Please Stop

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 01 2009

I wish I had kept track, I really do, but it must be at least 20 times by now that I have received the exact same query, for the exact same book from the exact same author, but interestingly, all from different email addresses. The email arrives at least a couple of times a week and sometimes daily. I have already rejected one of these emails, asked the author to stop submitting in another, and deleted the rest.

This has been going on for over a month and yet there’s no sign of it stopping so, dear author of Elizabeth’s story about “an abused woman [who] is the greatest composer who ever lived,” please stop sending me these emails. They are a waste of your time, a waste of my time, and completely counterproductive.

Oh, and I know I’m not the only agent who is irritated by this since all of your emails are being sent to “undisclosed recipients.”


62 responses to “Please Stop”

  1. Avatar Shawntelle says:

    I hope you blacklist the IP address of the person doing this to you. It is very unprofessional and makes other authors look bad.

    I find it unfortunate that this person is jeopardizing their career by relentlessly sending out their query in this manner.

  2. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Serial querier? Sociopathic querying? Wow.

  3. Avatar Jodi Meadows says:

    I’ve gotten it, too. Three different email addresses. When you email to ask him to stop? He writes back, “The queries will continue until ELIZABETH is published.”

    I’m thinking about pointing him at PublishAmerica.

    I just delete them now. They don’t stop. Another agent asked Yahoo (his email provider) to make him go away, but I suspect Yahoo has more important things to deal with than a bunch of angry literary agents. (Those fools!)

  4. Avatar imabooklova says:

    I’ve been getting those, too! Only I think mine have been coming from only two different addresses. Maybe the rejection worked, because I haven’t received a query from him in a week *knock on wood*.

  5. It could be spammers trying to verify your email address. If you reply, the email is treated as ‘live’ and therefore worth more to those that sell these lists.

    But then again, it may just be someone who could teach tropical skin diseases how to be irritating.

  6. Avatar Susan says:

    There’s a novel in here alright, and I’m not talking about Elizabeth’s.

    Remind me, somebody, not to watch the Shining or read Misery for a while. Holy cow.

  7. Avatar Kimber An says:

    As irritating as it may be, I think it’s important to understand the cause. A lot of aspiring authors don’t believe their query letters get read at all. So, this is one way they try to make sure. I hope it’s realized this method doesn’t work and only makes the agent or editor not want to read anything sent at all.

  8. Jessica, Just pretend it’s one of those “would you like a larger penis?” spams and delete accordingly. Colleen Lindsay mentioned a query stalker recently. I wonder if it’s the same whack job. And to you, you crazy person who’s written the Elizabeth – the greatest composer in the cosmos story – back off, babe. You’re giving all of us tasteful, sane, delusional writers a bad name.

  9. Avatar Anita says:

    Jessica and other agents: I was at a conference recently. Nathan Bransford was talking with Ginger Clark about (I’m guessing) the same writer. Nathan has developed a little doo-dad which automatically deletes the guy’s queries. You might want to get with Nathan on this one.

  10. Avatar Anonymous says:

    What an idiot. Way to put yourself on a balcklist, fool.

  11. Avatar Kim Lionetti says:

    Yep, me too. Elizabeth needs to start playing a new tune.

    I’ve responded to the query three times and have still received it numerous times since. But it’s hard to block it, because the sender changes the e-mail address it’s sent from. I don’t understand how anyone thinks such an annoying approach could be effective.

  12. Avatar Anonymous says:

    My Advice to Serial Querier:

    We all understand the desperation of “knowing” we’ve written a bestseller that will have a powerful and transformative impact on society. We’ve all poured our hearts and souls, and often years of writing, into our first novel. Very often that first novel is a catharsis for a real-life event. It’s our “test pancake” and because of that, will probably never get published. Harsh reality, but reality nonetheless.

    Sadly, the subject of abuse is of interest primarily to those directly affected by it. I believe the popularity of “To Catch a Predator” is NOT a sign of the public’s abiding passion to root out predators but is, instead, a reflection of our insatiable voyeurism.

    You need to write something new that is completely unrelated to abuse. Put your current novel away for at least a year. Consider therapy if the novel is a result of abuse of you or a family member. Therapy helps – I know from experience.

    And stop sending the queries. You’re wasting your time, driving yourself nuts, and if the publishing community ever figures out who you are, you will never get anything published.

