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katiemac
12-07-2009, 08:07 AM
I found this article (http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/a-good-author-is-hard-to-find/Content?oid=2820559) via a link on Nathan Bransford's blog. The Rejectionist is an assistant at a major literary agency.

Definitely worth a read in terms of her approach to queries. Here's just a snippet of a much longer piece:


The world of the unsolicited query is a strange one, populated by renegade aliens, evil Russian scientists, and improbably large-breasted women. Apocalypse is often pending. Aliens figure prominently, as do the Mafia, strong and silent men, vampires, demons, angels (fallen, guardian, tempted/ing, various degrees of smutty), disturbingly racist visions of extremist Muslim terrorists, passive and lascivious women from a variety of tropical locales, black gangsters, and money-grubbing Jews. Potential audiences in the millions are cited (e.g., "There are 3,456,787 people who like horses in the United States, all of whom will read my book Love on Four Hooves"). The query's author is regularly the next Dan Brown/Stephenie Meyer/William Faulkner or some combination of the above.

I wanted to highlight this piece in particular, which just goes to show (again) how important every line of your query truly is:


After years as a slush reader in various aspects of the industry, I am quick to recognize and dispatch; I can often tell within the first sentence if a query will be any good, and I am now so ruthlessly efficient that I can blow through an inbox of 50 e-mails in half an hour, sometimes rejecting submissions within moments of their arrival.

wannawrite
12-07-2009, 08:33 AM
Geez, someone get that poor soul a shot of tequila and hand her the classifieds. Can you say...bitter? Don't get me wrong, katiemac, that was a helpful read, but...geez. Makes me feel sorry for her. (and makes me wanna pull out my queries and give them a good once-over, too)

jclarkdawe
12-07-2009, 08:34 AM
I wanted to highlight this piece in particular, which just goes to show (again) how important every line of your query truly is:
After years as a slush reader in various aspects of the industry, I am quick to recognize and dispatch; I can often tell within the first sentence if a query will be any good, and I am now so ruthlessly efficient that I can blow through an inbox of 50 e-mails in half an hour, sometimes rejecting submissions within moments of their arrival.

Thirty second average. But that doesn't mean you get all thirty seconds, and that includes the time it takes to send the rejection. And better then 50% of the time I can tell how bad a query is going to be in the first sentence. And probably 25% of the time I'd reject the query based on the first sentence and never read any further.

And I bet you're getting the same way, with all the time you've been spending in QLH.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

jclarkdawe
12-07-2009, 08:36 AM
Geez, someone get that poor soul a shot of tequila and hand her the classifieds. Can you say...bitter? Don't get me wrong, katiemac, that was a helpful read, but...geez. Makes me feel sorry for her. (and makes me wanna pull out my queries and give them a good once-over, too)

But you do it for those rare good ones. And in QLH, we do it for those we can help.

It also teaches you a lot of things about writing when you start dealing with lots of queries. This person is getting an internship that will teach her things no amount of classes will.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

katiemac
12-07-2009, 08:58 AM
This person is getting an internship that will teach her things no amount of classes will.



Actually, The Rejectionist is an assistant; no internship, it's the job. Although when I was an intern reading the slush pile ... why, hell. You learn, and you learn fast. And that was an agency where the agents still went through all of the slush themselves, they just forwarded selections (good and bad) to us interns for opinions.

blacbird
12-07-2009, 09:07 AM
The world of the unsolicited query is a strange one, populated by renegade aliens, evil Russian scientists, and improbably large-breasted women. Apocalypse is often pending. Aliens figure prominently, as do the Mafia, strong and silent men, vampires, demons, angels (fallen, guardian, tempted/ing, various degrees of smutty), disturbingly racist visions of extremist Muslim terrorists, passive and lascivious women from a variety of tropical locales, black gangsters, and money-grubbing Jews. Potential audiences in the millions are cited (e.g., "There are 3,456,787 people who like horses in the United States, all of whom will read my book Love on Four Hooves"). The query's author is regularly the next Dan Brown/Stephenie Meyer/William Faulkner or some combination of the above.

Okay, sarcasm fully recognized. So why won't any of these people even read something that doesn't involve these despisťd elements (the standard message, if any is returned, always being "we don't know how to sell this piece.")?

Oh . . . wait . . . I know: No dragons or elves.

caw

SPMiller
12-07-2009, 09:25 AM
Ha. It's easy to make fun of query letters that suck. Try describing what good query letters should look like. Good luck with that.

blacbird
12-07-2009, 11:13 AM
Oh, but wait . . . I now read the linked article, and right up front, there's this:


Mention the word "slush" to anyone who's worked in publishing for longer than five minutes, and you're likely to get an expression of sheer horror. Slush pile is a term used to refer to the collective mass of unsolicited manuscripts and query letters—novel or nonfiction synopses with a few sample pages attached—that daily deluges the offices of agents and editors throughout the industry. Occasional hits emerge from the morass: Twilight began as an unsolicited query.

Actually, my conception of the "slush pile", in the ancient history of submissions to publishers, was that of unsolicited manuscripts. So now, apparently, that pile also includes unsolicited queries?. Does this apply to agents as well, even to those who say they accept queries? Even those are a dwindling breed, as I understand.

Then there's this bit of astoundingly blatant snobbery:


What is notable about these missives is that they emerge most frequently from placid backwaters and sleepy Midwestern towns, that vast expanse of "the middle" so famously spurned by New Yorkers and left-coasters alike.

So, if this is the way the publishing universe is now structured, the point of cold-querying is what, again?

caw

katiemac
12-07-2009, 11:22 AM
Actually, my conception of the "slush pile", in the ancient history of submissions to publishers, was that of unsolicited manuscripts. So now, apparently, that pile also includes unsolicited queries?. Does this apply to agents as well, even to those who say they accept queries? Even those are a dwindling breed, as I understand.

Unsolicited query just means the agent didn't approach you and ask you to send your pitch. The idea Stephenie Meyer was discovered via an unsolicited query is not revolutionary; so are lots of writers here on AW. Nearly everyone we help in QLH are working on queries that will ultimately be unsolicited. (I think a couple weeks ago someone was in looking for help after meeting an agent at a conference who invited her to send pages.)

So either the material is solicited (you met an agent at a conference and she asked you to send her your query; or an agent requests pages after reading your query) or it's unsolicited. All unsolicited is slush.

I believe publishers still refer to the slush pile more regarding unsolicited manuscripts, either directly from writers or maybe agents they don't know--because they don't generally receive queries.

jodiodi
12-07-2009, 11:34 AM
Le sigh.

Glad I wised up and quit querying or submitting.

katiemac
12-07-2009, 11:36 AM
... You know, this wasn't supposed to be a downer. The more information you have about what's on the other side, however sarcastic and critical, the better query you can write.

Wayne K
12-07-2009, 11:42 AM
So (and I'm really interested here) is this even close to true? Only once in a great while this person gets a query letter that isn't racist and hateful?


I wish I could say that my role as an intermediary between the humble masses and a publishing contract has taught me grace and compassion; instead, it's taught me that the world is overrun with racist, lady-hating lunatics, hell-bent on inflicting their own horrific visions upon an unsuspecting populace. And yet, once in a very great while, I find a little island of magic in a sea of despair: that query so lovely, so perfect, so charmingly funny that I can almost picture its author, its sample pages peppered with a handful of flawless phrases that make me catch my breath in wonder and think, Yes, thank God, this one. This one. For that chance, I'll keep reading.

Priene
12-07-2009, 01:44 PM
So (and I'm really interested here) is this even close to true? Only once in a great while this person gets a query letter that isn't racist and hateful?

I've not been anywhere near a slush pile, but I'd imagine selective memory is taking place here. Most unsolicited MSs are just generically bad, get quickly rejected and then forgotten. While the racist and hateful ones stay in the memory, and after you've been through enough slush it starts to seem like the pile is full of it.

SPMiller
12-07-2009, 02:12 PM
... You know, this wasn't supposed to be a downer. The more information you have about what's on the other side, however sarcastic and critical, the better query you can write.Knowing that one slushpiler thinks many submissions are racist/hateful/insane really helps those writers whose non-racist/hateful/insane queries are also rejected. I'm reassured just thinking about it.

I'd take the QLH advice over this any day.

nighttimer
12-07-2009, 02:24 PM
A bad query letter does not necessarily mean there's not a good book behind it. It just makes it harder to find.

Writing a good book is a different discipline than writing a good query. I understand what The Rejectionist is saying, but there's no need to flaunt the fact the agent occupies the superior position. Any writer with half a brain knows this already.

:Shrug:

aruna
12-07-2009, 02:42 PM
I suppose this is the agent who once called herself The Rejector (Rejecter)? A few years ago. I remember following her blog for a while and I just didn't like her tone. She seemed to lack a basic... kindness. I haven't clicked on the link (yet) but the snark in that snippet really puts me off. I'm not guilty of any of the horrors she describes -- but really.

ETA: just read the article. She hasn't changed at all. I appreciate that the slush pile is terrible. It's her arrogant tone I don't like. No thanks. Does anyone know which agency she works for? I certainly wouldn't query them!

Wayne K
12-07-2009, 05:41 PM
I was thinking the same thing,

I also think the tone explains why this person uses a pseudonym.

Amarie
12-07-2009, 05:48 PM
... You know, this wasn't supposed to be a downer. The more information you have about what's on the other side, however sarcastic and critical, the better query you can write.

It also shouldn't be a downer because anyone who is here reading query threads on AW already knows far more than a huge percentage of people querying. I read some agent said when she rejected people she sent out nice bland rejection letters because she was so afraid of the ones written by people who clearly had serious mental issues or were in prison.


And I'm one of those who found an agent through my unsolicited query in her slush pile. I'm also from the vast expanse in the middle of the country and that didn't bother my publisher at all. I'm not sure what the point is in that part of the article.

jclarkdawe
12-07-2009, 05:55 PM
Ha. It's easy to make fun of query letters that suck. Try describing what good query letters should look like. Good luck with that.

A good query should cause the reader to spit coffee over their computer screen in excitement.

A good query should be interesting, show how your book is unique, show the basic plot, and show that the person can write. The concept is that simple, and the writing of them is really not that hard. Many of the problems with a query are actually because of the book.


Le sigh.

Glad I wised up and quit querying or submitting.

In which case the answer is always no. At least asking might get you a yes. And nearly every debut author got there through a query.


A bad query letter does not necessarily mean there's not a good book behind it. It just makes it harder to find.

True, but more likely a bad query has a bad book behind it. You play the percentages here.

In QLH, we don't get the worse of the query slush. People willing to post there at least have some concept that there is a right way to do this. It's clear from agents that many queries leave the reader doubting that the writer has English as any language, never mind English as a second language, that people giving their political or philosophical views are common (we just had one in QLH and you can see where that went), and that many of them effectively represent the book (yeah, the book is THAT bad).

Don't stop querying because of this stuff, just learn how to do it. And that will put you, at a minimum, ahead of 95% of the queries letters the agent is reading.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Namatu
12-07-2009, 06:00 PM
And I'm one of those who found an agent through my unsolicited query in her slush pile. I'm also from the vast expanse in the middle of the country and that didn't bother my publisher at all. I'm not sure what the point is in that part of the article.I suspect it's there to bolster the article's word count. A lot of what she says are likely specific instances that are likely less the majority but make for more "compelling" reading when snarking on queries.

What is basically says to me is: Write a better query.

DeadlyAccurate
12-07-2009, 06:08 PM
I suppose this is the agent who once called herself The Rejector (Rejecter)? A few years ago. I remember following her blog for a while and I just didn't like her tone. She seemed to lack a basic... kindness. I haven't clicked on the link (yet) but the snark in that snippet really puts me off. I'm not guilty of any of the horrors she describes -- but really.

ETA: just read the article. She hasn't changed at all. I appreciate that the slush pile is terrible. It's her arrogant tone I don't like. No thanks. Does anyone know which agency she works for? I certainly wouldn't query them!

No, I don't think so. For a while I had both on my Google Reader, and the voice is different. The Rejectionist is more sarcastic but less genuinely bitter.

shawkins
12-07-2009, 06:17 PM
If the Rejectionist isn't to your taste, you can get similar insights from the blog of Jodi Meadows (http://jmeadows.livejournal.com/). Until recently she was an agency intern, and every Saturday she posted slush stats. She also sometimes posts stream-of-consciousness reactions to query letters. Those are interesting too.

It's the same sort of information that you get from the rejectionist, but Jodi is a really upbeat, happy person.

Parametric
12-07-2009, 06:18 PM
A good query should be interesting, show how your book is unique, show the basic plot, and show that the person can write. The concept is that simple, and the writing of them is really not that hard. Many of the problems with a query are actually because of the book.

This. The more I critique queries and synopses, the more strongly I believe that problems there directly reflect problems in the manuscript.

rosiecotton
12-07-2009, 06:25 PM
I agree with Jim.

Creative fields attract crazies (it's the reason most of us are here, right?). We know how important a query letter is but if you're querying 'Days of our Life' fanfic, you're not gonna make it. And I'm convinced agencies get this stuff in huge quantities.

Get a query that's strong and clear. If you're getting bites--it's working. If it's not, rewrite until you do. (I personally hate the things but that doesn't change the fact that we need them).

But, if your manuscript isn't bloody excellent (or forecasts the world's end when the next white Honda is sold spurring a race against time through dealerships large and small!) none of it matters. Don't even think about slush piles/queries/size of advance until your manuscript is as good as you can make it. Then make it a million times better than that.

John61480
12-07-2009, 06:51 PM
So I'm trying to understand what's going on in this thread: If I query an agent through AgentQuery website, then it is actually unsolicited, thus this is considered a bad thing to do (Agent's hating unsolicited query because it means slush piles in their office)?

Did I understand this correctly?

Wayne K
12-07-2009, 06:56 PM
Anyone new, heed this advice: If you want to get an agent do your homework and use AW for all it's worth. SYW and QLH are the best tools you have.

Shameless AW promotion?

Maybe, but it's also the truth.

scarletpeaches
12-07-2009, 06:57 PM
Queries are emails or letters as I understand it.

Unsolicited manuscripts are an entirely different animal.

scarletpeaches
12-07-2009, 06:57 PM
Anyone new, heed this advice: If you want to get an agent do your homework and use AW for all it's worth. SYW and QLH are the best tools you have.

Shameless AW promotion?

Maybe, but it's also the truth.You're preaching to the perverted here, Wayne. :D

Amarie
12-07-2009, 06:58 PM
So I'm trying to understand what's going on in this thread: If I query an agent through AgentQuery website, then it is actually unsolicited, thus this is considered a bad thing to do (Agent's hating unsolicited query because it means slush piles in their office)?

Did I understand this correctly?

No, please don't believe this. Most agents get many of their clients through unsolicited query letters. It's part of their job to read queries. I'm going to search around and see if there's a poll here on AW about how agented writers got their agents. If I can't find a poll, I think I'll do one, because I know many, many people here obtained agents (even in the last six months) through unsolicited queries.

Noah Body
12-07-2009, 07:05 PM
It was a silly rant by an assistant who doesn't really want to be an assistant. Go figure.

ChaosTitan
12-07-2009, 07:20 PM
... You know, this wasn't supposed to be a downer. The more information you have about what's on the other side, however sarcastic and critical, the better query you can write.

Bolding mine, and so true. And as someone else in the thread said, the overwhelming majority of folks querying agents have no clue how to write a query letter. They don't research it or bother to learn, and they certainly don't have a resource like QLH to guide them through it. Education is your greatest weapon.


And nearly every debut author got there through a query.

Ditto this. We all had to write a query. I had two books rejected by agents before I wrote/queried one that worked.

Yes, it's hard and daunting and bruises the ego. But you are the only person who can believe in yourself enough to make it happen. Sometimes you have to believe for a long, long time.



Don't stop querying because of this stuff, just learn how to do it. And that will put you, at a minimum, ahead of 95% of the queries letters the agent is reading.

This.

Toothpaste
12-07-2009, 07:23 PM
Wow. I am shocked at the response here. When I read this blog entry weeks ago it made me feel awesome.

I think you guys are missing an important point. She isn't saying that every submission on the planet is in the list she gives. She is saying MOST are. And for those of you who simply don't believe her, let me tell you about the female agent who got a query letter with pubic hair in it because the querier got off on sending a woman his pubic hair. There are INSANE people sending queries out there guys. That's a fact.

But it's good news! This is why I don't get the responses dissing her, she's not putting down anything anyone here has written (and yes, there really are that many hateful, sexist, racist, submitters out there - heck think of some of the queries we have to deal with in SYW where people suffer from the golden word syndrome, insist that no one's ever written this kind of thing before, and those are people sane enough to seek help, imagine how many more out there don't even know they should seek help), she is dissing the crazies.

