologized for the person’s rude behavior and made us feel very welcome. And I’ve experienced the joy of hearing comments about my daughter, “Oh, she’s so much like you.”

    Well, have a cuppa tea, keep calm and carry on!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      You are another keen observer of people. Great comments. I’m going to make some Green Mango Peach tea and will lift my cup in camaraderie.

  50. This was a great post and a reminder to follow the process. I’m certain that as much as I am a rule follower I’ve probably made etiquette faux pas a time or two. I like to think that everyone has the best of intentions, but I agree, following the process is important!

    As a Texas transplant I have to say that no I don’t wear a cowboy hat, or boots everyday or have cows in my backyard. I don’t speak with a drawl but I do say ya’all once in awhile.
    I love football and cheerleading, and wearing bling is a required event, at least once a week. I know how to shoot snake shot, and have chased prairie rats out of my swimming pool. But I have never ridden a horse, or been on a tractor and I love watching people country dance but I don’t know how.

  51. Productive ranting is great – this not only gets things off your chest, it educates those who would read this blog. I call that multitasking. Have a blessed day.

  52. Penny McGinnis says:

    Wendy-what a great reminder that agents are people with a job to do and that we (writers)need to respect that. As far as ranting, it’s a good way to get out there what needs to be said. My rant usually involves poor parenting that I see in public or people who take too much energy because I have to walk on eggshells around them. –I feel better already :)

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      And vice versa. Agents need to always keep in mind that writers are people trying to get their job done as well.

  53. Wendy, I usually don’t comment this late, but it’s been a crazy busy day and I’m just getting to sit down to the computer and read your post. I’m hoping that you will get this comment. I’m not going to say, “There, there.” I am sending you a virtual hug and many prayers and blessings. It’s good that you decided to “rant,” and indeed this is a safe place to do it. I can’t presume to call you a friend because you only know me from my comments, but please believe me when I tell you that I do feel that I know you a bit because of your posts, your replies to me and because of the personal card and wonderful tea that you enclosed when you sent me a box of books a while back. I have found you to be a kind, considerate, gracious person so if you express your frustration, I know it is with good cause–and you have demonstrated that through the examples you have given. Anyone who would query an agent via Facebook a)has no clue about professional behavior and b) is a user. It is not only unprofessional behavior; it violates a boundary.

    The person who sent you the “very short” but “very well-written” book is another person who is obviously clueless: no idea about the business of writing, no idea what an agent does, no idea how to write a query, no idea that he / she should probably do some research about these things. I know it’s hard when you’ve reached your tolerance level but hopefully in a day or two you’ll be able to re-read that letter and the response to your email and laugh or at least pray and feel compassion for these poor ignorant souls.

    Anyway, I don’t know if my comments have helped at all. Just know that if I lived nearby, I’d give you a hug, some chocolate and a good cup of tea in a proper china cup with a saucer. Also know that I am sending many blessings your way. Christine

  54. Addy Rae says:

    That sounds frustrating. I’d be irritated too! (I know I’m irritated when Amway comes out and makes things awkward and full of pressure and disrespect.) It’s good to be open about it. It reminds people that you have boundaries, and you should have boundaries. :)

  55. Patrice says:

    If folks are that casual when they don’t know you, can you imagine what they’d be like if they did? Yikes! Run!Ranting is necessary sometimes, and it feels great to get it out.:)Thanks for the laugh with “I’m a writer. I have a very short book…” Funny!

  56. Larry says:

    Like you said Wendy, everyone needs a safe place to rant. As others have said, it can even be informative!

    And in this industry, whenever two or more writers, editors, or agents get together and it doesn’t turn into the Mad Hatters’ tea party, I’d call that a productive day! :)

    (Former) Pet Peeve: Social Media. A den of inequity if I ever beheld one! The Two-Faced Book and its soul-sucking dark legion of acolytes, the Blue Bird of Boredom that is Twitter, and the pinheads on Pinterest….nothing good comes of the Internet!

    Except for the recipe for makin’ bacon pancakes….

  57. Jenni Brummett says:

    I’m amazed at the plethora of pet peeves I can relate to here. On another note, I’m encouraged at the way that you, Wendy, respond to so many of these comments personally and with great insight.

    Participating in this community inspires me to be a better writer.

