Ignorant is as ignorant does

This from SlushPile Hell. If you don’t read this blog, you’re missing a barrel of laughs along with some sage advice.

Dear agent, first of all, let me tell you that I have applied for a copyright for my book, so I hope you will respect that.

Curses! Without a copyright I would have outsourced your book idea to India, where a team of writers would carefully plagiarize it and then hand it back over to me. After which, I would put my name on it as author and ride it to glorious bestsellerdom.


I know, sounds silly, right? But I get a fair number of queries that say roughly the same thing. And my thoughts are those of the agent…what? I can’t copy this manuscript on every bathroom wall from here to Texas? Quell bummer…

I know it sounds snobby, but it’s a huge turnoff when authors do “ignernt” things. I guess that’s why I love SlushyHell so much – the replies reflect the frustration we feel at the myriad of blunders. All my life I’ve always gone to an interview prepared. I knew about the business which I hoped would hire me, I dressed nicely (even brushed mah teeth), and had a complete resume in hand. Given that, I have the same expectations of those who query me.

Other blunders that make me yell for the beagle to fire up the blender:

  • “You may look at my website for further information.” Oh…you mean like finding out the PLOT???
  • “I’ve decided that agents are a total waste and out to steal my money, so I’m querying you directly.” Don’t they know I’ll steal their money, too? KIDDING! Yes, rethink that opening line.
  • “Fiction novel…” Fingernails on a chalkboard.
  • “Dear Ms. Behler…” Le sigh. I have no idea why this bothers me so much (calling Dr. Fraud), but it may be that my name is plastered on our submission guidelines. If they didn’t read my name, what else didn’t they read?
  • Email account. This is important, oddly enough. When a query comes in from Ozzie and Harriet@hopefulauthor.com, I wonder if these are co-authors or it’s the family account. I admit that my brain runs on empty most of the time, but when I hit reply and type in “Dear…” I have to scroll down to find out whether it’s Ozzie or Harriet. Have your own email account in your name for your queries. An agent’s or editor’s email shouldn’t be rummaging around with email from your kids telling you they’re spending the night at Tommy McFarty’s because Tommy’s mom is serving ice cream for dinner.
  • And speaking of email…turn off your spam protector. No agent or editor with a heartbeat (assuming we actually have one) is going to fill out a request for you to receive our emails. Evah.
  • “I know you asked for an attachment, but I put my entire three chapters in the body of this email because I didn’t want to lose the formatting.” Um. If I wanted it in the body of the email, I’d have asked for it that way. At the risk of sounding snobby again, I have to say that the author queried me. That suggests I may have something they want, so doesn’t it go to reason that she would comply with my request of an attachment? It’s not that I’m arbitrary, but I have a specific reason for asking for an attachment. I put these on my Kindle. Instead, I have to copy and paste the entire three chapters into a Word file, then send it to my Kindle account. If I lose the formatting, I have to put it back in. The question is – will I? I may. But I’ll go ahead and read all the other partials first, leaving this author to wait a long time.
  • “I’m querying you because you specialize in Fantasy…” Eh? Whazzat? I do? Dammit, I hate it when I don’t get the memo. BEAGLE!!! This doesn’t even warrant a rejection. I simply delete it because I know the author is simply going down a list of editors and blindly emailing queries. The danger with this process is that a nice slurpy vanity press may bite, and BINGO, the author is reeled in like a fresh trout.
  • “I’ve sent out hundreds of queries. Please look at my work.” Yessiree…is there anything that sez lovin’ like being the last one to be asked to dance? Being last in line and being begged to dance is such a turnoff that I find myself gargling with Draino. Hello, Ms. Delete button.

The point isn’t to mock, but to point out what agents and editors endure every day. It shouldn’t be difficult to see how many of us are able to parse the query pile into a more manageable beast.If authors looked at queries as a job interview, perhaps they wouldn’t be quite so cavalier or massively ill-prepared.

3 Responses to Ignorant is as ignorant does

  1. Lauren says:

    Excellent advice as always! The question is how do you get those who need this advice to read it instead of those who don’t?

  2. NinjaFingers says:

    The only bad thing I ever do is accidentally *glares at her email client* send queries from my gaming account.


  3. Skywriting, Lauren.

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