You know when they say 95% of the slush pile is rejected. This is why. Surely this then makes all those submitting right now feel awesome that they are definitely not in that 95%. AW is unique. The people on here are the exception to the rule of who submits. Just because we actually understand how publishing works, does not mean most everyone else out there does. Trust me, hang around at Yahoo Answers for a little while.

I like rants. And I like sarcasm. So I like The Rejectionist (who is not, btw the Rejector - the Rejector was far more ignorant in her general scope of knowledge of the publishing world (she knew what her agent dealt with and that's it, which is cool) - she still posts btw, but she's distracted these days publishing her own book). What she has posted here is the truth. But it's okay, none of us are like that. If you think you've written something she's sick of, honestly, I doubt it. She takes issue with ignorance, with people being hateful, with sick sick people. Maybe you do have a story that is set in the same universe of one of the ones she hated. But I can tell you that it wasn't the universe that icked her, it was how it was handled. Look if I was an agent, I'd say, "Don't send me vampires, I can't stand them", but if someone sent an amazing new concept for a vampire, I'd still take a look.

Her comment about middle america is, I am sure, a sweeping generalisation, but people do tend to notice hypocrisy more than just blatant meanness. There is closed mindedness everywhere. But it's like when a Republican against Gay rights is discovered in a gay relationship, middle america is supposed to be the heart of American values. So when hate comes from there, when overly sexualised or violent submissions come from there, it is even more shocking.

Anyway, I think people here should sit back and really see what she is saying. She isn't saying, "Writers suck". She's saying, "Writers are wonderful and rare gems that keep me going despite the crazy people out there (who you could never classify as a "writer")."

At least, this is how I see it.

willietheshakes
12-07-2009, 07:28 PM
Wow. I am shocked at the response here. When I read this blog entry weeks ago it made me feel awesome.


Oh, thank God -- I thought it was just me.

rosiecotton
12-07-2009, 07:38 PM
Toothpaste--I totally agree!

And, just a titbit about the slush pile/unsolicited queries--I recently spoke to a top agent through a personal connection (massive agency, massive agent but, alas, non-fiction--was never going to take me on but was still hugely helpful and happy to talk). His advice? If an agency still accepts snail submission then submit by mail. He receives huge quantities of junk submissions via email and says it's incredibly easy to simply hit delete, delete, delete when the inbox fills up.

Not saying equeries don't work--we know at AW that they do. Just saying, give your work every chance to breaking free of that 95%.

aruna
12-07-2009, 07:43 PM
Wow. I am shocked at the response here. When I read this blog entry weeks ago it made me feel awesome.

I think you guys are missing an important point. She isn't saying that every submission on the planet is in the list she gives. She is saying MOST are. And for those of you who simply don't believe her, .


Oh, I believe it all right. I know there are crazies out there, crazies writing books. I just don't see the point of ranting about them. Because the people who the rant is directed at don't get it, and those who know better, don't need a rant.
It was her tone I didn't like. Awfully snarky, but not in the nice Miss Snark way.

Toothpaste
12-07-2009, 07:54 PM
Well I disagree with your analysis of her tone, I always think there's a twinkle in her eye in her posts (and I've never once considered her bitter, which is why I guess I get SO shocked when people say she is), but of course that's a matter of personal taste.

But considering what happened in this thread, I actually don't think there is any preaching to the converted going on there. It seems to me many people here are indignant because they really don't believe there could be so many terrible queries and so think she's just hating on talented writers. To many wanting to get into the industry they are shocked to learn the truth about the slush pile. So it probably was a valuable lesson to them.

Aside from that, the article wasn't simply meant to educate wannabe writers, it was an interesting article giving an inside look into something we don't always get to see for everyone. Do you know how many teachers etc I get coming up to me after my presentations thanking me for letting them into what happens in the publication process? It's not because they want to publish a book, but because they just had no idea. It's just interesting for people.

Wayne K
12-07-2009, 07:58 PM
I don't agree. The tone sounds snarky and angry to me.I'm entitled to my opinion, same as you guys.

Toothpaste
12-07-2009, 08:01 PM
Yes you are. Hence my "matter of personal taste" point. Hon, please, before you get defensive, I was talking about me. I was saying how I've never considered her bitter or snarky, but maybe it's because I read her blog so I've gotten to know her, and that that's why FOR ME it's surprising that people think otherwise. But I am not denying anyone their right to feel that way. And also, not talking about you personally at all. (and seriously, who said you weren't entitled to your opinion?)

I know you like to come in and defend yourself when someone says the opposite of you even if the point isn't directed towards you, but this is so not what my point was about and I'd hate this to turn into a debate over her tone, which can never be resolved as, again, it's all a matter of taste. I am not judging you, and I assume you aren't judging me. So let's stick to discussing the issue at hand which is the content of her post. Even if you don't like the tone, it's the anger at the content that surprises me most. People are acting like she's lying or exaggerating. She's not. That's what's so shocking.

Wayne K
12-07-2009, 08:04 PM
It's hard not to be defensive on AW because people (not you actually, I like the way you disagree with people) snark at you and treat you like a scumbag if you disagree with them.

I do disagree though and I don't like the Midwest generalization.

I did ask this question earlier.

So (and I'm really interested here) is this even close to true? Only once in a great while this person gets a query letter that isn't racist and hateful?

Toothpaste
12-07-2009, 08:08 PM
Fair enough, but it makes far more sense not to get automatically defensive because that can only result in more conflict. Start off by assuming people aren't attacking you. After a few posts, if they keep at it, then maybe you can defend your honour. But to start from a position of anger, is not going to make the tension subside, it will only aggravate it.

I think the other thing people are missing with the Midwest generalisation, is that for her, it's probably a truth. She probably early on in her career went, "This is weird, why are all the really offensive things coming from middle america? Nah, that can't be right, I must be just missing something." And then as she got more experienced with slush, she noticed more and more until she came to the conclusion, for her pile at least, that a lot of said submissions happened to come from that part of the country. Maybe we should ask her to take a census, see if it is really true or a perception, but honestly, why would she make such an observation without some kind of evidence? It's not like it's a known fact that middle america submits crazy work. Why would she just pull that from the sky? It must come from somewhere.

And remember, she isn't saying all of middle america submits crazy stuff. She's saying that a lot of the crazy stuff happens to come from middle america. Just like how you could say that a lot of the writing in Canada is literary. Should I get offended because I am Canadian and don't write literary? No. Fact is, there is a lot of literary stuff that comes out of this country, and it can be frustrating for a genre author, but it doesn't make it any less true. Just like when people say authors are shy people who isolate themselves in their homes, should I get defensive because I don't? Again, it's true, I've met enough writers now to know this. Just because someone speaks in a generalisation, doesn't mean she's picking on everyone. She's stating an observation.

Jamesaritchie
12-07-2009, 08:14 PM
I don'tthink that was a rant at all. Slush is that bad, whether it's queries or manuscripts. It's worse than she describes it. A lot worse. It's bad enough that you can taste it, and much of it is so bad it stays with you for weeks or months.

I can still vividly remember one manuscript I tried to read more than ten years ago. It was so bad the few words I read won't leave me.

I know writers pour their hearts and souls into queries and manuscripts, but this does nothing to improve the quality, which generally ranges from completely illiterate to horrendously bad, to just mediocre. Good is something you can go montsh without finding.

The great thing about query letters is that most are mercifully short. But even most manuscripts can be rejected after a sentence or two.

If slush readers of any type seem unkind or unfeeling, they have good reason. It's a soul killing job, and only the extremely rare good query letter or manuscript brightens it enough to stop the slush reader from ripping off his clothing, and charging down the street naked, ripping out his hair, and begging for a rubber room.

Those who haven't seen a slush pile have no clue how bad almost everything that comes in can be. Query letter or manuscript matters not.

On the other hand, this should be encouraging. If you can write at all well, you're query or manuscript will shine like diamond in a pile of coal.

Wayne K
12-07-2009, 08:15 PM
T, lately there have been two trolls following me into threads picking at every opinion I post. I apologise if you thought it was directed at you. One went so far as to try and enlist someone who likes me to join them.

I log on these days with my stomach flipping. I even considered deleting my AW account because of it. Changing my name or something.

I am sensitive,believe it or not. And I'm easy to provoke.

DeskBoundTeaDrinker
12-07-2009, 08:17 PM
She isn't saying, "Writers suck". She's saying, "Writers are wonderful and rare gems that keep me going despite the crazy people out there (who you could never classify as a "writer")."

At least, this is how I see it.

I can see this, and for what my 2 cents are worth tend to agree - my most recent experiences with groups and workshops (added to the past 10+ years of intermittant experiences) have finally convinced me that surprisingly few people in the "I'm a writer" world are serious.

The serious are serious about craft and business (and many have discovered AW).

The crazies and dabblers are more plentiful, and I've lost track of the times I've seen a piece submitted for group or workshop (or university writer's conference workshop) that was blatantly whack - the guy who wrote about beating a large breasted, threateningly sexy woman (who smoked a big stogie - paging Dr. Freud) at a game of pool, the stories that were really theraputic (not even fictionalized much) retellings of deep personal wounds and parental addictions, etc. How good is a query going to be when it is submitting a deranged personal screed or statement of wavering mental health?

Kalyke
12-07-2009, 08:19 PM
Damn! I was hoping to read "Love Has Four Hooves" now I will never get that chance, and a great piece of literature will have been wasted.

CaoPaux
12-07-2009, 08:21 PM
Obligatory link to Slushkiller: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html

Shadow_Ferret
12-07-2009, 08:26 PM
The Rejectionist ...

Maybe its just how I look at things, but "The Rejectionist" sounds like a extremely pessimistic title. They are going out of their way to REJECT manuscripts. Strikes me as being a glass half empty negative term.

Why not call them the Acceptanceist? At least pretend like you're trying to find something worthwhile. Why brag that you can reject something in 30 seconds?

Because, really, isn't their job to find that one jewel amongst the trash? Not brag about how much you've rejected. Doesn't anyone look for the silver lining any more?

Isn't there any hope?

Wayne K
12-07-2009, 08:27 PM
I'm astounded that pepole would go through the trouble of writing a book and doing the whole submission thing, and then go into a racist rant.

Astounded and happy. That's probably part of the reason why I have a 80% request rate.

icerose
12-07-2009, 08:30 PM
T, lately there have been two trolls following me into threads picking at every opinion I post. I apologise if you thought it was directed at you. One went so far as to try and enlist someone who likes me to join them.

I log on these days with my stomach flipping. I even considered deleting my AW account because of it. Changing my name or something.

I am sensitive,believe it or not. And I'm easy to provoke.

Put them on your ignore list. It's really quite simply and you never have to see what they're saying ever again. It's like this magical mute button.

You'll love it.

Wayne K
12-07-2009, 08:33 PM
Put them on your ignore list. It's really quite simply and you never have to see what they're saying ever again. It's like this magical mute button.

You'll love it.
I finally had to. I didn't want to, and tried not to, but jeez, some people.

smcc360
12-07-2009, 08:41 PM
In The Rejectionist's defense, she has some medical issues she's mentioned on her blog, which might account for any perceived snark.

Edit- I just read Toothpaste's post in which she points out that The Rejectionist is not The Rejector. So please disregard my uninformed speculation.

Personally, I'd rather have the unvarnished truth, bitter though it may be. Spew away, Rejectionist! :flamethrower

Cyia
12-07-2009, 08:42 PM
Wow. I am shocked at the response here. When I read this blog entry weeks ago it made me feel awesome.


Ditto this. I thought surely I was reading it wrong because I certainly didn't get the venom.

aruna
12-07-2009, 09:15 PM
. I was saying how I've never considered her bitter or snarky, but maybe it's because I read her blog so I've gotten to know her, and that that's why FOR ME it's surprising that people think otherwise.
.
Fair enough.



At least pretend like you're trying to find something worthwhile. Why brag that you can reject something in 30 seconds?
Agreed.


Because, really, isn't their job to find that one jewel amongst the trash? Not brag about how much you've rejected. Doesn't anyone look for the silver lining any more?

Again, agreed. It's just me, but I have very little patience with people who complain about the unpleasant part of thier jobs. Wading through slush is her job description. Why get into a rant about it? Just do it! I can think of far, far more unpleasant jobs; because finally that jewel in the muck is worth it. Otherwise they wouldn't do it!

And reading her readiness to reject, and the opinion that you can tell a book from the query letter, makes me think of me 11 years ago. I had a fabulous manuscript but I knew not one thing about query letters. Had never heard of AW. Didn't even know a single other writer. And the novel I had was very, very hard to describe. Even today, knowing what I know of the art of query letter writing, I doubt I could get an agent's bite for it, not even with the perfect query. It's just that kind of book. I was lucky that I was able to go a different route into publishing.

But that's why I wonder if somewhere, behind another crappy query letter, is a sister of mine with a jewel of a ms that keeps getting rejections, and I wish that agents just had a sixth sense that could sniff out their fragrance through the stench of slush.

Toothpaste
12-07-2009, 10:06 PM
I also want everyone to know that even though I have my two published books, this doesn't mean I don't suffer from rejection. I really don't want to go into what my fall has been like, but needless to say, I'm not having a very good time of it lately. So I get why people can get frustrated reading something so negative (or at least what they perceive to be negative).

I guess for me, Aruna, I just don't see her as complaining about her job. I see her ranting, sure, but I have no doubt she finds it fun to do so. I also, personally, find it educational. Also, I think she was probably asked to write this column as you'll note it's not actually on her blog. Someone else was interested in what her job was like, and she answered. I don't think she's complaining, she's just pointing out facts. This is akin to when people say we're being vitriolic when we complain about a book. Being negative doesn't mean you have a negative attitude, it means there are aspects to life that are negative and highlighting them because people are curious doesn't mean you hate your job or are whinging. It's just pointing out observations. Besides, she also said that she keeps doing what she's doing because she knows she will find the rare jewel. So I think it's rather a hopeful post, upbeat, about someone who despite having to read so much garbage has faith that there is good stuff out there to be found and so isn't giving up any time soon.

But please don't compare your rejected query to the stuff she's talking about. I bet, after a day working for an editor/agent, you too would be able to tell a crappy query from a good one in less than thirty seconds. The fact is the stuff these people see is so awful it's easy to tell. The reason you and I get rejected is a lot more complicated, it's more a matter of personal taste and not suiting certain lists, not suiting the market and a hard sell to readers. The reason she is rejecting most of those other people is because they are crazy. We are the queries people like her respect, we are the queries that give her hope. She may in the end still reject us, but it's not the same way.

That's the other thing. Not all rejection is equal. In this post she's talking about the crazies. She is highlighting them. But we all know that not everyone submitting is crazy. It's a bit like the way Wayne is automatically defensive when someone isn't actually speaking to him (Wayne, I totally get your reasoning, not blaming you or anything, it's just you are a good example for this case :) ), just because someone puts down queries does not mean they are putting down ALL queries, nor does it mean they are putting us down.

When it is so clear she is talking about insane people, considering the specifics she mentions, it's pretty clear too that she ain't talking about us.

I get the impression that the reaction here in general is because of our own insecurities. Because we have been rejected and we worry that this article reflects what agents/editors are thinking about our work. But it simply isn't the case. She isn't talking about us. And that's a good thing. It means we're ahead of the game. That's why this column is so positive to me.

Greg Wilson
12-07-2009, 10:26 PM
So I get why people can get frustrated reading something so negative (or at least what they perceive to be negative).

I guess for me, Aruna, I just don't see her as complaining about her job. I see her ranting, sure, but I have no doubt she finds it fun to do so. I also, personally, find it educational.

*shrug* I don't know--I think there's far too much focus on what's "wrong" in publishing from all sides already. I'd much prefer a greater emphasis on what we actually like about what we do. Why work at a literary agency in the first place if it's so soul-draining? My agent seems to actually, you know, enjoy his work...so does my editor...and so do I. I just can't understand what would make someone pursue a profession which seems to bring him/her so much misery.

Toothpaste
12-07-2009, 10:35 PM
Yes, but, just because someone has issues with elements of their work doesn't mean they are miserable or hate it. And, I gotta be honest with ya, some people actually enjoy ranting. For them it's a pleasure. Do people honestly think in reading this article the author of it is miserable? It sounds to be like she's having an awesome crazy time, personally.

I agree there's a lot of negatives about the industry these days, but there are articles about what is great about it too. It's just these articles are the ones that people choose to re-post elsewhere because it's far more dramatic to talk about the bad than the good. That's just how it goes. Check out Betsy Learner who is both an agent an author. Sure she posts some negative stuff, but she's also always saying how much she loves her job. It's a great blog to read in my opinion. I visit it just before I check out The Rejectionist as a matter of fact.

