Have you read the comments lately?

March 13th, 2009 • Kate

There’s been a new flurry of comments on last week’s Queryfail post, with kt literary client Maureen Johnson sharing her thoughts. A snippet:

The guidelines aren’t that hard, and they’re there for a reason–to get everything organized and read correctly. It takes, what, a minute to read them? If you can’t correctly comprehend three lines of instructions, it calls into question your ability to read analytically and to handle the many complicated negotiations that a career in writing entails. If you can’t make sense of “do not send the full manuscript unless requested,” then what are you going to do when you get your fifteen or twenty or thirty or fifty page contract? Are you just going to ignore your deadlines because “who reads e-mails with numbers in them, anyway?”

Justine Larbalestier chimes in with her thoughts on her blog (addressing a specific comment that was made about not needing to follow the rules), and GalleyCat’s Ron Hogan added a tweet as well. In addition, Editorial Anonymous shares another agent’s example of someone who clearly needed the queryfail lesson, but refuses to listen.

As for me, well, I’ve said my part in the comments as well, and because I’ve always had a great reaction to my attempts to live-blog my queries, I will continue to do so. Maybe even next week!
One final thought — was it the term “fail” that seemed objectionable? Maybe if we’d called it #querylessons, or some such…

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13 Responses to “Have you read the comments lately?”

  1. Susan Adrian Says:

    #queryfail turned out to be worth it for the discussion alone!
    You might be right about the term "fail" being a large part of the problem, particularly with those folks who don't recognize it as a very popular slangy term on Twitter.

  2. Nixy Valentine Says:

    I think that's a good insight. Shouting "Loser" was "popular slang" in the 80's, but that also isn't helpful, and to me, FAIL has the same feel.
    Perhaps #realqueries (or similar) would be more accurate, plus it might encourage agents to talk about all the queries they're looking through.
    It was my understanding that Colleen Lindsay intended this to be a real time query answering event, so with something like #realqueries, no one would be tempted to cherry pick the worst. Also, I know not everyone was really doing it at the time, but instead were recalling their "greatest hits" from past letters.
    I can see both sides of the whole #queryfail argument. I just think it's a shame that it's been so polarising.

  3. jeanoram Says:

    I think people are being senstitive about 'fail'. Agents are blowing off steam–they are human too. And honestly, it was an amusing learning experience. People are taking themselves way too seriously. Then again, I stopped making most of the queryfail mistakes a year ago…so maybe I'm the wrong person to ask.

  4. Julie Butcher Says:

    If one word, fail, upsets them they'd better run away as quickly as possible. If they get published the reviewers will eat them alive. Nom, nom. Goodness, we're all adults. If you screw up, learn from it and move along. I don't blame the agents one bit if there was a little venting involved. You wouldn't slap someone in the face and then ask a favor. Ignoring submission guidelines is stupid as well as rude.
    Nothing's cheaper than good manners.

  5. lotusloquax Says:

    I can see both sides of the issue, but I found the examples on queryfail really helpful and funny, so…

  6. Trish Doller Says:

    While I agree with Maureen that submission guidelines are not hard to follow and any writer worth his/her salt WILL follow them, here's my take on #queryfail:
    I used to work on a morning radio show and in the winter we were the station everyone listened to for school closings and delays. On those mornings we would announce, "Please don't call the station. We will update and announce the closings every ten minutes." Invariably, people still called. And I would get frustrated because we'd either just finished, were just about to, or–yes, really–were in the middle of announcing the list on the air! In my frustration I would tell the callers that they weren't supposed to call. But by then, it was really too late. They'd already called.
    That's sort of how I feel about #queryfail, however well-intentioned it might have been.
    It's got to be frustrating to have your submission guidelines ignored. But there are always going to be people who think the rules do not apply to them or who just don't listen. And there's really no way to resolve that situation. It's an occupational hazard.
    The thing is, a lot of people ended up feeling like #queryfail was a giant b*tch session. And while I could see a bunch of agents getting together for beers and swapping horror stories, putting the horrors on the Internet might not have felt like a learning experience.

  7. Trish Doller Says:

    Also, Kate, for the record, whenever you've done live blogging queries, I've always thought you've been professional and kind. And I think that's the difference between teaching someone the right way and just being mean.

  8. chocolateinspir Says:

    As a teacher I always tell my students to write their name on their paper. Seems simple right? Nope.
    Still, students- even in 8th grade- would forget. I used to get so upset over that. I'd take off points from their grade and then they would get upset at me.
    So I can understand. Maybe those who use to forget to write their name on their papers are now querying you!

  9. Jamie Harrington Says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head… it's the term fail. It has a negative feeling, and that might be the entire problem here. A simple name change would solve ninety percent of their problems!

  10. Dara Says:

    I suppose I'm not bothered by #queryfail. If mine had been one commented about, oh well–I'd learn to move on. I doubt I'd even know it was mine they were complaining about anyway (I didn't see any tweet updates that were specific on the story line, but I did come into it late). It's not like they are mentioning the author's name.
    Anyway, I guess I can see the logic behind the term "fail" and why many writers are discouraged by that. Still, I think people nowadays tend to get offended a little too easily. I agree with Julie a few comments above: if this upsets them, then how in the world are they going to be able to take reviews should their book get published?

  11. Electric Landlady Says:

    I thought the term #queryfail was both funny and accurate! It had a nice ring to it, and all of you were describing (in 140 characters or less) exactly WHY query X failed. #rejection would also be accurate, but not as funny.
    I hadn't realized people were getting upset, but then, I haven't been submitting to agents, and I always read guidelines. For everything. NO I'M NOT OBSESSIVE AT ALL, WHY DO YOU ASK? Ahem. But I'm not sure a change of name would help — after all, however kindly it's phrased, a #queryfail is still a rejection, and from all I've read some people are never going to be able to see past that.
    Either way, #queryfail Day had me giggling like a fiend, and for that I thank you all!

  12. Dillian Says:

    If your articles are always this hlefupl, ?I’ll be back.?

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