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Cyia
11-04-2011, 08:53 PM
Agent Sara Megibow (Nelson Agency) did an interesting Twitter "experiment". She took a string of 10 queries from her inbox (minus identifying details) and Tweeted whether she'd accept or not, and why. Here were the results:


#1 - pass. The author explains why s/he wrote the book and it's inspiration, but never tells me what the book is about. #10queriesIn10tweets (http://twitter.com/#%21/search?q=%2310queriesIn10tweets)

#2 - pass. The author's query reads something like "please go to this weblink to read a sample" and nothing else. #10queriesIn10tweets (http://twitter.com/#%21/search?q=%2310queriesIn10tweets)

#3 - pass. Good, unique concept. But, writing is weak - too many rhetorical questions and character descriptions. #10queriesIn10tweets (http://twitter.com/#%21/search?q=%2310queriesIn10tweets)

#4 - OH! really unique fantasy. A few spotty moments in the pitch, but overall writing/story really grabs me. ACCEPT! #10queriesIn10tweets (http://twitter.com/#%21/search?q=%2310queriesIn10tweets)

#5 - pass. Runon sentence in the opening paragraph and poor grammer throughout. #10queriesIn10tweets (http://twitter.com/#%21/search?q=%2310queriesIn10tweets)

#6 - pass. Darn, a decent concept but the query is (literally) a listing of plot points. No narrative. #10queriesIn10tweets (http://twitter.com/#%21/search?q=%2310queriesIn10tweets)

#7 - pass. Oodles of mistakes. Poor grammar, 3 paragraphs of "why I wrote this book" and "pages pasted below to read." #10queriesIn10tweets (http://twitter.com/#%21/search?q=%2310queriesIn10tweets)

#8 - pass. Ouch. Counted 15 spelling errors in paragraph one, poor grammar, pitch is buried in description of the plot. #10queriesIn10tweets (http://twitter.com/#%21/search?q=%2310queriesIn10tweets)

#9 - pass. Not one correctly formed sentence in entire first paragraph (sorry if I sound snippy -am trying to be nice) #10queriesIn10tweets (http://twitter.com/#%21/search?q=%2310queriesIn10tweets)

#10 - pass. SOOO badly wish I could quote, but I won't. 4 misspelled words and 3 sentence fragments in first paragraph. #10queriesIn10tweets (http://twitter.com/#%21/search?q=%2310queriesIn10tweets)

So there you have it, a real-time example of the "stats" that get tossed around (90% is an easy rejection due to errors, etc.) It also goes with the idea that "the writing is key" rather than a unique concept is all you need. Even the ones that sounded interesting got a no due to grammar issues/weak writing.

Monkey
11-04-2011, 09:01 PM
I'm amazed that one out of the ten was an acceptance. :)

inspiredbymusic
11-04-2011, 09:08 PM
Wow! This is just what I've always wanted--the opportunity to be a "fly on the wall" while an agent is reading queries.
Is it wrong that I'm happy that many of the queries are so flawed?

Phaeal
11-04-2011, 09:16 PM
I'm going to pass on Tweet #5 because she misspelled "grammar." Wait! Tweet #1 contains my pet error: "it's" used instead of "its!" Double pass! ;)

I'll accept Tweet #4 because it shows what it really takes to get a "More, please": No egregious errors, and the story GRABS the agent.

Shadow_Ferret
11-04-2011, 09:16 PM
So what is the point of that? Since its anonymous it doesn't help the person who sent it and since she doesn't quote material it really doesn't help anyone else to avoid those mistakes. Just seems unnecessarily snarky to me.

Cyia
11-04-2011, 09:27 PM
So what is the point of that? Since its anonymous it doesn't help the person who sent it and since she doesn't quote material it really doesn't help anyone else to avoid those mistakes. Just seems unnecessarily snarky to me.

It's not snarky at all. When agents snark queries on Twitter, it's a trainwreck in the making.

This was an agent's attempt to show queriers how she goes through her inbox and decides yes or no when it comes to requests. It's a very common question asked.

She couldn't quote without the writers' permission (bad form, as well as too much space).

MysteryScribe
11-04-2011, 09:42 PM
I saw this on twitter yesterday and thought it was great. It didn't personally identify querying authors, (so no one was bullied or made to feel bad) and it let others get a feel for what goes on inside an agent's head when tackling their slush. I think she handled it nicely. No snark, just honest feedback.

leahzero
11-04-2011, 10:53 PM
It's kind of stunning how many rejections are based on just plain mechanical failures of grammar and spelling. Puts things into perspective when you're angsting over whether your concept is fresh enough or whether your voice comes through clearly in the query.

Susan Littlefield
11-04-2011, 11:37 PM
So what is the point of that? Since its anonymous it doesn't help the person who sent it and since she doesn't quote material it really doesn't help anyone else to avoid those mistakes. Just seems unnecessarily snarky to me.

It does alert us to mistakes that turn agents off, and here they are:


Does not tell what the book is about
Directs agent to a sample at a website
Pitch buried in the letter instead of up front
Weak writing/rhetorical questions and character descriptions
Run on sentences, poor grammar, poor spelling


The point is to make sure your query is the best that it can be.

bearilou
11-05-2011, 01:30 AM
It does alert us to mistakes that turn agents off

Not only that, but it does drive home the advice given on this board over and over when people ask 'does it matter? I thought Story trumped all?'

The answer is, yes, it matters.


The point is to make sure your query is the best that it can be.

Exactly.

scarletpeaches
11-05-2011, 01:35 AM
Tweet #1 contains my pet error: "it's" used instead of "its!" Double pass! ;)I noticed that straight away too.