This is one blogger who has a certain way of writing, and who, you can tell, enjoys a good rant. You don't want to read about negative things, don't read it. But I stand by my assertion that this blog isn't nearly as negative as people think it is. Like I said before, it's negative towards the crazies, but positive towards people like us. Don't the crazies deserve negativity? Personally I found this post rather funny, and it made me feel awesome. So I didn't even see it as a negative post in the first place.

Phaeal
12-07-2009, 10:56 PM
I think the other thing people are missing with the Midwest generalisation, is that for her, it's probably a truth. She probably early on in her career went, "This is weird, why are all the really offensive things coming from middle america? Nah, that can't be right, I must be just missing something."

My take on the middle america rant was that she was surprised that that many people in MA could write more than a grocery list. I think that take makes me snarkier than the blogger. ;)

Actually, there are an awful lot of crazies on both coasts. Believe me, I've fallen over some of them in dark doorways. Maybe the upcoming US census can add a question and so help us with the demographics: "Mr./Ms. X, are you an MS-generating crazy given to torturing agents with your dreck? Please answer YES, NO or HUNH?"

Dungeon Geek
12-07-2009, 11:05 PM
What about the manuscipts behind the queries? So she rejects all these queries in machine gun fashion. Well I think that's not the best way of doing things. How many great manuscripts is she passing up without knowing it? The query weeding out process, I feel, is a terrible idea. There has to be a better way to do it so that it doesn't come down to who writes the best query letter. There might be some highly talented storytellers who just can't write good queries or don't bother to take the time. Maybe she should slow the response time a bit and actually read a page of two of the novel. It might dawn on her that the strength of the query probably has nothing to do with the strength of the novel. No wonder there's so many bad books on the market these days, if agents like her are only taking on the best query writers. Sorry, but it just seems like a terribly backwards way of doing things.

It's not her fault, I guess. The agents are trying to find a way to screen the bad writers. But I just don't see how that system can possibly be very effective.

Medievalist
12-07-2009, 11:05 PM
So (and I'm really interested here) is this even close to true? Only once in a great while this person gets a query letter that isn't racist and hateful?

No; read again. It's subtle but she's qualifying things carefully.

That said, yes, I've noticed that there's more "this other group here is bad" stuff even in scholarly submissions.

When times get harder economically, we have an unfortunate tendency to look for someone else to blame--and it's usually someone who isn't like us.

jclarkdawe
12-07-2009, 11:06 PM
I guess I do see it as negative, but the question is who is it negative to? We've all met the person who thinks being a writer is easy, doesn't require any work, and their artistic vision is the most wonderful thing since, well, I'm going to say something obscene here, so you fill in the blank. These people send queries. Lots of queries.

Those queries need to be read by someone at each agency that they send to, to find the good ones. And this should offend every writer at AW. Agents are wasting their time with this crap instead of being able to help writers more. We've had several people who come to QLH after sending out 200+ queries (realize that at 30 seconds per, those people have used up nearly two hours of agent time in total), where we spend considerable time trying to explain what's wrong, to be basically told we're idiots because we can't understand their brilliance.

Why should agents have to waste their time with people like this? Let's say an agency gets 500 queries a week. At 30 seconds per query, that's 250 minutes a week, or four hours. Four hours per week is 208 hours a year, or the time for a pretty nice vacation. Instead they wade through this drivel, because everyone can write. Yeah, guaranteed to make them feel warm and fuzzy.

People that are willing to learn, to face honest critiques, are the distinct minority in the people sending queries. And if that was all that went through the door for queries, no one would mind them. Instead, what they get is so bad that awful only begins to describe them.

If she gets one person to think about what they're sending, and try to improve it, she's done her job by being negative.

And if anyone on AW can figure out how this is aimed at them, I'm impressed. Because if you want to improve, it isn't aimed at you. If you want to learn, it isn't aimed at you. And if you don't know all the answers, it isn't aimed at you. It's aimed at all of those who are perfect and don't need to learn anything and know all the answers.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Medievalist
12-07-2009, 11:08 PM
What about the manuscipts behind the queries? So she rejects all these queries in machine gun fashion. Well I think that's not the best way of doing things.

There are an awful lot of query letters that reveal that the writer can't write.

I'm serious; queries that are four pages long. Queries that do interesting and unusual things with basic English syntax and spelling.

Abusive queries that attack other writers, and publishers.

blacbird
12-07-2009, 11:09 PM
just because someone puts down queries does not mean they are putting down ALL queries,

Unless you hail from Des Moines or Omaha or Peoria or some similar locale. She went out of her way to make this geographical point, and for anybody who lives outside LA, San Francisco, NY or maybe Boston, you got 2.98 strikes against you before she ever opens the envelope.

caw

Dungeon Geek
12-07-2009, 11:11 PM
There are an awful lot of query letters that reveal that the writer can't write.

I'm serious; queries that are four pages long. Queries that do interesting and unusual things with basic English syntax and spelling.

Abusive queries that attack other writers, and publishers.

It's hard to believe that there are that many terrible writers out there. I'm not saying it isn't true, but it sure it makes it hard for the good ones. If it wasn't for the stuff you just mentioned, the query screening process probably wouldn't have to be so rigid. I just wish there was a better system, but I can't really think of one myself.

mscelina
12-07-2009, 11:12 PM
Jumping in for a second here--

Until you actually suffer through the agonies of slush pile reading, you have no idea of how bad some of the crap that shows up really is. Really. Some of you might see it as negative, but I would surmise that no one who does their homework on AW or goes through query letter hell is stuck in that 98% crap figure. And I recollect her saying that people outside of the big cities *used to* get looked down upon in NYC, not that they are now.

mscelina
12-07-2009, 11:14 PM
It's hard to believe that there are that many terrible writers out there. I'm not saying it isn't true, but it sure it makes it hard for the good ones. If it wasn't for the stuff you just mentioned, the query screening process probably wouldn't have to be so rigid. I just wish there was a better system, but I can't really think of one myself.

There are that many terrible writers out there. All those people you meet at parties who say, "I'm going to write a book. It's easy."--? They're sending out manuscripts now, secure in their golden word syndrome and unreasonably indignant when the form rejections start rolling in. Writing a book is NOT easy.

Writing a good query in some ways is even harder.

Wayne K
12-07-2009, 11:19 PM
No; read again. It's subtle but she's qualifying things carefully.

That said, yes, I've noticed that there's more "this other group here is bad" stuff even in scholarly submissions.

When times get harder economically, we have an unfortunate tendency to look for someone else to blame--and it's usually someone who isn't like us.
I blame Dawno.

blacbird
12-07-2009, 11:20 PM
And I recollect her saying that people outside of the big cities *used to* get looked down upon in NYC, not that they are now.

From the article:


placid backwaters and sleepy Midwestern towns, that vast expanse of "the middle" so famously spurned by New Yorkers and left-coasters alike.

Don't see a "used to" or any implication of one anywhere in that article.

caw

Wayne K
12-07-2009, 11:24 PM
I'm going to reread this when I'm done writing for the day. I'll assume you guys know this person better than me and I misread the thing.

That said, my earlier post, about the trolls, I've squashed it. It's nice to have so many people who care. So thank you.

Phaeal
12-07-2009, 11:26 PM
Unless you hail from Des Moines or Omaha or Peoria or some similar locale. She went out of her way to make this geographical point, and for anybody who lives outside LA, San Francisco, NY or maybe Boston, you got 2.98 strikes against you before she ever opens the envelope.

caw

Maybe Boston? MAYBE Boston???? Oh, the pain to my Brahmin sensibilities.

:e2thud:

Mr Flibble
12-07-2009, 11:28 PM
It's hard to believe that there are that many terrible writers out there. I'm not saying it isn't true, but it sure it makes it hard for the good ones. If it wasn't for the stuff you just mentioned, the query screening process probably wouldn't have to be so rigid. I just wish there was a better system, but I can't really think of one myself.

No it makes it easier for the good ones, because they stand out like a bloody beacon amidst the dreck.

The query letter system works, mostly. An agent can tell right off if someone can't write worth a damn, They can do that with your first five pages if they ask for that instead of / as well as your query.

In the UK it's standard to send a letter and the first three chapters. Some agents read the query first - but many don't. They look at the partial. It's only then, if they like that, that they look at the letter, to see if the story holds up to the writing. And guess what, mostly, the pages that they can dismiss quite easily tend to have the letters that they can dismiss most easily.

Obviously it's mostly different in the US ( though some agents ask for the first five pages - but they can usually tell in the first page), and yes writing a query letter is hard, and different from writing a novel. But an agent can tell many things - whether the story you are pitching has been done to death, or is in a genre that they don't cover. Or if you can't write a damn.

But if a query letter is Dagnabbit GOOD! there's a better chance the MS will be. If the writer misuses their, there and they're in the query letter, would you hold out much hope for the MS? Alternatively, maybe they'll see a premise that really interests them and snag it before any other agent can get it.

Sure some people can write a good MS and can't write a query worth a damn, That's the writer lletting themselves down, it's not the agent's fault - they aren't telepathic. I think :D

Whichever way the agent decides to filter the slush, your best bet is to write the best you can - both in the MS and in the query. Believe me, having spent a lot of time in Query Letter Hell, it's pretty easy to tell almost from the start which story you'd be interested in - leaving the agent more time to attend to what she needs to be doing - servicing the clients she already has. Or would you like your agent to neglect you to trawl through endless MSs when she should be negotiating you that nice big advance?

mscelina
12-07-2009, 11:38 PM
From the article:



Don't see a "used to" or any implication of one anywhere in that article.

caw

And I said--as I recollect.

At any rate, the *so famously spurned* bit is a satirical reference/urban legend about how anyone who's anyone in the arts *has* to live in New York. You do get that, right? It's satire? You know...ha, ha--funny. Satire.

*sigh*

*all further 'you's' in this post are general 'you's' and not directed just at blacbird*
If people go through and take all of these blog posts as absolute gospel truth, of course they're going to get pissed. It's easy to sit back in your living room and say, "They're all out to get me because I'm a man/woman/teenager/senior citizen/short/tall/teacher/student/citizen of some other city than New York." It's even easier to point your finger at a writer's/agent's/editor's/publisher's/slush pile reader's blog post or Tweet and say, "See? Look! They're admitting that all this is nothing but a waste of my time. They aren't going to take me seriously no matter what I do!"

It's nothing but a self-rationalization for failure. You're assigning the blame to someone else.

It's not the case.

Now, instead of being overly sensitive and thinking this blog post is directed at you (which, unless you're writing another terrorist plot book, it isn't) then stock this up as more useful information and work to become that one jewel in the pile. Because THAT is the purpose of this post. THAT is what this slushpile reader wants all fo us to do.

She wants US to become the JEWEL, not the slush.

Any other reaction to this post is just a waste of your time, energy, and moments of sensitivity.

[/rant]

Now, time for me to go back to editing.

IceCreamEmpress
12-07-2009, 11:39 PM
Both things are true:

A) That piece was purposefully tendentious and snarky and rude;

B) Most of the queries in a slush pile are way off-base and really would have been better addressed to a mental-health professional than to someone in the publishing industry.

The thing is that none of us are competing with someone's bizarre conspiracy theory/Mary Sue fantasy manuscript that's 1,000 crayoned pages long. That chaff gets discarded on the first winnowing, and rightly so.

We're all competing with the others in the top 10 percent or top 5 percent or whatever--the people who are taking writing seriously, telling a story, doing our best.

And among that top percentile, there are more talented, serious, skilled writers than there are openings for new books, which is why talented, serious, skilled writers get rejected.

But if you've ever done slush reading, you'll learn that the vast majority of submissions are so far off the mark as to be ridiculous. She's not making that up.

katiemac
12-07-2009, 11:58 PM
But if you've ever done slush reading, you'll learn that the vast majority of submissions are so far off the mark as to be ridiculous. She's not making that up.

And maybe that's the problem--if you've never seen the contents of a slush pile, then maybe this piece reads differently.

I saw a lot of ridiculous queries, and the majority can't put together a good English sentence. It is absolutely possible to reject a query in under 30 seconds or just by reading the first line. This is because that many queries are truly bad. They're not even not bad, or not good--they're bad. You read enough queries, you see the pattern and you know what to expect based on the first lines. I've read queries where the author comes off as hostile and arrogant; where the story has no plot; where the story is overdone; where the pitch is so convoluted I don't know a damn thing about what it's supposed to be about.

So yes, if you can string together a good sentence, you're already ahead of the game. The fact the slush pile is dreck is good for us writers.

Jamesaritchie
12-08-2009, 12:07 AM
Fair enough.


Agreed.



Again, agreed. It's just me, but I have very little patience with people who complain about the unpleasant part of thier jobs. Wading through slush is her job description. Why get into a rant about it? Just do it! I can think of far, far more unpleasant jobs; because finally that jewel in the muck is worth it. Otherwise they wouldn't do it!

And reading her readiness to reject, and the opinion that you can tell a book from the query letter, makes me think of me 11 years ago. I had a fabulous manuscript but I knew not one thing about query letters. Had never heard of AW. Didn't even know a single other writer. And the novel I had was very, very hard to describe. Even today, knowing what I know of the art of query letter writing, I doubt I could get an agent's bite for it, not even with the perfect query. It's just that kind of book. I was lucky that I was able to go a different route into publishing.

.


We all complain about lousy jobs, an being an assistant editor who must read slush is ALWAYS a lousy job. Just because there are worse jobs does not make this one any more pleasurable. Besides, I don't think anyone becomes an assistant slush reader because that's the job they want. You do it because that's the route to the job you want, which is being a senior editor who has an assistant who handle the crappy side of the job for you.

If you think that jewel in the muck is worth thousands of hours of nothing but muck, you must never have read slush for an extended period of time.

Finding teh jewel helps, but you still have to complain, and you do, and should, learn to reject very quickly, based on a bad first sentence in anything, query or manuscript.

And whether for good of ill, you usually can tell a lot about a manuscript by reading the query letter. It's not a 100% comparison, which is why any smart writer sends along sample pages with a query, but it's pretty darned close.

When you read enough bad queries, and then read the corresponding manuscripts that you took a chnace on, but which are also bad on nearly every occasion, it doesn't take long to figure out that most who can't write an exciting and interesting query also can't write an exciting and interesting piece of fiction.

The same is true for manuscripts. A writer who sends in a manuscript with a lousy first sentence, and definitely with a lousy first page, shouldn't expect anything else to be read. Manuscripts do not generally get better after the first page, they get worse.

I think this is more about writers just not wanting to hear how bad most queries and manuscripts really are, and how incredibly few writers manage to submit anything, query or manuscript, that's worth reading past the first sentence or first page.

I suspect every writer out there believe his work, query or manuscript, is the exception, else he wouldn't submit it in the first place, but it almost never is.

AllieKat
12-08-2009, 12:14 AM
I suppose this is the agent who once called herself The Rejector (Rejecter)? A few years ago. I remember following her blog for a while and I just didn't like her tone. She seemed to lack a basic... kindness. I haven't clicked on the link (yet) but the snark in that snippet really puts me off. I'm not guilty of any of the horrors she describes -- but really.

ETA: just read the article. She hasn't changed at all. I appreciate that the slush pile is terrible. It's her arrogant tone I don't like. No thanks. Does anyone know which agency she works for? I certainly wouldn't query them!

Quoted for truth!

Hey, sometimes you can get too close to something. This person is obviously skilled at her job. She's also obviously been in the business for awhile and seems burned out.

Remember all the stories of great novels that got rejected again and again? I wonder just how easily this person would turn down one of these by accident.

icerose
12-08-2009, 12:25 AM
Even though I have only read an extremely small amount of slush, from what I've read it's eye gougingly awful and it's extremely rare to find a piece that is ready to sell.

Sure there are pieces where the writer has potential but they haven't found them yet. It's vanishing rare to find one that is there and ready.

katiemac
12-08-2009, 12:26 AM
Remember all the stories of great novels that got rejected again and again? I wonder just how easily this person would turn down one of these by accident.

If a great novel is being rejected so easily, then the author isn't doing a great job with the query. That's not an agent's fault.

blacbird
12-08-2009, 12:31 AM
If a great novel is being rejected so easily, then the author isn't doing a great job with the query. That's not an agent's fault.

If a manuscript never gets read, because the query is rejected, the manuscript itself hasn't been rejected.

Unless (for this particular agent) the writer lives in Wichita.

caw

rosiecotton
12-08-2009, 12:35 AM
Unless the writer lives in Wichita.

caw

I moved from Kansas City, KS to Annapolis, MD part way through my round of subs. Kansas City subs? All rejections. Annapolis? A full request.

