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Just to remind you that we aren’t a bunch of Scrooges who sit around and complain about authors, I want to share another list of things that make us chuckle throughout the day because there are few things I love better then a good laugh.

From one query letter: “Completed in 1998, the work has gone through extensive revisions and professional editing.” And from another, the copyright date clearly labeled the book as having been completed in 2006. Neither are a good sign.

“I have an idea for a celebrity tell-all, but have signed non-disclosure agreements. I assume you know how to get around these.” I think you need a lawyer, not an agent. Even if I was a fan of the celebrity tell-all, I have no desire to get near a project that has clear lawsuit potential.

A very persistent phone caller finally got through to ask if an agent was needed to submit to me. Amazing that so much research could be done to find my phone number, but the web site address was nowhere nearby.

Make sure when giving word count that you’re actually looking at word count and not character count. Recently we received a corrected query clarifying that the book is about 70,000 words, not the 300,000 the initial query stated.

“After going over your web site I’ve come to the conclusion that you may by crazy, right now that works for me.” Well, I’m glad it works for this writer because I’m not so sure it works for me.


Category: Blog


  1. Jessica,
    Thanks for sharing. I needed a laugh this morning. I'd be interested in the proportion of queries that bring a smile to your face vs. those that just make you sigh and slump your shoulders.

  2. It's quite funny to see what people will do to get attention. I love hearing agent stories – hey, maybe that's a good idea for a book. . . an agent tell-all – how do you feel about those? 🙂

  3. Yeeeeeah, but that celebrity tell all would make for great fiction. A celeb would have to come out of the closet and admit it was their hi-jinks before they could sue. And sue for what? The average advance is like $4.35 and an "I Write" button, or so I hear.

  4. Jessica, why would a copyright of 2006 be so bad? I don't list the copyright on my ms, but on my website, the copyright of my novel's first chapter is 2005 (the first version of my novel). It's been a long process, with revisions from agents, etc. Wondering if I should lie and update the date on my site!

  5. Anon 9:45 — I'm with you on wondering why 2006 is such a bad thing.

    I've had an agented book sit on an editor's desk for over nine months while she hemmed and hawed over it before finally decided she was passing on it. I've done a rewrite for another editor (as part of an exclusive during which I did not send the ms to others) where it took me about two months to do the revisions and another couple of months of us emailing back and forth before she ended up passing, too.

    A lot of that was me waiting on editors, not me being lazy. And lets face it, agents are even slower at times. No one is going to mass query 80 agents at the same time. You could conceivably have a book that takes a year or more just to find an agent, that does't mean you aren't working on other ms.

  6. Is it wrong of me to enjoy these things so much?

    On the one hand, there's terrible guilt associated with (virtual) pointing and laughing. On the other hand, funny is funny and who can keep a straight face when Aunt Bertha passes gas during the sermon with a sound like a bull elephant?

    Okay, I'll laugh, but I won't enjoy it.

  7. I wish you'd share even more of these!
    As for the copyright issue: why would someone even have a copyright on something that hasn't been published?

  8. Ahh … much needed laughter! I really hope we don't start needing primary agents to submit to secondary agents to submit to publishing houses!! That would be the end for me! 🙂

  9. An answer to the copyright issue.

    Presumably the author had the book copyrighted when it was completed. If the book was completed in 2006 that leads me to believe the author has spent the last three years looking for an agent. Sure, it's easy to believe an author can spend that much time before finding an agent, but I'm not sure I'd advertise it. If everyone in three years time has rejected the book what makes you think I'd want to see it?


  10. The stale copyright date is easy to get around. You just put the current year on the title page of the manuscript. As soon as you change a word, it's a new work. And it's not necessary to register the manuscript with the Copyright Office.

    My legal advice is worth exactly what I put in–my $.02.

  11. Thanks, Jessica and Lily – I've "updated" the copyright on my website to last year. I've changed a lot more than one word!

  12. That is just too funny–especially the word/character count one! I've had that moment of confusion, and had to double-check. Lmao

    You should have a special pile of queries that have these kinds of mistakes. That way, you read them when you're getting frustrated/tired/whatnot, you'll have a giggle and feel better.

    Everyone needs a good giggle in the morning. =)

  13. "After going over your web site I've come to the conclusion that you may by crazy, right now that works for me"

    Whoa! That one's a classic. I'm assuming the author meant 'crazy' in the 'cool and fun to be around' way and didn't realize it was an insult? I'm still perplexed as to why someone would contact an agent to ask if an agent was needed to submit.

  14. Jessica, from your blog you seem to be one of the least crazy folks in this crazy biz! IMHO
    Did they really think they'd win you over with that "compliment?"

  15. Jessica, do you need to put a copyright symbol and the date on your manuscript if you're querying in the U.S.? We don't have to in Australia but some people do and I'm wondering what the situation is in the U.S.

  16. Mireyah, I agree with your suggestion for a pile of funny queries.

    In one of my old jobs, we had a computerised system for logging phone messages, and my boss and I used to print out and keep the funny ones. We would staple them together periodically and look through them whenever we had a bad day. I took a copy with me when I left and I'm pretty sure I still have it somewhere. I got us through some tough times.

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