tales from the query pile (the never-ending subject)

Sometimes people do things that just plain confuse me. Here’s today’s story:

Checking my voicemail this morning got me a message that was left sometime before the sun came up on the East Coast which was apparently a follow-up to an email that was sent over the weekend. It’s not that I never work weekends. There’s conferences and reading and so forth. In fact, I almost always spend some time working on the weekend. But there’s no guarantee that I’ll be reading my work email so I thought this a bit, well, er, precocious (my initial reaction may have been slightly less kind). Then, I hunted down the email to discover it wasn’t even exactly a query. It’s someone who has (apparently) many ideas for many novels and wants to know which one I think is the best one for them to write. An interesting approach, but what might sell today, might not sell by the time they finish the manuscript, for one thing. And I feel like it’s just a plain odd sort of question, or am I missing something here… Plus it makes it obvious to me that they don’t really understand how the publishing system is set up or the protocol involved. There’s a part of me that feels just a twinge when I think about how to answer this. Because I really can’t help them. Even if I wanted to. It’s just a practical impossibility. And there’s another part of me which is vaguely put out and feels that this person is perhaps somewhat, well, attempting to take advantage of my time, and not doing the research and taking the writing endeavor seriously. And, to some extent, taking that aforementioned time away from writers who have. Otoh, I could just give them the benefit of the doubt, and conclude they are oblivious.

I wonder if they’d apply for any other position by telling the company in question that they aren’t sure which department they want to work in and asking the HR person in what area they’d get the most benefit and then go out and get the appropriate degree. A little apples/oranges maybe….

The other one today was the person who sent a query by express with signature confirmation and a priority return envelope. This cost well over $10.00 total in postage. Unfortunately, to be fair and practical, I have to treat it exactly the same as the one that arrived in a regular #10 size envelope with just under $1.00 in postage.

Granted the 30-40 other queries received today looked perfectly normal and professional. But it’s always these other ones that sort of stick out in your mind when you’re telling stories. Ok, milk and cookies time is over. As matociquala has been known to say, back on your heads.

13 responses to “tales from the query pile (the never-ending subject)

  1. It is not fair for an author to expect you to do their homework for them. It is also a tricky and fine line (IMHO) for an agent to recommend to a writer what to write … many aspiring writers I’m sure would take that as an endorsement and a loose verbal contract.
    An interesting approach, but what might sell today, might not sell by the time they finish the manuscript, for one thing.
    Exactly. Which isn’t to say that “fantasy” or “science fiction” or “romance” won’t be selling tomorrow — but when you start tacking on sub-genres or niche markets I’m sure it gets tricky. I mean, who could predict a novel about a wolfcarl would sell on today’s market. *nudgenudgeBear&Monette* So I’m sure there are wild cards, but even the wild cards must find a home.
    If I’m not correct I belive most larger houses are already slotting for ’09, and with the exception of smaller indie presses and anothology requests we’re trying to predict market trends 2-3 years down the road?

    • I currently have books tentatively scheduled into 2011. The months on those might change due to various factors, but the way things work, editorial, production, etc., particularly in fiction, can take place long before the books hit the shelves.

  2. I wonder if they’d apply for any other position by telling the company in question that they aren’t sure which department they want to work in and asking the HR person in what area they’d get the most benefit and then go out and get the appropriate degree. A little apples/oranges maybe….
    If you actually said that to them, it might penetrate a little deeper than your trying to explain the workings of an industry they obviously do not fathom. As well as being very much quicker…

  3. And there’s another part of me which is vaguely put out and feels that this person is perhaps somewhat, well, attempting to take advantage of my time, and not doing the research and taking the writing endeavor seriously. And, to some extent, taking that aforementioned time away from writers who have. Otoh, I could just give them the benefit of the doubt, and conclude they are oblivious.
    I have to seriously wonder if this person has written anything. This person sounds like somebody who thinks that writing a novel might be a neat idea, and they decide next week that they want to do something else neat-sounding with their life. They sound like a total flake. I think you’re right in your guess that even if you did try explaining why they have a flawed approach to becoming a published novelist, they still wouldn’t understand. I wouldn’t even bother responding.

  4. With the postage one, I’d just figure that was someone who has had bad post office experiences. And I don’t blame them. There’s no guarantee, anyway, that things will arrive. A friend whose husband works sorting machines for the post office says 10 per cent of mail is lost or destroyed in the machines. It took over 2 weeks for me to get a small item I won on eBay, sent first class. The cancellation says 10/4, the arrival date was 10/20. I’ll probably want delivery confirmation, too, when I start sending out my ms. 😉

  5. Totally off-topic
    I have one quick, totally-off-topic question:
    Do you know anything about Anderson Literary Management, LLC, particularly an agent called Michelle Humphrey? She’s the one who requested a partial in March and never responded. I sent a reminder and still never heard a word.

  6. Ugh. I’d suggest replying with a book suggestion (How to Query an Agent) and tell them just to write well.

  7. marketing ploy of sorts
    I remember reading a marketing ploy for artists once. If you are cold calling a gallery or benefactor, pay the extra ten bucks and FedEx the letter, art samples, brochure, whatever it is to them because people can’t stand to receive FedEx envelopes and not know what’s in them. Perhaps the idea behind you getting a pre-paid priority envelope IS to stand out.
    cheers,
    Joelle
    P.S. Of course the irony here was that as artists, we couldn’t afford the FedEx postage to start with! Hehe.

  8. I think those two queries are from people who are clueless; especially the one who called about a weekend query. I do not have an agent as of yet, but I know the protocol for proper querying. WTF? As Miss Snark would say, “Nitwits!”
    ~Tyhitia
    http://obfuscationofreality.blogspot.com/

  9. The first query is from an amateur, and it might be best to set him/her straight so you can put an end to the stupidity so they don’t show up in person.
    As far as the signiture required query goes; there’s a popular trade book out there by Noah Lukeman that actually tells writers it’s a good idea to do this when querying…that it makes them look more professional. It’s a great book from an editorial POV, and he offers excellent tips for word economy, but there are other things in the book that are just plain idiotic and writers have to realize it’s not wise to take this type of advice literally.

  10. I have a question on this subject:
    I have finished a fantasy novel, and began a new project which I feel may be a better fit with current publishing trends, would it be inappropriate to mention the unfinished project while Querying about the completed manuscript?

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