I wonder...

IceCreamEmpress
12-08-2009, 12:36 AM
Remember all the stories of great novels that got rejected again and again? I wonder just how easily this person would turn down one of these by accident.

I've never heard of a great novel that got rejected because it had an incoherent racist query, though.

icerose
12-08-2009, 12:36 AM
If a great novel is being rejected so easily, then the author isn't doing a great job with the query. That's not an agent's fault.

Not to mention who knows how many revisions that piece went through from the first rejection to the last? I had a piece that was eventually published in an e-zine but from the first rejection to the acceptance it went through 18 full revisions. It wasn't until the last one that it was actually publishable. So all those rejections were fully warranted.

rosiecotton
12-08-2009, 12:37 AM
I've never heard of a great novel that got rejected because it had an incoherent racist query, though.

Hilarious!

Strange Days
12-08-2009, 12:54 AM
... You know, this wasn't supposed to be a downer. The more information you have about what's on the other side, however sarcastic and critical, the better query you can write.

True. But since you referred to all unsolicited as "slush" - doesn't it mean that no query will be even read unless you met your potential agent personally at a conference and bought him/her a drink after?

katiemac
12-08-2009, 12:57 AM
True. But since you referred to all unsolicited as "slush" - doesn't it mean that no query will be even read unless you met your potential agent personally at a conference and bought him/her a drink after?

Absolutely not. All unsolicited is slush, but that doesn't mean agents don't read the slushpile. They do, usually for hours every day. "Slushpile" in of itself is not a negative term--agents find most of their clients out of the slush. Slush is a hugely vital part of the publishing business; agents know this, and they don't ignore it.

IceCreamEmpress
12-08-2009, 12:58 AM
True. But since you referred to all unsolicited as "slush" - doesn't it mean that no query will be even read unless you met your potential agent personally at a conference and bought him/her a drink after?

No. Almost every successful writer has come out of the slush, from J.K. Rowling to Stephenie Meyer to Stephen King to whoever. The trick is to stand out.

Julie Worth
12-08-2009, 01:07 AM
And remember, she isn't saying all of middle america submits crazy stuff. She's saying that a lot of the crazy stuff happens to come from middle america.

It's simple. New York City represents only 3% of the population. Therefore the great majority of lunatics reside outside the city.

katiemac
12-08-2009, 01:08 AM
Just a quick rundown, which might be helpful:

All "unsolicited" means is that the agent/publisher did not ask you to send her materials, whether that be a query or a manuscript.

So if you send an unsolicited query or manuscript, you automatically land in the slush pile. This is not a bad thing.

If you're sending requested materials--like when the agent reads your query and asks you to send a partial, or you met at a conference and the agent likes your idea and wants to see more--then your material is now solicited. It's requested. You've bypassed the slush pile. When the majority of the publishing business was still happening on paper and not the Internet, writers who were sending solicited material were often asked to write "Requested Material" or some other code on the outside of the package so it did not get sorted back into the slush pile.

But yes, the slush pile is not a bad place to be. There's usually a lot of backup, since agents often receive more queries a day than they can read in a day, but agents know the value of a slush pile. They get the majority of their clients from them. But the actual content of the slush pile is generally so bad that requests--solicited material--become few and far between.

If you read Jennifer Jackson's blog (an agent at Donald Maas), she usually updates every Friday with the number of queries she's read versus the number of requests she's made. Usually the ratio is about 200 queries versus two partial requests that week, which comes out to about 1 percent acceptance rate.

Strange Days
12-08-2009, 01:19 AM
Absolutely not. All unsolicited is slush, but that doesn't mean agents don't read the slushpile. They do, usually for hours every day. "Slushpile" in of itself is not a negative term--agents find most of their clients out of the slush. Slush is a hugely vital part of the publishing business; agents know this, and they don't ignore it.

Ok, now makes sense... Also, looks like this kind of labor nowadays os completely on the agents, for almost none of the major publishers accepts unsolicited queries, period.

Greg Wilson
12-08-2009, 01:30 AM
Yes, but, just because someone has issues with elements of their work doesn't mean they are miserable or hate it. And, I gotta be honest with ya, some people actually enjoy ranting. For them it's a pleasure. Do people honestly think in reading this article the author of it is miserable? It sounds to be like she's having an awesome crazy time, personally.

"I wish I could say that my role as an intermediary between the humble masses and a publishing contract has taught me grace and compassion; instead, it's taught me that the world is overrun with racist, lady-hating lunatics, hell-bent on inflicting their own horrific visions upon an unsuspecting populace."

Is this the part which gave you the "awesome crazy time" impression? :)

Phaeal
12-08-2009, 01:34 AM
It's simple. New York City represents only 3% of the population. Therefore the great majority of lunatics reside outside the city.

But does New York have a higher percentage of sane people per capita than other cities? Does middle america have a higher percentage of crackpots per capita than either or both coasts? We won't know until after my special US census is taken and analyzed. ("Sir/Ma'am, are you now or have you ever been totally bonkers/out to lunch/equipped with a less than full deck?"]

So, if there is a higher percentage of New Yorkers who are nutcases than there is of Boiseans, then would you read the Boise queries first? And if she floats, is she a witch, or was it if she weighs the same as a duck? Now I'm getting kerfuddled...

Phaeal
12-08-2009, 01:37 AM
Just a quick rundown, which might be helpful:

If you read Jennifer Jackson's blog (an agent at Donald Maas), she usually updates every Friday with the number of queries she's read versus the number of requests she's made. Usually the ratio is about 200 queries versus two partial requests that week, which comes out to about .001 percent.

It's 2/200 = .01 X 100 = 1%. In other words, 99% are rejected.

See, I SHOULD be in charge of the census. ;)

katiemac
12-08-2009, 01:43 AM
It's 2/200 = .01 X 100 = 1%. In other words, 99% are rejected.

See, I SHOULD be in charge of the census. ;)

I was calculating the requested rate, but yeah, I wasn't clear. And you're right I forgot the extra multiplication... This is why I shouldn't try to do math. ;)

Fixed my post above.

jodiodi
12-08-2009, 01:43 AM
And if she floats, is she a witch, or was it if she weighs the same as a duck? Now I'm getting kerfuddled...

It's both. Witches float and so do ducks. Therefore, if she weighs the same as a duck, she floats because she's made of wood, which burns as do witches, and is a witch.

Phaeal
12-08-2009, 01:46 AM
It's both. Witches float and so do ducks. Therefore, if she weighs the same as a duck, she floats because she's made of wood, which burns as do witches, and is a witch.

Cathedrals float, too, so are they witches? And what about agents? I think some of them float. But aren't witches good, or what was Harry Potter for?

Toothpaste
12-08-2009, 01:49 AM
"I wish I could say that my role as an intermediary between the humble masses and a publishing contract has taught me grace and compassion; instead, it's taught me that the world is overrun with racist, lady-hating lunatics, hell-bent on inflicting their own horrific visions upon an unsuspecting populace."

Is this the part which gave you the "awesome crazy time" impression? :)

Greg, okay, maybe she isn't having an awesome crazy time, still sounds to me like she likes her job, otherwise she wouldn't have this degree of passion behind it. If she hated her job and finding new writers she wouldn't get this passionate about the people who make her job harder. She also wouldn't be writing quite as colourfully about those people, and to be honest, I have a hard time finding a person who writes about these people so creatively not having some fun in writing about them. It's possible that in writing about the crazies she gets some of the love back, that if she didn't rant she may very well quit the job, so this gives her an outlet. I don't know.

All I know is that nothing she has said is evil, that Blacbird you are attributing far more negativity from her than she is. If she truly felt there were no successful writers from middle america she wouldn't have cited Twilight. She was pointing out that she was surprised how many crazies are in middle america, that's all. Not saying she'd never take a query from there, not saying they were all like that. I've already explained why I believe she was so surprised by the middle america crazies in particular (let's be honest, you expect people to be crazy in NY and LA), so I'm not doing it again.

And to the dude who is from the school of thought that you can't judge a book based on its query . . . when it comes to these kinds of queries, you can. It's when you get to the top 5%, which I'd argue almost everyone here at AW would be in, then you come down to taste, then you come down to rejections and missed opportunities. But if you're telling me you go into a bookstore and don't make decisions based on the back cover copy (which is akin to a query), well, I guess you're a better man than I am Gunga Din.

You don't believe that the queries out there are that bad. They are. Let us recall my pubic hair example. They really truly are as bad as the Rejectionist rants. Sad horrible truth for agents, but awesome for people like us here at AW. I always like to be reminded of my superiority :)

jodiodi
12-08-2009, 01:50 AM
Cathedrals float, too, so are they witches? And what about agents? I think some of them float. But aren't witches good, or what was Harry Potter for?

But aren't Cathedrals framed from wood and stones applied later?

Harry Potter was a wizard. All of the females, i.e. witches, are annoying, an evil trait if there ever was one.

Toothpaste
12-08-2009, 01:54 AM
All the female characters in Harry Potter are annoying? Really? Ginny always rocked in my mind.

HJW
12-08-2009, 02:14 AM
Again, agreed. It's just me, but I have very little patience with people who complain about the unpleasant part of thier jobs. Wading through slush is her job description. Why get into a rant about it? Just do it! I can think of far, far more unpleasant jobs; because finally that jewel in the muck is worth it. Otherwise they wouldn't do it!


Yes, I agree.

I enjoy The Rejectionist’s blog and a lot of the other agent blogs I read, but sometimes they get a bit too whiny and I stop reading them for a while.

I prefer blogs like Kristen Nelson's -- she concentrates on giving useful snippets of advice and insights into the shape of the market.

waylander
12-08-2009, 02:27 AM
If you don't believe there are nutters about read this
http://agencygatekeeper.blogspot.com/
The relevent entry is the fifth one down titled 'Evil Author'

ChristineR
12-08-2009, 02:42 AM
Okay, I have a question for those of you who actually read slush. We've all heard the figures that something like 95% is just beyond consideration (see the first post) and that something like 1% gets a read request. But we also know that most people don't submit to just one agent or publisher. I assume that what happens is that the good stuff gets plucked out and does not need to be queried anymore, and that the crazy stuff just churns until the author gives up.

Does anyone have any insight into how much stuff actually is crazy or worthwhile on its first time through? Like if we narrowed it down to stuff that was only first submitted in 2009, and added back everything from 2009 that is now agented and hence no longer in the slush, what sort of numbers would you get?

katiemac
12-08-2009, 02:45 AM
Maybe its just how I look at things, but "The Rejectionist" sounds like a extremely pessimistic title. They are going out of their way to REJECT manuscripts. Strikes me as being a glass half empty negative term.

Why not call them the Acceptanceist? At least pretend like you're trying to find something worthwhile. Why brag that you can reject something in 30 seconds?

Don't forget that The Rejectionist is an assistant. She's not an agent. It's her job to reject all the bad stuff and send the good queries to the agent. It's then the agent's job to request material or not; it's not for this assistant to decide requests or offer representation.

Greg Wilson
12-08-2009, 02:53 AM
Greg, okay, maybe she isn't having an awesome crazy time, still sounds to me like she likes her job, otherwise she wouldn't have this degree of passion behind it. If she hated her job and finding new writers she wouldn't get this passionate about the people who make her job harder. She also wouldn't be writing quite as colourfully about those people, and to be honest, I have a hard time finding a person who writes about these people so creatively not having some fun in writing about them. It's possible that in writing about the crazies she gets some of the love back, that if she didn't rant she may very well quit the job, so this gives her an outlet. I don't know.

All I know is that nothing she has said is evil, that Blacbird you are attributing far more negativity from her than she is. If she truly felt there were no successful writers from middle america she wouldn't have cited Twilight. She was pointing out that she was surprised how many crazies are in middle america, that's all. Not saying she'd never take a query from there, not saying they were all like that. I've already explained why I believe she was so surprised by the middle america crazies in particular (let's be honest, you expect people to be crazy in NY and LA), so I'm not doing it again.

You've mounted an impressive (nearly heroic) defense here, but I still think you're spinning this article pretty far--particularly since, as one of the commenters on the article itself pointed out, referring to many of the people who query the agency as "Persons who seem not to have ever read an actual book in their lives, but who have nevertheless developed comprehensive views on the nepotism and intellectual elitism of the publishing industry at large" represents, well, the intellectually elite attitude in the whole article...to say nothing of painting an entire region with the broadest conceivable brush.

I take your point, and maybe this is intended to be some form of elaborate satire, or just harmless venting. But seriously...aren't friends, family, therapists, private journals better outlets for this kind of thing? How widespread is the practice of doctors or lawyers complaining in public forums about their patients/clients?

I don't know. Just seems unproductive to me.

blacbird
12-08-2009, 02:56 AM
I have another question, referencing back to the original article: No distinction is made between the "unsolicited queries" and "unsolicited manuscripts" that comprise the slush pile. Presumably this agency does accept unsolicited queries, and almost certainly discourages unsolicited manuscripts, but equally certainly, they receive some. Surely, in practice, a major distinction is made in the way these two categories are handled. Does anyone even attempt to read the unsolicited manuscripts? For that matter, do all the unsolicited queries get read? Even opened?

caw

katiemac
12-08-2009, 03:04 AM
I have another question, referencing back to the original article: No distinction is made between the "unsolicited queries" and "unsolicited manuscripts" that comprise the slush pile. Presumably this agency does accept unsolicited queries, and almost certainly discourages unsolicited manuscripts, but equally certainly, they receive some. Surely, in practice, a major distinction is made in the way these two categories are handled. Does anyone even attempt to read the unsolicited manuscripts? For that matter, do all the unsolicited queries get read? Even opened?


Since the Rejectionist's agency is unidentified, I can't say with any certainty, but of all the agent blogs I read, they say they look at all the queries that come through. That might mean they reject it in under five seconds, but I do believe they read (maybe not finish reading) all queries unless they get caught in the spam trap or something similar. I'm sure there are honest mistakes if something is overlooked. But there's nothing in it for them to hop around and only read a few--that's not how you find the good ones.

Manuscripts--I can't say the same. Maybe they'll look, maybe they won't. They certainly don't advertise if they do, which I understand. It seems not following the rules is one of the easiest ways you can tick off an agent, and sending unrequested manuscripts is a big way to break the rules.

Toothpaste
12-08-2009, 03:19 AM
I don't think there is anything heroic, greg, in my not vilifying someone for pointing out an uncomfortable truth. If you honestly believe The Rejectionist is talking about all queriers out there, then that's your conclusion, drawn from utterly no evidence whatsoever, but still your conclusion, and definitely not mine.

And no, I don't view "Persons who seem not to have ever read an actual book in their lives, but who have nevertheless developed comprehensive views on the nepotism and intellectual elitism of the publishing industry at large" to be ironic at all with regards to her article. Do you not know to what this is referring? You are fairly new to this site, I suppose, but give it some time. Eventually you will meet just such a character.

We see this "not having read a single book and think publishing is full of elitist pigs" people all the time here at AW with new members who arrive and then disappear just as quickly because they become belligerent when we try to point out the flaws in their argument. People show up here, saying their work is amazing genius, unlike anything that has ever been written (which therefore suggests this person has never read a book, especially when you finally get a chance to read some of said person's work and it has totally been done before), but the reason they can't get published is because publishers are elitist and you need to know someone.

These people exist. In great number. They're from the "anyone can write a book" crowd, people who want the glory but don't actually, you know, read books. Because they don't, they truly believe what they have written will shock the world (when there is already a best seller on the exact same subject on the shelves) and think the reason therefore their book is being rejected must be because publishers suck and only publish their friends. Otherwise, why would they be being rejected?

One last time, The Rejectionist is not talking about every single author on the planet. She is so obviously talking about the crazies. I don't see how that isn't blatantly clear.

katiemac
12-08-2009, 03:28 AM
I take your point, and maybe this is intended to be some form of elaborate satire, or just harmless venting. But seriously...aren't friends, family, therapists, private journals better outlets for this kind of thing? How widespread is the practice of doctors or lawyers complaining in public forums about their patients/clients?

I don't know. Just seems unproductive to me.

Maybe it's time to point out that The Stranger, the Seattle newspaper where the Rejectionist's article was published, was founded by one of the guys who also co-founded The Onion. The tone of the entire paper is purposefully highly ironic.

If doctor or lawyer wrote an editorial that featured in The Stranger, there's an excellent chance it would have the same tone.

That's not to say it's untruthful.

