QueryFail/AgentFail/etc?

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Status
Not open for further replies.

aadams73

A Work in Progress
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
9,901
Reaction score
6,428
Location
Oregon
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.

I don't mean to be flippant, but honestly, if you're so sensitive that those comments turn you off writing then you're not cut out for this business. And if you can't read instructions then you're not cut out for this business(or pretty much any business).
 

Kathleen42

crushing on fictional characters
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 12, 2008
Messages
7,181
Reaction score
1,275
Location
Canada
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.

*sniffle* I want fail links.
 

Calla Lily

Charmingly manic
Staff member
Moderator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
38,308
Reaction score
16,194
Location
Non carborundum illegitimi
Website
www.aliceloweecey.net
Last weekend I discovered that the LOLCats site has a whole row of tabs at the top now. *whimper* I spent three hours on the LOLcelebs tab and the Engrish tab. There's at least one Fail tab, too. Help!
 

badducky

No Time For Chitchat, Kemosabe.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 20, 2005
Messages
3,951
Reaction score
849
Location
San Antonio, TX
Website
jmmcdermott.blogspot.com
I should mention because it's come up in PM by people not PHeonixFury:

About student mockery - not every teaching scenario happens in a classroom, and not every classroom is an academic one.

In Basic Training, for instance, mockery is an important teaching tool.

In non-classroom settings - like, for instance Miss Snark, or Queryfail - quite a lot of people found the mockery of anonymous queries useful and helpful.

Many websites use anonymous mockery to teach people what is and is not appropriate behavior. You now those guys that used on-line mockery to "out" the problems they faced during their interactions with a call center, or a company? They are educating companies, beyond just that one, through mockery.

It is false logic to place the single, narrow teaching scenario of "an academic classroom" and apply those same rules as a universal.

Hope I cleared that one up for y'all.
 

ChaosTitan

Around
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 8, 2005
Messages
15,463
Reaction score
2,886
Location
The not-so-distant future
Website
kellymeding.com
Why do the fun conversations always spawn when I'm away from my computer for the day?

Catching up and tossing out opinions...

As I am grateful to Absolute Write. Seriously, you guys are going in my acknowledgement section. So many things I know I absorbed bit by bit around here, and it meant I launched into the querying process feeling well-informed and half-way professional.

Ditto to Judg's entire post. And AW *is* in my acknowledgments. ;)

The difference between queryfail and agentfail is that while queryfail is directed at queries (the writing, not the person), agentfail is directed at people. It is much more personal and hurtful IMO.

Yes. It's something that I see commented upon time and again (and again and again....). Rejections are not personal, they are professional. They are rejecting a badly written letter, a boring concept, the wrong genre, a too-long word count, or any number of things that invoke "No."


I also get that some folks are frustrated by the lack of response to queries. Hell, I have unanswered e-queries from three years ago. Do I care now? No. Did I care a year ago, before I was agented or contracted? No.

Thing is, no one group will ever be satisfied. If all agents suddenly gave in and said "Okay, I'll respond to all queries, at the very least with a No," it won't be enough. People will start grousing because they want to know why the agent said "no."

Which is where (to me) queryfail came into play. This was the agent saying (yes, in a mocking and humorous fashion) WHY they are saying no. "No, you obviously didn't read our submission guidelines." "No, your query has half a dozen glaring spelling errors, so I tremble to see your manuscript." "No, my website clearly says I do not represent romance, so why are you sending me a frigging romance?" "No, your book is not the next Harry Potter, so stop claiming it will be!"

Methinks most folks really don't want to know the reason why they're being rejected.

Well, it is a bit different (not that I'm defending the whining). I regularly get unsolicited business offers but I don't really NEED the services. Agents need books to represent.

Only if the agents are actively building their client lists. Many agents read queries year-round, because they'll bend over backward to rep a really good book, if one happens to land on their desk. But that doesn't mean they need new clients or new books.

An agent's needs can be judged by doing a little research. For example, Colleen Lindsay is currently closed to submissions, and yet she still gets queries. These are all unsolicated queries, and she's blatantly said they're getting deleted unread. The only thing she needs right now are for agent-seeking writers to read her submission guidelines.


