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?