Dungeon Geek
12-08-2009, 03:29 AM
I believe the majority of queries rejected by agents have nothing to do with how good or bad the query is--but the subject matter at hand. I'll bet my epic fantasy novel will get rejected (with an outstanding query) outright far more than your urban fantasy romance (with a weak or fair query). But all I hear, over and over again, is how important the query is. But isn't the subject matter of the query at least as equally important as how well the query is written?

I hear people say: "Shoot, got rejected 20 straight times. Must be that my query needs improving." But that certainly may not be the case. The subject matter may simply be what the agents aren't interested in. It's not as simple as: query good/query bad--not by a long shot. Not when you factor in the fact that some genres or sub-genres are being picked up and some are being flat-out ignored.

This is what I think, anyway. I'd prefer to be proven wrong, because I'd like to think my sword and wizard book has the same chance as the vampire romance book. But I believe it doesn't, good query, bad query, or no query.

Toothpaste
12-08-2009, 03:29 AM
Let me put this another way for you greg.

Pretend like everything the Rejectionist says is true. Pretend that every example she gives is true, that there are a lot of people out there who submit work exactly as she says they do, do you then take issue with her rant?

Because I think you might think that she is exaggerating. That she is putting down all authors and using exaggerated versions of their queries to explain why. Just as you don't seem to believe that quoted bit of text you showed me is sincere but an elitist view of authors. There really are authors out there who have never read a book and still want to be published (and btw, doesn't that really offend you? It does me. I mean, every other profession you're supposed to know it inside and out, and here are people thinking they can just write a book easy without having done any research into the industry, or even, heck read a book in the first place. I put a lot of hard work into my writing career thank you very much.).

Here's the thing. Everything she is saying is true. She gets those queries. Now is she adding some snarky flavour to her rant, you betcha. Is it meant to be funny, yup. But she's still using real examples. As hard as it is to believe.

Now. Knowing that every one of those queries cited are real, do you still feel like she's dissing every author? Or maybe just dissing, you know, THE CRAZIES?

Toothpaste
12-08-2009, 03:31 AM
Dungeon Geek - you are wrong. You are just wrong. 95% of queries are rejected because they are exactly as The Rejectionist is painting them out to be. The reason the other 4% of queries get rejected, might be as you state. Trust us. Please. We have a heck of a lot of experience with this.

jclarkdawe
12-08-2009, 03:35 AM
Okay, I have a question for those of you who actually read slush. We've all heard the figures that something like 95% is just beyond consideration (see the first post) and that something like 1% gets a read request. But we also know that most people don't submit to just one agent or publisher. I assume that what happens is that the good stuff gets plucked out and does not need to be queried anymore, and that the crazy stuff just churns until the author gives up.

Does anyone have any insight into how much stuff actually is crazy or worthwhile on its first time through? Like if we narrowed it down to stuff that was only first submitted in 2009, and added back everything from 2009 that is now agented and hence no longer in the slush, what sort of numbers would you get?

It's clear there's a significant amount of repeat stuff out there. Agents can and do block people who've reached their repeat pest quota. But I don't know of anyone who's quantified it. My guess is the percentages would stay roughly the same, but I don't have any hard evidence I can point to.


I have another question, referencing back to the original article: No distinction is made between the "unsolicited queries" and "unsolicited manuscripts" that comprise the slush pile. Presumably this agency does accept unsolicited queries, and almost certainly discourages unsolicited manuscripts, but equally certainly, they receive some. Surely, in practice, a major distinction is made in the way these two categories are handled. Does anyone even attempt to read the unsolicited manuscripts? For that matter, do all the unsolicited queries get read? Even opened?

caw

I know back in the anthrax scare, agents were tossing manuscripts in the trash, unopened. My guess is some agents still do the same thing. Some agents probably do look at manuscripts, but I would think in the distinct minority. And that look is probably only the first couple of sentences in most cases. It's probably harder to come up with a good opening than a query.

As far as queries go, most agents look at all queries submitted to them. But not all do, using an assistant to weed out the out and out crap. And agents who are not accepting queries probably do not, but they don't tend to talk about it.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

blacbird
12-08-2009, 03:38 AM
Dungeon Geek - you are wrong. You are just wrong. 95% of queries are rejected because they are exactly as The Rejectionist is painting them out to be. The reason the other 4% of queries get rejected, might be as you state.

Throwing away that 95% as being meaningless, really, I think the key point here (bolded) is absolutely correct. Or, stated a little differently, perfectly adequate, professional and polite queries get rejected more often than not. Reason being the agent simply doesn't believe the novel is saleable. Ergo, no request for manuscript, ergo, manuscript itself never gets read.

caw

Mr Flibble
12-08-2009, 03:40 AM
I believe the majority of queries rejected by agents have nothing to do with how good or bad the query is--but the subject matter at hand. I'll bet my epic fantasy novel will get rejected (with an outstanding query) outright far more than your urban fantasy romance (with a weak or fair query).



Why? Sure urban is hot right now, but there's still lots of epic being published ( for which I thank my lucky stars :D) A weak query is a weak query - the genre will make little difference if the agent can't understand your story, or you can't string a sentence together, or make your story sound exciting


But all I hear, over and over again, is how important the query is. Because it is




But isn't the subject matter of the query at least as equally important as how well the query is written? Yes. That's the thing though. A solid, intriguing query with a worn out premise ( short guy must destroy ring and like there's orcs and stuff) will do as badly as a great premise with a weak query. Agents want books that a) will sell ( so no worn out premises) and b) are well written ( so not weak queries)

Answer? Write a strong query that focuses on why your book is different to the other 500 epic fantasies that landed on their desk this week. Or why should they pick you and not some other writer?


I hear people say: "Shoot, got rejected 20 straight times. Must be that my query needs improving." But that certainly may not be the case. The subject matter may simply be what the agents aren't interested in.True - but if you do your research you'll know what each agent is interested in and not waste your time querying someone who only reps Urban when you write Epic.


It's not as simple as: query good/query bad--not by a long shot. Not when you factor in the fact that some genres or sub-genres are being picked up and some are being flat-out ignored.WHich sub-genres are being ignored? I can name you plenty of people that have agents for Epic fantasties. I can point you to Epic fantasies being published, so someone must like them. I don't have an agent - but I have published an epic fantasy with another due out next year.


I'd prefer to be proven wrong, because I'd like to think my sword and wizard book has the same chance as the vampire romance book.

It does provided you a) have a good, interesting premise that hasn't been done a thousand times ( or has been done, but yours has a new twist or a great voice), you target the agents that actually rep your genre and you write a solid query. Oh, yeah and a great MS too. It's not guaranteed. But the harder you work, the luckier you get.


Blaming the agent for not being telepathic to see your greatness through a query letter that just doesn't work isn't really helpful. Make it the best letter you can. Clear, intriguing with voice. Entice the agent to want to read more.

DeadlyAccurate
12-08-2009, 03:42 AM
I believe the majority of queries rejected by agents have nothing to do with how good or bad the query is--but the subject matter at hand. I'll bet my epic fantasy novel will get rejected (with an outstanding query) outright far more than your urban fantasy romance (with a weak or fair query). But all I hear, over and over again, is how important the query is. But isn't the subject matter of the query at least as equally important as how well the query is written?

If you query an agent who doesn't rep what you write, then yes, even an excellent query will get rejected. But if you do your research and query agents who know how to sell the genre you write in, an excellent query will get requests for pages more often than not.

But if an agent who reps both epic and urban fantasy has an outstanding epic query and a mediocre urban one, the chances are they're going to request the epic query over the urban one every time. Why wouldn't they? They want to find books to sell, and reading stuff that isn't ready for publication is a waste of their time.

Bubastes
12-08-2009, 03:44 AM
I take your point, and maybe this is intended to be some form of elaborate satire, or just harmless venting. But seriously...aren't friends, family, therapists, private journals better outlets for this kind of thing? How widespread is the practice of doctors or lawyers complaining in public forums about their patients/clients?


You haven't checked out many lawyers' forums, have you? Holy crap, I've yet to see anything even approaching the kind of nastiness I've seen on lawyers' message boards and blogs.

ETA: Lawyers don't bitch about clients in public because of their confidentiality obligations. However, that doesn't stop them from bitching about everything else.

jclarkdawe
12-08-2009, 03:45 AM
I believe the majority of queries rejected by agents have nothing to do with how good or bad the query is--but the subject matter at hand. I'll bet my epic fantasy novel will get rejected (with an outstanding query) outright far more than your urban fantasy romance (with a weak or fair query). But all I hear, over and over again, is how important the query is. But isn't the subject matter of the query at least as equally important as how well the query is written?

I hear people say: "Shoot, got rejected 20 straight times. Must be that my query needs improving." But that certainly may not be the case. The subject matter may simply be what the agents aren't interested in. It's not as simple as: query good/query bad--not by a long shot. Not when you factor in the fact that some genres or sub-genres are being picked up and some are being flat-out ignored.

This is what I think, anyway. I'd prefer to be proven wrong, because I'd like to think my sword and wizard book has the same chance as the vampire romance book. But I believe it doesn't, good query, bad query, or no query.

I'm not sure exactly what you're saying. Marketing trends definitely influence all of this. If something is hot, you're lucky. If not, you've got to be better. For instance, right at the moment, the query for a thriller involving a gate crashing at the White House is going to be so hot it will sizzle, even if the writing isn't quite as good. A month ago, I'd have figured there's no way you can gate crash the White House so the book is unbelievable.

Don't compare apples and oranges here. If your genre is epic fantasy, don't compare your query to a romance one. Compare yourself to other epic fantasy queries.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

icerose
12-08-2009, 03:47 AM
I think it really comes down to this.

You can only control the material you put out and the quality there of. Everything else is out of your hands so focus on what you do control, not what you don't.

blacbird
12-08-2009, 03:49 AM
You can only control the material you put out and the quality thereof.

Therein resides my doom.

caw

icerose
12-08-2009, 03:53 AM
Therein resides my doom.

caw

You are a really great writer blacbird. I've read some of your stuff. You have talent. I don't know if it's market appeal that's tripping you up or what, but I love your writing.

I have an example of my own. Middle Grade fantasy. I love the story and characters, my betas loved it, except for the ones who were trying to apply it to too young of an audience, then they didn't like it so much. Anyway, point is, I got two full requests on it. Both came back saying they'd read it multiple times and they just didn't think it would stand out enough to take the chance on.

My solution? Write a better book. Eventually I'll hit it out of the ballpark, I know I will. It could be the one I just finished, it might be the next. But this is what I want to do so I'm not about to give up simply because publishers aren't taking as many risks on books most likely to end up on the midlist.

Dungeon Geek
12-08-2009, 03:55 AM
Right guys, but what I'm saying is that some genres are pretty much way down the agent's list. So I don't know. I hear conflicting stuff on that. Some writers say "Put aside that epic fantasy novel, dude." And writers like you folks say, "Just make sure it's plenty original." I'm not disagreeing, I'm just saying there's two sides to the story that I hear all the time. Makes it hard to know what's what!

katiemac
12-08-2009, 03:59 AM
Answer? Write a strong query that focuses on why your book is different to the other 500 epic fantasies that landed on their desk this week. Or why should they pick you and not some other writer?


But if an agent who reps both epic and urban fantasy has an outstanding epic query and a mediocre urban one, the chances are they're going to request the epic query over the urban one every time. Why wouldn't they? They want to find books to sell, and reading stuff that isn't ready for publication is a waste of their time.

I agree with what you both have said in your posts, except I want to nitpick semantics.

Unless the agent's list is full, agents do not have to pick one writer over another. If the queries are good, or even one good and one mediocre but suggests potential, the agent will request both. The writing and the story still have to hold up... so there's never the notion of the agent picking one query over another query.

You're only in competition with yourself.

At least in the querying stage. This changes some when your agent is pitching to editors, because editors do not have the cash to print every book they like.

Mr Flibble
12-08-2009, 03:59 AM
I think it really comes down to this.

You can only control the material you put out and the quality there of. Everything else is out of your hands so focus on what you do control, not what you don't.

So true. For ages ( before I got really serious, or found any writers sites) I shopped around half-heartedly with a query I thought was pretty good.

Until I got someone else to read it ( Hi Jim, still sending the squirrels crazy?) Then I realised that it was confusing, had unnecessary information and just wasn't at all intriguing. So with Jim's ( and Andrew in Query Letter Hell) help, I got me a good 'un. Got a bite first time out ( got several actually). Sold it off that first bite.

And learned a valuable lesson. You may have the greatest MS in Da World, but if you can't explain why it's so great...you can't call yourself a communicator - and that's what writing is all about, right?

The only person who can make your query sizzle is you ( though you can get help). And when it does - you'll see the difference in your inbox

blacbird
12-08-2009, 04:18 AM
agents do not have to pick one writer over another. . . there's never the notion of the agent picking one query over another query.

You're only in competition with yourself.

I agree with pretty much everything you've said, up to this. But the above quote fails my "Oh, come on" test rather badly. Agents are in the business of selecting writers, and a very very very selective business it is. They cherry-pick queries all the time, and that inevitably means judging one as more meritorious than another. And every writer absolutely is in competition for that gold ring with every other writer in that slush pile.

caw

katiemac
12-08-2009, 04:24 AM
I agree with pretty much everything you've said, up to this. But the above quote fails my "Oh, come on" test rather badly. Agents are in the business of selecting writers, and a very very very selective business it is. They cherry-pick queries all the time, and that inevitably means judging one as more meritorious than another. And every writer absolutely is in competition for that gold ring with every other writer in that slush pile.

caw

Sure, I agree they're extremely selective, but given the choice of two good queries, the agent does not have to pick one or the other. Nothing is stopping them from picking both; that's my main point. I don't see it as a competition between writers who are in the slush pile because there is no designated number of spots.

Delhomeboy
12-08-2009, 05:04 AM
What the hell is a left coast?

icerose
12-08-2009, 05:06 AM
What the hell is a left coast?

When you walk south like on a beach on the east coast that's a left coast. When you walk north like along the west coast, that becomes a left coast. Simple, see? :D

Also when you drive away from the coast that's also a left coast.

Delhomeboy
12-08-2009, 05:09 AM
When you walk south like on a beach on the east coast that's a left coast. When you walk north like along the west coast, that becomes a left coast. Simple, see? :D

Also when you drive away from the coast that's also a left coast.

So a left-coaster is anywhere and everywhere...a left-coaster is God.

icerose
12-08-2009, 05:11 AM
So a left-coaster is anywhere and everywhere...a left-coaster is God.

Yeah, imagine claiming that. "You from the east coast?" "Nah, I'm a left-coaster"

HelloKiddo
12-08-2009, 05:32 AM
I can't speak for the Rejectionist, but other blogs I have read talk about racism in queries that is less overt. So it's not, "Ever wonder what a world without *insert minority group* would feel like? This topic is explored in my new novel PARADISE." It's more stereotyping: "Two street-wise African-American basketball players are stealing a car when a wise old Native American chief puts a curse on them--right before he is killed by Muslim terrorists!" etc. The blog suggests that this what s/he means by racism. Probably most of the people writing those queries don't consider themselves racist, they're just unimaginative and use stock characters rather than coming up with new ones.

MissKris
12-08-2009, 05:56 AM
Maybe it's time to point out that The Stranger, the Seattle newspaper where the Rejectionist's article was published, was founded by one of the guys who also co-founded The Onion. The tone of the entire paper is purposefully highly ironic.

If doctor or lawyer wrote an editorial that featured in The Stranger, there's an excellent chance it would have the same tone.

That's not to say it's untruthful.

I adore The Stranger. And I adore The Rejectionist. It's just my kind of snarky humor. Some peeps love it and some don't and that perfectly all right.

I think The Rejectionist is getting an especially hard rap because she's so on view by a population fighting and clamoring for acceptance. But I've heard any number of people who love their jobs rant about it at get-togethers, over dinner, at the office - I used to have a doctor who would rant to me during our appointments because she knew I was genuinely concerned about the problems in the medical field. I never took it personally.

And, just for the record, I'm an agented writer who was plucked out of the slush pile while living in the SE corner/armpit of Washington state - closer to Idaho than Seattle.

Of course, I moved back to Seattle as soon as I possibly could, but that's besides the point. :D

Greg Wilson
12-08-2009, 09:44 AM
I don't think there is anything heroic, greg, in my not vilifying someone for pointing out an uncomfortable truth. If you honestly believe The Rejectionist is talking about all queriers out there, then that's your conclusion, drawn from utterly no evidence whatsoever, but still your conclusion, and definitely not mine.

Frankly, I think the particular queriers to whom she's referring is irrelevant...though I would love to see more examples of queries she liked (the reasons to stay in her job) and fewer of the ones she didn't (the reasons she doesn't seem to be having a crazy fun time). The point is that I find no particular value in publicly hammering people who clearly won't read the snark, and wouldn't get it if they did. But of course that's totally up to her...I just don't understand the motivation.