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,

Thank you for telling me why I'm "willing to leap to the defense" of these agents. I didn't realize it was because I was so desperate to not be thought of badly. :rolleyes:


I don't mean to be flippant, but honestly, if you're so sensitive that those comments turn you off writing then you're not cut out for this business. And if you can't read instructions then you're not cut out for this business(or pretty much any business).

QFT. This isn't directed at anyone in particular, but it needs to be said. Frankly, I'm ecstatic I didn't reach the stage I'm at five years ago. I was too sensitive about my writing, too quick to take things personally that just were not personal. I didn't take criticism well. I've grown a lot, especially after finding AW, and I'm able to see things in their proper perspective.

I don't know if queryfail and agentfail were good or bad things. But in the long run, both exercises got us talking. And if even one or two writers are able to learn something from all of this, and to fix up a query that might otherwise have gotten a quick boot, and eventually give us all one or two new amazing authors to enjoy...wasn't it kind of worth it?
 

Cav Guy

Living in the backstory
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 14, 2006
Messages
809
Reaction score
146
Location
Montana - About a century too late
Personally I think both are a total waste of time. The power dynamic between agents and authors is nothing new...and in many ways it's same as between a teacher and his or her students. The student is responsible for reading the assignment and turning in good work, and the teacher is responsible for grading and evaluating that work and (when needed or possible) providing constructive feedback to make the next assignment better. Students who turn in crappy work should expect to fail, and teachers who publicly mock students should expect to be disliked and/or flamed. Such is life.

In so many ways it's a symbiotic relationship...we need agents, but they couldn't exist without authors. So I'm not especially inclined to deify either group. We're all people trying to make a living at the end of the day...and both xfail "projects" were stupid from that standpoint. Just sayin'...
 

Scribhneoir

Reinventing Myself
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 1, 2006
Messages
1,165
Reaction score
134
Location
Southern California
I haven't reached the point where I'm ready to query agents, so I have no personal war stories and no frustrations gnawing at my soul. However, I long ago decided that I would not query any agent who had a "no response=no" policy because I find that to be an unprofessional way to conduct business. <shrug> My opinion only, and one that I'm sure will not cause any agents to gnash their teeth in frustration.

Now that Nathan Bransford has revealed that it's also secret agent code for "not looking for new clients" I kind of feel it's also a slightly dishonest way to conduct business. If you're not open to new clients, don't be open to queries. It would save everyone a lot of time.

But I do understand that while they don't want new clients, they're also unwilling to take the chance of missing out on the next JK Rowling. I also understand that there's always going be a certain number of writers who don't follow the guidelines and would query in spite of the fact that the agent is not accepting queries. So agents take the easy way out -- keep the gates open, but ignore the queries that come through them. This is never going to change, no matter how many complaints are aired via forums like agentfail, so all writers can do is decide for themselves whether they want to approach those agents.

The agents who've responded to agentfail for the most part show their respect for writers every day on their blogs. Yet even they seem bewildered by the level of frustration writers showed on this issue, as if they truly don't understand why being ignored tends to generate anger rather than joy. Agents are busy, even form rejections take time, auto-responses are tricky, they explain. Fair enough.

But I have to wonder if agents would consider "no response=no" to be a professional business policy if they were on the receiving end of it. So, to any agent reading this, please tell me -- if the editors you submit your clients' manuscripts to suddenly announced that they would only respond if the answer was yes, would you just shrug and accept it because editors are busy people? Especially if this policy included no acknowledgment that your electronic submission was received, and no parameters telling you when silence becomes "no" instead of "haven't gotten to it yet"? Would you consider that professional? Not practical, not convenient -- professional. Just curious.
 

Esopha

bam pow zap.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 31, 2007
Messages
12,665
Reaction score
2,628
Location
Magic America
Another brief thought:

I think that agentfail, like queryfail, was meant to educate as well. After all, Bookends hosted it, and they're a lit agency themselves.

I think that both of them had a great capacity to educate, but that was mauled by poor diction a few people who had to use them as opportunities to bathe in vitriol and post unprofessional comments. Which happens a lot on the internet.

I am not surprised.
 

