9/11/12

Trying to Understand the Query Boneheads

Researching agents and agencies to query, I realize there must be a lot of boneheads out there.  Advice along the lines of "WARNING: To avoid danger of suffocation, keep this plastic bag away from babies and children.  Not a toy." I think anyone who's not an idiot knows not to give a plastic bag to a baby to play with, but the label is there for a reason. People are boneheads.

Here are a few of the most common bonehead mistakes (and a rational chat with all the boneheads out there.)

Manuscript not complete.
Really, people?  Really? Would you buy a book without it being complete?  Because essentially that's what you're asking an agent to do.  Sure you can show an outline of the rest of the book, but we both know an outline versus finished product are two different things.

Manuscript in rough draft and/or you're just "testing the waters."
Oh, I know the temptation to send in the first draft of your story.  I've never done that, BUT I see the temptation.  You're excited because you just finished a book. You're curious if this "concept/story" is interesting to someone other than you.  You tell yourself (and your non writer friends will tell you too) "Isn't editing what editors are for?" WRONG.  Big fat wrong. 1.) You finished a book. Big deal. ANYBODY can write a book, but not many people can write a good book.  2.) "Testing the waters" is what beta readers are for, not agents. Agents don't get paid to be your beta reader. 3.) Let me get this last point straight, you're not going to take the time to edit YOUR story, but you think someone else is going to love it more than you and do the honors...I mean work?

Dear Sir/Madame
This is not a 10th grade typing class, it's real life.  And you know the people who write "Dear Agent" are the same people who get pissed off with form rejections.

Cookbook query sent to Young Adult agent. 
I'm sure bonehead writers just send their cookbook query to some random list of literary agents but I wonder, did it ever occur to them WHO are these people I'm sending my stuff to?  I mean, if you poured your blood, sweat, and tears into writing a book, why on earth would you just send it out to anyone?  Wouldn't you at the very least Google them to make sure they weren't on America's Most Wanted? 

"Photographs generally don’t help – unless you’re George Clooney."
This is my favorite.  It makes me giggle every time I read it.  Now I'm sure the agency meant it in tongue and cheek but still, you know this happens. Are these boneheads writers serious? What does your photograph matter if your book sucks?  Who does this?  Oh, yeah...boneheads.  "Here's my glossy 8 x10.  Pay no attention to the 100K word MG novel attached but hey, look at that sparkly smile."

For me, the most frustrating thing is the many blog posts ofapparently not so common senseadvice that I have to weed through to get to strong advice about querying successfully. But as long as their are boneheads in the world, agents/agencies will still have to post these common sense guidelines.  My guess is these boneheads aren't reading these guidelines to begin with, or worse, they do read them and don't think they fall into "that" category.

But I should probably be grateful for boneheads, because they just make me and my professional query look that much sweeter.

What "bonehead" query don'ts have you heard about?

5 comments :

  1. I can't even imagine all the crazy things agents must get from writers. Makes me shake my head, for realz.

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  2. It looks like you've covered the big ones, but I agree. I sent out maybe 2-3 dumb queries when I first started out, but otherwise I IMMEDIATELY started researching what I was doing before doing it. Like, would you just start remodeling your kitchen, assuming you knew how? No.

    I don't get people.

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  3. Jess - The stuff I hear is sad. I feel sorry for boneheads. :(

    RU! Hey, we all make amateur mistakes. It's how quickly you recover/rectify those mistakes that makes you a professional vs. bonehead.

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  4. I actually have a photograph of George Clooney. Perhaps I'll just send that. I am nauseous thinking of submitting a first draft. That's CRAZY talk.

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  5. Leslie - People do it. My first draft was riddled with typos and homophones.

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