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QueryFail/AgentFail/etc?

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MacAllister

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Those guys are still in business? I suppose it's a good thing. It certainly makes it easier to discuss rejection letters.
They seem to be, yep. I'd just sent someone in another thread to the Slushkiller post on Making Light, in answer to their persistent and plaintive thread derail "but explain why agents can't just TELL you what's wrong and why they're not accepting your work? It would help writers fix what's broken!"

So rejectioncollection.com, sadly, was still fresh in my memory.
 

Toothpaste

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Phoenix, agree to disagree.

But I will point out that the "rubs hands together gleefully" is an intended play up of the way some people have been considering agents who participated in the queryfail as evil nasty creatures. You know, like Mr. Burns who is so eeevil he taps his fingers and says, "Exxxxxcellent". The whole point of Mr. Burns is to play up that stereotype of the evil boss, so too is that statement meant to play up the perception by some that the agents who participated are the most inhumane, wretched kind of human beings who have ever lived. I read that very tweet, and knew instantly it was someone mocking the people who said such extreme comments about said agents (note this isn't a diss towards all dissenting voices, I agree that some participating agents did go too far, and many writers had legitimate calm complaints, no this was mocking the people who considered the activity as a slightly disproportionate level of evil to what actually happened). I'm not saying that despite this explanation you aren't allowed to find it distasteful, but I did have to say something because the way you keep quoting it worried me that you didn't get that it was a joke. That you didn't get that the agent wasn't ACTUALLY rubbing her hands together gleefully at the thought of being cruel and nasty to all those innocent authors out there.

(also, in following queryfail, you did note there were querywins right? It wasn't all negative. The point was that agents tend to get more bad than good stuff so obviously the ratio would be skewed towards the negative, still when they finally found a query they liked, they announced that as well)
 
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Medievalist

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Lord, if you think the language of queryfail and agentfail was harsh, you'd best avoid academic publishing altogether.

Typically both the proposal and the ms. for a scholarly article or a monograph in the humanities are anonymously reviewed by three or so scholars who have a solid reputation in the field. They are thorough, but brutal--they have, after all, years and years of training in responding to written text, and in academic rhetoric.

Often the proposal, and the ms., come back looking like they've been blooded in battle. And those are the ones accepted for publication!
 

Calla Lily

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*finally butting in*

IIRC, the agent in question is one who graciously called me after reading my full and spent half an hour discussing one of my ms, offering excellent suggestions and complimenting my writing.

I've since signed with a different agent, but I would've been more than happy to sign with her had she offered. In my opinionated opinion, this whole thing has so been blown out of proportion. It's like books you don't like or movies to which you object: don't read or watch them. It's a free country: query other agents.

And try posting your query in SYW--that's where I learned what was wrong with my queries before I started querying agents.

/soapbox
 

SPMiller

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I'm loving the factions that have developed in this thread. Keep it coming, guys. I need the laughs these days.
 

badducky

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When people can't imagine a sense of humor other than their own (and I'm *not* singling anyone of us out here!) no amount of hand-waving and shouting of "IT'S A JOKE! SHEESH!" will make a difference.
 

Jersey Chick

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Well, Bookends did do an agentpass post. Sadly, there were just about a third as many comments as the agentfail post received.

That said, I tried to read queryfail and gave up because a)I'm a Twitter twit, apparently and b) well, see A.

I did read all three hundred something comments on agentfail and there were some valid points (I don't think it's entirely unreasonable for an agent to have an autoresponder just to let a writer know their email didn't vanish into space or get sucked into a spam filter), those valid points got lost in a sea of whine (that doesn't look right.) And I really had to laugh at the anonymous posters who called for agents to be named. For real?

Yep, rejection sucks. But deal with it. Suck it up and get on with your life. If a writer can't do that because an agent didn't send them a personalized rejection, perhaps that writer should look to another career.

Just sayin'
 

Phoenix Fury

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Oh, frickin' get over it. Mockery can be helpful. There's a subsection on it in the writer's tool manual. Also, your use of "incredible" is sloppy.

Again, no amount of "frickin' get over it" will change the sense that many, many authors have that mocking doesn't help them. It often hurts, and turns people off from writing altogether. I'm a teacher and writer by profession, and I promise you there is no better way to lose a student than to mock him/her in the interest of "education." You may find it funny; they won't. Also, my use of "incredible" was perfectly appropriate, thanks.