ChaosTitan

Around
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 8, 2005
Messages
15,463
Reaction score
2,886
Location
The not-so-distant future
Website
kellymeding.com
So, to any agent reading this, please tell me -- if the editors you submit your clients' manuscripts to suddenly announced that they would only respond if the answer was yes, would you just shrug and accept it because editors are busy people? Especially if this policy included no acknowledgment that your electronic submission was received, and no parameters telling you when silence becomes "no" instead of "haven't gotten to it yet"? Would you consider that professional? Not practical, not convenient -- professional. Just curious.

I'm not an agent, and I do understand the point you're making with this, but you're comparing apples and oranges. Agents and editors simply don't DO the same things, so you can't just turn the tables like that and have the argument hold.

Agents receive hundreds of queries a week (I've seen some who say they can get up to two thousand in a single week) from prospective writers. Editors don't receive anywhere near that many pitches from agents in a single week. Agents do their homework--they know who to pitch their project to, they know the editor's guidelines for length and genre, they know who's actively looking for what. It's their job to know these things, so they can effectively pitch their authors to the right editors, and the editors can, in turn, request the material.

This is where your argument breaks down. Editors request to read these manuscripts, so ninety-nine times out of a hundred, a response will be given. Just like agents who request partial/full manuscripts will, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, reply to the author.

If agents started sending mass queries to editors that were badly written, poorly spelled, sent to the wrong house, not a genre the editor bought, way too long in word count, or ridiculously bad in their execution, and those same editors had inboxes overflowing with hundreds and hundreds of the same...maybe editors would have reason to start a "no response=no" policy.

#

Some seem to think it's a case of a few bad apples spoiling the barrel. More like it's a pile of hay hiding a couple of great needles. YMMV.
 

Twizzle

Cluck that.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 31, 2007
Messages
1,457
Reaction score
461
Location
Middle of the road.
Just like agents who request partial/full manuscripts will, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, reply to the author.

Let's be honest, the numbers are probably much worse than that. :( Never mind fail posts, personally, I've seen quite few comments about this round here in beware and ask an agent about agents not responding to requested material or taking a very long time to respond. Also, it's happened to me and those close to me. Not enough to get my panties in knots, but enough to know to suspect it's less than 99.

I also suspect that for every query that was used as an example of bad, a hundred more even worse were sitting in that agent's inbox.

I didn't participate, I didn't agree with either, but neither side lied as far as I can tell. All those things happened, and some of the things that were given as examples happen more frequently than either side seems to want to admit.

But smart agents and smart writers will use these 2 disasters to their advantage. There's opportunity in everything. They will go thru, look for what they're doing wrong, and attempt to change. After all, smart agents want the best writers to query them with the strongest projects. And smart writers will glean who to query and who not to query. So whether it was good or bad, ultimately someone will benefit from these events. It's just good business to do so, and publishing is after all just a business.
 
Last edited:

ChaosTitan

Around
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 8, 2005
Messages
15,463
Reaction score
2,886
Location
The not-so-distant future
Website
kellymeding.com
Let's be honest, the numbers are probably much worse than that. :( Never mind fail posts, personally, I've seen quite few comments about this round here in beware and ask an agent about agents not responding to requested material or taking a very long time to respond. Also, it's happened to me and those close to me. Not enough to get my panties in knots, but enough to know to suspect it's less than 99.

I'll concede the numbers could be worse. I admit, I've been lucky in that every full or partial I had out received a reply at some point (although one partial did take ten months), so this is only my experience. But I won't count "long time" in the same category as "no response." A response is a response. :)
 

Scribhneoir

Reinventing Myself
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 1, 2006
Messages
1,165
Reaction score
134
Location
Southern California
I'm not an agent, and I do understand the point you're making with this, but you're comparing apples and oranges. Agents and editors simply don't DO the same things, so you can't just turn the tables like that and have the argument hold.

I agree it's not a perfect comparison, but it's as close as I could come up with. Yes, the editor/agent relationship is quite different than the agent/aspiring writer relationship, not least of all because editors recognize agents as professional colleagues and treat them accordingly. Agents all too often look at aspiring writers as an annoying but necessary evil and also treat them accordingly.

Will this perception ever change? No. Too many (mostly bad) writers vying for attention. Agents have all the power at that point and if they don't feel like answering all their business correspondence, they won't. All I hoped my question would do is maybe make an agent think a little more about the issue instead of brushing off the complaints as nothing more than unreasonable expectations. Then maybe they'd find that setting up an auto-response wouldn't be so burdensome after all.

