Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Salt, Granulated

Every once in a while I do a search for people who mention this blog, to see if I'm being praised or criticized, or if there's an issue I want to address. Every single time, the same few websites pop up that take a stance against something I said, either because it was wrong or because they have a different opinion. With all the scammers out there on the internet, trying to make a buck off unpublished writers, people tend to stay away from anything they hear something bad about.

Let me establish right now: I don't know everything. Nobody knows everything, certainly not about book publishing, which is a confusing enough industry as it is. Anyone who tells you they know everything is full of shit.

In fact, there's little I can say other than anecdotal tangents that could not be argued against. If you're reading this blog trying to get an opinion of the industry, don't only read this blog. Read other agent blogs, editor blogs, and blogs of published writers. When you see a consensus, it's probably true.

These things, however, in the specific area of literary agency submissions, are facts:

(1) You should always include a SASE unless the agent says to do otherwise.

(2) If you have an email address, include it in your query letter in case your SASE gets lost, never made it into your envelope, gets destroyed by the postal service, or is sealed by moisture because your mail was delivered in the rain. We would prefer to have some way of contacting you that isn't the phone. In fact, we need it.

(3) At some point in your query letter, you should mention your manuscript and tell us what it is about.

Everything else is opinion. Maybe it's a well-formed opinion based on experience, but it's still an opinion. Most of the time.

20 comments:

K.B. said...

Yeah, well, there's always someone, often chronically under-published, who operates according to the way they WISH the publishing industry worked, or the way they think it OUGHT to work, instead of the way it DOES work.

They get their knickers all in a twist if anyone tells them how it really does work. They can't be reasoned with. Sigh, and let it go.

The Rejecter said...

No, sometimes they're legitimate complaints that should be addressed. I should be corrected when I am actually wrong. It's just not most of the time.

One guy questioned whether I really was who I said I was (i.e. someone who works at a literary agency)

booklady said...

You put together an interesting, insightful blog, and you do it for free. It's obvious you know what you're talking about. So how can people really complain? Then again, some people whine to earn attention or to be different or because they're jealous, or because they are bitter and looking for targets. Doesn't make it any easier to dismiss them, especially if others listen to them, but those who listen to the dissenters without forming their own opinions are missing out--and I'm not just talking about choosing which blogs to read, either.

X said...

Hey rejecter, is there a book out there that explains the standard way of doing things in the modern publishing industry, like a textbook? Like the MLA manual, but for novel and/or short story writing? Because it's clear there is a general agreed-upon procedure of doing things, or they could never get done. The problem most writers have, I think, is there's no exact book that tells them what to do. There's no central authority on the matter. There's "Getting Your Book Published: For Dummies," but they're geared toward commercial writing, which is usually shallow and doesn't hold up over time. (You know what I mean. Who likes Harry Potter?) They advocate the use of Oprah, for Christ's sake! I mean, I agree with Jonathan Franzen on the subject of Oprah. But this is like the main book out there for young writers, and I think it could hurt them. And I don't like the marketing strategy they recommend. I think it's demeaning. A book tour sounds fun, but the publishing house should cover the advertising. We all want to make it big and not get our hands dirty.

Anonymous said...

Rejecter,

The price you pay for maintaining your anonymity is to have random people question who you are from time to time. Not that I'm saying remaining anonymous is a bad thing. I'm just saying that other agents choose to identify themselves on their blogs, which automatically shuts down anyone attempting to question their credibility. When you see "Mr. Agent, of Big-time Lit Agency" with his picture up there on the blog...well...that is a bit different than remaining in the shadows. There are pluses and minuses to both approaches, I'm sure.

I for one, an aspiring author getting ready to submit a novel to agents, enjoy your blog and find it helpful as a casual source of industry info.

pth said...

I recently deleted from my bookmarks an agent blog I read on a daily basis because the comments from writers to writers became so snarky. I realize this is a tough business, but I've never seen a group of people so eagerly posed to attack one of its own. (And now I'll wait for someone to jump on this...)

Lorra said...

#3 suggestion made me laugh out loud: Mention our manuscript/what it's about in a query letter? What an utterly creative idea.

Now I'm dying to know what query letters look like that DON'T mention the manuscript or what it's about. With another winter storm approaching, I can use another laugh.

Thanks Rejecter.

Aimless Writer said...

I'm surprized to hear there are others who find fault with your blog. I always felt your posts were sincere efforts to help us.
I guess you can't please everyone, but please know there are a lot of us who appreciate you and your blog.
:)

The Rejecter said...

We do get a rare query where the writer is so caught up introducing himself that he forgets to mention the manuscript. It is always really, really funny.

Melanie Avila said...

I'm still a few months away from querying agents and your blog is one of many I follow. I appreciate your honesty and bluntness when it comes to writers' common mistakes.

Believe it or not, I recently received a query from someone who thought I was an agent. Just goes to show not everyone thinks about things before hitting send.

Keep it up!

Jordan Lapp said...

I use Google Alerts.

Google them, and set up an Alert for "The Rejecter", then whenever google finds something new that references you, you get an e-mail. Awesome, no?

Steve Malley said...

You do a fine job here. I like your blog. I've been reading since you started and it's always fun.

You do seem to draw in a rambunctuous crowd, though! :-)

Ryan Field said...

It's not nice when people post negative things. A book I was in last year was reviewed by some amateur hag in LA with an awful blog page about her concept of fashion (oy!), and she ripped the book to shreds in ways that didn't even make sense. She even attacked the editor of the book. This person is a nobody, and the book has received excellent reveiws, so far, from everyone else who happens to be in the industry.

These little criticisms nowadays on the web, written by amateur experts, are usually way off base and most people know it. I bought a pasta maker this Xmas for someone through Amazon, and there was one terrible customer review, along with four excellent reviews. That one bad review, by one crank who clearly wasn't much of a cook, did not stop me from buying the pasta machine (and I hear it works very well).

The moral is not to take any amateur reviews, comments or criticisms very seriously...unless they spell your name wrong :)

RMS said...

"(3) At some point in your query letter, you should mention your manuscript and tell us what it is about."

Like Lorra, this cracked me up that you left it to the last. Very funny!

elenaberenice said...

Wow!

Anonymous said...

"Salt, Granulated"
Shouldn't that have been "Salt, Kosher"?

;-D

paul lamb said...

pth - I hope I'm not the one you're referencing. I've made a few snarky comments here and there. It bugs me, though, to see people leaving such fawning comments on so many agents' blogs. "Oh, I agree with everything you said, wise agent." I see that so much I want to gag. Honestly, I think that so much praise from wannabees has the potential to inflate an agent's ego. They are gatekeepers, to be sure, but I think some of them lose site of their role as collaborators and begin to feel like rock stars.

Travis Erwin said...

Just for the record there are many of us who really appreciate you taking the time to share a bit of insight into a very confusing business.

Doreen Orion said...

Just wanted you to know, I found your blog (and a few select others) invaluable as I searched for an agent, then got a publisher. Since you're just giving your opinion, I don't know how others can find fault. I mean, lots of agents must love it when the query letter contains no hint of what the manuscript is about.

Chumplet said...

Who could possibly argue against THAT?

Keep up the good work, Rejecter. There are a thousand ways to get published - right and wrong. You help make the journey a little easier.