I love Nanowrimo. I used to participate every year and while I don’t feel like it’s a necessary part of my process anymore, I value what Nanowrimo has taught me. How far I’ve been able to come is, in part, because of this crazy yes-you-can program.
I also love Nanowrimo’s support group. We have Nanoedmo (National Novel Editing Month), and the Office of Letters and Light blog often features authors who have gone through the publishing process and have tips for those of us who may be mired in the “Now What?” months of post draft revisions.
However, the past couple of posts have made me gnash my teeth. Yes, a lot of writing advice is subjective (is show don’t tell the worst advice or a necessary part of developing style?) – but there is some practical matter, and it is that matter I take issue with here.
Yes, a lot of this is nitpicky. But yes, the little things can make a big difference.
Beth Revis wrote a great post on having goals in writing, and being able to fail in writing. I liked 99% of the post. But one thing about querying agents caught my eye:
I learned other things. Tricks of the trade that you pick up as you go:
- Copy and paste the first five pages into the bottom of your query in order to give the agent a sample of your writing.
There are a couple of NOPES here. First of all, this isn’t something you should be picking up as you go. Read in advance and you will learn all about what agents want. In fact, research will reveal that a blanket copy-paste for every query is quite possibly a terrible idea. Why? Because agents have guidelines for submissions. Agencies have guidelines. And not all of them include the first five pages in the body of the email.
I have queried agents who don’t want pages. I’ve queried agents who want the first five, the first ten, the first chapter, even the first 20 pages. I’ve queried a (very) few agents who wanted pages attached, not pasted. Some want a synopsis, too. If you don’t follow the rules, the agents think that 1) you can’t read, 2) you can’t pay attention or 3) you think you know better than them. None of these scream BUSINESS PARTNER FOR LIFE. And a lot of agents auto-reject queries that don’t follow the guidelines.
Now, agents understand that it’s easy to get mixed up or make a mistake in the querying process. If you send out a query with the wrong guidelines, an agent might like your material anyway. They might see what you have to offer. In my experience, agents have been quite helpful towards authors who are starting to navigate the publishing world, a world that is far more complicated than we first imagined. But don’t give your dream agent, who has 25000 queries in her inbox and only 2 hours to answer them, an easy excuse to reject you.