Wednesday

Agents: Friend or Foe

Okay, so this is not as fatal as the title implies. But I've been thinking. (Quite scary indeed, no need to say it out loud.)

I'm sure most of my writing buddies out there follow a lot of agent blogs, as do I. There are a couple I don't read so much anymore because pretty much all I see is the same thing over and over: Writers are bad. They do this wrong, they do that wrong, etc.. However, the vast majority can be snappy, fun, informative and pleasant. They infom on rules of queries and submissions, keep us up to date on the publishing world (a hell of scary universe these days), and one of my personal favorites: This Is The Right Way To...

Of course, 3 different agents will have 3 different right ways for the same thing. Definitely have to study up and do query letters individually in a lot of cases now days. You can't just go to the agency site and get that one submission page with blanket info like you used to. A lot of agents also imply they would like something personal in the query to let them know you follow them. Subtly, of course, not just: Hey I know you like carnivals, so here's my novel about a crazy alien clown stalking people on ferris wheels and eating their caramel apples. No. We have to weave it in, because the last drop of my blood shed into the query itself wasn't enough. Gah.

The other thing about those blogs, it's hard not get caught up in the personalization they infer. Agents let us peek at their lives, share jokes, funny stories. Some even go back and forth with people in the comments.

I wonder if that's where some of the comments I see on those agent blogs these days come from? The comments about how people send query letters that are a little too personal, show up at their doorsteps, or send a little gift in the mail of something they read online that that agen likes. Would it creep me out? Yes. Do I blame agents for being creeped out? No.

I prefer things to be closer to the way it used to be - leave the personalization out and keep things businesslike. In the query/submissions, not the blogs.

How many of you want to start your query with:

Yo X! What up, dude? That blog about your dog wearing the tutu and chasing the cat up the tree - OMG. Hilarious. Coincidentally, my novel is about alien clowns...

14 comments:

Piedmont Writer said...

Yeah, I hear you on that whole personalization thing. First they want us to sweet talk them, then they call it stalking.

It's a business letter, with a business format. I don't personalize at all. And I don't tell them about me either.

Natalie said...

I think you are totally right. When I queried I noticed that there was absolutely no difference in request rate between agents I sent personalized queries and agents who got my standard letter with a different name at the top. Personalization is overrated. If your pitch is well written, they'll request.

KarenG said...

What a confused and anxious life we writers lead! How to query, will they like us, why do they hate us, what's wrong, what's right, etc etc. Some of the agent/editor blogs really annoy me. It's like a power trip-- "Oh look at me I'm an agent/editor and you writers are all such idiots. Hahaha, I can't believe they did this, can you? Hahahaha."

I follow the blogs that are there to be helpful. A bit of snark is ok, but I've read a few that are just too arrogant.

Tara said...

Anne - I'm glad someone else still queries the way I do.

Natalie - That's really good to know! Thanks.

Karen - Yeah, some snark doesn't bother me. It's fun. Thankfully most agent blogs are fun snarky and/or very helpful.

Shelley Sly said...

I'm with Natalie. Though I haven't sent a personalized query, I've heard that if they like your pitch, they'll request a partial whether or not you have credits or kiss up to them or whatever. I also prefer the less personal route. It feels more professional.

E. Elle said...

Writing is a business, just like anything else anymore. When I send cover letters with job applications, I try to keep it crisp and clever without sounding rude. It's all about finesse. I'd rather be professional with someone I want a professional relationship with and personal with someone I want a personal relationship with. Makes things a little easier for me to handle.

Palindrome said...

"Hey I know you like carnivals, so here's my novel about a crazy alien clown stalking people on ferris wheels and eating their caramel apples."

LOL! Coincidentally, I'm writing a book with that same idea! ;)

I stopped reading agent blogs. I'm not there yet and it's just too stressful for me to see all the things done wrong. I do still skim them though and bookmark agent profiles to visit later, when I'm in the querying phase.

Thank you for this post!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Great post! I think Natalie nailed it. :-)

Donna Hosie said...

I agree with all of these comments and your post, Tara.

I don't think of an agent as friend or foe. It is a business partnership. Be professional, not personal.

And those arrogant agents - and we all know who they are - do not deserve the business.

Lola Sharp said...

Word!

sarahjayne smythe said...

I'm with Hannah. I'm not reading agent blogs because I am nowhere near that stage yet.

Susan Fields said...

I totally agree the important thing is the pitch - everything else will most likely just distract.

Jemi Fraser said...

Yup - the query & submission process has got to be professional. Some people go waaaaaaay over the edge! :)

Christi Goddard said...

I like to start my queries with threats against their pets. It seems the most efficient way to get their attention.

Thanks for stopping by my blog (and if my pathetic memory serves, you follow me). I am a follow of you now. See how chumpta this thing is? I'm really just using it to track down the most awesome people on the blogosphere.