Pretending to be friendly after a seminar
* You don’t need to put the little copyright symbol next to your title in your query letter. Being in the biz, I know that your work is copyrighted the minute it spits out of your brain. Telling me is insulting and makes me think you don’t trust me. The beagle, I understand. I barely trust her myself. Besides, you look like a noob.
* If you don’t tell me whether your book is fiction or nonfiction, you force me to guess. This forces me to get out my tinfoil hat – and sometimes it clashes with my outfit. The question is, will I bother, or will I reject it outright because you’re showing your noobness? I know…sounds incredibly lazy and snobby, but let’s remember that you contacted me, so I don’t see it as my job to basically do your job for you by asking you to send me the genre…and the freaking word count. You either know how to submit a proper query or you don’t. If you don’t, then I wonder what else you don’t know.
* If you tell me that your book will be a bestseller, you’ll make my baby blues roll. In my experience, all our bestsellers came as complete surprises to our authors. Oh sure, they realized they had a quality book – and I think that given the right promotion it could hit the bestseller list – but making a bestseller list is left in the hands of the readers, and they’re more fickle than the beagle when deciding over brands of tequila. In truth, you aren’t in the position to actually know whether you have a bestseller or not, so telling me makes you look like a noob. It’s like telling me your book is hilarious. Usually, it isn’t. Best advice is to let the agent or editor decide whether your work has bestseller written all over it.
* I don’t mind being proven wrong. I welcome it with open arms because it means that I’m human after all. Living with no heart or soul for so long does make me wonder at times. But when I reject something, I don’t do so lightly. I take my time – yes, even when I’ve rejected something within minutes of it dumping into my Inbox. I know exactly what I’m looking for and what I think might find a better home elsewhere.
If I offered a reason for rejecting your work, I’m not doing so to open up a dialog, but to let you know why it’s not right for me. If I say something feels too mainstream for me, then that’s how I really feel, and there isn’t any amount of pleading that will get me to change my mind.
It doesn’t matter if your previous book won an award. Of course, I’m thrilled for you, but my focus is on your current work.
It doesn’t matter the reasons you had for querying Behler. I go on the assumption that anyone who queries us does so because they feel we publish what they write. Telling me that you chose us because you want to write about transformative characters is telling me something I already know. These things make you look like a noob.
* If you need your friend/wife/husband/errant beagle to write your query letter for you, then you’re not ready for prime time. No one – and I do mean no one – can advocate your book better than you, the author. If your friend/husband/errant beagle wrote your query letter, then for the love of verbs and nouns, DON’T SAY SO. Besides, it doesn’t matter. But if you tell me, then I wonder what else you can’t do for yourself.
* I’ve said it before but it bears saying again; if you worked with an indie editor, then I wonder whose words I’m reading. It could be simply a personal thing with me, but I’ve been burned a couple times, so I’m admittedly wary. I’m not saying don’t work with an indie editor – but I think it’s important to figure out how heavily you’re leaning on them to produce a marketable work. If you find yourself relying on to a huge extent, then you need to consider whether your literary grapes are still too green. If they are too green, then are you really ready for prime time?
Mind you, if your story is so huge, you could have written it on toilet paper and I would snap it up – regardless of how raw it is – because I see the hugeness of the final product. I may not like doing massive editing that borders on rewriting, but I’ll jolly well do it if I think there’s a bestseller in it.
I mention this because I’ve had a couple cases where the stories were adequate enough and I believed we’d make some decent sales. They weren’t megabusters, but serviceable. They had mentioned they’d worked with indie editors, but it wasn’t until we got into the editing process that I realized the extent of that reliance. The authors literally couldn’t stand up on their own two feet without the editor’s help. You can imagine how confusing it is to me. I’m wondering how they wrote a very good book, yet couldn’t develop the character or scene in the manner that I requested. That’s when I realize the magnitude of the indie editor’s literary imprint.
So it’s a risk for you. You could say nothing about working with an indie editor and hope for the best – while bloody well learning how to write. Or you could get busted.
There is nothing that makes my blackened soul rage more than feeling like I’ve been conned. And yes, I do see this as a con. You’re telling me that you “wrote” this book. But if you can’t perform the most mundane of edits, then we both know who really wrote that book. I will be very cranky because I’ve lost faith in you and your book. This is when I reach a fork in the road; do I continue the project or do I cut my losses? After all, I’m not going to rewrite a book that I think is merely adequate. I don’t have that kind of time.
I can’t urge this enough – consider whether you are relying on someone else to make you look great. If you are, then are you ready for prime time? Because I guarantee that at some point, you’re gonna be found out. Then how will you feel?
So that’s the Noob Alert for today. Tuck it into your literary tackle box and go out and be brilliant!
* Noob = someone who doesn’t know what they don’t know…and doesn’t care.