Author Topic: Stupid things we've done  (Read 40969 times)

Offline mmmpancakes

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Stupid things we've done
« on: August 16, 2011, 08:16:16 PM »
I thought this would be really fun to post as a topic. Okay, so you know when you're first starting out in the query process, and you send your query, and you get back the standard rejection that mentions how the agent was "intrigued by your premise" or that you "write with polish" but it either "isn't for them" or doesn't "fit their list?" And you're like, holy cow what does that mean? And then like five more queries go out and then you're like ooooohhhhh, it's a FORM!

Well, who here has a newbie cringe story? My personal one is when I received a rejection from an agent who "read with interest" and I actually wrote her back, thanking her for thinking that my premise was interesting and asked her why it wasn't "right for her." It was probably my third query or so.

Come on - I know you have them!!!!!
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Offline Tabris

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Re: Stupid things we've done
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2011, 08:27:06 PM »
Way back in the stone age, when we wrote novels on typewriters and submitted manuscripts via the post awful (with no agent!) I had written a YA novel and go the go-ahead from my beta-reader to send it. I sat down at the library for a few hours with the Guide and came up with a group of publishing houses I wanted to contact. I treated it the way I'd treated applying for colleges: my top picks, my next picks, my "safety" picks (I was 17; I had no clue.)

And the Guide said to call the publishing house and ask the receptionist to verify the submission data, since things change. And I did this with the first house I wanted to send it to (I called the main number. The main number.) A guy answered the phone, and I explained that I wanted verify their address and that the editor was Mr. Mark Chimsky.

"That's me," he said. "Why don't you pitch it now."

Uh. Ah. Um. Uh. ...  (I wonder if that's part of where I got my fear of the phone?)

I pitched it. He was really nice to me despite my cluelessness and said it sounded interesting and to send it to him. I did. Three months later I got a very nice, personalized rejection.

I have never cold-called a publishing house since then.

Offline edelweiss

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Re: Stupid things we've done
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2011, 09:29:30 PM »
Tabris, nothing you do at 17 is stupid, at least not when you are trying to sell a book! You must have such love for your 17-year-old self!

I see now that crouching in the bushes to ambush the postal delivery may have been a little misguided. I'd make sure I had outgoing mail daily so that I could see if the red flag had been lowered. Wow, such a strategist!
As if good news in querying every comes by snail mail! 
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Offline Sarah Ahiers (Falen)

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Re: Stupid things we've done
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2011, 07:00:52 AM »
my very first query had no less than 5 typos. Even though i read it carefully. And three of them were in the first sentence.

On the plus side, that very first query also garnered my very first full request the next day, so at least the agent was kind enough to overlook my clumsy fingers
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Offline swanndown

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Re: Stupid things we've done
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2011, 12:33:56 PM »
After I sent out my first round of queries (not very good queries!), and got a bunch of form rejections back, I found myself getting more and more frustrated as I struggled to produce one that would get an agent's attention.  One late night, as I sat teetering in my chair, punchy with the effort of getting the query RIGHT, a query in the voice of an extremely snarky narrator who absolutely does not appear in my book, simply burst out of my pen.  It made me laugh, and a like a jilted lover making one of those notorious late night drunken phone calls, I attached pages and hit the send button.   :emb2:

Interestingly, I got a personalized response back this time.  The agent loved the tone of the query, but was disappointed with the pages -- devoid as they were of the voice in the query!!!  

Offline edelweiss

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Re: Stupid things we've done
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2011, 01:30:16 PM »
Swannie:  :rolf:
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Offline Duff

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Re: Stupid things we've done
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2011, 06:08:43 PM »
Oh, the query I was composing in my head for months before I sat down to write one (or read any sage advice on how to write one) may have earned a nod on Slush Pile Hell. Bad. Just bad.

The (first) one I eventually wrote started with the infamous and much peeved rhetorical question. I got requests from my first 2 queries. Lol!

I recently sent a 'Dear Mr.' to a Ms. Once I figured out my error, I marked it a rejection.

Offline swanndown

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Re: Stupid things we've done
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2011, 01:44:39 PM »
Wait a minute......six?  only six of us have committed inspiring acts of marvelous stupidity?  We're waiting.........

Offline lilyrose

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Beware the dangers of copying and pasting.
« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2011, 08:07:10 AM »
I mentioned a common school affiliation in a query to an agent and then copied and pasted that email days later into other queries and forgot to delete the school thing...(the sound you are hearing is me banging my head on the wall saying stupid! stupid!). :crazy:

Offline lilyrose

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And while we're talking about stupid,
« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2011, 08:11:47 AM »
i have a question.  I know it's better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt, but here ya go.  What do the stars mean under your name and how do you earn them?  How do you get and give karma?  I looked under the help section and snooped around that but didn't find the answer. 

