A Friday Rant (And This One’s Not About You)
So, you know I love writing this blog, right? I enjoy the dialogue with writers, and sharing tidbits of information, and hearing about your experience as a writer in this crazy publishing world.
But I have to tell you my #1 frustration with this whole thing. It has nothing to do with you. Nope. It’s everybody else. That’s right, everyone who doesn’t read publishing blogs.
These are the people who most need to be educated. But you can’t tell them they need to get educated, because they’re not on the Internet trying to get educated! They send queries having not ever looked at our company website or my blog. They pitch me screenplays and illustrated childrens books and poetry and 200,000-word fantasy novels.
They send emails saying things like “this book will be a blockbuster of epic proportions” and they ask me if I can “publish” their book (do I look like a publisher?) and they ask me what a platform is. What is a platform? Anybody?
I can’t help them, because they’re not listening. They’re clearly not doing any research via the Internet, and they’re not visiting the “writing” section of their local bookstore and they wouldn’t even hear me if I used a bullhorn. There is nothing I can do for these people.
But that’s “them.” You are not them. You are awesome. You read this blog and other publishing blogs and seek out helpful resources. You listen. You learn. You know how this gig works. You know the ins and outs of queries and proposals and platforms and how to work with an editor and everything else. You’re the bomb! You’ve got it goin’ on and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
And you know what else? Most of the people whose letters show up in my query box are NOT your competition, because most of those people aren’t reading guidelines, aren’t reading blogs, and aren’t taking the time to approach publishing seriously. You are taking a professional approach to your writing career, and you’re among the minority. You will be taken seriously.
I want you to know: I appreciate you. I’m glad you’re here, I’m glad you want to write, and I’m excited that you take it seriously enough to want to stay informed. So thanks for being here.
End of rant.
And hey, have a good weekend. Read some blogs or something.
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.
>I just wanted to say thanks, Rachelle, this post was SO encouraging for a no-name writer like me. After reading this I went on to Query my children’s picture book (not what you want, so I didn’t submit to you 🙂 ) and received interest they wanted to see my work :)! Thank you again, I really appreciated this!
>Now why didn’t I think of that? Putting an ad out would probably work, don’t ya think? Especially if I tell them I will recommend them for ACFW’s Agent of the year for ’09.
>Don’t know if you’ll find this comment under 67 others, but an ad I found in The Writer is too absurd not to share:
TRUE STORY, out-of-body experience. Sage reads like fiction, uncanny, unique. Experienced and or celebrity agent needed.
April 2009 issue, in the classifieds.
>I blog about how publishing works, and the challenges that writers face, because I’ve seen so much misinformation on the internet and so much misunderstanding among writers. It’s frustrating.
The whole Queryfail episode was wonderfully instructive. Sadly, though, the writers who could learn most from it are unlikely to have watched it unfold, and are unlikely to be prepared to learn from it: it seems to me that the less you know, the more you think you know (and there’s some academic research which shows that this is the case). How to reach these writers and get them to listen? Beats me. I shall think about it, and now I’m looking forward to next Friday’s post here even more than usual.
>i can’t imagine how annoying that must be!
i read over 20 blogs daily and i’ve learnt so much.
its time consuming, sure, but SO worth it!
>I’ve secretly been reading your blog for a while now but I will still accept your praise and compliments.
Yes, I am awesome!
>I’ve got a warm fuzzy glow now. Thanks Rachelle.
>I always find it interesting that those who would criticize and judge motivations of another tend to be anonymous. (Just an observation!)
I thought the queryfails were a riot, but also made a point. As someone who has been on the other side of the desk, I have worked with a lot of would-be, wannabe or nearly-be authors, so education is going on, it’s just the task is huge. I really see it in writers’ organizations, as numbers are up.
Lately I’ve come out of the shadows a bit to help some more, but it’s a big task, and do we have that kind of time? Thanks for taking time to address the important issues in publishing.I love reading your blog, and like some of the others here, I continue reading a few other blogs on publishing. And the comments here are always great!
>We consistently read a half-dozen publishing blogs. There are two that we read carefully and fully: yours and Michael Hyatt’s. Thanks for the great info!
