I’m sorry, but sometimes a query is just spam.

Things this person did wrong with their query….

1 – they emailed it (okay, so they were in a foreign country and I don’t mean Canada)

2 – they addressed me by my first name (maybe that’s acceptable business practice where they come from, but I tend to doubt it)

3 – they pitched a non-fiction book (which clearly indicates a complete lack of agent research – it wasn’t even a non-fiction book related to writing fiction in some fashion)

4 – their entire query was 5 lines long (well, sometimes that’s a blessing…)

It’s really not super hard to find my submission guidelines. A google of “Jennifer Jackson” turns up the redirect from my old page to my current one as the first hit. Though oddly enough my new site doesn’t show up for some time (I got to page 10 of the search without seeing it). An awful lot of people using the old URL out there. If one adds the word “agent” to the search, my redirect shows up at #1 and the new site shows up at #2. And even just putting in the word “Maass” for the agency has our official site showing up on the first page. So, what I’m saying is that it would require a minimum of research, which means there’s no good reason for people to not do it. I can never figure out why they don’t.

18 responses to “I’m sorry, but sometimes a query is just spam.

  1. Even the most innane of writing books will tell you to research your editor or publisher. Sheesh.

  2. Add an alt tag to your title graphic that says “Jennifer Jackson.” You could even add meta tags for key words and description, both including your name. Meta tags are low to almost non-existent on the priority list now, but every little bit helps. If you were really going all gung ho, I’d readdress what’s in your title bar. Title bars are towards the top of the list. Even maybe adding more descriptive, keyword-heavy content towards the top half of your home page code.

    • Thanks! I’ve added the alt tag and the meta tag. I’m not quite sure what you mean about the title bar.
      Actually I’m *this* close to being bored with the page design again. I know you’re very much more accomplished than I at this sort of thing, so any suggestions?

      • The text in the title tags () is picked up by search engines so some descriptive keywords are usually good. Not to many, of course.
        Design suggestions? I would have the News items on a secondary page and place your description on the front page. Visitors need to know who you are and what you do in as few clicks as possible. If you want, have the 3-6 most recent news items on the home page (maybe just the title that’s a link to the full story) and have a way for them to click to the full news page.
        Also, one of my biggest pet peeves is not including enough white space. Add space under the last line of text and around the content text. It will always look better.

  3. I’ve seen you write occasionally about the clueless people who submit to you and commit every goof there is, but I would be interested to hear what percentage of people submit to you correctly, following guidelines to the letter. Surely it is most of the people, right?

    • I’d guess probably at least 85-90% of people seem to follow the guidelines or at least be within a reasonable enough approach to industry standard to count even if they haven’t managed to look up my specific requirements.

  4. I’ve been getting a steady stream of unsolicited submissions via email for about six months now, both at my Tor address and at my personal account. I’ve been wondering if I got listed someplace.
    Like you, I don’t want unsolicited, over-the-transom submissions from strangers in email. I’m an enthusiastic user of it otherwise, but not for that.

    • There’s always everyonewhosanyone.com (and a quick look turned up your name and email there) – I think that’s how some of ours have gotten out. My maassagency.com address is so spam-a-licious as to be ridiculous.

    • I periodically get a “your email has been rejected by the following address” from one of TNH’s accounts (and not the one listed on Making Light), which I hadn’t known previous to it starting to send me rejection spams. Perhaps something similar happened with your email, and somebody with enough knowledge to recognize it as you propagated it.

    • I get it from the other direction. “How to get your book published!” “Publishing 101 – Sell your stuff!” “Editing to make your work saleable!”
      There must be something in the air, some sort of cosmic explosion of mass mailing e-lists out there. This is all very recent spam; I only ever got a tiny trickle before this past summer.
      Jenn, I’m remembering the one you posted about earlier this year, the guy who not only sent it out to eighty bazillion agents, but was rather insulting in the query, as well.

  5. I recently spent far too much time trying to convince a new writer that cold-calling random agents was not a good idea. I spoke about guidelines, research, queries, and SASEs. “I’d like to think those guidelines don’t apply to me,” he said quite innocently. “And why should I send them a SASE? I included my email address.”
    There was more, but I’ll spare you.

    • “I’d like to think those guidelines don’t apply to me,”
      Gee, wouldn’t we all? *boggle*
      A writer really should not make actors look practical.

    • “I’d like to think those guidelines don’t apply to me,” he said quite innocently.
      And to be honest, that attitude really makes me spit. Here’s all these hardworking writers out there, cranking out their million words of crap, improving their craft, learning the lingo, doing the research, and along comes one person who decides they’re just better than the rest of them.
      I assume there are people who are just too honestly isolated and naive and haven’t the foggiest clue how to get started. One can usually tell the difference between that and someone with a huge entitlement issue who thinks the rules just apply to everyone else. These are the same people who should not be issued a license to drive a car. Heh.

    • “I’d like to think those guidelines don’t apply to me,”
      Yeah, me too. How’s he feel about, oh — gravity?

    • I remember actually reading in a writing-advice book that cold-calling agents was a good idea, to get their guidelines directly from them — unfortunately, I can’t remember what the book was. (Fortunately, even then I knew that was bad advice.)

      • I could be wrong, but I thought calling to get the _guidelines_ for submission was acceptable. Calling to try and chat up the agent and get them to represent you over the phone – not so good. (Of course, in this situation you’d probably be calling up the agency and talking to a secretary/receptionist rather than the actual agent.)

        • On the face of it that does sound like a perfectly polite and reasonable thing to do, but I could point out a couple drawbacks — (1) it could be a small agency where the receptionist also wears a variety of other hats; (2) I, personally, get between 100-120 queries a week — if 100 people called me up each week to ask for my submission guidelines, that could get to be a bit of a headache; (3) most agencies either have a website with the guidelines available or are listed in one of the many popular writing guides — it’s certainly easier to pick up the phone than haul one’s self to the library, but it doesn’t really show that a person is knowledgeable about the field they’re looking to get into. It always makes me think the writer is lazy or in the camp of “doesn’t apply to me” or at best, simply uninformed. None of these qualities are conducive to a good working relationship over the course of time, imo. In my experience, most of the people who have dialed our direct number and then, for whatever reason, skipped listening to our submission guidelines (which I think you can get a recording of), are looking for some sort of short-cut.

          • That makes sense. I’m glad I’m in the camp of doing tons and tons of research before submitting things, then. The last thing I want to do is annoy any potential agents or editors. =)

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