It was about education. It was a generous and helpful act.
Hey, what a great argument! Here, let me try: it wasn't about education. It was a nasty and mean-spirited exercise.

I guess our competing assertions cancel out. Funny how that happens. I'd rather we rely on arguments and logic instead.

I see you've never read slush.
Nope. And none of the people who would send such absurd queries to an agent are likely to be savvy enough to the writing world to be on Twitter in the first place, following a topic like #queryfail. If they are, do you think such mockery is more likely to make them change, or slink away in abject humiliation and never bother anyone with their writing again? Here, try this thought experiment with me:

And that you have no ear.
Now do you think a nasty comment like this is more likely to make me understand your point of view, or classify you as an #$%%^%^ who I'm going to ignore from now on? Fun and games aside, I'm sorry, but you don't simply get to assert the effect this has on other people as fact. I've made clear in this thread why I think #queryfail was a pointless and mean exercise in logical terms (and many others, including agents, agree with me. Do you think Nathan Bransford and Janet Reid also "have no ear"?). You've responded by insulting me. You haven't convinced me you're right, but you've certainly convinced me that you're exactly the kind of person who would like #queryfail. Good to know.

Medievalist, I have ten articles and a book published through academic presses, and have been through the peer review wringer many, many times. I've never had the experience of having someone publicly claim that I should learn how to do something from my 3-year old. If I did, that person would not be likely to review an article for that journal again. The difference is instructive.

Adrienne: I got that the agent has now tried to play this off as humorous. I also know that I've heard lots of people make off-color jokes and then retreat rapidly behind the shield of "oh, it was all a joke," "get over it," "don't take things so seriously," and so on, all while refusing to acknowledge the illegitimacy of the initial jokes to begin with. Nor do I think something which is so educational *rumbling effect* can work that well when it's drenched in the mocking, dismissive attitude at the root of #queryfail.

Here's a thought: rather than dismissing the many, many people who were hurt here out of hand, how about we consider the remote possibility that they might be on to something, and that maybe, just maybe, public mocking of one's potential clients--over freaking Twitter--may not be the most professional and educational *flash of lightning* way to ensure better queries in the future? I may not have an ear, but I think I can still read the difference between satire and vitriol on occasion.
 
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MacAllister

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Victoria Strauss made a really interesting observation on the Writer Beware blog:

I'm often struck by the extraordinary amount of anger that's directed at agents--far more, it seems to me, than is directed at publishers or editors.
<snip>
I think the root cause of agent-focused anger lies in the uneven power balance between agents and unpublished writers. Since, query by query, the agent has the power to strike the writer into outer darkness, the agent acquires superhuman qualities. Since being represented is a state of ultimate desirability, the agent is elevated to the status of the Holy Grail. The agent becomes an archetype, rather than a fallible human being doing business the best s/he can.

I think Victoria is onto something that bears a closer look, here.

Now do you think a nasty comment like this is more likely to make me understand your point of view, or classify you as an #$%%^%^ who I'm going to ignore from now on? Fun and games aside, I'm sorry, but you don't simply get to assert the effect this has on other people as fact. I've made clear in this thread why I think #queryfail was a pointless and mean exercise in logical terms (and many others, including agents, agree with me. Do you think Nathan Bransford and Janet Reid also "have no ear"?). You've responded by insulting me. You haven't convinced me you're right, but you've certainly convinced me that you're exactly the kind of person who would like #queryfail. Good to know.

Dial it back a bit, Phoenix, eh? Many, many people DO think it was educational, generally well-intended, and found the window into an agent's world helpful. Many, many people read satire where you're reading malice and vitriol. You didn't. Fine. *shug* I suspect that taking the exercise personally isn't going to help you (or anyone else) either.

So what would you recommend when you've spelled out your submission guidelines clearly, in multiple locations, and people STILL send you queries with no pages? Or send you attachments that you've said plainly you will not open? And it happens not just once, but dozens of times a week?

Honestly? Yes. At that point, mockery becomes appropriate, as far as I can tell. I've read slush. In spite of our bluntly clear guidelines, I have people pasting 15K words into the bodies of emails, attaching pdfs or weird-ass files I have no inclination whatsoever to even try and open, sending me genres I don't publish, sending me freaking NOVELS ostensibly for my ezine, and writing to ask me if they should send a story at all. These people are online. Some of them I know from here, or from Twitter, or other places online. They're clearly NOT reading the submission guidelines. So if they see themselves in this post, and feel a little stung because "Oh, crap...I sent Mac my 20K word memoir for her specfic zine last week..." then GOOD! Maybe they'll finally figure it out, because clearly more traditional methods of imparting that information have been utterly useless.

