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Thread: [Submission Service] CommonRoom

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    [Submission Service] CommonRoom

    Hi,

    I got sort of sick of having my query letter rejected by agents, since I was putting so much time into making each one painstakingly correct with their name and address. So, I made a service that e-mails out personalized query letters to about 900 agents at once.

    You can see a demo at:

    http://www.commonroom.com/publishing.html

    I'm happy to improve the system if you have any feedback about it. I've decided to charge $100 for it, since it took a lot of time to put together, and it's a valuable service. (Other authors have told me that's a reasonable price, so that's where I came up with it.)

    Let me know what you think.

    Thanks,

    Aaron

  2. #2
    haz a shiny new book cover Christine N.'s Avatar
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    Um... spam? No? Funny your very first post was for a paid service.

    First of all, you NEVER send the exact same query to each agent. The description/short synopsis is usually the same, but it's generally an instant reject if they suspect you've sent a form letter. I try to include where I found their information - Writers Market, AgentQuery, from another writer, etc...

    And second, if you wanted to, making a mail-merge on your home computer is pretty darned easy.

    Third, 900 agents? Who queries like that? Taking the time to investigate the agents you are going to send to is part of the process. Narrow it down and do focused querying.

    I don't think there's 900 agents that take ANY given genre. Well, probably, but that's a long shot. Plus, how do you know you're not getting the scammers in there?

    Sorry, this is just not a Good Idea on so many levelsl. Doing it the long way is overall better for your career.
    Last edited by Christine N.; 02-01-2007 at 06:11 AM.
    Christine

    Young Adult Fantasy Author

    A CURSE OF ASH AND IRON: Coming Spring 2015 from Curiosity Quills Press

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  3. #3
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Christine,

    I wrote custom query letters to about 120 agents for over a year, and that got me nowhere. I'm sure it works for some people, but my patience wore thin. I got a lot more positive feedback this way just because more people were able to see the letter.

    I would have posted something before if I'd known about this site, but I didn't...

    Aaron

  4. #4
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    Nor have you posted this in the right area.

    BTW if the correct (free) strategy doesn't work, a less appropriate (fee-charging) one won't work any better.
    Emily Veinglory

  5. #5
    haz a shiny new book cover Christine N.'s Avatar
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    Have you ever thought, Thinkcomp, that maybe, oh, you're query isn't up to snuff? That it has nothing to do with the labor of putting on addresses? Or that you're sending queries to agents who don't a) rep what you write or b) aren't currently taking queries or c) aren't interested in the book you've written?

    I direct you to this link... Slushkiller. Top reasons why most of the queries agents receive are rejected.


    Post your query in the Share Your Work forum - I have to say that the folks there helped polish mine tremendously. Took me from a pile of 'not for us' to a pile of 'send pages'. A good query (and a book that agents want, by the way) is what gets you the 'let's see it' instead of the form rejections.

    More people seeing the letter doesn't necessarily mean much. 120 agents in a year? Sheesh, if I send out 50 really good queries a year to agents who I know represent the type of book I've written, I consider that an accomplishment. And much more productive. And cheaper.

    Sorry, I just have never put much stock in the scattershot method. And paying for the scattershot cannon just seems even less worthwhile.
    Christine

    Young Adult Fantasy Author

    A CURSE OF ASH AND IRON: Coming Spring 2015 from Curiosity Quills Press

    "The Watchmaker's Ball" (short story), to be included in BEWARE THE LITTLE WHITE RABBIT (anthology), coming April 14 from Leap Books


    Represented by Jordy Albert of Booker Albert Literary

    I tweet

    Young Adult Authors You've Never Heard Of

  6. #6
    storm central stormie's Avatar
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    Hi thinkcomp--
    An agent (in fact, several agents) over the past year have spoken about this, either on their blogs or on writer's boards. They can tell at a glance if a query is generated by one of these paid services. www.agentquery.com tells what agents rep what genre. Good web site. And it's free. And a great truly personalized query letter, targeted to a select group of agents, works best, just as great writing.

  7. #7
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    There is also the failure of logic in paying a person to do something for you that they admit to not being able to do for themself?
    Emily Veinglory

  8. #8
    Lost in the Fog rugcat's Avatar
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    I think you're all missing the point. OP has found a writer's board and wants to sell his service to us for $100 each.

  9. #9
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Hi,

    A few things... First, my success or lack thereof as an author (which may change over time anyway) isn't the same thing as the ability of CommonRoom to deliver query letters to literary agents. The service charges for the latter, and not the former. This isn't an editing scam. CommonRoom does not generate query letters. You write your own, and it fills in the address information for you, and then sends out the e-mails without using attachments so that book agents don't have to worry about each query letter taking up 50-100KB of space. It also lets you know when they've received the letter, if they've read it, and (if they make a decision), what they've decided.