And no, I don't view "Persons who seem not to have ever read an actual book in their lives, but who have nevertheless developed comprehensive views on the nepotism and intellectual elitism of the publishing industry at large" to be ironic at all with regards to her article. Do you not know to what this is referring? You are fairly new to this site, I suppose, but give it some time. Eventually you will meet just such a character.Nope, I've actually been following (if not posting) AW and a number of other writer forums for a long time, and I've seen a number of people who fit both this description--conspiracy theorists who think the industry is rigged against them, which is self-evidently ludicrous--and another one, the bitter, irritated person in the publishing industry who makes elitist generalizations about discrete populations and geographical regions and then seems surprised that others refer to such an attitude as, uh, elitist. I'm a "right-coaster" myself (I guess :) ), but I know a shot below the belt when I see it.

My objection has nothing to do with this person referring to "writers like me," who do their homework...I'm sure you're right that she isn't referring to the prepared writers, and I really don't have an "objection" anyway, exactly. She can write and say whatever she likes. I just don't understand why someone would waste time on a profession where the "crazies" so dominate the experience for her that she spends her days swimming through a "sea of despair." And that leads to the final problem: either she really does get stuff this terrible all the time, which I'm perfectly willing to believe, or she's exaggerating for effect. If it's the former case, it's obvious that the diamonds aren't enough to override her dislike for all the pieces of coal. If the latter, she's still exaggerating something true for her: that she spends much of her time hating the garbage she has to pick through. That just strikes me as odd--not everything about writing is peaches and cream, but in general I've loved the ride, and if I didn't I wouldn't still be doing it.

Anyway, TP, let's not argue; I'm glad your attitude continues to be as good as your writing, which I very much mean as a compliment!

Medievalist
12-08-2009, 10:07 AM
They cherry-pick queries all the time, and that inevitably means judging one as more meritorious than another. And every writer absolutely is in competition for that gold ring with every other writer in that slush pile.

Except--a reasonably lucid, understandably query that manages to suggest something mildly interesting in the way of plot is enough to make a reader request a partial.

It really is. But so many queries are not rational, are not really in standard English, are grandiose or vituperative by way of calling attention to the writer's brilliance, do not provide a hook wrt story, or depend on a string of cliches or recitation of motifs--that one that is well-written, on topic, has a narrative hook and some suggestion of a coherent story, is well on the way for at least a partial.

mario_c
12-08-2009, 10:11 AM
As a semipro reader I'm getting a taste of the Rejectionist's world (and Jodi Meadows' too...hatka matka, hatka platka*). At least it's in the filmic world, where multi-page queries are specifically verboten. Maybe the logline should become standard practice? 25 words or less, and then an 8 line paragraph. Of course these people would be doing that anyway if they had a clue about the job they were pursuing, but it's a thought.
I see that the problem isn't that most unsolicited (manu)scripts are bad or horrible. The problem is that they are all the same.
Gee, another dude and his friend hatch a crazy scheme to win his true love back or save their business. Hey look, another big city detective gets in trouble for pursuing the wrong case. Like the blues, how many times can you write the same song with new lyrics? The answer is, infinity.
Sometimes you get ideas / (manu)scripts so bad, so brain damaged, there is a comic element to it. I could quote some winners for you. :ROFL: But I won't because I don't want to humiliate anyone here. Everyone has a right to write whatever they need to, have to, love to.
Doesn't mean anyone will buy it. Unless they need to, have to, love to.

*Slovak: six of one, half a dozen of the other.

blacbird
12-08-2009, 11:52 AM
Except--a reasonably lucid, understandably query that manages to suggest something mildly interesting in the way of plot is enough to make a reader request a partial.

Well, we're back here to circular reasoning. Look, I don't doubt that 95% or more of stuff submitted is appallingly incompetent in one way or another, so that proportion can be ignored. But, for the more competent 5% or so, the only way you can demonstrate that a query is reasonably lucid, understandable and suggests something mildly interesting is if the queried agent actually does request a partial. So, you basically are saying that if you don't get a request for a partial, your query (and by implication, manuscript) isn't "reasonably lucid", etc.

Beyond a certain point of professionalism in submitting, getting that response is completely out of the writer's control. And I don't believe for a moment that every rejection is based on incompetence in querying (though I won't defend my own on that basis).

caw

MacAllister
12-08-2009, 11:56 AM
Well, notsomuch, blac - within that 5%, there's going to be another breakdown - a percent or two that just don't sing to me, a percent or two that sound too much like something else I just bought/requested/already represent, and a margin of plain old fashioned error.

aruna
12-08-2009, 02:14 PM
Both things are true:

A) That piece was purposefully tendentious and snarky and rude;

B) Most of the queries in a slush pile are way off-base and really would have been better addressed to a mental-health professional than to someone in the publishing industry.

The thing is that none of us are competing with someone's bizarre conspiracy theory/Mary Sue fantasy manuscript that's 1,000 crayoned pages long. That chaff gets discarded on the first winnowing, and rightly so.

We're all competing with the others in the top 10 percent or top 5 percent or whatever--the people who are taking writing seriously, telling a story, doing our best.

And among that top percentile, there are more talented, serious, skilled writers than there are openings for new books, which is why talented, serious, skilled writers get rejected.

But if you've ever done slush reading, you'll learn that the vast majority of submissions are so far off the mark as to be ridiculous. She's not making that up.

Exactly.

The thing is, this attitude bugs me not because I am insecure or anything else; I know I'm in the top 5%. It bugs me because that burned-out attitude is not one I'd like to have assessing me.

I want to know, if 95% of queries are SO very bad, why there isn't a more efficient filtering system in place? I agree that it's a waste of precious agent time, having to sift through Dreck. So, why not pay a couple of college students or stay-at-home parent or wannabe-writer who wants to work from home minimum wage to do this job? It's obviously not rocket science. Then the real agents could get to look at the top 5 or 10 percent more thoroughly. A Query Clearing-House, so to speak.

waylander
12-08-2009, 04:29 PM
I believe the majority of queries rejected by agents have nothing to do with how good or bad the query is--but the subject matter at hand. I'll bet my epic fantasy novel will get rejected (with an outstanding query) outright far more than your urban fantasy romance (with a weak or fair query). But all I hear, over and over again, is how important the query is. But isn't the subject matter of the query at least as equally important as how well the query is written?

I hear people say: "Shoot, got rejected 20 straight times. Must be that my query needs improving." But that certainly may not be the case. The subject matter may simply be what the agents aren't interested in. It's not as simple as: query good/query bad--not by a long shot. Not when you factor in the fact that some genres or sub-genres are being picked up and some are being flat-out ignored.

This is what I think, anyway. I'd prefer to be proven wrong, because I'd like to think my sword and wizard book has the same chance as the vampire romance book. But I believe it doesn't, good query, bad query, or no query.

There are some agents who will look at UF and not epic/adventure fantasy, probably because of the editors they have relationships with, but you can still get an agent for epic/adventure - I did. I also got plenty of partial and full requests that lead ultimately to rejections. But it is clear that epic/adventure is a harder sell to publishers than it was. One of the phrases I heard several times as my novel went around the publishers was 'not different or original enough'.

willietheshakes
12-08-2009, 04:33 PM
I want to know, if 95% of queries are SO very bad, why there isn't a more efficient filtering system in place? I agree that it's a waste of precious agent time, having to sift through Dreck. So, why not pay a couple of college students or stay-at-home parent or wannabe-writer who wants to work from home minimum wage to do this job? It's obviously not rocket science. Then the real agents could get to look at the top 5 or 10 percent more thoroughly. A Query Clearing-House, so to speak.

From the OP: The Rejectionist is an assistant at a major literary agency.

aruna
12-08-2009, 06:12 PM
From the OP: The Rejectionist is an assistant at a major literary agency.

Even an assistant's time could be better utilised than sorting through crap. Or are they on minimum wage?

jclarkdawe
12-08-2009, 06:26 PM
Does marketability affect decisions here? Absolutely! There's been a couple of queries in QLH where we've commented on marketability problems. There are some books that no matter how wonderful you make the query, it's going to be a hard sell. There are also books that may very well be wonderful, but they'll never make a good query.

As far as marketability goes, all you can do is study the markets. Vampires seem to be always on the up swing or the down swing. Some books are killed by external events. 9/11 was death to several books, even those accepted by publishers. And people come out with your book just before you're ready to query.

Different genres have different sales amount. I knew when EQUINE LIABILITY came out that I wasn't going to make any best seller list. My market wasn't that big. And when I was querying I had the whopping choice initially of five publishers in the United States. But I choose to try it regardless.

At a certain point, you've got to decide whether you're writing for yourself, or the market. John Grisham wrote A TIME TO KILL and then said to himself, what do I need to write to make a lot of money. He wrote THE FIRM, aimed at marketability.

And as far as an agent being bored and skeptical about finding good queries, that's good for us. Because how many readers buying our books are that excited about shopping? But if I get an agent, despite all that, to fall in love with my book! I'll tell you, my agent loves my writing more than I do. Which is good because she has to sell the damn stuff; I just have to write it.

If you survive querying (notice that does not always get you to publication), it means you have sold a book to someone who is trying hard to say "no." Those are the types of sales that matter, because that means that with the easy people to convince, you've already gotten over a higher hurdle.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Julie Worth
12-08-2009, 06:27 PM
It's 2/200 = .01 X 100 = 1%. In other words, 99% are rejected.

See, I SHOULD be in charge of the census. ;)


Some 10,000 new fiction titles are published each year (leaving out self published), and probably half of those are by non-first-timers. Probably a quarter to a half million manuscripts are produced each year, so that gives a publishing rate per first-timer manuscript of about .01 to .02. Now, if 90% of queries are too bad to consider, and yours isnít, that improves the odds dramatically. Now itís between 10% and 20%. Still terrible, but if you write five or ten books, and youíre lucky as well as good, you might actually get there.

willietheshakes
12-08-2009, 07:29 PM
Even an assistant's time could be better utilised than sorting through crap. Or are they on minimum wage?

Well, I don't think they're WELL paid.

BUT -- and this is an overlooked thing -- going through the slush is a valuable part of someone training to be an agent (ie, an assistant). Learning to spot a manuscript of worth in a pile of dross is a skill that you can't teach: one has to go through it for themselves.

Toothpaste
12-08-2009, 07:32 PM
I guess Greg, where you and I differ is, I don't see The Rejectionist as being unhappy in her job. Unhappy with aspects of it to be sure, but not the whole thing. Also I never take the phrase "sea of despair" as sincere unless the person writing it is crazy herself. I guess to me the attitude behind the post is so over the top that it's obvious that her attitude within it has been exaggerated. I believe the examples to be utterly true (as I have seen them myself), but the way in which she wrote the article is the same as when I place a hand to my forehead and say "Woe is me" about the writing world, when I go off on a massive vent to my friends that is so over the top, that uses words like "despair" that it is blatantly obvious I'm being melodramatic.

It's tricky I know, but I know what it's like to vent like that, to use real examples to spark an over the top dramatic reaction . . . because it's fun. Then again I'm also the person who has vented sincerely to friends about the acting/writing world where at the end they conclude (as you have) that I am miserable in my job and that I should just quit. What they don't get is that even though the negatives can be truly wretched, when you finally get that positive (when you finish writing a book, see it on the shelf, have someone email you to tell you you've changed their life, got that role in the play etc) it is so worth all the pain. In fact sometimes I think that the positives are SO positive that's why we have to go through the pain, it would be seriously unfair for us to just get such goodness without the heartache.

So I get where she's coming from, I'm one of those people who is able to talk for hours about how much publishing sucks, and yet not for a second think of quitting. Maybe you've never done that so you lack the empathy. But I see myself in her, I can see by the words she chooses that, yes, she is having fun in writing that post, that she probably has fun in general but there are frustrations out there as well.

And like I already said, I enjoyed the post, I know others did as well, so while you may wonder why someone would write such a thing, obviously it worked for her intended audience. You may shake your head that people like me would like a post like this, but we do. So is it possible to just accept that what she wrote has a place?

CaroGirl
12-08-2009, 07:38 PM
I believe the examples to be utterly true (as I have seen them myself), but the way in which she wrote the article is the same as when I place a hand to my forehead and say "Woe is me" about the writing world, when I go off on a massive vent to my friends that is so over the top, that uses words like "despair" that it is blatantly obvious I'm being melodramatic.
What are you? An actor or something?

katiemac
12-08-2009, 07:42 PM
I want to know, if 95% of queries are SO very bad, why there isn't a more efficient filtering system in place? I agree that it's a waste of precious agent time, having to sift through Dreck. So, why not pay a couple of college students or stay-at-home parent or wannabe-writer who wants to work from home minimum wage to do this job? It's obviously not rocket science. Then the real agents could get to look at the top 5 or 10 percent more thoroughly. A Query Clearing-House, so to speak.


Even an assistant's time could be better utilised than sorting through crap. Or are they on minimum wage?

Not much better than minimum wage, that's for sure. But willie makes a good point--these people want to be agents, so reading the slush is a invaluable skill when it comes to sorting.

The only thing I can think of would be a computer system--checks for misspelled words and correct grammar and all that... but I'd rather have a person instead of a computer as my first shot in.

But I was an intern reading the slush pile while in college and no, I wasn't a paid intern. Agencies honestly don't have a lot of money to throw around and pay help, even if on minimum wage. Sure, some take on assistants (like The Rejectionist), but there are a heck of a lot of agents still reading their own slush--either because they prefer to, or because they can't afford someone to do it for them. And much of that assistant's responsibility comes down to being a gatekeeper for the agent, anyway, so their time best spent is honestly probably reading quite a bit of the slush and requested materials that come in.

I'm sure everyone agrees a better filtering system could be in place, but I have no idea what that system would be. Agents cropped up partly to shield publishing houses from the dreck; do we really want another middle man for the middle men?

The only thing I can think of is a computer system--checks for misspelled words and grammar and all that before letting it through ... but I'd rather have a person instead of a program as my first shot in.

Wayne K
12-08-2009, 07:48 PM
I hear so many horror stories about becoming and being an agent, I wonder why anyone would bother.

Phaeal
12-08-2009, 07:48 PM
Maybe it's time to point out that The Stranger, the Seattle newspaper where the Rejectionist's article was published, was founded by one of the guys who also co-founded The Onion. The tone of the entire paper is purposefully highly ironic.

If doctor or lawyer wrote an editorial that featured in The Stranger, there's an excellent chance it would have the same tone.

That's not to say it's untruthful.

Ah, yes. This context is important.

Phaeal
12-08-2009, 08:02 PM
So, why not pay a couple of college students or stay-at-home parent or wannabe-writer who wants to work from home minimum wage to do this job? It's obviously not rocket science. Then the real agents could get to look at the top 5 or 10 percent more thoroughly. A Query Clearing-House, so to speak.

Lord no. Enough middlemen already.

Mr Flibble
12-08-2009, 08:12 PM
I thought agents were the Query Clearing house? That's why they came about - the filter the dreck so publishers can get on with publishing.

aruna
12-08-2009, 09:28 PM
I thought agents were the Query Clearing house? That's why they came about - the filter the dreck so publishers can get on with publishing.

Sure. But if so much is such obvious crap it would be nice -- for them an dus -- if they only had to deal with, say, the upper 30%!
Anyway, I'm done with agents for the time being. I'm going a different route this time.

Toothpaste
12-08-2009, 09:29 PM
Yes but how do you propose they do that?

Mr Flibble
12-08-2009, 09:49 PM
A clearing house's clearing house. Which would soon get clogged with the crap and hire another clearing house...:D

The fewer steps there are between writer and publisher, the easier it is for a good MS with a good query to get through ( because of subjectivity. The fewer subjective opinions you need to go through, the better. Because no matter how good something is, someone will always hate it.)

The query system for agents isn't prefect. But it'll have to do until someone comes up with a surefire way of seeing the maximum good MSs with the minimum of crap MSs. In the meantime, those with better writing skills, who work at making their query the best they can, in the same way they do their MS, will have more chance of having their work seen by an agent

Which is what we're all after, surely?

( the whole thing makes me think of someone trying to sell a cake. They spend days baking teh thing, then slap on any old icing in puke green with Essence of Anchovy to flavour it and say 'Hey it's great underneath!'. Sure it may be. But more people will taste the one where the baker worked hard at making the icing look enticing. Best bet, for both baker and writer, is if you know your cake is great - make the icing ( query) as good as you can too. Okay, some people won't like marzipan, so hey won't like it. *shrug* You can't change that. You can make the whole thing the best you can. Cos I don't know about you but I'd have to consider very carefully eating a cake decorated in puke green icing with Essence of Anchovy.)

willietheshakes
12-08-2009, 10:07 PM
I'm sure everyone agrees a better filtering system could be in place, but I have no idea what that system would be. Agents cropped up partly to shield publishing houses from the dreck; do we really want another middle man for the middle men?