I wonder how many people 'reject' an agent (i.e. decide not to sub to them) because of their spelling errors?

Rolling Thunder
11-05-2011, 01:57 AM
There are many reasons behind why agents reject queries. A good blog to read (if you have a lot of time and enjoy having your eyes bleed) is Author! Author! http://www.annemini.com/

From what I've read, it's not uncommon for an agent (or more likely, the agent's assistant) to pass on a query by the end of the fifth written line. It doesn't matter if the agent's guidelines asked for five or 1,000 pages either: if there are errors in the query an agent will stop there.

Writers should view agents and their assistants as professional readers and the query as a first sample of what's to come.

Monkey
11-05-2011, 07:18 AM
Queries are supposed to be an author's very best representation of his or her work.

A tweet is typically given less attention than a facebook post.

A misspelling in one is not the equal of a misspelling in the other.

Anyway, I appreciate this. I like the "agents-eye-view" thing. And I like that so many were rejected over simple spelling and grammar errors, because it drives home something else I've seen on this board and elsewhere: if you can turn in a query that is relevant to the agent in question, with a greeting that addresses them specifically, without grammar and spelling mistakes, you're already in the top ten percent. Maybe higher.

The statistics on acceptances aren't so scary when you realize what most of the slush looks like.

blacbird
11-05-2011, 07:38 AM
It's kind of stunning how many rejections are based on just plain mechanical failures of grammar and spelling. Puts things into perspective when you're angsting over whether your concept is fresh enough or whether your voice comes through clearly in the query.

Also a concept that some people here, mainly newbies, need to pay attention to when posting.

THIS IS A WRITERS' SITE. FOR WRITERS.

BE ONE.

Pay attention to your spelling, grammar, general writing skills when posting here, in the same way you should when constructing whatever writing you intend to submit for publication. Practice may not make perfect, there being no such animal, but it damn sure does make for improvement and raising of standards, which will serve you well in the long run.

caw

DancingMaenid
11-05-2011, 07:53 AM
Hmm...it seems like most of those rejections are over things that I'd consider fairly commonsense. I imagine that agents and publishers get a ton of queries lack in the basic things like that, because there are a ton of unprofessional and unrealistic people out there. But I wonder how many queries this (and other) agents pass up even though there's nothing obviously "wrong" with them.

blacbird
11-05-2011, 08:37 AM
I wonder how many queries this (and other) agents pass up even though there's nothing obviously "wrong" with them.

A vast percentage, I'm sure, because there's nothing obviously "right" with them.

caw

Miss Plum
11-05-2011, 09:27 AM
I'm going to pass on Tweet #5 because she misspelled "grammar." Wait! Tweet #1 contains my pet error: "it's" used instead of "its!" Double pass! ;)

I'll accept Tweet #4 because it shows what it really takes to get a "More, please": No egregious errors, and the story GRABS the agent.
I'm going to pass on this agent altogether. Someone who can't spell "its" and "grammar" and who also thinks there are degrees of uniqueness (Tweet #4) and drops a hyphen from "run-on" (Tweet #5) isn't fit to judge literary craftsmanship. So sayeth I.

megan_d
11-05-2011, 10:15 AM
who also thinks there are degrees of uniqueness

Well... Aren't there?

KalenO
11-05-2011, 10:36 AM
Wow. So because she didn't stop to edit her tweets, you'd pass on an agent who routinely takes the time to help unagented writers, shows amazing enthusiasm for all her clients and who also seems to be damn good at her job. I mean, if the major deal she got a client just last week is anything to go by.

Sorry. That's a little mind-boggling to me. If an agent was composing posts or blogging and making grammatical errors and common spelling mistakes, maybe...but real time tweeting, particularly when you're actually carrying on a conversation? There's critical, and there's getting carried away, IMO.

Snowstorm
11-05-2011, 10:40 AM
Interesting perspective from the agent. Thanks for posting it.

Theo81
11-05-2011, 02:16 PM
Wow. So because she didn't stop to edit her tweets, you'd pass on an agent who routinely takes the time to help unagented writers, shows amazing enthusiasm for all her clients and who also seems to be damn good at her job. I mean, if the major deal she got a client just last week is anything to go by.

Sorry. That's a little mind-boggling to me. If an agent was composing posts or blogging and making grammatical errors and common spelling mistakes, maybe...but real time tweeting, particularly when you're actually carrying on a conversation? There's critical, and there's getting carried away, IMO.


If it was her personal tweet stream, not so much. However. This is her professional one. Agents do not help writers purely because they are saints, they are business people and they recognise that helping writers is a good way to get a great reputation among us lot. To destroy that by not taking a little bit of care over her posting...well. It gets hammered into us over and over: This Is A Public Place, The Agents See All So Represent Yourself Well. It works both ways. An agent rejects a writer who makes grammar mistakes, I may reject an agent who does the same.

Goodness knows I have no legs at all when it comes to spelling mistakes, but somebody whose job includes spotting misuses of "its" and "it's" should not be capable of making those kinds of typos. It should be drilled into her fingers.

That said, it makes great reading. I hope more agents do this.

jclarkdawe
11-05-2011, 04:41 PM
Interesting. First conclusion I think can be drawn from this is that someone screens Sara Megibow's queries. The reason I think this is a safe conclusion is there are no wrong genre (a big chunk of easy rejects for agents is sending the wrong genre/wrong agent -- since there are none here, I think it's safe to assume that someone screens out the real trash). Also not included are the grossly bad -- ones where you wonder if English is a language even used by the writer.

Based upon what we see in QLH, people at AW will avoid the gross rejection process and will actually make it to the agent.