    BTW: I believe this falls into the category of cyberstalking and I’m 99% sure that it is a violation of federal law.

    Serial Querier: don’t do this to yourself.

  13. Avatar Yunaleska says:

    Could there be a way to automatically delete it if it has a certain title?

    Debra – authors are sane? That’s welcome news! Everyone else who isn’t an author is abnormal.

  14. Avatar jimnduncan says:

    There are ways to sort incoming mail (don’t ask me about software because I’m pretty clueless in this regard) which will examine the content and then you can have your mail program do whatever based on this sorting. So, I expect you could make it so this goofball’s queries get dumped or you know…set on fire or something.

  15. Avatar magolla says:

    This querier really ticks me off. Granted, Elizabeth is passsionate about the story and it might be a ‘real life’ type of thing, but geez, get a grip!! Agents obviously don’t want to represent you, go to PubAmerica or Lulu to self publish it and sell it out of your car trunk, but quit wasting the agent’s time when she could be reading my query!! You taint the rest of us with your stalking and give writers a bad name.
    Oh, once I sent an agent a second query for the same book three months after the first and FELT HORRIBLE ABOUT IT! Oops. Sorry.

  16. Avatar Litgirl01 says:

    I’m thinking that stalking is not the way to get an agent to work with you! :-/ What is that person thinking???

  17. Avatar WendyCinNYC says:

    Maybe the guy is just messing with you and there is no ELIZABETH. He’s just trying to slowly drive all literary agents insane.

  18. Avatar Lois Lane II says:

    I’m sorry to laugh at that — especially since we’re trying to get our book published, but I mean…SERIOUSLY???? Sorry you have to go through that, but at least this blog lets me and others know not to do that. 😉 Hope the rest of your day goes well!!!

  19. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I saw a power spammer interviewed on television a year or so ago. He has had his windows smashed, his tires slashed, and has received death threats. That just egged him on to more spamming. He told the interviewer: “You can’t stop it!”

    I think he may have been wrong. Someone got shut down because the spam I receive suddenly diminished by several hundred mail pieces a day a couple of months ago.

    Anyway, that interview made it apparent fraud and commerce are not necessarily what drive this activity. Some people just like to be obnoxious.

  20. I’ve been getting this one too. I think I’m actually up to 4 email addresses now and it’s been going on since at least October of last year. I highly doubt that he will stop and suspect if he sees any of our posts on the subject that it will only feed his desire for recognition. In some ways, it’s really quite sad actually.

  21. Avatar Fawn Neun says:

    I’ve heard about this person, with the same query, with the same modus operandi, with the same response to rejection from several agents now.

    Why doesn’t he just self-publish, because after this, NO AGENT will EVER, EVER, EVER work with him. Doesn’t he realize this by now?

    Self publishing costs $75 for an ISBN number and the time it takes to learn to convert a .doc to pdf; put it on Lulu and leave the rest of us alone.

  22. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Anon 9:39 and others: I have it on maybe the very best authority that it is NOT cyberstalking, and NOT a violation of federal law. More than 99%. Unless he’s threatening the recipients, and that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s just really annoying, and counterproductive for the guy. Sorry you have to deal with it. What an idiot. (But not a felon, or even a criminal.)

  23. Avatar pegasus358 says:

    He used to query our agency via snail mail. Every day a new one would arrive in a manila envelope, with “Novel Query” written on the front in big red letters. He finally stopped that, but then we started receiving the emails too, but it was only from one email address. I blocked sender, and everyone else here has done the same…until he changes email addresses. I guess we’ll see what happens. If his goal was to have every agency talking about him, I think he’s succeeded!

  24. Yup. Me too, and Anita is right that I crafted an Outlook rule to deal with it. Email me if you want details.

  25. Avatar Anonymous says:

    This thread has turned me into a nervous wreck. I was one of those foolish writers who sent off a query too soon (took the time to polish the ms, but sent the first draft query). A month later, I realized that my query was horrible, revised it, and resent it to ONE agent (the dream agent) who had rejected the first go-round. Within the body of the query, I apologized for re-querying, explained that I was being hasty the first time, and promised not to push my luck again. Was this a mistake?

  26. Avatar jfaust says:

    Anon 11:01. Take a deep breath. It will all be okay.