This is where your argument breaks down. Editors request to read these manuscripts, so ninety-nine times out of a hundred, a response will be given. Just like agents who request partial/full manuscripts will, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, reply to the author.

This is where I hoped my little thought experiment would take root. Right now, agents get responses. I wanted them to imagine what it would be like NOT to get responses. Would agents be so accepting of the silence=no way of doing business if it was happening to them? Saying it never happens and never will happen because agents target their submissions kind of misses the point.

And, yes, I do realize that agents are innundated with queriers, most of whom run the gamut from competent-but-dull to illiterate-lunatic. That makes their job much harder than that of editors. I appreciate that. I just wanted to know if agents really consider "no response=no" to be professional or simply expedient.

I don't know . . . maybe it's just because I worked my way through school at a place where courtesy towards demanding hordes was taken very, very seriously, but I think even the illiterate lunatics deserve an auto-response rejection.
 

Wayne K

Banned
Joined
Dec 3, 2008
Messages
21,564
Reaction score
8,082
Originally Posted by Judg
As I am grateful to Absolute Write. Seriously, you guys are going in my acknowledgement section. So many things I know I absorbed bit by bit around here, and it meant I launched into the querying process feeling well-informed and half-way professional.

I have to go along with this too. I started saying the same thing about AW as an acknowledgement soon after I got here.
 

MacAllister

'Twas but a dream of thee
Staff member
Boss Mare
Administrator
Super Moderator
Moderator
Kind Benefactor
VPX
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Messages
21,864
Reaction score
10,284
Location
Out on a limb
Website
macallisterstone.com
From Chaostitan's link:

When I first started officially welcoming emailed queries (in late 2006) I would reply to all of them. When I rejected one, I would say, “Thank you, but this is not for me. Best, Ginger Clark” or something like that. I did that for about four months. Then I stopped—because I got sick of receiving rude responses. Email makes it so easy for someone to reply, “Well, screw you.” Which people did. Repeatedly.

So I stopped responding, and made it very clear on my Publishers Marketplace page what my policy was.

As for an automatic response—that’s something I have considered doing. Then I remember that every so often, one of my clients will email me a question with a subject line saying, “Quick query for you.” I would rather they not get an automated response, treating them like an aspiring author.

I suppose I could just hit reply on every email, and paste in a form response, but—please see my earlier experience! Some stranger saying “screw you” or “Wow, you’re an asshole”….I try not to take that personally, but some days it would just really get under my skin.

I know that 90% of the people I would be replying to would behave professionally, but it’s that 10% that keeps me from amending my policy.

EditorialAnonymous talks about a letter she received from Erin Murphy, on this same subject:
I have been queried via email by a man writing as [redacted], whose email ID says [redacted]--so I'm not really sure who he actually is. He has queried me at least once a month since November for an adult historical novel--the same novel in every query.

In November and December I sent him form rejections, which state clearly that I only represent children's books and outline my submission policy. After that, I just deleted his inquiries.

I just got another, and this time I sent him a firm reply asking him to remove me from his email list and stating how many times I'd heard from him already.

This is what I got back:

"I know you would like to be left alone. But you are a literary agent, and I have a job to do. And I do apologize for any future queries that you must receive.

"But until [my novel] is published, you will be queried."

I totally, totally get why some agents think "no response=no"--however imperfect--is the least horrible of the available evils.
 

Wayne K

Banned
Joined
Dec 3, 2008
Messages
21,564
Reaction score
8,082
Then I stopped—because I got sick of receiving rude responses. Email makes it so easy for someone to reply, “Well, screw you.” Which people did. Repeatedly.

I didn't think about this before. It does bother me when I get no response at all but I don't sweat it. It does make me wonder if they got it at all though. That happens.

people who write screw you or something like that, I would send them a "We took another look at your proposal but then we got your e-mail..."
 

C.J. Rockwell

Not so new, really
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 29, 2007
Messages
712
Reaction score
88
Website
www.talkinganimaladdicts.com
Something I must say

I haven't read either Agentfail or Queryfail, but having read the countless uproar on this thread, I have to say something, if only to work through my own frustrations.