So if you make it to the agent, you've got something in your query that attracts a minimum of attention. And then a whopping 50% are rejected because of simple editing failures (queries number 5, 7, 8, 9 & 10). Notice how it isn't one single error that sinks the query, but multiple errors. Basically you've got to master the basics of grammar and spelling. This error isn't too common on QLH, probably because we scare the crap out of people for that level of sloppy work.

Number 1 is commonly seen in memoirs and memoir-type fiction, although I've seen it in other genres. QLH has quite a few of this error. It seems to be caused by writers focusing on themselves and not the reader.

Number 2 is seen occasionally in QLH and just doesn't work. It's basic psychology. Until I'm really interested in something, I don't go looking for it. Yet people are convinced that they are that interesting that people will look.

Numbers 3 & 6 are the interesting ones. A decent query, possibly would get you an A in a class, but just not quite good enough. At 20%, this is a big group, and would represent an even larger group in QLH. And there's a possibility that 3 & 6 would be accepted by another agent. The almost there query (as well as the almost there manuscript) are the hardest to improve.

Number 4 probably got rejected by quite a few agents. It's clear it has a few problems. But it's good enough (which is actually a fairly high standard in this case). It's not perfect.

And if it is eventually posted someone, people will say it's not perfect and how come my imperfect doesn't work as well. And the answer is real simple. This one was good enough and yours isn't. There's a line between good enough and not quite there, but that line is definitely there.

It's always dangerous looking at a small sample size. But out of the queries that make it to the agents (I'm assuming most agents use someone to get rid of the gross errors), I think these percentages are probably pretty accurate. But these type rejections, providing the story has the legs to make it work, are the ones most likely to be improved by a process of good editing, beta readers, and places like QLH.

Yet each of these queries that were rejected were probably viewed by the writer as 'good enough,' if not pretty near perfect. And I'd bet at least 6 of the people who got rejected would not easily accept that there query isn't good enough and that the agent is wrong. People hate the idea of change.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Chrissy
11-05-2011, 05:10 PM
I thinks its a shame that agents don't have a slightly different "form rejection" they can select when passing that says something like, "I encourage you to engage the services of an editor." I guess the author might get offended or start an unwanted dialogue with the agent, though.

I've received some R's that I know aren't due to misspelling and such, but I think mine might be too short. I've been searching the threads for query related advice and popped in here.

Thanks for sharing the info Cyia.

Jamesaritchie
11-05-2011, 08:33 PM
I'm going to pass on this agent altogether. Someone who can't spell "its" and "grammar" and who also thinks there are degrees of uniqueness (Tweet #4) and drops a hyphen from "run-on" (Tweet #5) isn't fit to judge literary craftsmanship. So sayeth I.

You'll be passing on many of the best agents. Writers need to know how to spell, how to use proper grammar, and that there's only one degree of uniqueness, which I strongly disagree with. Makes sense for grammar, I suppose, but not for real world uniqueness.

Anyway, agents must be able to tell a publishable story from an unpublishable story, a talented writer from an untalented writer, and just enough grammar to know whether the writer is doing his job.

Rejecting an agent for the kind of mistakes this one made is the same as rejecting a writer because he doesn't know how to draw up a good contract, or how to sell foreign rights, even though he writes bestselling fiction.

If an agent can place my book with a top publisher, I don't care if she spells "dog" C-A-T", uses double negatives, and dangles her participle in public.

Renee Collins
11-05-2011, 08:38 PM
I'm sorry, but it seems pretty silly to "reject" an agent for grammatical errors. They aren't writers. And yes, you want an agent who can notice errors in your work, but that's primarily YOUR job, folks. The agent's main job is to *sell* your work, and that requires an entirely different skill set.

Ms. Megibow has solid sales (just sold a series at auction in a major deal,) has loyal, happy clients, and works for an extremely well-respected agency. That's far more important than a grammatically pristine twitter feed, imo. ;)


ETA: Dang. James beat me to the punch.

scarletpeaches
11-05-2011, 08:55 PM
It's a lot easier to take advice on grammar and spelling when said advice isn't full of grammar and spelling errors.

CrastersBabies
11-05-2011, 08:59 PM
I attended one of Sara's workshops recently (and she is a friend of a close friend). Awesome stuff and I definitely got the impression that 8 out of 10 of authors querying did not read any guidelines on the website before sending their letter.

If you can't follow the guidelines on a site like that (the Nelson Agency and Kristen's blog are freakishly detailed about what they want and don't want) then you're setting yourself up to fail.

I posted this same link under "ask the agent" resources as well. I love finding stuff like this. I follow her on Twitter. She'll do impromptu "Ask the agent" sessions as well.

I know it's only one agent, but hey . . . it's insight I enjoy having.

Phaeal
11-05-2011, 09:00 PM
I've got an agent who has yet to misspell a word or use incorrect grammar, but if I didn't have an agent, I'd still sub again to Ms. Megibow. She spells "sold" real good. ;)

To be fair, the misspelling of grammar was a typo, since she spelled it right in subsequent Tweets, and even I (yes, s'true!) have on rare occasions typed the dreaded "it's" when I didn't mean "it is." (I slap myself twice when I do this, however. Maybe even three times. With a table tennis paddle.)

Cyia
11-05-2011, 09:06 PM
I thinks its a shame that agents don't have a slightly different "form rejection" they can select when passing that says something like, "I encourage you to engage the services of an editor." I guess the author might get offended or start an unwanted dialogue with the agent, though.

This is simply because most agents DON'T want someone to use an editor. The writer has to be able to make changes his/herself, otherwise what are they to do when they have to tweak things for the agent or for the publisher? Is everyone supposed to wait for an outside editor to finish the draft first?


