Ways we turn off agents — guilty on 10, 13, maybe 19 someday, not 27

Carole Blake of the Blake Friedman Literary Agency just posted an interesting blog item today called “29 Ways NOT To Submit To An Agent” that offers plenty of good cautionary advice to unpublished writers, mixing in a little humor, a little frustration and…

(…I can’t help saying this Ms. Blake. I see it. I feel it. I find it a little offensive….)

… a little callous meanness.

First, a disclaimer. I’m seriously guilty of No. 13 (sharing an email address with a spouse) and will be changing that immediately. Thank you for pointing that out, Ms. Blake. I’m guilty of No. 10 (misspelling or grammar errors in query,) but not for lack of trying. Looking back at queries I’ve sent out, I’ve seen mistakes too late. (More on that later.) I’d willingly be guilty of No. 19 (sending to 50 agents at once) with no remorse, but I just can’t do that. Definitely not guilty of No. 27 (passing a manuscript under a loo door,) but that had to be funny. Come on, Ms. Blake. Wasn’t it?

Agents get flooded with queries. We get it. If an agent gets, say, 100 or more a day, I can certainly see her dismissing them for any excuse available: misspellings in the query, odd background color, goofy email address, etc.

Understandable.

But nothing to be proud of. I wonder how much gold gets dust-binned because of an unusual font. The writer SHOULD have known better. But we’re human; and so we must hope, we must have faith, that the agents might assume a quirk or an uncaught typo here or there isn’t the tell-all of the submission’s merits. Most of us don’t have another person proofreading our queries. And you know what they say about the writer who proofreads his own work having a fool for a copy editor.

What worries me most is her kicker: “Why 29? Because if I don’t stop there I might go on forever…”

I’ll assume No. 56 is trashing an agent’s advice publicly in a blog. Sorry, Ms. Blake. And yet, this isn’t a trashing. I liked her article a lot. I just didn’t like her tone. The advice is there and it’s all good. I just wish she could have better pretended that she generally likes desperate writers, recognizing we’re at great disadvantage in this process.

My goal here is to write a blog from the unpublished writer’s point of view, so that my brethren can learn what I learn, or recognize what I’m NOT learning and maybe learn from that.

Here’s what I liked: Because we’re human, we need to hear these things. Basic, simple points, like, (Don’t send) “Any kind of jokey letter making fun of the publishing business;” or stay away from gimmicks, or don’t trash other authors. And some of the stories were pretty funny, and make us think, “Thank God, at least, I didn’t do THAT.”

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