I'm not going to pretend that I understand what agents and editors go through on a daily basis, and I repsect the hard work they do whether or not I wanted to be a writer. By that same token, I'm not going to pretend that they're not wannabe writers out there who make things harder for the serious writers harder because of their shenanigans.

I can only speak for what I know, and myself, however limited that is. It's still honest.

I take pride in doing everything in my power to make my work the best it can be. Through AW I've learned how vital it is to make a good first impression, to push my limits as a writer, to learn in the face of constant frustration, etc.

I've done my fair share of research on the publishing industry, learning everything I can. That said, it seems the more I learn, the more brokenhearted I feel about some of what I've learned.

It's easy to say something like, "Take the time you normally complain and make your book better" but I feel that blunt statement in some ways does more harm than good.

Why? Because it implies that we must throw away our feelings.

Most writers don't want to publish just one book and only one book. Many of us want to share tons more stories than that. But if it takes 30 years (Over a third of the average life expectancy) to get one book in the best shape possible, the chances of sharing more diminishes somewhat. Unless you're a super fast writer, plus an even faster editor of your own work, this is a problem.

Think of how many good writers have published one book every decade/half decade or so.

Think about the countless writers who died early in the lifetime, and only have a handful of books make it to the masses.

We have our whole life to achieve our dreams, to improve our skills, but as many songs, movies, and books constantly remind us, we don't have forever.

Unless someone develops a way we can live an extra 100 years without our bodies deteriorating, and maintain a 40 year old's vitality at the very least, there comes a point where we either give up out of frustration/old age, or because we nearing death.

Whether or not you believe in a God of any kind, I refuse to believe that our only lot in life is to work and suffer. Otherwise the only movies and books we'd see would be about post-apocolyptic turmoil.


If the only reason we live on Earth is to work, suffer, and die when our time came, why were given the ability to dream, to hope, to have emotions. If no one ever achieved their dreams, much of what's happened in our history would never have happened.

We have to survive to live, but survival isn't LIVING.

No matter how naïve, childish, or immature this sounds, that's just the way I feel.
 

Medievalist

Moderator
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
25,450
Reaction score
6,343
We have our whole life to achieve our dreams, to improve our skills, but as many songs, movies, and books constantly remind us, we don't have forever.

Unless someone develops a way we can live an extra 100 years without our bodies deteriorating, and maintain a 40 year old's vitality at the very least, there comes a point where we either give up out of frustration/old age, or because we nearing death.

I understand that.

At the same time, to be blunt (and I'm not directing this at C. J. or anyone explicitly) some people really aren't ever going to be published. They don't write well enough. Most people who submit to publishers, agents, and editors, don't write well enough, or don't get story, or character, or English--they just don't.

I used to be a music major. I had years of lessons--keyboard and flute and various related instruments. I practiced, every day. For hours. I worked.

I sucked.

I really sucked. I realized it, finally, at the end of my junior year. I didn't have what it took in terms of the minimum skill level, and that thing called talent, to have a B.A. in music, and I never would.

I moved on.
 

C.J. Rockwell

Not so new, really
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 29, 2007
Messages
712
Reaction score
88
Website
www.talkinganimaladdicts.com
I moved on.

To what?

I only ask because many say that, but they never say what they moved on to.

There are only so many times you can go through countless broken dreams before you either-

1. Give up on ever having a dream come true.
2. Never stop trying.

For me, I've been through so many dreams before coming to writing, and if this doesn't pan out for me, I have no idea what else I could do.

In that sense, I can understand why many try for things they may not achieve.

Who wants to reach the end of their life and never did anything that-

1. Were good at
2. They loved

As someone important told me many times, It's that simple.
 

Twizzle

Cluck that.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 31, 2007
Messages
1,457
Reaction score
461
Location
Middle of the road.
But I won't count "long time" in the same category as "no response." A response is a response. :)

Definitely, agreed. I only included it in reference to those very long responses that people inevitably chalk up as nonresponses, only to find some gawd awful time later, surprise...
 

Medievalist

Moderator
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
25,450
Reaction score
6,343
To what?

I only ask because many say that, but they never say what they moved on to.

I switched at the end of my junior year to an English degree. My hope/goal/desire was to teach.

I'm writing for a living.

I loathe writing. It's too much like work.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Elizabeth George's book Write Away