If so, then mockery succeeded--at least in that single case--and may very well make a difference in their learning curve so they'll go and look up the damned submission guidelines, read them, follow them, and improve their own chances greatly as a direct result.
 
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badducky

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PhoenixFury, look around you. This is actually turning into a dogpile. And we're also writers and teachers and many of us know these agents, and/or ones just like them.

We're not dismissing that feelings were hurt. We're dismissing that feelings were hurt to such a high degree that it seems insane. The response is far worse than the offense.

For example, I encourage you to go back over your last post, as an academic, and look at where your emotions have clouded your own judgment into producing generalizations.

HapiSofi's comment is not nasty. Seriously, that is not a nasty comment. That's an assertion based on fact that you have difficulty hearing what is humor. Toothpaste has talked about that, too. No one is mocking you. We are not out to get you. She doesn't deserve to be talked to with &*%$&.

If you can't see that we are not out to get you, step away from the thread, take a deep breath and try again tomorrow.
 

Phoenix Fury

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PhoenixFury, look around you. This is actually turning into a dogpile. And we're also writers and teachers and many of us know these agents, and/or ones just like them.

We're not dismissing that feelings were hurt. We're dismissing that feelings were hurt to such a high degree that it seems insane. The response is far worse than the offense.

For example, I encourage you to go back over your last post, as an academic, and look at where your emotions have clouded your own judgment into producing generalizations.

HapiSofi's comment is not nasty. Seriously, that is not a nasty comment. That's an assertion based on fact that you have difficulty hearing what is humor. Toothpaste has talked about that, too. No one is mocking you. We are not out to get you. She doesn't deserve to be talked to with &*%$&.

I'm truly amused by this. If I read what you wrote, and respond with "you have no clue what an argument is," is that a logical claim based upon a fact, or an assertion (it would be an assertion, and would be wrong for me to say, by the way)? Second, I am in no way upset by anything that's been said here. Really. If you think my response is some overreaction, I'd respectfully suggest that you may not have an ear either (which is, of course, an entirely normal, non-nasty comment, right? :) ).

Moreover, I don't think anyone is mocking me, or out to get me. I've never said that. And given the number of people I've heard from privately, I hardly think this is all of you (whatever that would mean) against me. I am surprised that some people here are awfully willing to leap to the defense of a badly thought out exercise, so desperate are they to avoid even the impression of being in disagreement with a few (and only a few) agents, but I'm certainly not perturbed in any serious way. I'm fine with agreeing to disagree, as Adrienne said.

Finally, Mac: I'm not taking this personally. I would never send any of the queries I saw listed on QF to an agent (one of the reasons I don't think QF was educational), and I didn't participate in agentfail either. I just think that the reaction to agentfail, making it seem like a terrible attack on agents while not asking the reasonable question about why such things were perfectly okay in QF, is silly and deserves to be challenged. But no blood pressure issues here, I promise. :)
 
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badducky

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You can't will away your generalizations with a magic wand and the assertion that you're an academic. You made one assertion that is a "promise". Personal experience is not the same as a fact. In fact, there are students who respond to mockery. It is a generalization to assume otherwise.

Then, you also generalized about the itnentions of others, as if you truly know, and you alone, what they're thinking.

Then, you generalized about the people who use twitter. I assure you that there are stupid people on Twitter, just as there are smart people. It doesn't take much web savvy to come up with a password and a username. Also, it has little relation to one's ability to write queries. The skills are definitely not related.

Then, you attacked HapiSofi. Look, it isn't misreading. There was no markers of humor. No sarcastic exaggeration, or wit, or metaphoric language suggesting whimsy. You straight up attacked her.

You then claim that your experience in the academic wringer is universal. Which it isn't.

Then, you try to force Adrienne to acknowledge that if somebody, somewhere is offended by a joke, it's evil and wrong. Which is completely false.

Then, you attack these agents again for daring to talk about bad queries on twitter with the same, stubborn refusal to acknowledfge that maybe, maybe not everyone was offended, and it's okay to live in a world where sometimes people get offended by other people, even in professional settings, and a large part of being a professional is choosing yoru battles when you encounter stuff that bothers you.

Let it go, Pheonix. Just drop these guys off your query list and move on.