Offline swanndown

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Re: Stupid things we've done
« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2011, 09:06:51 AM »
Good one on the school affiliation, Lilyrose!  To give Karma, click on the word "applaud" beneath a poster's name. 

Offline Zooks

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Re: Stupid things we've done
« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2011, 02:36:46 PM »
Still wet behind the ears, I snail mailed (we're talking the Stone Age here) an entire MS to Harry Colomby, Michael Keaton's agent/manager/partner - whatever his title was - saying I had written this - my 1st book - with Michael Keaton in mind and that I'd be happy to sign a release since I didn't have a literary agent yet.  They sent it back along with a letter stating they couldn't read it without me having representation to avoid possible litigation or something and there was no release form enclosed.   :sad2:

Undaunted, I broke some more rules and wrote a truly horrible query letter to Drew Barrymore's assistant telling her I'd written a book with her in mind (not the same book for Michael Keaton) and, not stopping there, went on to say it would make a great movie.  Yes, I did.  I got a nice 'no thank you' letter from her assistant and personalized Christmas cards from Drew for a number of years.   :emb2:

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Offline brmyers

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Re: Stupid things we've done
« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2011, 02:48:41 PM »
You guys are such amateurs. I've got you all beat by a long shot. The only reason I am posting this embarrassing story is that the query in question is probably still tacked to the bulletin board by the agency's water cooler for instant humor therapy.

Okay, this is what I learned, never query after midnight and certainly not when you've had half a bottle of wine after getting home from a ten hour shift. What?! If I'm sharing something really embarrassing I should be allowed to have a few excuses.

This particular agent was very specific about the form the query should take, and she wanted a personal tidbit she would find interesting. Since I was writing YA, I thought mentioning authors I enjoyed reading while I was a teenager would be an appropriate addition. It was only after I was filing away the query that I read my favorite authors growing up were Lois Duncan and Judy Bloom.

Whoo-whee *wipes brow* Oh my gosh, I have been holding that in for so long. I feel so much better now.

If you know Ms. Blume, please give her my apologies, and that she is entitled to stomp on my toes if she ever sees me walking down the street. On the flip side, I'm glad my faux pas has given so many people pleasure.

Oh geez, here's another one. Spellcheck isn't foolproof. I once sent the first few chapters, and after after I hit send (why don't I proof read before *scratches head looks around room with lost expression*) Anywho, the characters are discussing The Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I wrote Indian Jones. All I could do was laugh, picturing Apu from the Simpsons with a fedora and whip.

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Offline swanndown

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Re: Stupid things we've done
« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2011, 03:15:33 PM »
zooks and brmyers:  THOSE ARE heroically BRILLIANT moves!  I kowtow at your feet.   Of couse....should I ever trot out the story of the time I concluded a monologue by upending a bowl of glass marbles so that they ringingly bounced and skittered across a casting agent's linoleum floor, in pursuit of actorly authenticity as I pursued a part in a soap opera, then you may wish to exchange positions with me.  But different category of professional embarrassment, so I suppose it doesn't count for this thread!

Offline edelweiss

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Re: Stupid things we've done
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2011, 04:35:17 PM »
Okay, here's another one. The day after I sent out my first queries I ordered a set of six manuscript boxes. I was going to need them ASAP, see? When I finally got my first request for a full, hard copy, I proudly entered my local FedEx office, holding the box in front of me as if it contained the Shroud of Turin. I explained that this beautiful box must be carefully packaged, so the FedEx guy rejected the smallish box I had selected and went with the next size up. It was large enough to crate a rhino. Figuring the guy knew his job, I watched him crumple and cram perhaps fifty sheets of filler paper into the box before he inserted my box. Then he filled the rest of the cavernous space with enough paper for 100 drafts of my next book. It all seemed so necessary at the time. 

Now I cringe as I think of the agent, looking at this enormous box ("WTF?!"), opening it, and laboriously extracting piece after piece of crumpled paper, creating a towering mountain behind her. Finally reaching the ms box, she stumbles backward in shock and falls into the paper mountain and disappears.

Which is why I still haven't heard from her about that full.
Clever as a Fox: Animal Intelligence and What It Can Teach Us About Ourselves (Bloomsbury USA, 2001; paperback, Harvard U. Press, 2002)

HOUSE BROKEN, a novel, coming from Penguin/NAL January 2015
THE TRAIL, another novel, coming September 2015
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