Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Making Stupid Mistakes



Well, you guys?

This is my second tour through the query trenches. I know better than to make stupid mistakes.

(Here are some examples of stupid mistakes:

  • Writing a bad query letter (one that doesn't talk about the book, disparages published books, etc.)
  • Addressing your query to "Dear Sir or Madam"
  • Sending a query to an editor
  • Sending an attachment with a query
  • Not following submission guidelines)


So, when I sent out my first batch of queries Monday, you'd think I wouldn't make any of those mistakes, right?


Yeah. You'd think.




Here's the story in all its brief, harrowing detail:

I've been watching my query inbox just in case I get a request, so I can send it out quickly.
I ran over to the agency website for one of the queries I'd sent and been on especial watch for a response to, to see if I should even EXPECT a reply. (Some agencies are "no reply means no," so this would be normal.)

While on the site's submission page, I skimmed over the part that said I should send a query letter, first chapter, and synopsis.

Right, okay.

Wait. WHAT? Because I know - I KNOW - I only sent a query letter and synopsis.
Knew it down to my bones. Knew it without even having to scramble through my "sent" box to desperately re-check.



How did I know that, so clearly and certainly?

 Because. The one and only query I messed up?

WAS THE ONE I SENT TO DREAM AGENT.




I drafted that query for A WEEK. (I personalized it because she read a full of my last MS.)
 I knew (thought I knew) her sub guidelines inside and out.
I wrote a synopsis JUST FOR HER. (A lot of agencies don't require one.)


I know my chances of getting a request from her were low anyway, just like with any other agent.
I know, from reading some of her stats, that she only requests 1-2% in the first place.
I'm sure my query would have fallen in the 98%, so it's no big difference - or loss, I guess - if she decides to just chuck it outright.
I know that, at this point, getting a rejection from her would be her doing something REALLY nice.



I'm not going to blog about how things happen for a reason, or how everything works out for the best.

(Incidentally, I don't believe that everything happens for a reason, or that everything works out for the best.)

I have nobody to blame for a stupid mistake but myself.
And this one? Was pretty epically stupid.

Hold me.

Please regale me with stories of stupid querying mistakes (or really any stupid mistakes in general) you've made, so I don't feel like quite so much of an idiot.

29 comments:

  1. Honestly, that's not as stupid as you think! People do that ALL the time. And the good news is, if the query intrigues her and she wants to see pages, she'll just ask you for a partial. This is not auto-reject calibre at all! :)

    I've done 2 really stupid things while querying:

    1) On my very first novel, I sent out my first batch of queries and was over the moon to get a request for a partial a couple days later...and a synopsis. To which I said, "what? Oh crap, you mean I gotta write one of those too?" Thus the Worst Synopsis Ever was written and sent off. The rejection was not far behind. Lesson learned: prepare EVERYTHING before you query!

    2) While I was finishing up revisions to CYBORG last spring (and querying another project), I decided to enter my query for it in a live query critique with an agent over on WriteOnCon. They'd run one earlier in the month and when I'd entered the query for my other project, it was summarily dismissed as "I've seen it before" so I didn't expect much from my CYBORG query.
    As it turned out, the agent loved my query. There were even lots of explanation points in her feedback! Then she said she wanted to see pages and my excitement came to a screeching halt. CYBORG wasn't done and other agents had my other project. My CPs talked me down from my panic, but it wasn't until 2 months later that I had a finished project to send her - along with an apology for the delay! SO EMBARRASSING! Lesson Learned: Never, ever put anything in front of an agent that you can't send out immediately!
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    1. Oh, Marcy. Thank you so much. Okay. Okay. I hate to say it, but your examples make me feel like I'm in good company.

      The good news about me is....I'm happy to wait 2 months for CTC. But...not much longer, okay?

      Delete
  2. Ahhhh! Post with a lot of ugly crying children!

    There are so many querying mistakes that seem like they'll be auto-rejects right when you make them. But then later, when you have time to look back and think about it, you realize they're not auto-reject worthy at all. And agents get this sort of thing all the time, I'm sure they know that a lot of the authors that submit are a little nervous, a little frayed, but still have good intentions.

    Dream agent will love it. :) Hang in there.

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    1. Thanks, Chess. I mean, I wasnt' EXPECTING her to love it - I just feel like, why kick myself in the ass?

      But I guess yeah. If she's in a good mood it's no biggie.

      Delete
  3. *hugs* I think Chessie and Marcy Kate are right - on the scale of stupid things agents see, this is not even on the list! You didn't call her names or tell her she was an idiot, you didn't include glitter or naked pictures of yourself. And you didn't highlight each paragraph in a different colored font. I think you're cool :)

    Agents can tell right off the bat if you're professional or not, and how much work you put into your query package - and YOU worked your butt off for this. She'll know it was just a simple mistake. She's human too. And as soon as she reads that kick ass query, she'll email back and ask for pages.

    *Deep breaths*

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    1. Wait? We can't include naked pictures of ourselves with body glitter?

      DAMMIT.

      (You're always going to wonder a little bit whether I was kidding. Aren't you?)

      Thanks for the deep breathing, and the good vibes. You are a rockstar.

      Delete
  4. Those pictures are so hilarious, I can't even take this post seriously :)

    But also- I know you have nothing to worry about. Some agents are snarktastic and refuse to accept that people make mistakes, but the agent in question? She isn't one of them. I guarantee she'll be in touch. Hang in there, lady.