(Oh, and apologize to HapiSofi.)
 

badducky

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X-fails are f-ing addictive, aren't they?

S***! I am a living embodiment of the XKCD cartoon where I can't go to bed because someone is wrong on the internet!
 

Phoenix Fury

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You can't will away your generalizations with a magic wand and the assertion that you're an academic. You made one assertion that is a "promise". Personal experience is not the same as a fact. In fact, there are students who respond to mockery. It is a generalization to assume otherwise.

Sigh. I don't want to get into a battle of credentials here, ducky. I can give you countless examples of cases I've studied and personally experienced in which mocking--we're not talking about pleasant banter here--turned off students. This isn't an exaggerated claim; it's well accepted by educators. But I don't see the point of fighting, which was never my point in this thread, so if you think it's an unreasonable generalization, okay.

Then, you also generalized about the itnentions of others, as if you truly know, and you alone, what they're thinking.

No, I really didn't. I understand (and am sorry) that you're upset with me, but I made logical arguments, not emotional assertions.

Then, you generalized about the people who use twitter. I assure you that there are stupid people on Twitter, just as there are smart people. It doesn't take much web savvy to come up with a password and a username. Also, it has little relation to one's ability to write queries. The skills are definitely not related.

I'd refer you to your own arguments about making a joke, but for all those whom I insulted with my joke about Twitter not being the best medium for complex discussion, I sincerely apologize.

Then, you attacked HapiSofi. Look, it isn't misreading. There was no markers of humor. No sarcastic exaggeration, or wit, or metaphoric language suggesting whimsy. You straight up attacked her.

No, I didn't. HapiSofi told me to "get over it" and that I "had no ear." That's an insult, not a joke. I replied that saying something like that was not likely to make me understand her point of view, just as much of the tone in QF was not likely to make authors change the way they queried. I made no counter insult at all, unless you think my comment that she seems to be the kind of person who would like QF is itself insulting. If so, um--you may have some trouble with the whole "QF is fine" line of thinking...

You then claim that your experience in the academic wringer is universal. Which it isn't.

Agreed. This is why it's a good thing I never made any such claim. Medievalist mentioned that comments from the peer review system in academia were much harsher than QF. I disagreed based on my personal experience alone. Never said anything about it being a universal truth.

Then, you try to force Adrienne to acknowledge that if somebody, somewhere is offended by a joke, it's evil and wrong. Which is completely false.

And not at all what I said.

Then, you attack these agents again for daring to talk about bad queries on twitter with the same, stubborn refusal to acknowledfge that maybe, maybe not everyone was offended, and it's okay to live in a world where sometimes people get offended by other people, even in professional settings, and a large part of being a professional is choosing yoru battles when you encounter stuff that bothers you.

I don't think I'm being stubborn. But I am genuinely sorry you're so upset with me, and since I don't want the thread to be derailed I'll bow out of it now.
 
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Medievalist

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Medievalist, I have ten articles and a book published through academic presses, and have been through the peer review wringer many, many times. I've never had the experience of having someone publicly claim that I should learn how to do something from my 3-year old. If I did, that person would not be likely to review an article for that journal again. The difference is instructive.

An academic press is not the same thing, at all, as a scholarly press. Nor is peer review for an academic journal the same thing. Wiley or Jossey-Bass are academic presses. When I say "scholarly press," I mean presses from Research I universities; Oxford University Press, UC Press, University of Chicago Press, Yale University Press, Harvard University Press.

There's a reason reviewing a scholarly monograph includes an honorarium in the 250.00 to 1,000.00 range. The accompanying rancor is more expensive as well.

When the rewards for publication are so small (tenure, promotion, stars in your crown, but rarely royalties) the competition is exponentially more fierce. I've seen many many monograph mss. with reviewers suggestions of the most expeditious methods of suicide. Harold Bloom, of all people, is the most brutal of the more recognizable names. One of my mentors has the reputation of being brutal in three languages; I used to have to translate his scathing comments for callers.
 

badducky

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I'm glad you're bowing out, but I'm not upset with you.

I'm upset with your arguments, and - honestly - your failure at them.

You are crying foul of others for comitting the same thing you just did: tell jokes that risk offending others.

You also always seem to try to reword your way out of a corner, without leaving the corner. That's also troublesome.

I also love the weaselly way you say you won't bring up your credentials, but then immediately turn around and bring them up and tell me I couldn't possibly understand because of your mysterious credentials.

Again, I say that kindly, as a critique of the argument, and it's not intended as a personal statement.