    Second, my particular query letter for my particular book isn't really the issue. Rather, it's the idea of making the process of getting query letters to book agents more efficient. Currently, I haven't found anyone who thinks the system works particularly well. Each agent has their own demands, and it's incredibly hard and frustrating (and expensive) to meet them all.

    I've seen Agent Query, and even used it in my own search. It's not good enough. CommonRoom would be a stupid idea if it was about broadcasting every query letter to every literary agent until the end of time. The point of having a database like CommonRoom's is that slowly, as more authors use it, agents will be able to better choose the kinds of queries they want to get in the future, and then have the system automatically select those for delivery, once again making the process more efficient.

    I'll work on a way to make it so that you can personalize your letter to different agents. That does seem like an important feature to have.

    So, feel free to bash me as a writer all you want, but realize that what I write in books may be different than what I write in code.

    Thanks,

    Aaron
    Last edited by thinkcomp; 02-01-2007 at 06:59 AM.

  10. #10
    Lost in the Fog rugcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thinkcomp View Post
    So, feel free to bash me as a writer all you want, but realize that what I write in books may be different than what I write in code.
    Exactly.

    This has nothing to do with your qualifications as a writer or lack thereof. You have developed a marketing idea, and are now using a writer's board to advertise it and hopefully to gain paying clients. This board is not the appropriate venue for these sort of commercial endeavors.

  11. #11
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Thanks, rugcat. It's very clear in several spots all over this board (including the Terms of Service and the Newbie Guide) that advertising is not allowed anywhere except the Announcements board.

    Aside from that, this type of mass-mailing service irritates the heck out of agents and editors... which is why I've moved this to the Bewares and Background Check board. Sorry, Aaron, but this is an idea that's been done many times before. "A service that e-mails out personalized query letters to about 900 agents at once" is about the last thing the publishing industry needs.
    I am no longer here. If you'd like to visit me, please find me at www.jennaglatzer.com or on Facebook. Thanks!

  12. #12
    annoyed and annoying roach's Avatar
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    First off the number of agents that handle a particular kind of book is going to be much, much less than 900, so sending a query to every agent in the LMP is pointless.

    Secondly:
    Each agent has their own demands, and it's incredibly hard and frustrating (and expensive) to meet them all.
    So instead of following the guildlines of someone you want to go into business with you're going to instead try to force them to follow your own guidelines? Good luck with that.
    Eggplant Literary Productions,
    A small electronic speculative fiction publisher.

  13. #13
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Hi,

    Sorry if I posted it in the wrong section, that is clearly my fault.

    On the other hand, I respectfully disagree with you on CommonRoom being the last thing the publishing industry needs. In my opinion, which is informed by my experience as a writer, the publishing industry needs some way to quickly and painlessly connect authors with agents that decreases the number of queries which have no relevance to the agent on the receiving end. No such system currently exists, so I have created one.

    Aaron

  14. #14
    annoyed and annoying roach's Avatar
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    Compare:
    the publishing industry needs some way to quickly and painlessly connect authors with agents that decreases the number of queries which have no relevance to the agent on the receiving end.
    with:
    So, I made a service that e-mails out personalized query letters to about 900 agents at once.
    Can you spot the contradiction?
    Eggplant Literary Productions,
    A small electronic speculative fiction publisher.

  15. #15
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Roach,

    You either don't understand what I'm saying or you're deliberately misinterpreting it in an attempt to be clever.

    As more authors use the system, more agents will be inclined to use it. As more agents use it, more agents will update their profiles with their preferences for various genres. As more agents update their profiles, more queries will actually NOT be sent to them because the submissions won't match the recipients. The point is to get to a more efficient way of doing things, not a less efficient one.

    It's healthy to be skeptical; I realize that this industry has its share of scams. This isn't a scam.

    Aaron

  16. #16
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    I was referring to your lack of success in getting an agent, which is acutely relevant.
    Emily Veinglory

  17. #17
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Veinglory,

    Once again, I dispute your assertion that my ability to secure an agent in an arbitrary timeframe impacts the effectiveness of my software or the validity of my ideas.

    Aaron

  18. #18
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    Your inability to get an agent shouldn't be seen as relevant to your selling a service to help people get an agent?

    My assertion is that to help others do something (manually or automatically) you should know how to do it yourself. The most convincing demonstration being having done it yourself. You could take the time to do secure an agent before leaping into the business of professionally enabling the process.

    You can dispute that if you like but I am reasonably satisfied with my logic.
    Emily Veinglory

  19. #19
    annoyed and annoying roach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thinkcomp View Post
    You either don't understand what I'm saying or you're deliberately misinterpreting it in an attempt to be clever.
    Neither, I'm afraid.