    The difference between you and the writer I am discussing in the blog is that you actually rewrote the query. And sent it only once. You’re fine. No worries.


  27. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Whew. Heartbeat resuming normal speed. Am not blacklisted. Am merely paranoid.

  28. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Anon 10:27–

    It may not be cyberstalking but it definitely falls into the “harassment by communication” territory. If someone refuses to stop contacting you after you’ve requested them to stop, it’s considered harassment. The trick would be actually finding this person. Probably not worth the trouble. Finding a way to block him makes more sense.

  29. Avatar PurpleClover says:

    Wait, how about you “sell” his novel to lulu or iuniverse but he has to handle his marketing and he gets no advance…he just gets his royalties. You’ll even wave your royalty percentage since it’s such a “great” novel.

  30. Avatar Jane Smith says:

    When I worked as an editor I had a real, live stalker who sent me photos of myself arriving at work, getting on the bus to go home… it was no fun.

    Here’s an idea: take a note from Objective Entertainment’s book and refer the author to AuthorHouse. It pays a referral fee of about $100, I think, and will undoubtedly offer to publish the book.

  31. If this author is using different emails, what about blocking the IP address? Of course, this is assuming this person doesn’t just go on a different computer instead. But then Nathan’s little Outlook tool should probably help in that case.

    I can understand being impassioned, and doing foolish things out of love (of your work), but come on…think it through, mysterious aspiring author. Is this really the best way to get someone to take your work seriously?

  32. Avatar Anonymous says:

    The ISP blocking thing kinda – sorta / doesn't always work: wireless computers can be routed through nearby access giving i.d. numbers which can be misleading and are unstable/unreliable. If a user accesses vis AOL, a different router / i.d. number will be assigned with each page access. The user could also be using a public computer (s): what are you going to do? Contact every Kinko's & library? And complain? Also, though a computer maybe registered or have a user i.d. you're able to track and block, it may not nescessarily belong to the user. With an ethernet card, if you can figure that out, will give you information but it's going to do nothing for block. And since, apparently, you know the user's identity … there are too many variables.

    Technical issues aside, there's a gender element to the dismissiveness of these (largely female) responses that's glaring and offensive. So he's a guy who wrote a book about an, apparently, traumatic experience. Would Jessica / Jessica's readers be so quick to hate on a woman? Were she exhibiting the same behavior?

    So, instead of everyone working themselves up into a froth, how about investigating various SOLUTIONS:

    – create a dedicated query email addy.

    – look into an email registration service (for dedicated email query addy) – there are filtering systems you can install, which would make submissions and correspondence a bit more cumbersome but would definitely allow you to more effectively manage incoming male er, mail.

    – faith in spam blockers

    – the delete button (accessible via your left or right index finger) also works wonders.

    – one poster mentioned needing to move beyond the first book – this can be true, regardless of the subject matter – and indicates a familiarity and sensitivity to this specific manuscript's material and, possibly, the writer's underlying issues. Given that, certainly, there must be someone in the publishing industry you could refer this author to who would be receptive, on some level?

    How you respond becomes both an expression of your people skills and an opportunity to think outside the box so that when this happens again – and it sounds like it will – you have the tools to deal with it.

  33. Avatar Dara says:

    When we people get that no means no?

    I understand their desire to be published but sheesh, move on to another agent–there are hundreds of others.

  34. Avatar Dara says:

    Ok, “we” should be “will.” 😛 Again, typing too fast for my brain to catch up…

  35. Avatar Charlie says:

    Every agent should request a full.
    That’ll show ’em.

  36. Avatar Dara says:

    Apparently said person has done this to every other agency. 😛 (Should have read previous comments…)

    He pretty much destroyed whatever career potential he had by annoying every other agency out there. In many ways, the desperation is quite sad.

  37. Avatar Ginger says:

    Hi, Jessica–as someone mentioned above, Nathan and I discussed this person at a writers conference last weekend. This also came up at another panel–every agent on it knew who the guy was. Nathan’s method works, as far as I can tell.

  38. Avatar Karen Duvall says:

    Every agent should request a full.
    That’ll show ’em.
    Great idea! And request it as a hard copy Express mail. Unfortunately, then he’ll start following up relentlessly. Meh. Can’t win.

