Am I Nothing but a Big Whiner?

I’ve been posting a lot of real-life query experiences from the agent’s end. Of course I’ve been posting those that are rare, thought-provoking, and just plain confusing. In response to one of those posts I recently received this:

Also, please forgive me, but I have a bit of unsolicited advice. I found your square-off with the author on your web site a little cry-babyish. And this has nothing to do with your rejecting my cover letter. There are a lot of jerks in the world. How many will we try to cure? Just my two cents worth.

As with any response like this I can pick and choose what I’ll hear. I could hear nothing but “cry-babyish” and launch into a tirade defending myself or I could read the entire thing and respond accordingly.

I guess I do see how some people might think of those posts as me whining about how hard my life is as an agent (it’s not. Trust me.). They could also be viewed as an agent mocking those who don’t follow the rules. I suppose there might be some of that, although that’s not my true intention.

My original intention is simply to entertain. Ninety-nine percent of the queries I get are good. Not necessarily great enough for me to request more, but good in the sense that authors are paying attention to what it takes to attract the eye of an agent and they are doing their best to follow those rules. It’s the one percent that are fun. The authors who haven’t yet learned the hard truths about what it takes to get published and tend to think they are better than the other 99%. Those are the queries, or interactions, I might share. Not all, but some.

It’s also to show my readers, the ones who do want to learn about this business, that they’re doing just fine. They aren’t (usually) attacking agents or harassing agents. They are learning the ropes of the business so that when their time comes to officially enter the field as a professional (writer, agent, intern, editor) they have the educational background they will need to get started on the right foot.

Pretty sure I’m not a cry-baby, but if I was I’d be the type to cry in my beer. Salty beer is delicious.

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17 comments

  1. You are absolutely not a cry baby. I agree your posts are entertaining and can even assist those new to querying about the unexpected mistakes one can make.

  2. Oh, my Lord. Really? Jessica, I think you must be some kind of saint. I never realised. You have my deepest admiration. I love the Bookends blog. It’s so helpful and inclusive, and you celebrate with your authors when they’re published which is so lovely. What more can you do? Honestly!

  3. I hope the unsolicited “advice” you received doesn’t make you stop your blog posts. I have been using these posts as a source of information. Just like the Query Shark’s posts, yours have feeling and emotion and sometimes, snark, but that’s what makes them interesting (and informational). Your advice on query letter writing allowed me to create one that has since garnered a sufficient amount of requests. So I hope you keep doing what you’re doing. It’s helping a lot of us writers.

    1. Nope. In fact, I think these sorts of emails only inspire me to write more. I’ve always been a rebel that way. I’m thrilled your query is working. Congratulations!

  4. It’s a little disheartening to know that 99% of the queries are good. I’ve read other statistics that show the odds favor authors who can write solid queries are better than that. Not great but certainly better than 99:1.

  5. Oh… this must be the cry-baby post I saw the other day. Ha. Running late with my coffee this morning.

    Lord knows I’m nobody big, but good grief, some of the things I see editors/agents get are just, well… odd.

    Anyone that thinks you’re over the top, sure hasn’t popped by SMTB or even DA for a few reads. I had a buddy who messaged me once, her cover was featured on the “bad” covers piece. She was utterly distraught over the comments. I was like, GURL… palease. A) You know the covers gorgeous. B) Its done in fun. C) YOUR FREAKING book is featured on their site. (That is hard to do, good or bad.)

    From all the people I have met, I’ve never met you, but from word of mouth from those that have been around you for many years, I’ve only heard wonderful things, both as an agent AND person.

    Please keep the posts coming. As I’ve mentioned, I LOVE having my coffee while reading your blog.
    🙂
    (Clearly I need a second cup as I nearly wished you a happy hump day.)

  6. I hope its okay to say this, and you may say what we were told was wrong…but, at a con one time, during the agent/editor panel, they said out of ALL pitches, only maybe 10% actually follow-through with sending in.

    I was stunned.

  7. Actually, I find your posts (and the random pick-aparts) rather enlightening. Us web developers are always picking apart other sites and looking at what works, what doesn’t work, and where the market trend might be headed. I see the exact same thing happening with your blog posts – helping the authors outside the gates to see beyond articles and writing into what works or doesn’t work inside the business.

    I love seeing where others went wrong, then looking at my own work and cringing when I realize I’ve done the same thing. Or throwing a small party when I got it right. I adore your posts. Don’t stop writing them – my morning coffee and I would be so lonely… 😛

  8. I haven’t started writing my query yet. I do have a blank document called ‘query’. But I already know what the problems are going to be with the first drafts.
    I always waffle when I get emotional, doesn’t matter if I’m excited, upset or even fascinated by a subject. It’s because of the blog I know that won’t get me anywhere.

    And now that I’m thinking about it, if people can’t take a little ‘constructive critiquing’ in this business…

  9. When I read a comment like the one above, or the original email that spawned this whole conversation, I’m stunned. I also imagine you read them and think you dodged a bullet. If someone doesn’t respond to helpful feedback on his or her query, imagine the response to a rejected manuscript.

    Also, thanks, I now want a half-liter of Gose with a nice subtle note of coriander.

  10. Salty…tears…beer. I get it. For the record, beer is awesome. As is unsolicited advice. I took the response to the query as–‘Hey guys, don’t do this.’ I hope I interpreted that correctly. And now I have to peruse this blog to find said amazing articles and advice. I’d like a beer for using that word correctly.

    1. I’ll give you a virtual beer, Wendiw, but you have to be more specific on what you want. While you decide, how about I pour you a taster of Where The Mild Things Are? Or maybe a sample of Hops of Wrath.

      (Those are real beers, btw.)

  11. Gee whiz, I’ve never read your posts that way. Informative and entertaining – yes, cry-baby and whingy – no.

    Reading the what-not-to-do posts are entertaining, but they are also a good reminder about how to communicate/query an agent.

    Bobbi, I’ve done pitches where I haven’t followed through, but sometimes life has thrown a curveball (like one conference when the day after we found out we had to relocate 1,700km for the Hubs work asap).

    Or there have been occasions when I’ve decided the agent isn’t a fit for me (like when one American agent who came to our Australian conference told me she didn’t think Australian settings would sell – still wondering why she came – but she requested, in a very offhand manner, my Australian set ms. Not who I want representing my work).

  12. I love reading your blog. You requested my full and passed, BUT you gave me much needed feedback that I’m now addressing. So please, Baby, cry all you want. It’s instructive, guiding, and appreciated!! 🙂

    Happy cries,

    Teri

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