This months tempest in a tea-cup is based on the thin skin of people who might be the topic of discussion. That's right ladies, gentlemen, writers and readers of all ages, we're talking Queryfail. A great summary of the event is posted by Jim MacDonald over at Making Light, and while there's not much to be said about the point of the event that isn't summed up by Colleen Lindsay's early posts on it

Colleen_Lindsay: Remember, if you’re participating in #Queryfail Day to a.) use the #queryfail tag, and

b.) NO PERSONAL IDENTIFIERS from queries. #queryfail

Colleen_Lindsay: It’s about educating, not about being mean! =) #queryfail

This was repeated more than once. And yet, several people got upset about it. Why, who knows. From the admittedly light skimming I did, it looked the usual offal about "My original idea might be stolen!!!!EventyANGST!!!111!!" and the "How dare you mention that I'm not perfect!" crap.

News flash: There are no original stories left, haven't been seen before the written word. There are original executions, but anyone who states that such an execution could be compromised not by a multi-page examination of the text of a book, but by a one hundred forty character (or less) riff on the query is arguing from a well emoted out position.

Were their direct quotes used? Of course there were, they make the best examples, and of course the only people who might be able to identify the writer of any particular query by a one sentence quote are: 1) The writer, 2) other professionals that have seen the query and 3) anyone the writer may have bounced their query off before dispatching it to the Stygian depths of an agent/editors inbox. So how is this public humiliation? It isn't. The agents and editors who might have or might in the future see it will probably reject it or have for the same reason(s). Your friends or family members are either not using a large enough cluebat, or you're just not asking the right questions to get the answers and or help you need.

What Queryfail did was take not just the people who are actively seeking improvement and hold them up as an example, but take some things from a bit further down the food chain. Most of the people who take part in activities like Ms Snark once ran, are close to being at the right level, and that makes it harder (at least for me) to see the difference between right and almost right. I've learned more about good writing from reading bad, bad writing than from reading the cream of the crop. Not because there isn't stuff to learn in the great writing but because the bad stuff is usually disjointed enough to stick out where as good writing is nearly invisible.

I may or may not do something similar to queryfail in the future, but if i do it is educationally intended and if you think I'm being mean, really ask my (real) friends they can set you straight.
onyxhawke: (Braaaaaains)
( Mar. 7th, 2009 12:06 am)
Not that I've been around much lately, but expect me not to be reading anyone's LJ for a few days until the current round of "X is a racist. Y is a bigot. Z is a fathead just stirring shit up is over." There are two reasons for this:
1) Drama is a nice thing to major in during college, but not one of those things I'm interested in.
2) I doubt anyone on either any side of the debate mindless emotional maelstrom of nonsense wants me to speak the truth at them, or will appreciate it when they hear it.
I've had the pleasure of meeting several of my competitors over the last couple years. While we all have our own personalities, we do have several things in common. Near the top of that list is a dearth of time. This is true of those of us building our lists, and those who have lists that make their competitors salivate. One of the things that I'll take the opportunity to declare a universal truth of agents is that we tend to ask questions with a precision a neurosurgeon would appreciate. We know exactly what info we are looking for. We want it in a specific order if at all possible, and broken up into orderly clusters that can let us apply that information with the maximum effect later. So when we ask a question, please answer the question we do ask, not the question you wish we'd asked, or the question you think we should have asked, or ala most politicians and public relations talking heads the question you wanted us to ask.

The reasons for this are legion, the most salient are stated above. But they are (at least for me) not the only reasons we do this. For me, and I suspect most agents one of the things taken into consideration when we read enough of a submission and its cover letter is how much we want to work with the person who created the title. I've gotten no few submissions since I started the agency from people who wrote at a publishable level (or very close to it) but who were in the precise technical terms I learned as a psychology student bug-fuck-nuts and who would have sucked up more of my energy than I care to devote to any one person. Indeed, It would be unfair of me to other clients to take on these people who would take my time and energy away from existing and future clients who had entrusted their career to me.

Well, as some readers know World Fantasy Con isn't like most other cons. In fact it's not like any other convention I've ever been too. It's probably the only gathering in the industry where the professionals out number the fans. It's also one of the largest gatherings of pros, with the least programming to get in the way of schmoozing, and catching up with friends. So the short list is real simple. I wish i were there to make contact with some of the editors i know, and the would be pros looking for an agent. I wish i was there to congratulate Mary on her Campbell win in person since I don't think i saw her in Denver after the award ceremony. I wish I were there to see my friend and client Glynn for the first time in more than half a decade. I wish to meet Calie, another client who got me to say yes to the first Urban Fantasy since i opened the agency.

I also wish I were in Calgary, because if i had known i was going I'd have planned to sneak out to the Flames vs Bruins game tonight.
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Oct. 28th, 2008 06:12 pm)
I really do wonder how it is that I, or any agent or editor is expected to believe that some people believe they deserve to be read when they can't even put the energy into finding out the basics of submission. Never mind following all of them in their varied and sometimes insane variations.
Just learning them. There are some that there is no excuse for missing. They aren't hard. They don't require much effort. They don't even require you to learn how to program computers. It's just clicking a few icons in your word processor.

