Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hey you! Yeah, you. The NOOBs.

n. Noob, Newb, N00b, Noober, Newbie – one who is new to something, uneducated, and at times but not always, foolish and super annoying.

Note: This post might come across as rude to some people. This only represents my opinion. It is also a bit of a rant. You’ve been warned.

Editor and writer Skyla Dawn Cameron is writing a blog series about how aspiring (and published) authors can avoid being douche bags. We read posts like this, and other less colorful guidelines from published authors, agents and publishing houses, and think “Well, duh! Of course! That’s so obvious! People who do that ARE douche bags!” We get a good laugh.

But when we see how it affects getting even a foot in the door, it becomes less amusing. Agents are going from form letters to no response means no. Some, like Colleen Lindsay, have been forced to close submission due to the bad query letter influx (and badly behaved wannabe authors).

Tell me then. Why is it people who follow the same informative blogs I read, with all the hints and tidbits on what NOT to do, seem to think the rules don’t apply to them?

Take Authoress’ query contest. Jodi Meadows critiqued the 58 queries and first 250 words. First, it’s great that Authoress dedicates time to help noobs out. Jodi deserves the same kudos for taking her free time to look at even MORE slush. Hell, it's great for all of us that read Authoress' blog. We all get to read the feedback from Jodi.

When I saw this go up, my first thought was holy shit. Jodi (and the agent she works with, Jenny) are one of my top picks for agents to query to once my hunt begins. But guess what?

I READ THE DIRECTIONS AND RULES FOR THE CONTEST. And because my manuscript and query are not COMPLETELY DONE and ready for querying and/or already being sent out to agents, I DID NOT ENTER.

Come on people. WTF?


  • Not “still tweaking/polishing.”
  • Not your first or second or even third draft. (and if you have some magic pixie dust that makes this in the realm of possibility, pass that shit on for me to snort. I could use a good trip).
  • And certainly not for your work that doesn’t fall under the fucking genres they represent (which you didn’t even have to dig up yourself, since Authoress spelled all this out on her blog).
  • Additional stupidity: Or not if you felt the need to revise your query repeatedly in the comments section (since that was also in the instructions of WHAT NOT TO DO).

I think Jodi expected and deserved a bit better from the educated blog community. Authoress even spoke in your favor, assuring Jodi this would be above and beyond the normal slush reading. I’m speaking for my own opinion only. I am not quoting Jodi, nor do I have any communication with her on this topic. But I know for sure I expected better.

So shame on all of you – yes, you know who you are, I hope – for thinking the rules don’t apply to you or not taking the time to read them. Learn the lesson before you really query, or you might as well give up. Getting published might be a dream to you, but it's a business. And you have to be a professional independent businessperson when showcasing your work.

So remember:

Publishing = business. Success in business = being prepared and educated. Being prepared = reading guidelines/rules.

Oh, and just reading guidelines isn’t enough, in case you’re unsure about that one. FOLLOWING them is also required. Even when it’s YOUR manuscript, kids.

You are not special. You are not the exception. None of us are.

And by the way, congratulations to the winners (and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I'm always, always happy to see others succeed). And congratulations to those who entered and did not ignore the instructions. Obviously this post doesn't apply to you.

But I'm sure all of you that did win aren't frantically running in circles and panicking because you don't have something ready to send her...Right?


Lady Glamis said...

Erin, thanks for the rant. I think sometimes people need to hear this so they pay more attention to things.

I've been guilty of not paying attention to rules before, and I'm sorry for it. But that was a long time ago when I was newer. I don't enter things now that are not ready. I don't even consider it. This blogging community does come with rules, and there should be a sense of professionalism, I would hope.

This happens everywhere, unfortunately.

FictionGroupie said...

These people are like the ones who drive on the shoulder of the road during a traffic jam. They get to pass up everyone else because clearly they are special and rules/laws do not apply to them. So, so annoying. I second your rant.

beth said...

Personally, I was really surprised by the number of people who submitted works that were WAY under the normal page count range--clearly novellas.

I was further surprised when I emailed some people who'd made comments on mine, asking for clarification on what they said, or thanking them for a book rec, or whatever. Two of them confessed that they weren't *close* to be done, it was a first draft of the query and the pages, and one person told me he only had *a few chapters* done, and just wanted to get feedback because he knew he wouldn't win. What a waste of an entry! And how lazy--to throw something together and see what other people think without thinking about it first yourself!

I was one of the lucky few, but I have to confess--I did some scrambling around before I sent my pages. I've rewritten my novel quite a bit now, including a major overhaul of the beginning after some beta reader's advice...but I'm so paranoid that I wanted to read over and tweak it a little more before I sent it. But, then again, I know from experience that it what I do every time I ever send anything out :)

scott g.f. bailey said...

Erin: Hell, yeah. Or, rather, Fuck, yeah.

There's this phenomenon I see in the writing world that I don't see anywhere else, where people with no actual product (that is, a finished and polished novel) can mob the industry and drown out those people who do have an actual product. It's as if every couch potato baseball fan who owned a mitt and a hat showed up for the first week of spring training and demanded time from the managers to try out for the pros. As fucking if. All this does is make it harder for people who've done their homework, because agents have to hurry to get past all the crap they're sent, and have less time to do considered evaluations of properly presented books.