This exists already, too. A lot of agents use scouts for heads-up on new writers...

waylander
12-08-2009, 10:12 PM
Such a creature seems to be evolving http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=114700&page=3

Not sure if this is a good development or not

Greg Wilson
12-08-2009, 11:18 PM
Then again I'm also the person who has vented sincerely to friends about the acting/writing world where at the end they conclude (as you have) that I am miserable in my job and that I should just quit. What they don't get is that even though the negatives can be truly wretched, when you finally get that positive (when you finish writing a book, see it on the shelf, have someone email you to tell you you've changed their life, got that role in the play etc) it is so worth all the pain.

If you say so... :)



So I get where she's coming from, I'm one of those people who is able to talk for hours about how much publishing sucks, and yet not for a second think of quitting. Maybe you've never done that so you lack the empathy.
True enough...I'm not a big fan of venting for hours. If I really don't care for something, and it's obvious that it's not going to change, I stop doing it.



And like I already said, I enjoyed the post, I know others did as well, so while you may wonder why someone would write such a thing, obviously it worked for her intended audience. You may shake your head that people like me would like a post like this, but we do. So is it possible to just accept that what she wrote has a place?Of course, which is why I said this:


She can write and say whatever she likes.Doesn't mean I have to understand the motivation. But I hear what you're saying it is, and that's fine.

Toothpaste
12-09-2009, 12:05 AM
True enough...I'm not a big fan of venting for hours. If I really don't care for something, and it's obvious that it's not going to change, I stop doing it. .

I know we're cool, but I just wanted to comment on this.

I care for writing. I care for acting. I love both. There is nothing on this planet I would rather do, and nothing that I get greater joy doing. I have a sinking suspicion that The Rejectionist cares for her job too. Just because one vents, and vents a great deal, does not negate this. And that's the misconception, that's the false conclusion being drawn. Obviously if you don't like doing something (and you are under no obligation to do it, there are things out there we have to do that we don't care for) then you should stop doing it. But venting does not equate with not caring for something. In fact, I'd argue, that often it comes because you care SO MUCH.

That's the difference. And jumping automatically to that conclusion skips over the complexity that is being human, especially being human in the arts. We put up with a heck of a lot of negatives to be in this writing world, rejection, self doubt, jealousy, no obvious path to success and watching others soar for no particular reason while you flounder. There is so much against us doing this job. But we stick with it? Why? We all have our reasons. But we do so to the complete bafflement of an outsider.

I guess for me that's why I'm so baffled in turn by this thread. It didn't even occur to me, until you said it, that people would be thinking to themselves, "If you're so miserable why don't you just quit?" Because we are all going through our own crazy frustrations with this industry that anyone else would think wouldn't be worth the pain. The answer to me is obvious, "Because she loves working with books."

We vent to maintain sanity. We vent to bond with our fellow writers. We vent because it can be fun to just bitch with other people about a mutual problem. But we don't vent because we want to give up. We do it so we can keep going, so that despite all the bad stuff, we persevere. Just like The Rejectionist. Who despite dealing with all this BS, is still going strong.

Because she loves books. And she has faith she'll find a jewel in the slush.

And isn't that kind of awesome?

Richard White
12-09-2009, 12:14 AM
It's a good thing most developers don't hear us tech writers ranting about them after hours.

I think they're tired enough about the ranting they put up with during work hours.

"The user's manual's going out the door in ten minutes. Why did you decide to implement that change NOW? Why couldn't it wait for the next release? Bloody programmers."

Greg Wilson
12-09-2009, 12:29 AM
We vent to maintain sanity. We vent to bond with our fellow writers. We vent because it can be fun to just bitch with other people about a mutual problem. But we don't vent because we want to give up. We do it so we can keep going, so that despite all the bad stuff, we persevere. Just like The Rejectionist. Who despite dealing with all this BS, is still going strong.

Because she loves books. And she has faith she'll find a jewel in the slush.

And isn't that kind of awesome?

Hey, it's not like every second of my time teaching or writing (or even playing music) is unadulterated joy; I'll certainly vent to family or friends when I've had a rough day, just like we all do. But I don't dwell on the venting, and I don't take it to a public venue, which makes me wonder why she feels the need to do so....validation, maybe? I take your point, though.

geardrops
12-09-2009, 12:31 AM
"The user's manual's going out the door in ten minutes. Why did you decide to implement that change NOW? Why couldn't it wait for the next release? Bloody programmers."

As a programmer, allow me to say this is rarely our fault. It's usually someone from the management side going, "We need X shiny new feature because my daughter saw it on TV last night and said it's the hot new thing."

We're just as pissed pulling the 60+ hour workweeks to get that feature in as you having to overhaul the manual :)

Toothpaste
12-09-2009, 12:41 AM
But I don't dwell on the venting, and I don't take it to a public venue, which makes me wonder why she feels the need to do so....validation, maybe? .


No, because she was asked to. Like I already pointed out, that isn't her blog, so someone out there must have asked her to write an article on the subject for them.

Her regular blog is full of book recommendations, writing advice, interviews . . . and yes, the occasional rant. In my mind, she's very helpful, and rather funny. She has a colourful way of expressing herself, that kind of enthusiastic indignation at times that I find hilarious. Maybe it's also a generational thing, I know a lot of people in their twenties who write online articles with this kind of frenetic energy, and I understand how to interpret it. It's meant to be funny. Sincere, but so obviously over the top, that it can't be anything other than silly.

(for example her post today uses Terminator:Salvation as an example of what not to do as an author. But this is how she gives her advice:

7. If you are going to use people of color in every "trusty sidekick/lesser-villain/mute adorable biracial child who serves as an indicator of the foxy foxy multiracial future" role WHY DON'T YOU GO OUT ON THE LIMB OF CRAZY AND MAKE A PERSON OF COLOR ONE OF YOUR MAIN CHARACTERS JUST TRY IT WE GUARANTEE IT WILL NOT KILL ANYONE.

I imagine some of the people in this thread who didn't like her post cited in this thread might think that she's yelling at people, taking things way too seriously, but that's not what she's doing here. She's being over the top to create humour, the all caps are yelling to be sure, but not serious yelling.)


Anyway, I guess I can understand why her writing might be misinterpreted, and we as writers have to take responsibility for our words. I just understand the kind of humour she's using, it's very much from my world, that's all.

Still . . . maybe she is blogging for attention, is there anything wrong with that? Especially as she happens to help people along the way?

Phaeal
12-09-2009, 12:42 AM
Such a creature seems to be evolving http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=114700&page=3

Not sure if this is a good development or not

Well, I checked out this thread, and lo and behold! An agent I've been dying to query is using the WEbook Agent Inbox function for a month, to see how it works for her. So I joined up just to query this dream agent.

If the site starts charging for this "connection" service, however, I won't be happy.

Dungeon Geek
12-09-2009, 12:48 AM
There are some agents who will look at UF and not epic/adventure fantasy, probably because of the editors they have relationships with, but you can still get an agent for epic/adventure - I did. I also got plenty of partial and full requests that lead ultimately to rejections. But it is clear that epic/adventure is a harder sell to publishers than it was. One of the phrases I heard several times as my novel went around the publishers was 'not different or original enough'.

Right. Thing is, there are some familiar fantasy elements that readers like--such as elves and dwarves and what have you. I mean, I could cut all that out, but it wouldn't really be epic fantasy anymore. So yeah, I guess I could get my epic fantasy book (which does have a fairly original plot) into the hands of an agent, but I feel I'd have to ultimately make it so original it was no longer even remotely related to the Lord of the Rings in feel (just to use a popular and often imitated comparison). But what would a western be without horses and pistols? I think you kind of need some common fantasy elements, even if you give them a new angle.

And why are the agents saying "not original enough" for epic fantasy but then you see 500 urban fantasy books coming out that all look the same? Hey, I'll admit--I'm not an industry expert. But I do see a lot of books published that don't seem very original, so it makes me wonder why epic fantasy has to be overflowing with originality. Is it because agents want it to be so original that it's in fact no longer epic fantasy? I realize the chain of command, so to speak, is to blame here, and agents take on what they think editors will buy. But I just want to be realistic about all this in putting it in perspective.

Not trying to derail the thread here, so I'll tie it in with the other stuff being said by going back to my point that many queries are being rejected for subject matter rather than just being piss poor queries. I guess I'm still undecided on that last point.

Toothpaste
12-09-2009, 12:55 AM
Dungeon - how about you just start a new thread with this post as the starting post? Then we can have a nice in depth chat about it, without fear of derailing this one?

Richard White
12-09-2009, 01:02 AM
As a programmer, allow me to say this is rarely our fault. It's usually someone from the management side going, "We need X shiny new feature because my daughter saw it on TV last night and said it's the hot new thing."

We're just as pissed pulling the 60+ hour workweeks to get that feature in as you having to overhaul the manual :)

Well, the good thing is, both programmers and tech writers have a common enemy.

Management

Mr Flibble
12-09-2009, 01:37 AM
Until this gets split out:D ( actually I think it'd make a useful thread, in SFF if nowhere else)



Right. Thing is, there are some familiar fantasy elements that readers like--such as elves and dwarves and what have you. I mean, I could cut all that out, but it wouldn't really be epic fantasy anymore.


Well, epic fantasy doesn't equal elves and dwarves. It's more than possible to have epic without. If you'd said 'I have to take out the huge conflict, the good v evil, the fate of the world / continent balancing on the head of a pin...' then yes, it wouldn't be epic. But lots of epic has no elves, no dwarves, no rings, no short people etc. Urban fantasy requires fantastic elements in an urban locale. Hence weres and vamps etc. It's a little more constrained.

Epic fantasy just requires a fantastic element, usually a second world and an epic ( world changing ) conflict. There's so much more scope in the genre that both agents and readers want you to use it. And both agents and readers are very quick to shout 'Tolkien rip-off!' at the slightest provocation. You can have familiar without having 'OMG seen that a million times!'

Taking out the dwarves and elves would be like um, taking out the cactus in a western. It may be familiar but it doesn't have to be there to make it a western.



I think you kind of need some common fantasy elements, even if you give them a new angle. Readers like the familiar, not the done to death - in particularly in this genre.


And why are the agents saying "not original enough" for epic fantasy but then you see 500 urban fantasy books coming out that all look the same? Because at the moment it's hot. Many years ago epic was hot, and a herd of similar books came out. Trends come, trends go. *shrug*


Hey, I'll admit--I'm not an industry expert. But I do see a lot of books published that don't seem very original, so it makes me wonder why epic fantasy has to be overflowing with originality. Is it because agents want it to be so original that it's in fact no longer epic fantasy? I realize the chain of command, so to speak, is to blame here, and agents take on what they think editors will buy. But I just want to be realistic about all this in putting it in perspective.AS I said above, it's because there is so much more scope ( and the readers are so tired of the same old same old in a genre that's been around for ages). When you've got such a free rein, so little in the way of constraints, why not use it? Why go for the obvious? Also, because the market it smaller, you need to be that bit more special to get in. Both for readers and agents. I LOVE epic. It's my fave all time genre, ever, ever. But I don't want to read the same book over and over. As a reader I want the new and the different. I read fantasy for the OmGwillyalookitthat! factor.

However a new twist on an old theme, if presented intriguingly in the query, would probably get you a partial request. A foot in the door. If you have an original plot, play up to that in the query ( and indeed in the MS). You can have elves, or dwarves, but they need a fresh angle.

Sure, write what you like, what you want to read. But be aware of how much easier or more difficult that may make it to sell.


Not trying to derail the thread here, so I'll tie it in with the other stuff being said by going back to my point that many queries are being rejected for subject matter rather than just being piss poor queries. I guess I'm still undecided on that last point.

Well of course subject matter will play a part. A query about bestiality in an orphanage wouldn't go down well pretty much anywhere ( I hope!) But if you read 100 queries and every single one was about elves and dwarves having to reconcile their differences to defeat the Dark Lord....

ETA: you might want to take a peek at this: Top 3 things you're tired of seeing in fantasy (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=159181).

Maxinquaye
12-09-2009, 01:44 AM
I must say I love intelligent snark. That's me, and that's why I keep reading the rejectionist with lots of pleasure sometimes.

I'm part of the ironic generation, so they say. We've been replaced by the sarcastic generation. But hey, we see what they did there. Sarcasm is just a shade from irony.

Should everyone always be nice and say nice things? That would be boring. Bring me the snarkiness, the sarcasm, the irony. I love it. As long as it's not bitter, as long as it has a heart.

The rejectionist is far on the right side of the heart-thing. Otherwise she would just be bitter, and no one likes bitter.

Greg Wilson
12-09-2009, 01:54 AM
Should everyone always be nice and say nice things? That would be boring. Bring me the snarkiness, the sarcasm, the irony. I love it. As long as it's not bitter, as long as it has a heart.

The rejectionist is far on the right side of the heart-thing. Otherwise she would just be bitter, and no one likes bitter.

Well, there's the rub: a lot of us aren't feeling the heart here, but that may of course just be perception. As for generational preferences in humor, I'm only in my thirties, and I regularly contribute to a comedy site which has more than its share of snark (and which has been cited by The Onion several times). The trick is to make the snark fun and inclusive rather than bitter and exclusionary, and this feels much more like the latter to me. But again, different strokes, as they say.

blacbird
12-09-2009, 02:03 AM
The trick is to make the snark fun and inclusive rather than bitter and exclusionary, and this feels much more like the latter to me.

How it struck me, too, especially the unfunny and utterly unnecessary Midwest comment. If this was intended as satire, it was a lousy effort.

caw

aruna
12-09-2009, 02:27 AM
Yes but how do you propose they do that?

I've no idea. But that's just me... either you get on with doing the things you have to do without whingeing, or you change them! I just don't like complaining.
But most agents don't seem to go on about the negative aspects of agenting, such as the slush pile. Kristin Nelson, for instance, is very positive. I loved the story of how she trained her assistant to pick out exactly the queries she herself would love!

Dungeon Geek
12-09-2009, 03:12 AM
Until this gets split out:D ( actually I think it'd make a useful thread, in SFF if nowhere else)




Well, epic fantasy doesn't equal elves and dwarves. It's more than possible to have epic without. If you'd said 'I have to take out the huge conflict, the good v evil, the fate of the world / continent balancing on the head of a pin...' then yes, it wouldn't be epic. But lots of epic has no elves, no dwarves, no rings, no short people etc. Urban fantasy requires fantastic elements in an urban locale. Hence weres and vamps etc. It's a little more constrained.

Epic fantasy just requires a fantastic element, usually a second world and an epic ( world changing ) conflict. There's so much more scope in the genre that both agents and readers want you to use it. And both agents and readers are very quick to shout 'Tolkien rip-off!' at the slightest provocation. You can have familiar without having 'OMG seen that a million times!'

Taking out the dwarves and elves would be like um, taking out the cactus in a western. It may be familiar but it doesn't have to be there to make it a western.

Readers like the familiar, not the done to death - in particularly in this genre.

Because at the moment it's hot. Many years ago epic was hot, and a herd of similar books came out. Trends come, trends go. *shrug*

AS I said above, it's because there is so much more scope ( and the readers are so tired of the same old same old in a genre that's been around for ages). When you've got such a free rein, so little in the way of constraints, why not use it? Why go for the obvious? Also, because the market it smaller, you need to be that bit more special to get in. Both for readers and agents. I LOVE epic. It's my fave all time genre, ever, ever. But I don't want to read the same book over and over. As a reader I want the new and the different. I read fantasy for the OmGwillyalookitthat! factor.

However a new twist on an old theme, if presented intriguingly in the query, would probably get you a partial request. A foot in the door. If you have an original plot, play up to that in the query ( and indeed in the MS). You can have elves, or dwarves, but they need a fresh angle.

Sure, write what you like, what you want to read. But be aware of how much easier or more difficult that may make it to sell.

Well of course subject matter will play a part. A query about bestiality in an orphanage wouldn't go down well pretty much anywhere ( I hope!) But if you read 100 queries and every single one was about elves and dwarves having to reconcile their differences to defeat the Dark Lord....

ETA: you might want to take a peek at this: Top 3 things you're tired of seeing in fantasy (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=159181).