  39. Anon 1:43 – I don’t think the fact that this querier is male has a lot to do with the anger and frustration. Although I will admit I find it strange that a man wrote a novel about an abused woman, and I’m curious to see if he managed to pull it off. It’s not easy to write from the perspective of the opposite sex, especially in a story that conveys a lot of emotion.

    But regardless, male or female, the reason people like this frustrate the rest of us so badly is because they’re taking up a lot of time when new queries (and yes, some of OUR queries) could be read. A person like this also gives aspiring authors, and especially NEW authors, a bad name and it has nothing to do with gender.

    There comes a point when an author must “give up” on trying to get their book published and start working on the next book they have hiding inside of them. Once they manage to break into the industry, THEN is the time to pull out those old books they wrote and see if they’re publishable.

    ***This has nothing to do with this blog, but, with the current mania going on, I find it mildly amusing that my word verification for this post is “swineb.”

  40. Avatar Melissa says:

    Okay, this is EASY to block because he’s foolish enough to use the same query.

    Mail readers allow you to create filters — and it’s easy to do so, not technical at all.

    In Outlook the feature is called “Rules and Alerts” and it’s on the Tools menu.

    * Create a new rule.
    * In Outlook, start from a blank rule.
    * Check the message when the mail arrives.
    * Check for specific words in the body of the e-mail. Enter a phrase that is clearly unique to this guy’s query.
    * When one of those queries comes in, permanently delete it (and stop checking more rules).

    Name the rule “Words in body” or something such, and if you have this problem again, you can edit the rule and add another phrase or two or two hundred. Just has to find one of the listed phrases, and you’ll never be bothered by that e-mail again!

  41. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I’m getting it too! And I tried sending him this Editorial Anonymous link

    and got the same reply I’d gotten before about how I will be queried until the novel is published.

    –Erin Murphy

  42. Avatar terri says:

    Welcome to the wonderful world of mental illness. I’m sorry to all of the agents, but you are liable to be in for this for awhile. Tag! You’ve been fixated.

    I work in public service and a lot of my clients have mental issues that range from a touch of OCD to full-blown paranoid schizophrenia. When someone fixates, there isn’t much you can do except completely ignore it. I’ve walked out my back door and found clients sitting in my backyard. I just have to gently, but firmly, remove them, trying not to accidentally set them off.

    So, delete and ignore. Lather, rinse, repeat . . .

    verify word – cypermso (there’s something cool in there, I just can’t quite find it. I think I’ll email endlessly until someone replies . . . )

  43. Avatar Janet says:

    Make an email filter containing some characteristic line in the query and have it sent straight to the trash. Most programs will allow you to screen for things in the body of the email.

  44. Avatar hippokrene says:

    Likely a troll.

  45. Avatar KathyF says:

    I think I’ll make sure to never use Elizabeth in a title or as any character I would name in a query. Wouldn’t want someone’s filter to accidentally delete mine.

    I do think it’s sad that he’s doing this. And I hope all the targetted agents can get good filters set up.

  46. Avatar Jenna says:

    I have an idea…

    1- create a new email address.
    2- Reply to him via that email that you are the former assistant for an undisclosed agent on his query list. You would like to represent him. (use an alias of course!) Be sure to word hi agent agreement to where it is very difficult to sever the agreement (week with 3 mondays in it, letter must be signed in blood on fairy skin and delivered on a thursday by a man with thirteen toes, etc.)
    3- represent him – to every self-publisher in town.
    4- when he tries to reach you via the bogus email or phone number… aaah, no response.
    5- He can’t search for another agent because he cannot comply with the terms to separate, and that leaves him open to litigation.

    I know, I’m evil.

    Or, you could take up a collection, have a copy printed by a POD friend of mine, and send him a copy. The note attached would read “It’s published. Now bugger off.”

    Yep. Still evil.

  47. Wow. I feel really bad for all the agents that have posted here, this is just sad. When you ask someone politely to stop, they should.

    If an agent/author relationship is supposed to be based on professionalism, this guy is really getting off on the wrong foot. I wonder if he is serious about getting published or just wants to throw a wrench in the system.

  48. Avatar writtenwyrdd says:

    This pathetic fool might not be a cyberstalker, but he might qualify as a spammer, which is illegal.

    Classic example of a clueless wonder. And since the email costs him nothing, he has no negative aspect of querying to correct his behavior like snail mail does.

