Friday, July 10, 2009

Top Three Things Driving Me Crazy About Queries...Today

3. Commands. Why do writers want to try to make an agent do more work than necessary? They send a one paragraph query and then say "go check out my website" or mail in a paper query with no SASE and say "email me your response." Why? Don't they realize the default answer on a query is "no" - the idea of query is that it should pitch the idea and do everything in its power to make the agent pause and say - oh wait, that might be interesting.

2. Have you ever... Rhetorical questions remind me of when I was teaching and I said repeatedly: "Don't use rhetorical questions to start off your essay. Seriously. Don't. Most of the time, they said ridiculously cheesy. The rest of the time, they just sound bad." It's also true for queries. (Same thing goes for Imagine... Don't start out that way either unless you're trying to make me think of the John Lennon song.)

1. Agent Search Engines that submit queries. Unpersonalized queries are plain unprofessional - If they start out "Dear Agent" or "Dear Literary Executive" or worse "To Whom it May Concern" I'm already annoyed they didn't take the time or effort to research what agent would be interested in their ideas. (Sure it's not me, but it makes my job easier, thinking "okay would [Agent] like this?" But even worse are the search engines! They send the emails out to 3475934857 agents at a time. It's like spamming - well it is spamming. And most of the time, the search engine sites have the wrong information - for instance, my agency does not rep poetry - no poetry, yet I always get at least one query a week for some sort of poetry or novella. And don't even get me started on the screenplays. Sell-A-Script drives me crazy.

And all this of course leads me to the number one thing that drives me crazy about queries no matter the day:

Blatantly Avoiding Directions. And really, all of the above can be factored into this one idea. There are websites and forums and blogs out there that tell a writer how to write a good query. They're not perfect and it'll take time for a writer to sift through all the information, but it's possible. And really, if a writer has taken the time, blood, sweat, and tears to write a novel, they can afford to take the time to follow an agent's directions.

2 comments:

tashiana said...

Thank your for this. This is the second time I've read not to use rhetorical questions. I would love to write novels one day and I appreciate your advice on what to do and not do in my query letters. I'm only 16 now, but you might hear from me in a few years in a query letter. And I promise you, it will not have commands or rhetorical questions, if will be for you only, and I will follow directions. :) How did you get to become a literary asistant? ooo and in new york

suzie said...

Well I majored in English in college and then I found an internship at a literary agency. www.bookjobs.com is the coolest site to find internships i think. I worked hard at my internship and when one of the assistants left, the CEO of the agency offered me the job :)

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?