Okay, your ideas make some sense. Maybe an original angle and an excellent query can do the job. See, I have one traditional-style epic fantasy, with elves and dwarves. From the feedback I've gotten, it's a pretty good book. Some Harry Potter fans have told me it's better than any book from that series, and I've had a bunch of kids and adults nagging me for more. But I sent a lot of queries to agents and never got a request for the book, and I think the problem is that you have to read it to appreciate the originality. The query makes it sound like a book that's been done many times, but it doesn't read that way at all. So I guess in my case, my book just doesn't translate into a compelling query letter (or I haven't been able to write one). So I can't blame an agent like the one behind this thread for hitting the reject button on it. I'd probably do the same. It's a shame, though, either way. Right now the book is just sitting on my computer, to the chagrin of a small fan base of kids who don't understand the publication process and can't comprehend why I don't just write a sequel. I'm working on another, though, that's not as traditional, so all is not lost. Got to keep moving on, right?

Mr Flibble
12-09-2009, 03:28 AM
The query makes it sound like a book that's been done many times, but it doesn't read that way at all.

Then you need to work on making your query something that does your MS justice. Get the originality into the blurb. It can be done. If I can, you can.

Head on over to Query Letter Hell, (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=174) seriously. Read the stickies, look at and crit other queries. Post your own. You'll get some honest, maybe even shredding brutality. But if you can use that and look at your query as an agent who reads hunreds of these a week would...I can almost guarantee your query will better reflect your book.

I'm off to bed now, but if you post, PM me and I'll take a look. I promise even not to be too vicious :D K?

waylander
12-09-2009, 03:45 AM
You need the Queryshark
http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

Judg
12-09-2009, 04:05 AM
The Query Shark has a backlog of over 1000 hopeful queries. QLH is a much better bet.

Medievalist
12-09-2009, 04:08 AM
Right now the book is just sitting on my computer, to the chagrin of a small fan base of kids who don't understand the publication process and can't comprehend why I don't just write a sequel.

This would be a key point in your query; not that your nephew, mom, brother, kid sister loved it, but a bunch of kids.

blacbird
12-09-2009, 04:14 AM
You need the Queryshark
http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

Or at least to read the comments in QueryShark. As does anyone else who thinks that spelling, grammar and word-count don't matter.

caw

Dungeon Geek
12-09-2009, 04:27 AM
This would be a key point in your query; not that your nephew, mom, brother, kid sister loved it, but a bunch of kids.

I did mention that, but I'm not sure they believed me--which is understandble because that's not something you can prove. One kid who I've never even met did a book report on it for school (he's a friend of someone from my wife's side of the family).

To IdiotsAreUs:

I appreciate the invite, but I had so many rejections on that query (after rewriting it several times) with no requests to see the manuscript that I've actually just given up on it. I used up a lot of agents, so I'm not even sure how many are left that look at fantasy--but I'm guessing it's not very many. I'm still waiting for responses from several, but it's been quite a while and I'm not sure they're going to get back to me. When I get a query done for my next book, I'd be happy to let you and others take a look at it in query hell. No doubt I should have gone there in the first place. It might have made a difference, but I think at this point it's a little late to bother with it, unless a new crop of good agents pop up. I went through AgentQuery.com like crap through a goose--which is pretty much what all those queries amounted to. :)

Dungeon Geek
12-09-2009, 04:49 AM
But to stick to the thread, I will say that I've learned something here--that maybe the query is something I should be blaming rather than the genre. That being the case, I can understand an agent ranting about bad queries. Again, I just wish there was a better system that didn't rely so much on the query, but what it could possibly be is beyond my understanding.

djf881
12-09-2009, 09:26 AM
Some agent bloggers are very positive about books and about aspiring authors. Some are very negative. The reality speaks for itself. Most agents receive something like 5000 queries each year, and take on between 0 and 3 new clients from their slushpile.

Most of these people are going to have an unpleasant experience with the publishing industry whether agents are polite or not. But it was probably people being positive and upbeat and gentle with criticism that caused these people to think it was a good idea to query in the first place.

The people the Rejectionist calls out are like those lunatics who audition on "American Idol"; the ones who honestly have no idea that they are terrible. When these people get form rejections that say stuff like "unfortunately, my client list is very full, and I have to turn down many worthwhile projects," they think their work is being praised, and that they almost got representation.

The reason people are so delusional is probably that they have showed their work to friends and family members who have praised and encouraged them. What they really needed was for someone to tell them to stop writing. I think the publishing professionals who take a public soapbox to let people know how much they suck are doing a public service.

Whether they take it public or not, you can rest assured that if you are a lunatic who has written an insane, incoherent story, the people you are submitting to are mocking you. If you have such poor command over the English language that you can't draft a one-page letter without humiliating yourself, the people you are submitting to are mocking you. And it's because you deserve it.

blacbird
12-09-2009, 11:40 AM
If you have such poor command over the English language that you can't draft a one-page letter without humiliating yourself, the people you are submitting to are mocking you. And it's because you deserve it.

Yeah, that's the 95+%. We all here pretty much understand that (with the exception of the occasional newt who doesn't last long). The majority of people who frequent this site understand that you can't write a query with ridiculous spelling, grammar and bizarre attitude, and don't do so (I hope, with all the optimism I can generate). So . . . what was the point of posting the rant here in the first place?

caw

aruna
12-09-2009, 11:48 AM
The people the Rejectionist calls out are like those lunatics who audition on "American Idol"; the ones who honestly have no idea that they are terrible. When these people get form rejections that say stuff like "unfortunately, my client list is very full, and I have to turn down many worthwhile projects," they think their work is being praised, and that they almost got representation.

The reason people are so delusional is probably that they have showed their work to friends and family members who have praised and encouraged them. What they really needed was for someone to tell them to stop writing. I think the publishing professionals who take a public soapbox to let people know how much they suck are doing a public service.


The thing is, that kind of person won't think the rant applies to them either! They are the ones so convinced of themselves nothing will change them. So, as TP said, the rant is good for entertainment value, but little more. If you like that kind of entertainment!

djf881
12-09-2009, 11:56 AM
I think the article was written for the purpose of giving the people who read "The Stranger" a peek into the world of the slushpile, rather than as a constructive resource for aspiring authors. And the Rejectionist is all about playing the dreams and aspirations of untalented and disturbed people for laughs.

I'm just saying treating people delicately and encouraging them isn't necessarily the "nice" way to approach the problem. I understand why agents do it. Nobody wants to be the person who gets famous for writing a sarcastic, disparaging rejection to an author for a book that later winds up on the NYT list. The guy who wrote "The Shack" is a ridiculous crank and his book has a hideous premise. No sane person would want to be involved, in any capacity, with that awful man or his awful book. But, for some unfathomable reason, his crank brethren lined up behind him and bought a zillion copies.

But at the same time, the world loves Simon Cowell for a reason.

wrtaway
12-09-2009, 03:52 PM
I personally find the Rejectionist (both her blog and this article) funny and informative. Then again, I'm a fan of snarky humor, so I can see why it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Having said that, I have to agree with djf881 that sometimes a little brutal honesty can be a GOOD thing. I attended a writers conference a few years ago where everyone had the opportunity to participate in a group pitch. My table had seven other writers; we all had five minutes to pitch the editor hosting our table. One of the pitches was excellent -- it made me want to buy the book on the spot. Most of the others were mediocre. One was absolutely deranged -- truly, terribly awful. The final one was a blatant and complete ripoff of a very popular children's book series.

And, guess what? The editor told each and every person to send her their FULL manuscript. It was clear that she was a nice person who didn't have it in her to dash the dreams of hopeful writers by rejecting them to their face. I was furious, though! I was the last to present, and I knew after hearing her reactions to everyone else that it was a waste of time -- this was not a person who was going to give honest feedback. I'm not at all afraid of blunt criticism; I would have much preferred a "no" to a disingenuous yes.

So, this entire table of hopeful writers dashed home, printed out their manuscripts, and probably overnighted them to the editor (at least two of the writers at the table specifically said that they were going to do so) at significant personal expense. In my mind, this editor was actually doing a huge disservice by not giving honest feedback.

So... long story short, I say bring on the snark, the brutal honesty, and the constructive criticism! I hope that the Rejectionist continues to enlighten us, even in her sarcastic way.

aruna
12-09-2009, 04:28 PM
Well, I don't think that niceness and honesty are mutually exclusive. I, too, appreciate truth over flattering lies; but I like to know that any sharp criticism of my work would be directed at my work, not at me. But, as said before: different strokes, etc.

Phaeal
12-09-2009, 07:36 PM
Well, I don't think any professional (and security-conscious) agent would send out a rejection that attacked the person. In my experience, most rejections don't even attack the work. They lay the "blame" on the agent ("Didn't quite pull me in, but another agent will probably see what I missed.") Or they lay the blame on situations beyond the agent's and writer's control ("I can only take on so many clients.")

However much agents may snark in blogs or articles, I've yet to get a mean rejection.

aruna
12-09-2009, 09:35 PM
[


Well, I don't think any professional (and security-conscious) agent would send out a rejection that attacked the person. .

Oh, no, I didn't mean that at all. I'm just saying that snark, as in the article, is directed at the person rather than the work. I've never had an impolite rejection.

I think, what I didn't like about the article, even allowing for the fact that it is deliberately over the top, is that it allows for only the two extremes: EITHER a query so bright and shiny and powerful an agent just bursts into glorious song, OR moronic, terrible, Dreck.

Whereas we all know that there are quite a few perfectly good queries going the rounds which, while not exactly eliciting cries of sheer ecstacy from agents, nevertheless are turned down just because the book seems just not "right for the market", namely all those wonderful AW queries!

mscelina
12-09-2009, 09:43 PM
I still think all this energy would be better used in concentrating on our writing instead of getting all fired up about what a slushpile reader says in a blog post. *shrug* The article was posted here (I gather) so that we could get a glimpse at the other side of the slushpile desk. I mean--seriously, does anyone here honestly think that this reader is an anomaly in the publishing industry? God knows how snarky I get after a few hours of slushpile reading! It's soul-wrenching, gut-churning, vomit-inducing, head-scratching, heinously horrific reading--ninety-nine percent of the time. That 1% is what makes it worth it.

aruna
12-09-2009, 09:45 PM
Not all fired up. Just sayin'. Writing away.

Greg Wilson
12-09-2009, 10:04 PM
Not all fired up. Just sayin'. Writing away.

Exactly. I think we're all well capable of both writing and commenting on issues relating to same, just as I assume that agency assistants are equally capable of both going through slush and venting about it in articles... ;)

Phaeal
12-09-2009, 10:40 PM
[
Oh, no, I didn't mean that at all. I'm just saying that snark, as in the article, is directed at the person rather than the work. I've never had an impolite rejection.

I think, what I didn't like about the article, even allowing for the fact that it is deliberately over the top, is that it allows for only the two extremes: EITHER a query so bright and shiny and powerful an agent just bursts into glorious song, OR moronic, terrible, Dreck.

Whereas we all know that there are quite a few perfectly good queries going the rounds which, while not exactly eliciting cries of sheer ecstacy from agents, nevertheless are turned down just because the book seems just not "right for the market", namely all those wonderful AW queries!

Quite true. Queries can be solid and serviceable and even amusing and intriguing without activating the agent's SEND-PARTIAL reflex.

For the rest, I'm not worried about what agents write in articles for an Onionesque publication. The Snark Hat is dress-code for such an article, so if you don't like looking at Snark Hats, don't read that article. ;)

Medievalist
12-09-2009, 11:45 PM
It's time for writers to go read slushkiller (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html).

Even if you think you've read it, go read it again. It's by a reader and an editor, not an agent, and it's brilliant.

mscelina
12-10-2009, 12:07 AM
It's time for writers to go read slushkiller (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html).

Even if you think you've read it, go read it again. It's by a reader and an editor, not an agent, and it's brilliant.

Ditto.

Maxinquaye
12-10-2009, 12:35 AM
Oh, if you want intelligent witty, and entertaining snark, Editorial Anonymous (http://editorialanonymous.blogspot.com/) is a definite winner.

Medievalist
12-10-2009, 12:47 AM
Jenny Rappaport, of the Rappaport Agency, is closing her doors.

Her assistant has posted slush stats for the year (http://jmeadows.livejournal.com/725689.html):


So, a couple end of my job stats:

Queries read: 5468
Partials requested: 139
Fulls requested: 25
Fulls sent to Jenny: 9
Authors Jenny offered to: 5 (1 on a full I sent, 2 on partials, 2 on queries -- Jenny read partials and fulls of these)*
Authors who got representation elsewhere (that I know of!): 5 (one of those had 2 mss I requested fulls of and sent to Jenny)
Notes people have sent back (kind and otherwise): 600

Phaeal
12-10-2009, 01:39 AM
So, around 2.5% of all queries got partial requests.
Around 0.5% of all queries led to full requests.
Around 0.2% of all queries saw a full sent on to the agent.
Around 0.09% of all queries ended in an offer of representation.

Typical?

Maxinquaye
12-10-2009, 01:53 AM
So, around 2.5% of all queries got partial requests.
Around 0.5% of all queries led to full requests.
Around 0.2% of all queries saw a full sent on to the agent.
Around 0.09% of all queries ended in an offer of representation.

Typical?

Yeah, pretty typical. But the high numbers doesn't say anything, really. Between 60-80% of queries and ms's will be totally wrong and will be form rejected on sight, at least that is my understanding from reading about it.

So, if your manuscript and/or query is decent you'll only have to worry about the ones that aren't autorejected. Which improves the statistics quite a bit.

HisBoyElroy
12-13-2009, 06:31 PM
Not to be too snarky myself, but with such geniuses culling the slush piles, I'd like the hear the Rejectionist's take on why publishers continue to put out such pure sh*t?

aadams73
12-13-2009, 06:50 PM
Not to be too snarky myself, but with such geniuses culling the slush piles, I'd like the hear the Rejectionist's take on why publishers continue to put out such pure sh*t?

Really? Seriously? I've read tons of good new books lately. Maybe you're looking in the wrong place.

ChaosTitan
12-13-2009, 06:52 PM
Not to be too snarky myself, but with such geniuses culling the slush piles, I'd like the hear the Rejectionist's take on why publishers continue to put out such pure sh*t?

:rolleyes:

Amarie
12-14-2009, 01:41 AM
Not to be too snarky myself, but with such geniuses culling the slush piles, I'd like the hear the Rejectionist's take on why publishers continue to put out such pure sh*t?


I'm beginning to think we need a sticky thread of this, for spleen venting.

waylander
12-14-2009, 02:00 AM
So, around 2.5% of all queries got partial requests.
Around 0.5% of all queries led to full requests.
Around 0.2% of all queries saw a full sent on to the agent.
Around 0.09% of all queries ended in an offer of representation.

Typical?

Looks pretty tough doesn't it?
Yet, how many AW folk have got offers of representation this year?
I haven't been counting, but it seems like there's one every couple of weeks.
Like this one http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=165366

Amarie
12-14-2009, 05:20 AM
Looks pretty tough doesn't it?
Yet, how many AW folk have got offers of representation this year?
I haven't been counting, but it seems like there's one every couple of weeks.

I think you are pretty close on that. From 9/10 to 12/09, eight people posted about getting agents in G&A, and I know of at least one other regular AWer who signed with an agent but didn't post it there. I think hanging around AW ups the odds.

Wayne K
12-14-2009, 05:33 AM
I'm convinced that I wouldn't have signed my agent without AW. I might have gotten there eventually, but not this fast.

smcc360
12-14-2009, 06:50 AM
Not to be too snarky myself, but with such geniuses culling the slush piles, I'd like the hear the Rejectionist's take on why publishers continue to put out such pure sh*t?

I don't have an answer for you, but I'm pretty sure you're allowed to type out the word 'shit' in here.

Medievalist
12-14-2009, 06:57 AM
Not to be too snarky myself, but with such geniuses culling the slush piles, I'd like the hear the Rejectionist's take on why publishers continue to put out such pure sh*t?

I suggest that you go right now and read Slushkiller (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html).

Phaeal
12-14-2009, 07:17 PM
I think you are pretty close on that. From 9/10 to 12/09, eight people posted about getting agents in G&A, and I know of at least one other regular AWer who signed with an agent but didn't post it there. I think hanging around AW ups the odds.

I hope so!

:D

spike
12-16-2009, 06:56 AM
I have another question, referencing back to the original article: No distinction is made between the "unsolicited queries" and "unsolicited manuscripts" that comprise the slush pile. Presumably this agency does accept unsolicited queries, and almost certainly discourages unsolicited manuscripts, but equally certainly, they receive some. Surely, in practice, a major distinction is made in the way these two categories are handled. Does anyone even attempt to read the unsolicited manuscripts? For that matter, do all the unsolicited queries get read? Even opened?

caw

Perhaps they represent children's picture books. Most agents want the entire manuscript for these.