    According to your posts the way this works is that your system will submit a query to 900 agents at once. It is a fact that the query submitted will be irrelevant to a majority of those agents. So your system will only worsen the problem that you perceive.

    Your plan also ignores the reality that many agents, publishers and writing professionals have stated publicly that query services are useless. What this means is that you won't have agents coming to your site to update their information, therefore it won't be fine tuned.

    Further, it is likely that agents being spammed by queries from your service will just block the address. So now anyone using Common Room wouldn't even be reaching some of those 900 agents.

    Finally, this is just another example of someone blaming the system when it doesn't work for one. Really the system isn't broken. It works just the way it is supposed to, with agents telling writers exactly what they're looking for and how to send it to them. There's no mystery to it. Really.
    Eggplant Literary Productions,
    A small electronic speculative fiction publisher.

  20. #20
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    I'll bet that the database of 900 agents mostly consists of gormless agents, not-very-helpful agents, and scam agents. Reason being -- I doubt there are 900 useful agents in the world.

  21. #21
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Hiya, thinkcomp. Your scheme isn't going to work.
    Winner of the Best Drycleaner on the Block Award.

  22. #22
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Hello again,

    The composition of any database will include some unhelpful agents. I don't see how that more than counterbalances the benefits of reaching the one good agent you want to work with.

    As this thread demonstrates, I'm obviously not a good salesman. Your assertion, veinglory, is effectively that you must be a good salesman (to secure an agent) in order to be a good engineer (to make an effective product). That is simply false. The best engineers are usually really awful salespeople, in fact.

    roach, the reality you reference is not as one-sided as you portray it. Yes, many agents don't like electronic queries. That doesn't mean all agents. A very large number of reputable agents do accept electronic queries, and having written a book in large part about technology, I wouldn't want any other kind. That's not to say that all other authors will share my views, but the number of agents willing to accept electronic queries is now sufficiently large that a market exists for this type of product. If agents want to block messages from CommonRoom, I have no problem with that. I think they'll find that difficult, not to mention counterproductive. Right now more than half of CommonRoom's membership is made up of alums from Harvard and Stanford Universities. If agents want to block those kinds of writers, they'll suffer for it.

    Lastly, your statement "this is just another example of someone blaming the system when it doesn't work for one" (emphasis added) reflects the true reality here: the system hasn't just failed me. If I'm another example, as you claim, then it must have failed at least one other person, too. In my opinion, the system is failing many authors, but if it works for you, then you have my best wishes and I politely request that you leave me alone to improve it for myself, if for no one else.

    Aaron

  23. #23
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    An engineer making a machine that sells things needs to know how to sell. An engineer selling a machine that sells things need to be able to prove it can do the job. If you want writers to help you do R & D at least let them gamble their book's fate with you for free.
    Emily Veinglory

  24. #24
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Aaron, most of us know more about the publishing industry than you do. Some of us know a lot more than you do. We're all telling you that this scheme of yours won't work.

    Believe us, or don't believe us. It's your call. We're not going to stick around here giving you advice you reject. But if you keep on with this plan, we'll be telling writers who ask that your service is useless, and misconceived from the beginning.

    It's up to you.
    Winner of the Best Drycleaner on the Block Award.

  25. #25
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Veinglory,

    Aha! The truth comes out--you're curious enough to want to try it--but for free.

    So, the reason I made that demo (linked in the first post) is to show how it works without anyone having to pay anything to see. The demo could probably be better, and this thread has definitely let me on to feature ideas that I need to include, and soon. So I'll probably create a new demo at some point with some updates.

    However, you can't argue "this is going to create so much spam it will make the problem worse!" and simultaneously argue "this should be free!" If the service were free, then it really would make the problem a lot worse, and my company would have enormous bandwidth costs to pay for. In a general sense, e-mail spam (the kind that wants to sell you charcoal from China) exists because it's costless to send an e-mail. This isn't costless, so there's no spam.

    The result of charging? Only real, serious authors (likely the ones who are fed up with the system like me) will be willing to pay $100 for the service. Agents won't be bothered by anyone else. The amount of usage will be more reasonable, and the system will be more efficient because of it.

    I totally believe that you all know more about publishing than I do. I'm a first-time author, I'm not very old in general, and I work in the software industry, not publishing. Only someone with a fair bit of naivete (like me) would jump into this with any degree of enthusiasm. Your skepticism is rational, I appreciate that there's a very good chance the system will fail, and I'm probably in over my head.

    But what if you're wrong?

    Aaron
    Last edited by thinkcomp; 02-01-2007 at 08:41 AM.

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