As I always say, no one minds new writers. We love ’em. But we do mind noobs. Noobs are writers who don’t know what they don’t know. And they don’t care. They just soldier on, clueless, contract-less, collecting rejections like the beagle when she’s in sock-stealing mode.
So for the record…
- Spelling: It’s spelled “Query,” not “Querry.”
- Multiple Choice: If you’re querying an editor, don’t say, “I am seeking a Publisher or Literary Agent.” I don’t do Literary Agent, so the fact that you’re seeking one has no bearing on me whatsoever. And no, I won’t forward it to an agent that I “really, really like.”
- Keep it Straight: In that same vein, editors don’t “represent.” They publish. When your query says, “I’m seeking representation…” I think that you have a one-size-fits-all query, or your modifiers dangle at a different frequency.
- Oops: The time to peruse a publisher’s website is not AFTER you’ve been rejected and told that your book doesn’t fit the publisher’s lineup. You save everyone’s time by doing your homework FIRST. And you don’t need to email telling me you oopsed. Just learn from it and don’t make the same mistake again.
- Read carefully: If you tell me your novel is just like Kim Petersen’s novel, I’m going to wonder if you need glasses or have reading comprehension problems. Did you not notice Kim’s book is listed under “NONFICTION”? And, psst…Kim’s book isn’t out until July 2010. Your query is dated May 2. If you’re going to rip off a big fat one, at least choose a book that’s already in the bookstores.
- Reading Comprehension: And speaking of reading comprehension problems, what is it about “we are looking for socially relevant Personal Journeys” that you don’t understand? This means your philosophical/Wayne Dwyer/Louise Hay/Find your way to Nirvana self-help book isn’t going to be of interest to us UNLESS there’s a big fat PERSONAL JOURNEY controlling the story.
- Failure: Don’t tell me you flunked out of grad school, or any other school. The idea is to sell yourself. Stating that you failed, for whatever reason, doesn’t incite confidence. It tells me that you’re accomplished at being unsuccessful. Really, how is this helpful?
- Salutation: If you address me as Dear Editor, I’ll address you back as Dear Author. Yes, I can easily see your name on your email. And guess what? You can easily see my name on our submission guidelines, so kindly save your righteous indignation for something really important, like running out of tequila.
- The Big Hairy Eye: Be warned: If you tell me that you read ALL our submission guidelines and still addressed me as Dear Editor, I’m gonna give you the big fat hairy eye. And so will the beagle – except she’ll snarl.
- Contact: If you’re in query mode, the last thing you want to do is have that irritating pingback email stating how you don’t allow unapproved email and that I need to apply for your approval – and only then will you get right back to me. Ah, this is absolute noobery at its finest.
- Fees: No, we aren’t a vanity press and don’t charge fees if you find a mistake [gah!] in your book. We effing fix it before we go to the next print run. For. Free. Why do we do that? Because we make our money by selling books, so we care about their quality.
- Whining: I know querying sucks stale Twinkie cream and you don’t need to remind me this is a tough business. Trust me, I already know. So that means you don’t have to say things like: “… agents are so intense on looking up their own anus, that they miss good storylines that go past their noses, they approach each manuscript as an academic excercise, and miss the fact that the “great un-washed” in our society, the majority of people in the country, wouldn’t know a good “penmanship” manuscript if they fell over it, all they want is a good “STORY”. I’m an editor and don’t need the 411 on what body cavities you mistakenly believe agents peruse instead of reading manuscripts. And I won’t even go into the poor sentence structure and spelling mistakes.
- Confidence: Why do you feel the need to state that you’re wasting my time by querying me? Your lack of confidence tarnishes everything in your query letter. If you don’t think you rock, then how are you going to convince me?
- Hobby: Whatever you do, do NOT ever tell an editor that your writing is a hobby. We don’t live on cheap tequila, employ snarly beagle secretaries, and work long hours on crap pay so we can publish the hobbyist. That’s what Publish America is for.
- Good Housekeeping: If I rejected your manuscript on 12-3-09, and again on 2-15-10, it is a guar-an-tee that I’ll reject it again. Keep a good record of those you’ve queried and heard back from. At the rate you’re querying me, you could drive over my son’s stereo and never hear it. S-L-O-W down and maintain good housekeeping.
In short, there are all kinds of things an author can do to reveal their ultimate noobery. The best defense I can pass along is this: If you want to be taken seriously, then you need to know how to conduct yourself.
Jumping into a vat of boiling oil wearing your bathing suit and carrying a parasol ensures one thing – you’re gonna get on heckuva burn and look like a…noob.