Wednesday, September 1, 2010

When mean became helpful: query tweeting

Recently, many blogger/agents, like Nathan Bransford, Natalie Fischer, and Mandy Hubbard (and I'm sure others!) have blogged about the issue of agents posting comments about specific queries into public forums.    Apparently, this isn't the first time this issue has blown up.  In the comments on these three blogs, the "infamous queryfail incident" was mentioned.  I did a bit of investigation into what that was - an agent posting what some perceived as derogatory comments into twitter.  There was apparently a big backlash, though I could not find out more about it.

Anyway, I was really pleased to see the three bloggers mentioned above actually addressing this issue head on.  I have to admit, that I have been to Slush Pile Hell, and I did laugh.  It wasn't I who pointed out how unprofessional it was, rather my boyfriend.  When I read out some of the snarky comments to him, he looked at me and said, "I can't believe you're laughing.  What if that was your query?  That's completely unprofessional, not to mention a violation of copyright laws."

As usual (don't tell him I said that), he was right.  And, according to the comments on all of these blogs and twitter pages, many many people had the same thought.  I think QueryShark is one thing.  First of all, the people who submit to her have consented  to being publicly critiqued.  And she always has some sort of general comment that can be helpful to all of us in query-writing-hell.  But, a one line tweet of a query quote followed by a "lol" does not help anyone.  Least of all the person who wrote that particular query.  And actually, it doesn't even help that agent.  Even though my response was not as harsh as some others, I did think to myself, "Wow, definitely not querying THAT particular agent."

One more final point on all of this.  A lot of agents have come out to say, "Well, I don't feel bad for poking fun at that query writer because they obviously did not do their homework and haven't put the full time into writing their query."  As if that even is an excuse!  That alone is no reason to violate a copyright law...or someone's privacy!  However, in addition to that, I'd like to point out that a lot of the comments about the query "mistakes" had nothing to do with "not doing your research."  We're supposed to be completely psychic (or stalkery?) and know that the agent doesn't like cats?  Or that rhetorical questions make them drop the query in horror?  Or that they hate the name Jenny and if you have it in a query they'll not only never ask for a full but they'll mock you for using that name?  (I'd like to point out that none of those are actual examples.  I didn't want to single anyone out...)

Oops...I guess it's clear where I stand on this issue.  While I think resources like QueryShark are invaluable, I think publicly mocking someone's hard work under the guise of "helping them get better" or "helping them develop the thick skin that all writers need" is just ridiculous.

What do you guys think?  Come on Devil's advocates, I know you're out there!


  1. Well, I'm not a Devil's Advocate for this one. In fact one of my posts regarding grammar was in direct response to #queryslam. I'm not a fan of these things. I do not find it educational at all. And while I know some queries are crazy, I imagine those writers FEEL they have researched/prepared/etc. It's just in such bad taste to be so mean! I can tell you that I will not query even one of the agents that slams queries.

    *Steps off soapbox* Hahaha!

  2. Dear Amanda,

    I think your blogs are fantastic and I've decided to award you the Versatile Blogger and One Lovely Blog Awards. Congrats, you deserve them! (See them on my page and copy them to yours, if you wish)

    Tessa :)

  3. whoo hoo!! Congrats Amanda on your first award! You definitely have to link to them for us to see! :-)

    I'm not a Devil's advocate for this one either. I fully admit that I had this morbid curiosity towards #queryslam when I first stumbled upon it, but got really turned off by that intern, really fast! I think the thing that bothered me the most was that (as far as I can tell), she doesn't have an agent herself, and definitely isn't published. So...who is she to judge what is good and what is bad!? Where does her expertise come from?! I mean, as an unpublished author, I know how badly I want it and I know how hard I work. I also know how hard my unpublished friends want it too and how much we are all trying to learn, and I can't imagine reading one of their queries/chapters and saying, "This book is about 'X'? That's so unoriginal. I'm not reading this for you." Like, who am I to say that?! I wonder if Agents know that their interns do this, and why they put their reputations at risk to be associated with stuff like that?

    The way I see it is, millions of people scored an agent before twitter was invited, so, there must be other 'educational' ways of learning about the process!

  4. I experienced this first hand by an agent you mentioned, and I was quite surprised to read their apology and reflection on the matter. I'm all for feedback, but mean-spirited/unprofessional is something completely different. The only one who loses in this debate is the agent, because soon those needles in a haystack won't be there to find anymore.

  5. BTW, thanks for the shout out earlier, and for giving me something to blog about today.


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