  49. Avatar Anonymous says:

    One word for this author:


    If you are the writer of “Elizabeth” and seek publication from a company that will ‘give your book the chance it deserves’, forget all these literary agents and go to:

    You will be pleased at their response . . . . I know I was . . .

  50. Every so often I’ll get an author sending me the same book proposal over and over until I look at it. Does it work? No. I’ve never published a single book from that kind of raw, annoying persistence.

  51. Avatar Elissa M says:

    I agree with Terri. This person must have mental issues that laypeople are not equipped to handle. The suggestions on blocking the specific email are the way to go.

  52. It comes down to people thinking ‘persistence pays off’.
    Which is does, if you work hard and do your best to hone your craft. That is the persistence.
    You try one agent, they say no, so you try another agent. Eventually you wallpaper your office with rejection notices, finish a new book and start with the agent queries again.
    That is persistence.

    What this writer is doing is pissing people off. The words sound a little the same, but BIG difference 😀

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  54. Wow. So not cool. I think if anyone knows this person, they should try to get him/her some serious help. Or at least take away their computer.

  55. A couple agents mentioned this “mental health challenged” person at a writer’s conference I attended last week. Kinda scary if you ask me.

  56. Avatar Rachelle says:

    I’m a little late to chime in here. But after getting queries from the author of “Elizabeth” for about six months, I engaged him in a bit of email conversation just for kicks. I wanted to find out once and for all what his schtick is. Turns out he’s just a whack job, and I mean that in the most respectful way. You can not reason with unreasonable people, and he’s most definitely operating outside of reason.

    Now he just amuses me. It’s almost like a game for me every time I go through queries, wondering if he’ll be there. And BTW, he has created more than a dozen different email addresses, as far as I can tell.

    Here’s what I find amazing and seriously impressive: of all the times we’ve talked about this guy at conferences, on blogs, on Twitter, etc., I’ve NEVER seen a single agent mention his name. And we all know his whole name!

    See, even when being spammed and annoyed to death, agents are pretty respectful people. 🙂

  57. Avatar AravisGirl says:

    Stalkers are scary!

    I think you can set up filters on your e-mail to filter out key words in the query.
    One time I had to submit an e-mail in a special format bc the person had setup his e-mail to send it to spam otherwise.

  58. Avatar Teresa says:

    I’m probably the last to ring in on this one, but this “Elizabeth” guy sounds a lot like a whack job we have. He constantly e-mails our campus about intimate details of his life. Just when we’ve got our spam filters set up to knock him down, he changes his e-mail address. I’ve received as many as twenty e-mails from him in one day.

    It’s a small community so we know the individual, and he has mental issues. Deleting his e-mails has just become another job responsibility. It’s all about attention, and these people don’t just stick to literary agents. I feel your pain and wish you well in trying to get rid of “Elizabeth.”

  59. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Suddenly I regret having the first name Elizabeth while querying for my novel.
    -I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the name ‘Elizabeth’ is not one of the determining factors that will land my query in the spam folder (:/)

  60. I can state with a certainty that P&E won't hold it against any agents who request a full in a situation like this where the individual has stated an intention of querying incessantly until the manuscript is represented and published. Just forward that individual's statement to P&E so we'll know in advance what's going on.

    Even a recommendation of PA probably can be stomached since they'll "deserve" each other.

    We may favor writers but there are limits to what should be tolerated.

  61. For Jimnduncan:

    One piece of software (freeware) that does what you suggest (looking into emails and filtering them by content) is Popfile. It's the one I use. It belongs to the class "Bayesian filters." Neat thing is, it learns as it goes to sort spam from phishing from work from family from friends and tagging them in appropriate ways.

    As to sending this person to PublishAmerica, that wouldn't fulfill his needs. He wants to be represented, not published. So get him representation. Send him to the WL Writers Literary Agency. He can duke it out with their autoresponder. (And I guarantee that they will offer representation. I wonder how he missed them to start with?)

  62. Avatar Juliette says:

    These spamming e-mails might be a part of a huge psychological project which tests peoples tolerance to certain actions. Like someone mentioned in the comment: don't reply to these e-mails, because that way you confirm that your mail is alive. What you can do is maybe to ask for advice or drop the case to some anti spam service. I don't know if it helps but some people say it does.

    Good luck, he, he.