Friday, March 18, 2011

Is this a Query You Sent Me?

I do hope that no one's feelings are hurt by me posting this, but I feel like I have a duty to educate. Or perhaps I'm in the mood for a small lecture. This morning I opened my law firm e-mail to find what, for all intents and purposes, I think was supposed to be a query to me as an agent. (Sent to the wrong e-mail address...Deep breath) Where do I start? ...for the sake of brevity I will get to the point and post the redacted e-mail and my answer. I don't know if this e-mail was sent out to a mass of agents, or if I was the lone lucky recipient, who unfortunately has a conscience. But I seriously doubt that any of my savvy counterparts would take the time to even finish reading this letter.

I should have just deleted it, as most of my colleagues would, and tried to keep on schedule, since I have a thing or two to attend to today...but I didn't. I painfully read through the e-mail and when I got to the end of it, I sat there. Looking at the screen wishing I had gonged it sooner, debating with myself on my course of action.

Strangely enough, It bothered me a little bit to receive something of such poor caliber. If you know me, you'll know that I'm a fairly patient person. Things of business nature seldom bother me, unless I've encountered a grave injustice or someone crosses me. But a query will normally not have such effects on me. However, this THING was something so poorly constructed, unedited, and obviously written by someone that I will not disparage (because I'm still above such things), but evidently this individual is "not ready" to be querying anyone.

I have tons more to say on this subject, but unfortunately this is hardly the forum for a query 101 lecture. Although I will seriously consider putting together a workshop and using this letter as what not to do. If I haven't lost you yet, please read on.

">Marisa Corvisiero:
> Hi, let me introduce myself my name is xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I am 37 years old some say I look
>23 and I am so called writing a paper back book I called xxxxxxxxxxxxx Publishing located xxxxxx Ave
>Manhattan, Ny xxxxxxxxxx Publishing phone number xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I talk with a person from
>xxxxxxxxxx Publishing about printing a book up I am writing and I was referred to the Writer's Market
>to look up an agent I got your email from the L. Perkins web site we am in the process of making
>a book my manuscript is in shambles in a real ruff draft the compositions I am working on need to
>be put in a book format is there any one you know that have a critique on formatting a manuscript
>for a general adult book I looked at a paper back novel made by Patricia D. Cornwell called
>Body of Evidence ISBN 0-38071701-8.
>I liked the way the paper back is made with the author picture is in the back of the novel I like my
>book in at format like the body of evidence I am not a fast reader of read a lot so when I decided
>to write down my compositions I decide to put my compositions in a book format that's how
>I got started writing my adult general book in a lyric compositions I don't know how cash advancement
>go when a person is writing a book I like to get my book printed up and sold on the market I may
>have 40 pages 50 letter by 30 line available I am looking to have at least a 100 page paper back
>I don't have a title for the paper back yet.
>I am a new writer and the compositions I am working on could be turned into other opportunities
>I do live in Chicago I am looking for a contact person with connections that can make it possible to
>market and sell the paper back book in Chicago.
>also, here is my email xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx and you can all so reply by mail.
>I like to consult with you Mrs./Ms. Marisa Corvisiero as soon as possible."

So judge for your self. What is he asking for? An agent? or someone to edit his book, or is he fishing for information about the industry? I don't know, but I felt that if he is contacting an agent he should learn how to do that. And if he needs someone to fix an unfinished manuscript that is in "shambles" he should find someone to edit it. Not me. Below is my contrived response.

"Dear xxxxxx,

It is great that you have so much initiative, but it seems that you need to learn a bit about how the industry works. The answer on who can help you critique your work is complicated. If you are almost done and need help cleaning it up you, should hire an editor. But you can join writer's groups where your peers can offer a lot of helpful advice. I would suggest attending a local writer's conference. I'm sure that you will learn a lot there and meet many people with your same questions.

Having said that, an agent is not the right person to contact at this juncture. I don't think that your work is ready for querying, but when you query an agent, you need to tell them what your book is about, what genre you would classify it under, is it fiction or non fiction, who is the audience, and how many words it contains. 85K is usually the magic number for fiction, though genres and the age of your audience may allow it to be a bit shorter or longer. (not too much longer)

If your book is a work of fiction, you should should have a finished manuscript before you start to query agents. First you research the agent and if they are open to unsolicited queries you send them the query letter with a sample of your work (as long they normally request). This information is normally listed in the Writer's Digest guide or the agent's website. If your work is non-fiction, you don't need a finished manuscript and can submit a proposal for the work with a sample of the first chapter or so. Again, each agent has different preferences.

So do your homework, and whatever you do, don't send out queries with as many errors as the one you sent to me. Pay attention to your spelling and punctuation. And be sure that the info you provide is relevant to your book and your experience alone. Irrelevant info and poor writing on this letter will form a negative opinion of you and you will not find representation.

Lastly, If you are sure that you want to limit your market to Chicago, you should explain why. But as a caveat, know that limiting the geographic availability of a book limits sales (not usually done by publishers). You should reword that statement to say that you think that it will sell well in chicago and indicate why.

I hope that you find this to be helpful. Best of Luck!"

I know, there was so much more to be said. But I don't know if the writer will get it and/or be hurt by it. So I decided to just offer guidance and left the rest of the objections unaddressed in hope that if he is interested enough to be published, he will learn what he needs to know. And that's the end of this post...I already spent way too much time on this.

~ Marisa