  58. Wendy Lawton says:

    That is the nicest thing you could say– that being part of this community inspires you to be a better writer. We’ve come to enjoy our online community just as much.

  59. Anne Love says:

    There, there, it’s okay Wendy. :o)
    I can relate to your feelings, when people approach me for free medical advice, or ask me to take a patient when I’m not accepting new patients. Couldn’t I do a favor? Who text me with a question, send me a note on Facebook, or drop the “oh by the way, I just have one more question”–after already taking beyond their allotted appointment time.

    These types of things suggest thoughtlessness, presumption, desperation, a lack of power, but feel manipulative–NOT the things needed to start a relationship. And isn’t that what’s most bothersome? It doesn’t feel as if the person needs you for who you are, but only for what can serve them.

    Being in the service profession, it feels ironic that I should resent that. I know. But let’s face it. We are only human, and not God. It gives new perspective to “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Wow Jesus, you mean they didn’t know it was wrong to kill an innocent man? I mean, it’s much easier to let these littler things go when I realize the person was merely thoughtless. But the intentional irritating, continuous breach of respect is much tougher to let go. Even so, it seems quite petty of me compared to other sins in the world.

    Sigh. There there, it’s okay. Shake off the dust.

  60. Bonnie Smetts says:

    Thank you for the rant—and I’m a querying author type. I appreciate the detailed instructions for submittal on your web site. That shows me that I am dealing with people who seriously consider the incoming queries. Preparing a professional and complete package isn’t easy, but it means we authors must be prepared to do some of the heavy lifting too.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      The good thing about preparing a professional and complete package is that it focuses you a way that makes the book that much better.

  61. Ms Lawton, I don’t see how you and other agents stay sane having to deal with the ridiculous types of queries you describe in your post. A tip of the hat to you.

    Wishing you well,
    Mike Addington

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Because 99.9% of all the people in our industry are professional and appropriate. And thanks for the tip of the fedora.

  62. You didn’t sound cranky at all! Well, to me anyway. Thanks for a very informative post. And I must say, bacon pancakes are nothing compared to bacon corncakes!

  63. Seeley James says:

    Sorry, I don’t feel sorry for you. You picked your profession and it comes with problems. Just like any other job. When I researched what agents called “the perfect query” and compared that to the known query letters of successful authors (Stephanie Meyers, JK Rowling, etc), they never match.

    No matter how someone reaches out to you, Facebook or scrap paper pushed under the door, you should be looking for the perfect story. Not a perfect query.

    Peace, Seeley

    • Seeley — I don’t know Wendy but I’m going to defend her here as a writer who has successfully completed the query process. She didn’t rant that she didn’t get a perfect query from that submitter, but that it didn’t conform to their submission guidelines which are there for a reason. If a writer wants to be taken seriously they need to be professional. And yes, story is what is important but where in that query was the story ever conveyed? Yes, successful queries vary but at the heart they gave a sense of what the story was about and enticed the agent to request to see more.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      You’ve got a good point, Seeley and we can clearly see your unspoken rant between the lines of your comment. Truth is you’ve hit exactly what we seek. It’s just that the first step to finding that– short of stumbling over that magical manuscript– is the query.

      And I did not want anyone to feel sorry for me. I love my job. Love it! If you could see the writers I work with you’d know why you don’t need to feel sorry. :-)

    • All professions have systems that have to be worked. What kind of businesses would there be without them? There would be chaos.

      I agree with Wendy. Agents have a system set up for queries because it’s necessary to make sure none of the queries fall through the cracks. As it is, going through queries correctly submitted is a time consuming process. While it’s true that constantly educating writers as to what is appropriate ends up being a hazard of her occupation, that could never be said to excuse the rudeness and self-centered behavior she described above. It was not being rejected that made this person act the way she did. It was her own lack of character. (When I encounter people like this, I make an effort to avoid them.)

      If an individual doesn’t want to follow the simple system set up for submissions, she identifies herself as unprofessional and something of a self-centered diva. Plus, if she’s not willing to operate under the system, it’s unlikely she’ll ever get published traditionally. And the worse case scenario is that by staying ignorant, she’ll make herself vulnerable and possibly end up the victim of an unscrupulous vanity publisher or bad agent. (And then her unfortunate friends, family, and followers will probably hear her woes about that, too.)