As a debate tactic, it's cheap and - to me - completely destroys your credibility.

Best of luck in the next teapot tempest.
 

Medievalist

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If I look at a week's worth of manuscripts for a publisher with very clear guidelines about kinds of mss. (in this case only mss. about the Macintosh operating system, Macintosh computers, and Macintosh applications) I can toss at least half because they are for Windows.

Of the remaining mss., 40% will be in some unknown tongue that apparently has no standard requirements regarding orthography or syntax; it is not, however, English, so I can toss those aside as well.

I am left with 10% that might actually be worth looking at. I might find one that's possible. Maybe. if it's a good week.

If an author can follow instructions, they're already in the top 10%, so no, I don't think either queryfail or agentfail were "fails."

They were bloody realistic.
 
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Toothpaste

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Here's a thought: rather than dismissing the many, many people who were hurt here out of hand, how about we consider the remote possibility that they might be on to something, and that maybe, just maybe, public mocking of one's potential clients--over freaking Twitter--may not be the most professional and educational *flash of lightning* way to ensure better queries in the future? I may not have an ear, but I think I can still read the difference between satire and vitriol on occasion.

Hmm . . . not sure when I dismissed anyone. In fact if I may quote myself from earlier: "I agree that some participating agents did go too far, and many writers had legitimate calm complaints."

My issue has never been with whether queryfail, agentfail, were wise or idiotic, but that the vitriolic responses to both were shockingly out of proportion with what actually "went down" as it were. As I also stated earlier: "Look I get people were offended, I get that others were not. But I also get that people have blown both of these things way out of proportion, forgotten that the participants are human beings, fallible, and that the majority of people involved HAVE been rational about it. To me it's the people who WEREN'T involved, who never even read queryfail, or agentfail, who are the biggest problem."

In case I wasn't clear about it I meant the participants in both queryfail AND agentfail.

In fact, I think my point was in general: There were good points made in both "fails", but unfortunately they were overshadowed by negative examples of each, as I also said earlier - "It's amazing how one bad apple ruins the barrel."

Also I don't think any agent saw queryfail as a means to an end, as the sole way to educate over the proper way to query. I think that's why many of those agents also have detailed blogs on the subject and guidelines on their websites. In fact I don't think the most important lesson about queryfail was actually the "fail" part, but rather for the interested person to learn what a day in the life of an agent reading queries is like. To see just how many people, despite the guidelines being posted many places, don't follow them, to see how many queries agents get in a day. And to see the immediate impression a query makes.

As for the humour issue . . . well again, there seriously is no point in us going back and forth on this one. You weren't amused. Others were. And it is highly unlikely either will convince the other to change their mind. And that's okay!

Lastly, why does everyone else get to be referred to by their handle, but I get to be my real first name? Can't I be Toothpaste? I like being Toothpaste. It's minty fresh, or sometimes cinnamon-y. But I don't use that kind. I tried once the whitener one, but the baking soda flavour totally turned me off. . .
 
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badducky

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I refuse to call you Toothpaste, because that would be evil and wrong.

(Oh no! HandleFail! It's coming to a message board near you, Summer of '09!)
 

Cranky

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Toothpaste and I have gone around and around once before on the subjective humor thing, but I am in agreement with her here. It's because we've had this discussion before (in a different context) that I feel comfortable saying that, because she made the same point then and I agreed then as well that humor is subjective and that's okay.

I think everyone here does get that not everyone found #queryfail funny or even agree that it had some educational value. We don't have to all hold hands and sing kumbaya on this. Not even some agents agreed with it.

But that doesn't take away from the fact that some folks DID find it funny or educational, and I don't think there is anything wrong with them for finding it so, either. And I've been on the side where I was offended and upset, so I know very well what that feels like. At the same time, I have to give people the right to take away something else from an experience (or a piece of humor) that offends me.

I don't have to like it. Other people don't have to like it. And we don't have the right, imo, to browbeat people who disagree with us. They have a right to their opinion, same as we do.

And that's my two cents on the subject.
 

MacAllister

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Ohhhhh...badducky...you want Fail links? I can soooooo send you Fail links. Just be prepared to lose the next three months of your life.
 

badducky

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NO!

Seriously! It's 1AM in Atlanta, and I've got work in the morning!

I'm only awake at all because I lost three hours of work in a computer crash (that ate my BACKUP, TOO! Argh int he general direction of Bill Gates!)
 
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