02 April, 2009

The Great Communication Fail...

A couple of weeks back, I read about the twitter project, #queryfail on someone else's blog. Intrigued, since I presently don't deal with an agent but had hoped to one day, I read all about it. Needless to say, I was a little disgusted by the attitude around it, more than I was by the overall idea behind it. The woman who started it *rubbed her hands with glee* which made the whole thing sound like a witch hunt, more than an exercise designed to show writers the types of mistakes that are likely to not only make agents laugh at you, but toss your query right into file thirteen.

A lot of writers were outraged by the idea. #queryfail was cruel, many said. Even if it was done anonymously, there was still the potential for some poor author to log in and see a mockery of their own query. Anonymous or no, the humiliation of rejection is often enough to put some writers off of submitting their work. Seeing their query get torn apart right there in front of thousands of Tweeters could do some damage.

So in response, #agentfail was set up to give writers a chance to talk back and address some of the problems authors have with agents. In an anonymous forum, maybe that would be better, because though authors can pick and choose the agents they deal with using a certain degree of choosiness, agents tend to hold all the cards in the writer/agent relationship. Many writers don't want to step on proverbial toes, get caught up in some web that is going to hold them back from even getting representation.

I think the whole thing is a little sad. I thought about starting a twitter movement called #youallfail. Why? Because more and more often, it seems that people are only happy when they are making other people miserable. The whole you stepped on me, I'll break your arm mentality is so high school, and I really did believe (probably foolishly,) for a long time that adults were different; the knew how to behave and get along with each other in ways kids didn't understand. Talk about naivete.

I write because it's my passion. It is all I have ever wanted to do with my life. I don't think about things like making agents and editors giggle when I write a query letter, I think about taking the next step in my career. I think about how it takes guts to slap your soul down on a three hundred and twenty page manuscript and then put it out there to be torn apart. Then I find myself thinking that it's no wonder there are so many writers publishing and podcasting their own books. The traditional medium has been such a joke for years that soon the snooty and persnickety may find themselves out of jobs. They may tune in one morning to check the book ratings and find a manuscript they took a dump on once is now a #1 best seller on the NY Times.

It doesn't matter if you're an agent, an editor or a writer. At times in my life I have been both on the writers end and the editorial end. I've had manuscripts fly across my desk with the craziest cover letters, and have seen so many writers who didn't even know there were rules, but I took a look at their manuscript anyway. There were times I was incredibly glad I did, because if I judged every manuscript that happened across my desk, before reading it mind you, on the cover letter or query that accompanied it, I'd probably pass up the opportunity to read and publish quite a few amazing stories.

The same type of garbage goes on in the music business, and the representation are the first people to start crying when they find themselves out of work.

In the end, it boils down to how we treat each other. Not just in the publishing world and the music business, but in every day life. I'm a bitch, I won't lie. I've been mean to people both on and off the internet, but I don't walk around looking for a fight. I don't push buttons for the sake of pushing buttons. Most times it's because I feel like I'm in a position that requires me to fight back. I'd just really like to see the world change, and for the better. It'd be fantastic to wake up one day and find people more willing to help each other, rather than crush each other on the ladder to the top.


Tami Klockau said...

Great post. It's like the saying, 'Don't just a book by its cover.' Some of the best novelists are the worst query writers. That doesn't mean they are all good.

I do see where the agents are coming from. Seeing thousands of letters crossing their desks at a crazy speed can drive anyone crazy. Then throw in the people that don't follow simple rules, I'm sure they feel like they live in a madhouse. BUT, on the other hand, that doesn't give them the right to publicly ridicule the poor authors just trying to get their foot in the door.

Also, noticed YAedge is on your blog list! Thanks for including us!

Rachel Cotterill said...

I hadn't heard of that - how very tragic. I really do believe that most adults are more mature than we were as kids, there are exceptions but there are also plenty of us who simply refuse to play politics. I hope you do wake up one day and find your world full of helpful people :)

Helen Ginger said...

I've handled it by not participating. I don't read the #queryfail tweets. Haven't seen any #agentfail tweets, but if I did, I'd ignore them. It'll stop. I assume. Things that are ignored usually fade away.

Morgan Mandel said...

I didn't get in on any of that action. I have submitted a few pages at conferences for agents to dissect. It was a learning experience. You have to go into it thinking that. Although there's always the hope your work will be thought of as brilliant, at least answers as to what they don't like are helpful.

Morgan Mandel

Ryan said...

I can understand the thinking behind queryfail - that, by agents posting 'bad' queries, that people can learn what they should and shouldn't be doing, in order to let them write better queries. That sounds like a good idea in principle.

I don't think that queryfail actually accomplished that, though - it kind of just spiraled into this vortex of snark, negativity, and ranting rather than what it actually was attempting to be.

Jenny Beans said...

Great feedback everyone. For the most part, I agree. The idea behind #queryfail was brilliant in theory. Show writers where they are going wrong, because there are so many conflicting sources out there that it's sometimes difficult to figure out the truth and get it right. The internet has become a great source for educational resources for writers, and truthfully, there should be a lot more writers who are on the ball and know those rules. Sadly, that is not always the case. Instead of being cruel about it, be educational. The more writers who are on the ball and ready to go, the more work agents can acquire. You would think that in a time when the economy is unstable and the writing world is on such rocky ground, that people would be doing everything they can to create better professional relationships. I guess I'm an optimist. :)