>It is kinder to let us know what sparks a delete key.
We need all the help we can get.
>Glad you don’t include us in your rants. But is queryfail really the best way to let off steam?
Yes, most of those entries seem hopeless and clueless, but it also seems cruel and rude to post them on Twitter for everyone to mock in the name of “education.”
Frankly, I was surprised and disappointed that a nice “Christian” agent would participate in such a mean-spirited activity…Isn’t patience a virtue for agents too?
>”this book will be a blockbuster of epic proportions”
Worth the cost of admission.
>p.s. I like your new header! Converse Chuck Taylors?
>this really touched me – thanks for letting me know I am on the right track.
>Ditto Paul Michael Murphy. Open House Parent Night: Honors’ classes are SRO. Not Honors are SRE [standing room everywhere].
I agree there needs to be a kind way to reach those who are query-impaired. What I wonder is,if they have sufficient internet/technology savvy to find agents and send emails, they don’t search Google. . .for writing sites.
It might be interesting to discuss how those of us who are here, came to be here. Not just at Rachelle’s blog, but the bread crumbs we followed when we first started the journey.
>If I might say something about Amethst’s comment about platform. Platform is not fan base. Platform is about being a widely recognized authority on a subject, combined with people’s interest in that subject. A fan base becomes a platform because celebrities are the foremost authorities on themselves and people are interested in celebrities, but if people have an interest in C++ they turn to Bjarne Stroustrup, not Simon Cowell. We build platform by increasing our expertise in a subject, by increasing people’s interest in the subject and by making people aware of our expertise.
Nice mention in Nathan Bransford’s blog today. Obviously other agents read your blog, which is a high compliment.Congratulations.
As for the rest of us–thank you, thank you, thank you for the constant teaching you do.
>Thanks for all the information you share here; I know blogging is a huge time commitment (I’ve recently taken a break from my blog to work on a manuscript) and I appreciate all the valuable information you share in your posts.
>A. You’ve changed your banner! Nice!
B. The first time I read the word ‘platform’ as it relates to an author I freaked out. The context made the idea seem like this totally unattainable thing, something involving PhD’s in multiple areas (while attainable, also life-sucking). BUT I do read blogs, including this one so I’ve just bucked up and Googled the term. Am I right in understanding that a platform is somewhat related to a cross between a reputation and an established fanbase? Because if so, hey! I’ve actually got one of those. Platform = Not Hopeless!
And C. Yes, like everyone else said, thanks for the uplift. We need that. I’m working on a good novel, but it can be a great novel, so it’s nice to get little hints of the light at the end of the tunnel. Helps with the hanging in to get the novel there.
So, thanks again.
>I look forward to it.
Because sadly, there were actual flesh and blood human beings (however misguided or uneducated), with real hopes and dreams, attached to every single one of those failed submissions. And people laughed.
There has to be a way a better way to reach out. There has to be a way to make things easier for everyone, esp agents.
I was just thinking about exactly what you said, and composing a blog post for next Friday. Thanks for the confirmation that it’s indeed something I need to address.
>”That’s right, everyone who doesn’t read publishing blogs.
These are the people who most need to be educated. But you can’t tell them they need to get educated, because they’re not on the Internet trying to get educated!”
Ironic, isn’t it? Just yesterday on Twitter, we have this whole query fail thing-industry professionals urging other professionals to publically share (and laugh over, because yes they did laugh) the really horrible submissions sent to them in good faith- under the premise it was an attempt to EDUCATE. But how is that educating if it targets the very same people you claim wouldn’t even be reading agents’ tweets?
I understand agents’ frustration. We all do. And thank you for acknowledging those who have educated themselves. But this post raises a very important point-there have to be better ways to reach out to those who need to be educated. Kind, good, and truly helpful ways.
>Same problem we here in the world of public education have. Those parents who are doing a fantastic job are the ones that attend conferences, informational meetings, and parent nights. Those who need the most help never show up. You can’t teach people if they don’t care enough to learn.
>(do I look like a publisher?)
I really can’t answer that question. What exactly does a publisher look like? For some reason my mind conjures up an image of Bob Newhart.
