Monday, May 08, 2006

Really Real Reality Rejection

Sent May 5, 2006

It begins to tell how Marty and his two friends, Jake and Phil, move to Schenectady from a small town in Pennsylvania and mett Phyllis Miller, a woman with a past, and a son, Miley.

Yes, there are a couple of things wrong here. First of all, as you can see, everything runs together. We assume that this writer is either in a hurry or just doesn’t care. Either way, I’m sorry to say, we cannot take a chance on clients like this. There is too much of a risk here.

So, my question to writers is this: Would this sentence make you want to see more of this work? This should be the question you ask yourself as you write your query letters. Would this make an agent want to see more?

Sent May 5, 2006

Ever read anything this interesting?

A rather nice way to start a query, don’t you think? I’m only kidding. I can picture this person applying for a job. Ever seen anyone as talented as me? Would you hire him or her?

Sent May 7, 2006

Attn. Rober Brown:

Believe it or not I got two of these yesterday. Maybe they are trying to tell me something.

Sent May 7, 2006

(Blank—Blank—Blank) is 40,735 words (11 chapters) of wholesome chick lit.

Wholesome, maybe. Chick lit? I don’t think so, unless chick lit comes in a novella format.

Sent May 5, 2006

At 63,000 words, (Blank—Blank—Blank) is paced for a quick-and-easy read.
I’ve been writing for most of my life starting when I was ten writing short plays for my class. After a few high school works in the theater, I moved to more traditional work with short stories and now novels. (Blank—Blank) is currently in pre production at my publisher, but at the bottom of this email is my ISBN. If you are taking new writers, I do hope you will allow me to submit further material for review.

I chopped a few sentences out of this query because there are many things wrong here, and this makes a great example of things I think are important for writers to realize. First of all, the one issue in this passage—again--is the word count of the project. I think the reason behind this problem shows up in the second sentence—ten short plays—more traditional short stories and now novels. As most senior novelists will tell you, it’s quite a leap from a short story to a novel, and many short story writers run out of plot before they have a sufficient word count. I’ve noticed that many times when a short word count crops up, the querying writer wrote short stories before he attempted long fiction.

Also, notice how meaning is lost in the second sentence. This does not give an agent much confidence in this writer’s ability.

Although this is not the case with this particular query, I’d like to make the point that once a book is already published, it’s a little late to be looking for an agent. This is happening more and more, as writers either self-publish or publish with small presses. If a writer needs an agent to shop his sub-rights, research should tell him that most agents deal only with original, unpublished works unless they are from a very large agency with a sub-rights specialist on staff. Also, in most cases, unless the book sells very well, the sub-rights are not that valuable, at least not valuable enough to be shopped extensively. Finally, if your book is already published and sells well, you don’t need anyone to shop rights for you…other publishers will be contacting you, your agent, or your publisher.


Rene said...

With regards to the sentence you cite, no, I have no interest in reading any further. Which is too bad because the author could have written a stellar novel. But the writer wastes time on superfluous words. The interesting part of the hook is buried underneath unnecesary names and geographical info. I have no sense of what kind of story this is.

DanStrohschein said...

My response to the sentence you cite is, well, where is the hook? The sentence tells me about characters and setting but doesn't tell me what the story is about. What's this thing about? Perhaps curiosity would prompt me to ask about it further, but then again I don't have 70 other queries in my email box.

With regard to the last query - I have always read that if you don't have past publishing/working credentials relevant to the current work you are submitting, don't bother with a resume/biography. If you are submitting a sci-fi novel, your work in short stories when you were in highschool isn't really relevant. If you are submitting a book on how to care for cattle in Kentucky, and you are a vet who has worked on farms in the midwest for the past ten years - that's relevant.

I think there is a gap between short story writers and novelists. I have always written novels and I find it extremely difficult to write a short story.

NL Gassert said...

What’s your take on authors who find publishers on their own, then go looking for an agent to help with contract negotiations or contract review?

DanStrohschein said...

Most of the agents that I keep up on in blogging-land won't do it. Sure, they say, it's an easy sale, but they haven't had the chance to fall in love with the book. They might not ever fall in love with the book, and so they couldn't really get behind it.

If you have done the hardest part - getting a house to take your novel on - why do you need an agent? Agents do more than just sell the work, but without their love behind the pages, they are going to be limited. I'd say get a literary lawyer to help with the contracts and rights on this novel, and seek an agent for your next work.

But I am not an agent, just an author that really loves to read their blogs :P

Anonymous said...

If agents sit there analysing every letter they receive to bits, then what hope is there? There are many books out there that are mundane, and they're published. These books pass the hands of agents. At the end of the day it's about a sale, not about whether or not a sentence is out of kilter. After all, what's a copyeditor for?

Methinks you spend so much time on a blog, that you have little else to do.