    And here's my stories of stupidity to make you feel better:

    http://writersblog-gina.blogspot.com/2011/10/update-from-query-trenches-still-moron.html

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    1. You're right, G. And the agents we know to be snarktastic are ALREADY on my "never query" list. So...okay.

      And your story of stupidity? Exactly what I needed. BECAUSE THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT I DID!!! How how how????

      Thank you. <3

      Delete
  5. *hugs*

    People make querying mistakes all the time (it's a rule of the universe that the more important a thing is, the more likely you'll mess up doing it). I'm sure if she requested a full from you before, she's aware you're merely making a mistake, and not disregarding her instructions. And if she's intrigued by the query, I'm sure she'll ask for the synopsis!

    Good luck!

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    1. This rule of the universe actually makes me feel a heckuva lot better. I might print that out and put it on my wall. <3

      Delete
  6. Well I have never queried so I can't make a query mistake, but I make stupid mistakes about every 15 minutes on an average day, so don't worry about it! Everything will be okay! Just picture me walking halfway across campus to the library without actually bringing my library book, better right? Haha just don't over think it, some way better agent will love it even more!

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    1. Ohhhh Alexa that IS bad. Also seeing you yesterday lifted my spirits. <3

      Delete
  7. While I have yet to start querying, the biggest mistake I ever made was when I was at college in the US. I booked a flight from NC to NY to see my parents and realised I'd booked the wrong week. But, to make everything more complicated, I'd booked using a company at home in England because it was cheaper. Cue hours of phone calls to the American branch of the company to find a number to the English side in order to sort everything out. Then much apologising to my friend's mum (mom :P) for running up a transatlantic phone bill.

    Hope that helps!

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    1. OH NO!!! That story is AWFUL!!! But it did help. Thank you. <3 (Maybe you can resurrect it in a book someday so it won't be for naught??)

      Delete
  8. I have a rule: I never send a query the day I write it. I always reread before I hit send. And yet, I still managed to send out a query with the WRONG PERSONALIZATION last week. Totally wrong. Referenced an interview with a publication she'd NEVER DONE. Not even like, I hear you like book a, b or c. Because chances are she does. It's was totally, irredeemably wrong. And I realized 3 minutes after I sent. The R came 10 minutes later. With a recommendation that I buy a book on querying. Yeah. Then there's the one I send in December without a word count. That I proofed 3 times. That got me a form R.
    So take heart. You're not alone. The best agents have publicly said they ignore mistakes if they like the query. They're human and make mistakes. They know writers are human too. And under incredible stress in the query tenches. Keep at it - we're all behind you! And ONE. *Happy sigh*

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Right? RIGHT???? I mean, the ONE QUERY I want to get right, and.....gaaaaaaaaaaah.

      Anyway. Glad to hear you've been there too, because I think you're an extremely smart individual. :)

      And also for your support for ONE - I think your good vibes might have helped get me somewhere yesterday!!! <3

      Delete
  9. I once sent a query to a great agent and realized ten seconds later that I'd included a line referencing a client...of another agent. I'd done the good ol' cut and paste technique and missed a personalized line. I figured that was it - I'd never hear from the agent. But you know what? She requested my novel an hour later. I truly believe that if an agent is interested in your novel, they're not going to let a small oversight get in the way. They're only human too!

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    1. This is inspirational. Thankfully, it was true for me yesterday, too. Thanks, Mara. <3

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    2. Does that mean you got a request?? I hope so!!!

      Delete
  10. I don't have many words of wisdom because I haven't yet reached the querying stage myself but <3 sometimes things do work out for the best. She still has your synopsis and your query letter and maybe - although she might notice that the chapter's missing, what you've got on there might hook her into asking you for it.

    But you can always resend right? I know you'll have to wait a period of time but you can resend and try again.

    *hugs* I have my fingers crossed for you <3

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    1. Hugs and crossed fingers ALWAYS help. Thanks, lady. <3

      Delete
  11. Oh. Oh, I'm so sorry. Please let out your bad feelings all you want to. (Crying is highly therapeutic, imo) I haven't queried yet, so no mistakes. But that's only because, well, I haven't started yet.
    And I'm with you--I don't think everything happens for a reason. But I truly believe this is only a small bump in the road for you.

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    1. THANK YOU! I did cry for, like, a solid two minutes. Which, as query-crying jags go, isn't too bad. Thank you also for being a comrade in my inherent fatalism. Strangely, believing that kicks me in the butt to do better.

      Delete
  12. You could probably resend the query with your pages with a line saying, "Please ignore the last query I sent. I accidentally forgot to include my first chapter. Thank you for your patience!" Sometimes people send the wrong query, or end up revising the first pages, and want to resend. As long as the agent hasn't ALREADY rejected it, it's fair game. Just send the email with the same title. They'll figure it out and won't be mad.

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    1. I thought about doing that in a month or so...but I got an email back from DA yesterday. Woot!

      Thanks lady. <3

      Delete
  13. Oh honey. My query to Mollie got caught off by gmail (the sample was too long) and then I realized after I'd spoken with her that I'd accidentally queried another agent at Foundry too. I worked on my query list for months and then I went and did that - and what do you know I apologized, withdrew the second query, and landed M anyway. It can work out!

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    1. 0_0 WOW. Thankfully, I heard back from DA pretty quickly - hope it turns out like it did for you!!! *fingers crossed*

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