>It’s SO important to research this type of thing. I can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t. I think the people you are talking about are my students. Sigh…
>Well preached! We, the choir, are listening. 🙂 God bless you and your family this weekend.
>Love your rant today, Rachelle! If anyone, I mean… ANYONE from Words For The Journey Christian Writers Guild ever comes to you “uneducated,” you just let me or Michele Cushatt know… PRONTO!!! Either they aren’t real members and they are faking you out, OR they jumped ahead of (or over) the learning curve 🙂
>Thanks!! Back atcha!!
Aww, can y’all feel the love?
Pam – amen! It doesn’t take long to read a few blogs before you get the day started. It’s when you read 20 blogs or more … AND post comments all over the net like a puppy in potty training… Yeah, it SHOULDN’T take long to check in before you get your day started, unless you’re COMPULSIVE about reading writing/publishing related blogs and actually have a day job to shower and paint a face on for. (apologies for the dp)
Lee Ann – I totally agree. Rachelle, no more guilt complex over guarding your time by declining to give attention to people. Unless it’s me.
>Aww, thanks Rachelle! I’m blushing 🙂
Seriously though, agents like you are the reason writers like us are as informed as we are. I didn’t even know what a query was until a year ago, and now I can write one in the form of a haiku if I need to (thanks, Colleen!).
I’m sure it’s rough to read hundreds of gosh-awful queries every week, but I hope you won’t get discouraged. Word is getting out. Knowledge is spreading. I believe those folks will one day get the message and shape up. It’s just going to take some time.
Ha ha ha. I love anyone who makes me laugh!
>A platform is where you wait for the publishing train to arrive, right?
>I think I’ve said this before, but I DO have to thank that first agent and editor that I sent a proposal to before I’d done my OWN research. Haven’t we all done that at least once? Ugh.
*hangs head in shame*
Anyway, thank you, to you unnamed editor/agent for just ignoring my stupidity and hopefully for not hold it against me later, if I ever get the nerve to query you again.
And thank you, big time, to agents like YOU Rachelle who inform us feeble brained writers of the correct way to do submit so we can save ourselves from humiliation!
>My bad. That should be “those WHO don’t read your blog.”
>We appreciate you too, Rachelle. Thank you for taking the time to share your wisdom. Without it, we’d be just like those that don’t read your blog 🙂
>What an encouraging post to read this morning. Thank you so much. I can’t imagine not reading publishing blogs. How would I ever learn the business if I didn’t? Have a wonderful weekend and thanks again.
I love you too!!!
>We appreciate you too Rachelle! This blog is a gift.
>Great rant! It helps me feel better that I’ll standing out somehow in all those stacks of queries. I appreciate you, too! For all of the great advice and information you give. It’s wonderful!
>Thanks for the encouraging words… my new writing goal: to never write a query worthy of queriefail tweets…
Today, I’m celebrating an article published..(on mops.org website) I’m learning as I go. You are helping!
Thanks for the encouragement and thanks for the storehouse of information. I’m frequently referring people to your blog if they ask me anything about the mysteries of the agenting and publishing process. You provide the decoder ring.
>I remember when I first decided to get serious about my writing. I finished a novel, just KNEW it needed no further editing and was the best I could ever do, and then (thank God!) went to a writer’s conference and realized I was a guppy swimming in shark-infested waters. Really nice, really talented sharks, mind you. But sharks all the same.
So, I stuffed the ms. in a drawer and started learning things like GMC, querying, and the kind of agents I wanted to work with. Fast-forward two years and I’ve got an agent and a book that will sell. A lot of that is due to blogs like yours, Miss Snark, Book Ends, and other industry professionals who take time to educate writers.
So, thanks. 🙂 I appreciate the help!
>I’ve heard stories of people sending chocolates and putting confetti in their query letters. I thought it was myth. Obviously I was mistaken. LOL! Thanks for posting.
>Another reason you should not feel guilty about not responding to queries you’re not interested in. If they haven’t spent the time on their OWN query, why should you have to?