I've received some R's that I know aren't due to misspelling and such, but I think mine might be too short.

Short can work (84 words is my record). It's not a matter of length, but a matter of conveying what you need to in the length you choose. Get a few more posts and put your query in QLH -- the squirrels will show you what's working and what's not.

CrastersBabies
11-05-2011, 09:11 PM
Queries are supposed to be an author's very best representation of his or her work.

A tweet is typically given less attention than a facebook post.

A misspelling in one is not the equal of a misspelling in the other.



Yeah. I guess I lost interest in bashing someone's grammar/spelling online. It's my playground and I make mistakes too. (shrug)

That said, I don't hire agents to write or edit. I hire them to sell, promote and guide me through my book sales.

CrastersBabies
11-05-2011, 09:14 PM
I've got an agent who has yet to misspell a word or use incorrect grammar, but if I didn't have an agent, I'd still sub again to Ms. Megibow. She spells "sold" real good. ;)

To be fair, the misspelling of grammar was a typo, since she spelled it right in subsequent Tweets, and even I (yes, s'true!) have on rare occasions typed the dreaded "it's" when I didn't mean "it is." (I slap myself twice when I do this, however. Maybe even three times. With a table tennis paddle.)

One thing I've heard about the Nelson Agency is that when they take you on they don't stop until you're sold, whereas many agencies might drop you after 15-20 attempts.

And yes, I've done the its it's thing when in a hurry or on twitter or on FB. Always embarrassing, but hell, I'm not perfect when I'm fiddling around online. I catch them as well in first drafts, especially when I get to writing super fast and am in pure adrenaline mode.

I actually found a "you are finD" (instead of "you are fine") the other day. Oy!

I type around 100 WPM, so the fingers get ahead of me at times. My own fault for not slowing down when I should, but sometimes the lightning strikes hot and I don't want to lose it. :)

Chrissy
11-05-2011, 09:56 PM
This is simply because most agents DON'T want someone to use an editor. The writer has to be able to make changes his/herself, otherwise what are they to do when they have to tweak things for the agent or for the publisher? Is everyone supposed to wait for an outside editor to finish the draft first?



Short can work (84 words is my record). It's not a matter of length, but a matter of conveying what you need to in the length you choose. Get a few more posts and put your query in QLH -- the squirrels will show you what's working and what's not.

Yay! I can't wait. Thanks for the advice!
xoxo

Good point on editing. Writer really should have basic editing (grammar, spelling) ability. I think I feel sorry for people too much.

leahzero
11-06-2011, 04:02 AM
I'm sorry, but it seems pretty silly to "reject" an agent for grammatical errors. They aren't writers. And yes, you want an agent who can notice errors in your work, but that's primarily YOUR job, folks. The agent's main job is to *sell* your work, and that requires an entirely different skill set.

Ms. Megibow has solid sales (just sold a series at auction in a major deal,) has loyal, happy clients, and works for an extremely well-respected agency. That's far more important than a grammatically pristine twitter feed, imo. ;)

This.

This is a huge part of why many of us who have or are seeking agents want to be represented. Because we don't want to, or can't, be both writers and salespeople. The skillsets are completely different and have very little overlap.

That said, while I know nothing of the agent in question, I'd be concerned about being represented by an agent who made frequent grammar/spelling errors. Is that how they'll represent you to publishers?

I'm glad my own agent is hyper-literate, corrects my exceptionally few grammar mistakes (seriously, fuck the lay/laid thing--I will never. get. it.), and is a writer herself. It's part of why I queried her and was thrilled to be offered rep. But aside from wanting someone to love and sell our book, we're all looking for different things from agents.

Libbie
11-06-2011, 04:58 AM
Wow, how cool! Very helpful.

Christine N.
11-06-2011, 09:57 PM
Yes, I agree that if you check an agent off your list because of small typos in tweets, you're missing out.

Sara is a big name at a big name agency (and friends with MY agent, btw). I have queried Kristin's agency in the past and been treated with nothing but respect (and had two requests though they never panned out).

You should not decide to submit or not based on tweets. Do your homework has always been the #1 rule of the business side of writing. I appreciate Sara's honesty at what grabs her attention and what is an instant reject. A misplaced apostrophe in a tweet may be a minor infraction, but in a query letter it says that either the author does not know the difference between plural and possessive (or a contraction, as the case may be) or they didn't take the time to look over their query before sending.

We need to get a little perspective about social media, I think.

waylander
11-06-2011, 11:14 PM
I'm going to pass on this agent altogether. Someone who can't spell "its" and "grammar" and who also thinks there are degrees of uniqueness (Tweet #4) and drops a hyphen from "run-on" (Tweet #5) isn't fit to judge literary craftsmanship. So sayeth I.


I believe that would be your loss then

scarletpeaches
11-06-2011, 11:20 PM
Hmm. Methinks some sarcasmometers need to be recalibrated.

happywritermom
11-06-2011, 11:33 PM
I'm going to pass on this agent altogether. Someone who can't spell "its" and "grammar" and who also thinks there are degrees of uniqueness (Tweet #4) and drops a hyphen from "run-on" (Tweet #5) isn't fit to judge literary craftsmanship. So sayeth I.

I'm with you. I do find the whole thing interesting, but if you are going to offer public criticism of such errors, don't make the same kind of errors.

Ken
11-06-2011, 11:34 PM
... there really isn't any excuse for "15 spelling errors in one paragraph." All word processing programs have spell check. Even email has it. It won't catch all errors, but it will catch a great deal of them. And yet some writers clearly don't make use of it. Kinda perplexing.

bearilou
11-07-2011, 01:43 AM
Hmm. Methinks some sarcasmometers need to be recalibrated.