Somethings everyone should look into when preparing a manuscript for submission:
  • Page numbering
  • Margin width
  • Standard Fonts
  • Title Page
  • Header content
  • font size
Those are the basics. Honestly. If you can't get these close enough to violate a sexual harassment policy just give up. Really, if you can't figure these out you don't have the ability to understand the written language well enough to produce anything viable with it.

Cover letters are a separate art, writing a good novel is another separate art. Damn near anyone can string together 80,000 to 160,000 words and call it a novel. It might or might not be good. Sturgeon who was an unrepentant fluffy bunny optimist in my book was wrong or lived a charmed life. But even if you can't write a novel that even a 100 people would enjoy reading, you aren't alone. Not to mention it takes longer to type 1000 words than it does to figure out how to format them. It takes less time to format them properly than it does to find them. So quite frankly there really is no excuse for failing to do so. Arrogance and laziness are not valid reasons, nor is ignorance.

Really, if you can't reason well enough to know how to do simple things, how in the world do you expect anyone to believe you can write believable characters, craft a plot that is well executed, write dialog that is effective, and use description like a scalpel and not an bulldozer? This is like expecting someone who fails their drivers license test twelve times to be able to safely pilot a fighter jet.

onyxhawke: (Default)
( Jul. 16th, 2008 08:38 pm)
Today's lesson in reality is: Hard sells in the wrong places.

The hard sell is a technique which uses subtlety and guile in the velvet soft manner of a battering ram to gain access to your wallet. You'll often see this from used car salesmen, politicians, and late night infomercials. In the hands of the skilled the hard sell is indeed dangerous, effective and nearly irresistible. But only when aimed at the right target. Professional sales people are never the right target. Someone who is good at sales can spot the parts of your pitch only slightly faster than your mom could tell you had a bad day at school when you were six. The harder you push at said salesperson, the lower your chances are for success. Do expect that salesperson to critique your performance at some point, depending on your level of inanity it could be to your face. And of course the essence of the hard sell (or the soft sell, or any other sales technique) is have your facts straight. Black is not dark gray, blue is not off purple.

Today I had someone try and hustle me. They did not enjoy the experience.
Really, its true. One of the things many, many writers don't grok about the business is that no agent, editor, or publisher that is not going to have you as the primary source of cash for a book is looking for a reason to publish your book. One more time. I am not,  neither are Night Shade, Baen, Tor, Ace, Harper Collins, Pyr or any other publisher worth a damn does not want a reason to get your book published. Every single agent, editor, and bean counter is looking for a reason not to publish your book. One of the things everyone is looking for is someone who will not be a nightmare to work with. By this I mean that everyone wants to work with the clue enabled. Yes this is an unfairly high standard since most of us don't hold elected officials to this same standard. None of us mind if you are a little or even a lot ah, blessed by unique thought patterns and mental constructs. We just don't want to see them anywhere except in your book. So please for the love of booze and good books, keep your crazy at home and don't send it out with our manuscript. Doing your cover letter in the fictional language of your world is not helpful, even if you provide a dictionary for easy translation. A query letter that is all done up with email stationary that moves and sparkle with with lavender font over a lilac background is a bit unappealing as well. And yes, obvious as it seems as a way to give your prospective agent or editor a leg up on getting to know your world if your query letter is done in character it will probably earn a brisk dismissal.
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Jun. 13th, 2008 12:27 pm)
First my website is back up and running.

Second Dave Freer's website is freshly updated.

Third for those of you who are itching for a taste of James Enge's writing, he's got another story coming out in Black Gate.

Fourth, it looks like I've forgotten to post any Slow Train chapters so there will be two more of those today.

And last, sometimes revisions and persistence do pay off. This week i signed my second client who I'd asked for revisions for, James was the first.

A lot of agents and editors rail on and on about people who can't seem to follow submissions guidelines. There is good reason for this, but that's not what this is post is about.

I just want to thank the people who have in the past and will in the future follow the submission guidelines. Often I download six, seven or more submissions or more and take them with me if I expect to wait for a while. I can be sitting in an airport, a doctors office, or getting my taxes done. When after going through several bad submissions be it here at my desk  or sitting on a train, I'll get to someone who got it right. Opening a file and realizing i don't have to worry about how to contact this person because their file isn't book.doc and they have heaven forbid put their contact info in the file is an unalloyed joy. It's also about the only one an agent or editor should be able to count on every time they hold their nose and go spelunking.

So to those of you who get it right, thank you.

First, I must apologize. I lied. Others lied and i abetted them. There really is a secret hand shake. Pay attention, take notes, post it above your computer, on you fridge, get it laminated and post it in your shower too. This is the most valuable thing you will ever hear about this or any other business.



onyxhawke: (Default)


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