>I owe most of what I know about the publishing world to blogs like yours. Without you and the other great blogs out there, I’d be sending you my awesome 200,000 word fantasy novel on pink unicorn paper with sparkly font and instructions how I want the cover of the book to look, oh and when do you send me my big, fat check?
Okay, hopefully I wouldn’t have been that bad … but you never know!
>I appreciate you. Now, I’m going to take your advice, and go read some blogs … or something. 🙂
>Rachelle, thanks for the post. I think sometimes even all of us publishing blog readers (following the rules and doing what’s asked of us) still wonder as we send out queries if we’re doing SOMETHING wrong because of the results. As much as we try to shove aside that doubt, it still creeps in. This post is a wonderful reminder that many of us are doing our best. Thanks again!
>Thanks! And a big thank you to you for taking the time out of your busy day to educate us 🙂
You are greatly appreciated, too!
>I agree with what others have said…thanks for the encouragement! It’s always good to hear. I’m about to start the process of querying and I’m putting on my thick skin and trying to learn as much about the business as possible.
>Well, we appreciate you too – 100%!!
>I’m sensing a trend, bookends had the same style rant today. http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/
Thank you for the encouragment. :o)
>Woohoo! I love positive reinforcement. 🙂
“Right now, you like me, you really like me!” (Sally Fields).
>Well garsh, we appreciate you too! You keep writing and we’ll keep reading!
>I appreciate all the advice and encouragement you give us! Keep it coming!
>Well, you did it again, Rachelle: made my day.
I almost wept when I read, “you are the bomb. I appreciate you.”
Thanks for your confidence in us, your affirmation, and your daily dose of teaching and encouragement. Hey, you remind me of Someone Else I know and love!
>You are so welcome. And the feeling is oh, so mutual. Happy Weekend!!
>Just to return the love, I appreciate you posting all of this information. My first book is “almost” under contract, so I’m on a steep learning curve. Your blog has been a wonderful resource.
Grace and peace,
>Speaking of an author not doing her research, I received a query letter the other day. The cover letter began with something along the lines of “my brother-in-law is one of your ghost writers.” I figure he must be a true ghost writer. I’ve never seen the guy. The query letter said nothing more than that she has children’s book about a gerbil or a squirrel or something. Certainly nothing to make me want to fire up the ol’ printing press.
>The sad thing is that even if those writers were to read your blog, they most likely would think it didn’t apply to them.
I have writer friends who say they don’t have time to read blogs. I tell them to choose a few, like yours, Rachelle. Follow them. It doesn’t take long to read a few blogs before you get the day started. It’s when you read 20 blogs or more … and Facebook … and Twitter … and ACFW …
It’s all about boundries.
>Thank you, thank you for encouraging words!! They are incredibly helpful, as is your blog.
>I’m giggling at Gwen’s idea above. I can completely see you – arms crossed, earnest and sincerely looking in the camera full-on – in a “The More You Know” PSA. Love it.
This is a gorgeous way to start the day and the weekend. Thank you for taking the time to rant/share.
>And here I thought I read so many agent blogs to avoid cleaning my bathroom…
>I don’t know, Rachelle. I think if you had a bullhorn big and loud enough, like a public service announcement between segments of American Idol, your message would start to get out. *grin*
Like those spots, “The More You Know”: “Did you know that dreaming of writing the Great American Novel is easy, but writing it and getting it published is very difficult? Do the literary agents in this great nation a favor. Do your homework.”
You could come up with something much better than that, I’m sure. Love the idea though…
>that was incredibly encouraging (esp at a time when we know agents are getting slammed w/queries!)…thank you for sharing 🙂
>Thank you, Rachelle. It was great, so early in the morning, to read about how wonderful we are! 😉
Honestly, we need your input and encouragement more than you know.
You made my day. XOXO
>I really appreciate what you’ve written coz I follow your blogs every day. I feel better. Thanks.
We love our pub blogs! Whatever would we do without them?
>Rachelle, thank you for the positivity — a good start to the day! 🙂
>Right about now I am happy that I read blogs by literary agents, novelists, publishers and all other ‘writer-related’ bloggers and website owners.
So, I’ll be sending my 200,000 word fantasy novel to you in todays mail? 😉