I just got mine back from the shop. There was talk about a recall but I determined that it wasn't for my model.

Christine N.
11-07-2011, 01:43 AM
Well, that's the problem with typing, it has no tone. If the person who said they would reject an agent based on tweets was being sarcastic, there should have been some identifier attached, such as <sarcasm>.

Just MHO. I think we've learned enough about teh Interwebz to know how to get our meaning across.

Ryan David Jahn
11-07-2011, 02:31 AM
... there really isn't any excuse for "15 spelling errors in one paragraph." All word processing programs have spell check. Even email has it. It won't catch all errors, but it will catch a great deal of them. And yet some writers clearly don't make use of it. Kinda perplexing.

Perhaps the writer thinks a word isn't spelled correctly until it's neatly underlined in red.

Chrissy
11-07-2011, 02:36 AM
Perhaps the writer thinks a word isn't spelled correctly until it's neatly underlined in red.

LMAO Your humormeter is in tip top shape.

Kado
11-07-2011, 02:44 AM
It does alert us to mistakes that turn agents off, and here they are:


Does not tell what the book is about
Directs agent to a sample at a website
Pitch buried in the letter instead of up front
Weak writing/rhetorical questions and character descriptions
Run on sentences, poor grammar, poor spelling


The point is to make sure your query is the best that it can be.

Agree with this.

Would I reject an agent who had spelling or grammar mistakes in her tweets? Give me 3 seconds to think about it. No. Sure, it doesn't look good. But am I gonna give up the chance to get published because of it? Hell no. I fail to see how mistakes in an agent's tweets is going to have some sort of negative impact on a potential author she takes on.

scarletpeaches
11-07-2011, 02:48 AM
I can't think of any way to say this that doesn't sound bitchy, and I should be able to because I'm a writer, but...it's not like there aren't other agents to sub to.

Easy for me to say because we're talking about an agent who's US-based and I'm in the UK so would never sub to her anyway.

But I don't see a problem with writers choosing agents to sub to based on spelling, grammar and so on, when agents choose whether to accept or reject us based on the same criteria.

bearilou
11-07-2011, 03:59 AM
But I don't see a problem with writers choosing agents to sub to based on spelling, grammar and so on, when agents choose whether to accept or reject us based on the same criteria.

I'm not seeing anything wrong with it either. Judge like on like.

So if any of their correspondence with me comes riddled with spelling and grammar errors, just as they would judge me on mine in my query, I think it's within our rights.

But as a query letter is not like a twitter, which is where I'm seeing the comparisons falling down...not seeing the similarities so much.

Christine N.
11-07-2011, 04:06 AM
Exactly. If their email asking me to send the full manuscript was full of mistakes, then yes, I'd give pause. Absolutely.

But I've seen the Nelson Agency's request to read letter, and it's impeccable. :)

All I'm saying is don't judge an agency based on 140 characters. A blog that's full of errors? Totally different matter.

But if you want to pass them by because of something like this? Hey, more room for someone else. Totally up to you. I'll take the advice given in the spirit which it was given and use it, but that's me.

happywritermom
11-07-2011, 05:06 AM
But- but- but- she misspelled run-on and grammar in a tweet criticizing run-on sentences and grammar.
All that in fewer than 140 characters.
I wondered how it would work out if we compared the ratio of errors to number of characters in the worst query letter to the ratio of errors to number of characters in that particular tweet. :idea:

bearilou
11-07-2011, 05:08 AM
But- but- but- she misspelled run-on and grammar in a tweet criticizing run-on sentences and grammar.
All that in fewer than 140 characters.
I wondered how it would work out if we compared the ratio of errors to number of characters in the worst query letter to the ratio of errors to number of characters in that particular tweet. :idea:

Isn't there an internet law that covers this kind of situation?

scarletpeaches
11-07-2011, 05:11 AM
Rule 34.

Cyia
11-07-2011, 05:21 AM
Rule 34.

It would take one heckuva grammatical error to get 34 involved. :tongue

scarletpeaches
11-07-2011, 05:40 AM
I'm an erotica author. Trust me; if anyone can invoke Rule 34, I can.

Christine N.
11-07-2011, 05:49 AM
BINGO!

Christine N.
11-07-2011, 05:51 AM
I make the it's/its mistake on Twitter all the time. Sometimes I delete the tweets and reissue correctly, but mostly not. Do I expect an agent to reject me because of it? Gods I hope not.

twitter moves fast; sometimes faster than I can think about grammar errors.

CrastersBabies
11-07-2011, 05:54 AM
http://www.motifake.com/image/demotivational-poster/1005/dedication-wrong-leave-internet-demotivational-poster-1272856078.gif

Mr Flibble
11-07-2011, 01:05 PM
Easy for me to say because we're talking about an agent who's US-based and I'm in the UK so would never sub to her anyway.

'Scusing your Peachy pardon, but so? Lots of people query/have agents who are not on the same continent. ;)





twitter moves fast; sometimes faster than I can think about grammar errors.

This

It's one thing to dash something off and it has typos (lots of us make typos here for instance). But a query is supposed to be your best, polished effort. It's the difference between how I talk to my mates, and how I talk in an interview. To my mates, I will say fuck a lot, and foshizzle and shit. If I want a job I do not say these things in an interview. Well, okay, there was that one time....

Tweets are not equal to queries.

Christine N.
11-07-2011, 03:03 PM
When it's Scarlett, I always assume it's sarcasm.