Why have agents laid down so many rules about querying? Because most of the queries and novels out there are total shite and shouldn't be submitted to anyone. There, I've said it. I wish we could put self-awareness in the drinking water.

I now return this rant to its rightful owner.

Jenna said...

What a lot of people seem to forget is that the people running the contests probably have great memories and will remember the people that don't follow the rules. Because if they don't follow the rules for contests, what would make agents think that they would take the "real" publishing world seriously?

Great rant, and so true.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

The sad thing is the people who need to read this won't, or will not recognize themselves. I attended a conference where an agent said this (but in far less colorful language). He said if you send him a query or partial and he finds out you are not finished and polished he will not wait for you.

Jenna Alexander said...

Great post but Tricia is right, those that need this will not be reading it.

I belong to another online group (I won’t say which) and one of the subgroups I joined is for writers. There are hundreds of people in this subgroup. Every once in a while someone will post a query letter for review. Most of these are not even close to suggested standards. I just point them to the various resource blogs available.

Recently someone posted a quick note on that site saying: “Can someone tell me what a query letter is?”

I have two coworkers who are both working on novels – neither one ever heard of literary agents.

We get punished for following the rules I guess. If you are at a sporting event and ask to sit in the first few rows, the usher will ask for your ticket and then tell you NO. If you just do it, you may get a brief glimpse of what is going on, but ultimately you’ll just piss everyone off.

(wow, long comment)

B.J. Anderson said...

Yeah, I get a little put out by those who query before their manuscript is ready. And I really hate it when people enter contests when their work isn't finished. Grumble, grumble.

M. Dunham said...

Wonderful post, Erin, and absolutely true. I was frustrated with many of the entries in the contest myself - it was obvious that several of them never should have showed up, but this is the downside of the honor system Authoress uses. It stuns me to no end how people who want to get published so badly will then ignore the really obvious rules post and enter anyways.

I really hope agents remember these sort of things, but given the sheer amount of slush even they get, I doubt it unless it's a memorable event.

The Screaming Guppy said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.

It is very sad that the people who need to read stuff like this post just won't bother.

I really, really hope that we all get rewarded for following the rules - and everytime I see something like this happen, I feel a little better in tangent with my anger.

Afterall, if so many people are this stupid and rude, simply following the directions sounds like a shoe in! Or at least a foot up.

And congrats Beth! From your comment it sounds like you were confident with your manuscript and ready to let an agent see it, which is what matters. The "when of ready" is certianly different for all of us. And I doubt that even the most confident writer wouldn't do at least one final, quick look at their story if they won something like this.

Eric said...

Nice post Guppster. I whole-heartedly agree. Tricia has it right though, that the people who need to learn from this are evidently not the people who ever read it. But hey, putting it out there is still okay since there's always a small chance SOMEBODY will get a clue.

Cheers :)

Scott said...

Thanks for the post. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one out there following the rules. I mean, I thought I was odd for taking a few years to hone my manuscript before even thinking about querying. Who knew there were people out there not following the rules and entering contensts with uncompleted work??


Scobberlotcher said...

I came over from Authoress' blog. Great, on target post. I am relatively new to Authoress' blog and followed the query contest strictly to see what did/didn't work. I, too, was surprised by the lack of rule following. Glad you posted about this. Go be the Norma Ray of novel querying! :) (hope that doesn't date me too much.)

Heather McF said...

I agree -- behavior like that makes the rest of us aspiring writers look like idiots who can't follow the rules.

I was tempted by Authoress' query contest, but I didn't enter because my novel wasn't finished. A couple of weeks later, I decided not to continue with the book. Imagine if I'd entered anyway, won and then had to tell an agent that the book not only wasn't finished, but wouldn't be. *shudder*

The rules are there for good reasons: to make everyone's life easier, and to keep the people who follow them from looking like douchebags. Hooray for rules, says I!

Pym said...

Great rant, sharp and to the point! I know I've looked longingly at the contested, but since I don't have a finished work yet, I turn that around and use that longly as incentive to get one polished and ready.

Carrie Harris said...

God, yes. People forget that this is A BUSINESS. By all means, be as creative as you want. Burn incense while you write, exchange letters with your main characters, and channel the spirits of the muses if that's what gets the ideas flowing and the words on the page. But there's a reason they talk about being a PROFESSIONAL writer. And it's because after all the fluffy stuff is done, it's kinda necessary to sit butt in chair and, you know, WORK.

Needless to say, I agree with you. :)

Lily Cate said...

I have noticed that a lot of agents want pages right away- all the way up to 3 chapters with the query & a synopsis.
This probably (hopefully???) helps them weed out the jerks who are just screwing around, or didn't bother to do 5 minutes of rearch before they started hitting "send" like a monkey on speed.

Andrea Cremer said...

Great post, inspired my own topic today. @fictiongroupie - the only time I really worry about my own capacity for road rage is when I see the shoulder drivers in traffic jams. I always want to ram them (even though i drive a compact car)