    • And I’ll add (although it may sound harsh) that I have zero sympathy for writers who don’t follow the system. I spend hours reading submission guidelines, writing careful queries, researching the internet and market books to make sure I have the right agent/publishing house to send my manuscripts to, going back over the submission guidelines before I send the query/ms out, having someone else read my query so I don’t miss some mistake, and FINALLY sending them. It’s a ton of work, and I generally can’t stand it, but it’s NECESSARY.

      I’m sure I don’t do it perfectly, but at least I try my very best to make sure that whatever I send is in exactly the format the agent or publisher wants it to be in. Their job is not easy, and if there is anything I can do to make it more pleasant, even if they send me a rejection (which is what they almost always do), I can still feel good knowing I operated with professional courtesy.

  64. Ranting about this kind of thing is necessary- I went bug-eyed at the “don’t change my book” because there’s no way in hell it can be publishing-ready without proofreading or editing. And I speak as a proofreader on that one. I’ve read eslush for Baen Books, and some of it is *horrible,* like the author who managed to use every single fantasy cliche in the first paragraph- I’m *still* not sure how he did it. I had to writer “Please tell this author to remain a screenwriter” because the first chapter and a half was spent by the main character telling a vampire why he goes around killing vampires. I can see that as a movie, but not a book.

    I network via Facebook, but I don’t accept proofreading jobs through it. I also use Facebook to network with authors and chronic pain experts for a charity I’m building, and doing a book auction through my other website, but I don’t pester.

  65. This is a very helpful post. I confess that I have friended important people in my field just so I could put a link to my books on their wall. The Amway analogy was a zinger. I won’t be doing that again. Thanks for ranting, it was actually worth while.

  66. Nancy says:

    Well said, Wendy. The issue really isn’t cranky editors or touchy writers. It’s what my very British grandmother used to drum into us: “Decorum, girls, decorum!” The concept of appropriate actions is going the way of the horse and buggy, but as you’ve so aptly stated, its demise is premature.

  67. Wendy Lawton says:

    I love your grandmother. I may start quoting her.

  68. Dave Freer says:

    (Dry comment) Depending on how you use your facebook page and how you choose those you accept as friends, this could either be a prim, modestly-dressed woman getting an indecent proposal in church (which would justify a ‘I don’t expect this’ rant, and kicking of, shall we say, the shins) or a case of the woman who put on her shortest skirt, no underwear, and went about picking up bottle-caps in the red-light district and then complained bitterly about the approaches she got. She’s entitled to do so, entitled to tell them get lost most rudely… but not entitled to be surprised, unless she wishes to show us that she is not very clever or sensible. My agent has a vast facebook presence, which he uses professionally for his business and his clients’ benefit. He gets folk approach him via this, and simply sends to look for his normal website. If he restricted his facebook friends to actual friends and people he knew reasonably well, and did not use it as a business tool, he’d have some grounds to be irritated by it. Being a publisher, an agent, or an author, your profession does require that you lose some of your private life in exchange for doing it, just as being royalty or politician does. I get facebook approaches to read their book, endorse it, tell my agent/publisher to take them – they’ve never read my books but they write better than me (yes really), quite often. It’s part of the job. Most authors know this and most learn to deal with it graciously or go out of business. I am afraid in the changing world of the internet and publishing, agents and publishers will have to learn to do the same. And yes – I got here via a facebook comment.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I’m glad you’ve learned to use Facebook in this way, Dave. For me, with the volume of correspondence I receive, it simply does not work. I have my email program set up to use as a filing system and a search engine. It’s the system that works for me.

      Each agent is different. We have colleagues who still only take queries by snail mail. We even work with one publisher who still requires us to submit hard copies of proposals. But you know what? If we want to work with that publisher and sell our clients’ work to them, we’re more than happy to comply.

  69. Erynn says:

    Loved reading this and all the follow up comments. I always want to explain it as a generational thing, but there are quite a few in the younger generation who were still raised not to be obnoxious and self centered, and a number of older folks who missed that day in school.
    Apparently, one of the “ONE. HUNDRED” agents queried by your “friend” was the anonymous gentleman who runs Slush Pile Hell. I had to laugh at seeing it again: http://slushpilehell.tumblr.com/post/32259709442

  70. youtube says:

    TY a ton for posting this, it was unbelieveably informative and helped me a lot

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