But that's only for her. The rest of you sorry sots are on your own. :tongue

Phaeal
11-07-2011, 06:48 PM
To my mates, I will say fuck a lot, and foshizzle and shit.

If you said "foshizzle" to me, well, I'd faint, that's all.

Mr Flibble
11-07-2011, 07:02 PM
Foshizzle, babe.

*waits for thud*

scarletpeaches
11-07-2011, 07:04 PM
When it's Scarlett, I always assume it's sarcasm.

But that's only for her. The rest of you sorry sots are on your own. :tongueI are speshul. :D

*preens*

Phaeal
11-07-2011, 10:49 PM
Foshizzle, babe.

*waits for thud*

:e2thud:

Christine N.
11-08-2011, 01:36 AM
*Pats Scarlett on the head**

Yes you are, dear. :)

JSSchley
11-08-2011, 04:29 AM
It would take one heckuva grammatical error to get 34 involved. :tongue

You have seen the comma sutra (http://images.piccsy.com/cache/images/72761-dba0fc-400-300.jpg), have you not?

I yesterday also came across this lovely comma of address + capitalization error: "Come on squirt." In the middle of a high school hallway.

So...bad grammar could invoke rule 34...

Cyia
11-08-2011, 06:57 AM
You have seen the comma sutra (http://images.piccsy.com/cache/images/72761-dba0fc-400-300.jpg), have you not?

You're going to get grammar banned from public schools handing out smut like that. Then it's only a hop, skip and jump to burning dictionaries for all the naughty words.

Cyia
11-11-2011, 06:22 AM
ROUND 2


#1 = pass. Query states a moral. Readers "will" be taught to value the environment. This is a thesis, not a novel.

#2 = pass. Writer lists the number of chapters, character names, years covered in the story, but really no pitch.

#3 = pass. Writer "explains" the magic held by each individual character in "shopping list" style. again, no pitch.

#4 = pass. Awkward writing and the heroine is vicious to the point of not being love-able/ relate-able.

#5 = pass. The voice is snarky and I see a lot of snarky. It can feel generic if not done really well.

#6 = pass. A "fiction novel" of a real person (who doesn't appear to have given approval) based on seeing them on tv.

#7 = pass. Decent writing but a "true" story based on cave wall writing 4000 years ago. pass is based on concept here.

#8 = pass. Plot is based on passive elements which will result in lack of engagement for reader.

#9 = pass. The writer tells me I will feel "moved" by their writing. Don't tell me style, tell me about the book.

#10 = pass. This one "educates the reader" about an historical event. No pitch, just an outline of data.

0 for 10

According to Twitter, this took 21 minutes, so I have to imagine she was reading included pages along with the query letters.

rainsmom
11-11-2011, 08:30 AM
According to Twitter, this took 21 minutes, so I have to imagine she was reading included pages along with the query letters.

Or eating a sandwich or chatting with her husband or taking a phone call....

jclarkdawe
11-11-2011, 05:18 PM
Interesting that round 2 produced a different type of rejection than round 1. Notice there's no spelling/grammar errors as a cause here. I'm beginning to wonder if there's some selectivity going on in choosing the queries. Either that or whoever screens for her has learned not to waste her time with queries that are riddled with errors.

Life cereal made a great ad about Little Mikey liking this cereal that was good for him. Worked for Life, but doesn't usually work in real life. Queries 1 & 10 fall into this trap. They're going to be good for me. Her percentage would appear to be roughly on line with QLH. Simple rule for a query. Don't tell me why it would be good for me (unless you fall into a certain group of nonfiction); tell me why I'll enjoy reading it.

I know a guy who loves spec sheets on cars. 0-60. Engine size. Axle ratios. You name it, it excites him. But for the rest of us, we're more excited by hearing a ad that goes, "Vroom, Vroom." Queries 2 & 3 commit this error. Let's list every plot point in the story, spec the whole thing out. Queries are all about story. Again, does the query tell a simple story that is going to appeal to the reader. I don't care what the axle ratios are. I just want to be excited.

Query 4 suffers from the bad protagonist. We don't have to like a protagonist, but we've got to identify with them somehow. If you put your query up in someplace like QLH and getting this sort of reaction, don't fight it, just change it.

Query 5 sounds like it might work with another agent. The trick with a query with a lot of voice is to make sure you're consistent with your manuscript, and to include the first five pages. This is the type of query that an agent will be on the fence about if the query works for them, because keeping up the voice and style in an entire manuscript is next to impossible.

Query 6 is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Nothing you can do with the query to improve the situation.

Query 7 may work on another agent. It would probably work better if the writer got rid of the "true." We recently had a query on dinosaurs in QLH that was some variation of "true" (I forgot which word the author used). Well, in reading it, it didn't seem likely it was "true." Don't let your reader get involved in whether your query (and story) is "true." Instead, focus on getting the reader interested in your story.

Query 8 sounds like the classic passive protagonist. It's amazing how many queries arrive in QLH where the protagonist is firmly rooted to a couch. Thinking and feeling is not doing. For the query, you want a protagonist that does something.

Query 9 is another frequent error in QLH. If you tell me your manuscript is "laugh out loud funny," "will scare the crap out of me," "will make me cry," et cetera, don't do it. This is where tell versus show has only one answer. Show me whatever moving you want the reader to do and make me laugh, cringe, cry, or whatever. Nothing is guaranteed to get a rejection faster than a "humorous" query that doesn't make the reader laugh.

Every one of the errors here is consistently seen in QLH. Overall, I'd say these errors are caused by a writer not understanding that a good story in your query is more important than anything else. If the query doesn't have the promise the book will be entertaining, the rejection is sent.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Christine N.
11-11-2011, 11:36 PM
Just goes to show that agents are looking for a reason to reject first, and if they can't find one, they'll request.

There's a sort of checklist - doesn't sound like it was written by a sociopath (I've seen those kinds of queries!), everything is spelled correctly, concept not overdone, interesting and original plot (or at least commercial), a query that draws me in, writing style I want to read, etc...

Mostly it's just - do I want to read this book? That's what your query should make an agent want. If it doesn't, you need to re-evaluate it: first the query, then maybe the book itself.

More importantly, the agent has to ask: can I SELL this book?

MarleyB
12-03-2011, 03:38 AM
Megibow gave a talk on querying for Writer's Digest (price $80) last year that was the most disorganized, loopy, disappointing lecture I've ever heard from a professional in this biz (and I've heard many). I was soooo unimpressed that I have to laugh at some of these rejections. She's going to reject because somebody confuses a genre (Y/A women's fiction--hello, crossover?) when she had trouble, in her talk, articulating a coherent sentence? Megibow as my agent? Pass.

Christine N.
12-03-2011, 04:42 AM
And yet, she makes huge sales all the time.Wonder how she manages that,then? <sarcasm>

Alexandra Little
12-03-2011, 04:54 PM
She's going to reject because somebody confuses a genre (Y/A women's fiction--hello, crossover?)

"Crossover" isn't a genre--it's when an adult book ends up selling well to children/teens, or when teen/children's books start selling well to adults (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, etc.).

Just thought I'd point that out.

Darkshore
12-03-2011, 07:15 PM
Also a concept that some people here, mainly newbies, need to pay attention to when posting.

THIS IS A WRITERS' SITE. FOR WRITERS.

BE ONE.

Pay attention to your spelling, grammar, general writing skills when posting here, in the same way you should when constructing whatever writing you intend to submit for publication. Practice may not make perfect, there being no such animal, but it damn sure does make for improvement and raising of standards, which will serve you well in the long run.

caw

I myself am pretty terrible at watching my grammar when posting...But to my defense I'm usually on here during my morning slog or my midnight antics... :D. Any way, good post.

MarleyB
12-03-2011, 08:17 PM
@Alexandra, I know crossover isn't a genre. I was just pointing out that the author of the query she rejected because they called their work YA/Women's fiction was probably saying the work had potential in both markets. It's a crappy reason to reject a query.

@Christine, I honestly have no idea how she does it. Maybe she was just having a bad day the day she hosted that WD webinar. If so, it was a really, really bad day. You want to query her, nobody here is stopping you. But if she can be unimpressed with some queries, and say so publicly, I think we in this forum have the right to say we are similarly unimpressed with her.Based on a first impression. Which is all she'd get with me. Writers can be picky too. Not just agents.

Christine N.
12-04-2011, 04:13 PM
Marley, of course you have the right not to submit to her. Your choice.

Not everyone is a good public speaker. You don't HAVE to be to be a good agent- you only have to be able to talk to an editor one on one and pitch a book so that the editor can't live without it.

She obviously does that and does it very well. Her record attests to it, and her agency is one of the best in children's lit. She is friends with my agent and lovely.

Be picky all you want, but you might be missing out by not doing a little more homework or even talking to her one-on-one.

Cyia
12-04-2011, 05:07 PM
I was just pointing out that the author of the query she rejected because they called their work YA/Women's fiction was probably saying the work had potential in both markets. It's a crappy reason to reject a query.

It's not, actually. More often than not, people who say this say it because they don't know their market. They don't know where their book fits, nor have they tried to make the voice suitable for a chosen market. They don't know its competing titles. All they know is that crossover = $$$, so they want their book to be a crossover.

It's the same as saying "This book will appeal to readers from 9 to 90!" or "It's for kids, and those who are still kids at heart!"

Despite being cliched, it's a hindrance when it comes to the submission stage. The book has to be submitted to either the youth market editors or the adult market editors. There's not a group that does both. Just like a bookstore, even Amazon, has to categorize it as one or the other for easy look-up.

If the publisher sees crossover potential, they've got choices. They'll either shelve it as YA and market it to both groups, or in some cases, they'll put a YA cover on one and an adult cover on the other so it can be shelved both places.

Theo81
12-04-2011, 06:42 PM
(Y/A women's fiction--hello, crossover?).

Some genres cross over. You can have a Historical Mystery, or a Western Suspense. You can't, however, have an Historical Sci-Fi novel - the terms are contradictory just as Y/A and women's fiction are. The issues Women's fiction deals with are not of interest to the average 16-year-old Y/A reader, any more than the issues of a 16-year-old are of interest to me. Anybody who thinks they have written something which appeals equally to both parties probably doesn't understand the genres.

scarletpeaches
12-04-2011, 06:48 PM
Would it be acceptable for a writer to tweet about private correspondence they exchanged with an editor or agent, do you think?

jclarkdawe
12-04-2011, 06:52 PM
@Alexandra, I know crossover isn't a genre. I was just pointing out that the author of the query she rejected because they called their work YA/Women's fiction was probably saying the work had potential in both markets. It's a crappy reason to reject a query.

Repeat Cyia's answer here.

In addition, in Query Letter Hell (QLH) we see a lot of virgin posters who want to argue that their novel has crossover potential. We try to squelch that immediately because it shows the individual doesn't understand how publishing works.

Starting point from publisher is the middlemen here, bookstores and libraries. Occasionally a book can get two shelf spaces in bookstores and libraries, but those are the exceptions to the rule and are the long shots. Agents and editors do not play to long shots. So if a book is only going to get one shelf space in libraries and bookstores, it is going to be either YA or adult. I've yet to see a library or a bookstore that has a section called crossover.

So how does a publisher deal with this division? Very simple. Editors, by and large, are either adult editors or YA editors, and publishers that are large enough have an adult department and a YA department. Although editors can see when a book might appeal to both adults and YA, they understand they have to work within that division.

Crossover is a readership issue, not a publishing issue. Although everyone is aware of it in the industry, arguing that your book has crossover appeal shows a lack of understanding of the industry. Almost as bad as referring to your book as a fiction novel.

And from the point of view of an agent (which I'm not), would I want to spend time with a writer teaching them about publishing, material which is widely available? Because quite honestly, a writer is going to have a lot to learn about publishing even with a significant level of knowledge about the industry.

She's not the only agent who uses things like this to gauge a writer's knowledge of publishing. And to reject writers who haven't done their homework. I don't blame her.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

LindaJeanne
12-04-2011, 07:53 PM
You can't, however, have an Historical Sci-Fi novel

Sure you can :). That's exactly what the Alternate History genre is. ;)

(Yes, I know, this is beside the point.)

Christine N.
12-04-2011, 10:57 PM
Scarlett,

The thing about what Sara is doing is that she has stripped it of all identifying material. It's just bits of the query. I can tweet about an agent's reply, and quote the agent, I guess, as long as I don't identify the agent.

Yeah, crossover happens. But it's usually not by design, but by marketing. YA and Women's fic don't usually crossover because of the nature of their genres. YA Romance IS a genre, though.

Historic Sci-fi? Welcome to Steampunk ;)

Theo81
12-05-2011, 12:13 AM
Sure you can :). That's exactly what the Alternate History genre is. ;)

(Yes, I know, this is beside the point.)






Historic Sci-fi? Welcome to Steampunk ;)

DAMN YOU BOTH!!!!! :rant:

Christine N.
12-05-2011, 01:08 AM
:)

Oh, and just as a point of fact: while yes, this particular agent may or may not be a good public speaker, and may or may not have had a bad day, consider this: I've seen enough of the 'great' authors speak, in person and on TV, to see many that are AWFUL in public. Bumbling, incoherent, and seemingly socially inept when faced with a crowd of people who want to hang on their every word. They CANNOT function in front of a group.

They're still great writers and nice people and I'll still buy their books.

Imagine some of us, if an agent came to a place we were speaking and we were not of an ilk that does well in front of large groups. They might write us off without reading a word we'd ever written.

scarletpeaches
12-05-2011, 01:11 AM
That's because we're writers. They're the ones who should have more social nous, to sell our books.

(And yes, I know writers need to do promo. My point being, agents need to be even more social than us cave-dwelling creative types.)

Christine N.
12-05-2011, 01:49 AM
And there's a difference between being a good PUBLIC speaker and being able to SELL a book to an editor in a one-on-one conversation.

Those of us who are terrible in front of a crowd are most likely able to carry on a coherent conversation with a single individual. OBVIOUSLY, based on her record, this agent either falls into this category, or she only sells her client's books through email (not likely).

All I am saying is that sure, you may write her off due to what you see as poor performance or what you think is ineptitude, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so to speak. Still, your choice.

MarleyB
12-06-2011, 12:29 AM
This debate has gone on awfully long, but I'll just say this:

If Megibow is a lousy public speaker (and she wasn't really speaking in public; it was a webinar) then she and/or Writer's Digest shouldn't be charging $80 to the public to listen to her. It was a waste of time all around.

Secondly: genres are fluid. As much as publishers' marketing departments may just love having little boxes to put our novels in, all the better to sell them, the (nuanced) truth is that adults (especially adult women!) read Y/A. And young adults read adult fiction. Middle graders read adult fiction too. How do you suppose, for example, Markus Zuzak might have categorized his genre when he was pitching The Book Thief? Do you think it might have been fair for him to say his historical novel was YA/Adult Literary? Seems to fit the bill, doesn't it? Or what about somebody saying their book is Middle Grade/Young Adult (in other words, on the cusp, as "tween"). In a way, saying a novel might span two age categories is a lot more honest than trying to shoehorn it into a single category for the convenience of the sales reps.

So you guys really think it would be out of the question that Sara Megibow could take the time to work out these nuances with a promising debut author after she signs him or her? I still say it's a poor excuse to reject. Unless it was just one of many reasons (which I suspect was the case, anyway. Making all my blathering about it a moot point).

Christine N.
12-06-2011, 04:07 AM
See, the difference there is that READERS made them crossover hits, NOT the writer, NOT the agent, and (most likely) NOT the publisher marketing department. The agent and writer really have nothing to do with how the book is marketed to bookstores. Nothing at all.


An author who touts a book to an agent as 'a crossover' doesn't really know what they're talking about. As was the point in the first place. Only readers will decide if a book is a crossover, and MAYBE a publisher marketing department will market it that way.

And, as always, why would an agent take on someone who knows nothing about publishing when there are literally PILES of subs coming in from people who DO? When I read slush, I reject when an author starts a query "I was hoping you'd represent my book..." Uh, no we're a PUBLISHER, not an AGENT. You either can't take the time to rewrite your query OR you have no idea what you're talking about. Reject. See? Easy peasy.

KalenO
12-06-2011, 04:16 AM
Would it be acceptable for a writer to tweet about private correspondence they exchanged with an editor or agent, do you think?

In the most general of ways, sure. Writers do it all the time here on AW and sites like QT and AQ. Whenever writers post topics asking for specific advice and paraphrasing things an agent said to them about their work or in regards to revisions, etc.