Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What I'd LOVE to Say

I often start drafts of blog posts and then let them percolate for a while before finishing or posting. Ironically, the week I started this particular blog post I was alerted to this blog: http://slushpilehell.tumblr.com/

I don’t think there’s anything I could possibly add.

Jessica

105 comments:

wry wryter said...

Dear Jessica, Janet, and Jenny,

My book:
The ABC Method Of Finding An Agent.

Please request a partial ASAP because tomorrow I'm on to some really big names, Lisa, Laura and Liza.

First names are sooo more personal.

Noelle Pierce said...

Love that site.

...um, that's all I have to say. *grin*

Anonymous said...

It's one for thing for agents to make fun of writers. But I always wonder why other writers laugh along, knowing how difficult the craft and business is and how easy it is to make a misstep and to become the butt of someone's joke.

wry wryter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GFH said...

I was just thinking some of those were clearly attempts at humor and while an agent may not appreciate it, they should at least be able to take it in the manner in which it was intended. Get a grip and don't be so serious _all_the_time. LOL

Maybe Slushpile finally snapped. :)

M.R.J. Le Blanc said...

You've got to admit though, the Worst Self-Help Book...EVER was pretty funny though.

Sugar said...

Tee-hee!
Love it!

BW said...

Very funny!

I had to add this site to my list favorites. Thanks for sharing.

wry wryter said...

anon (:23, Lighten up.
That's why it's called Writing for Dummies
If you can't laugh at yourself even when you think you're being brilliant...take up macrame, it's a get all tied up in knots thing.

Hey, want a good laugh, go ahead laugh at my writing, I don't mind because I have a whole half gallon of Rocky Road in my freezer so I can take on anybody. Go ahead, my spoon is at the ready.

Anonymous said...

You know, I do think that site is funny. But I hated last year's infamous #queryfail.

Not sure why I think Slushpile Hell is different. Maybe it isn't.

Wonder how long it will take before someone outs that agent's secret identity. I guess to do so one would have to claim one of the queries he mocks.

Laurel said...

The worst self help book titles are awesome! And I thought the "I'm sure my friends and family would be willing to buy my memoir to make sure they were not defamed or exposed" was actually pretty funny, too.

Anonymous said...

To anon @ 10:35

I agree with you. And the problem is that while everyone in publishing is moving on, especially with all the changes happening every single day, this sort of thing is getting tired fast.

And it's making this anonymous agent blogger look a little silly.

As far as queryfail goes, I think what's become of one agent in particular recently, speaks for itself.

Happy Jackass said...

Someday someone will write the definitive "Worst Self Help book" and he/she/it will make a fortune.

Until then we must pray and be cruel.

Who Was Hitler's Successor and Why Should We Care??

Carol said...

Hilarious stuff. Thanks for sharing.

Fawn Neun said...

@anon 9:23 - the same reason people laugh at anything - because if you don't, you'll end up blowing your fool brains out.

Anonymous said...

I'm just really tired of agents publicly making fun of writers. It's like a new blood sport on the Internet. If they dislike us so much why don't they find another profession? I'm a published writer but I remember when I wasn't and I totally identify with the slush pile people.

Emily said...

oh thank you! I needed a chuckle this morning.

wry wryter said...

Children…
I was going to post this as an anon, but I decided to step up and stick my clich├ęd neck out. I’m sure these thoughts will kill any chance with any agent who might read this, but I am a writer, not a punching bag. I hereby retract my smart ass throw darts at me comments previously posted today and anon, 9:23, I apologize. You do not have to lighten up, we have to speak up.

Making fun of a writer’s efforts, no matter how idiotic those efforts are, and doing it in our faces is not nice. It’s like me making fun of my customers while I’m waiting on them or a doctor laughing at her patients in the examining room. Would we remain at the table of a waiter who mocks us or in the chair of the hairdresser who calls us ugly?

Check my spelling, punctuation and all the stuff anal writers and editors do, find my mistakes and make fun of them. I’ve been around long enough to take it but some haven’t. Some are new and finding their way. Help them do not laugh at them.
Jessica, I have leaned a lot on this blog and for that I thank you. Today I learned to speak up.

Okay kids, I'm done now, I mean I know, I’m really done.

Anonymous said...

wry wryter: It's not an issue of publishing staff and agents being anal, it's an issue of people clearly not doing their research for what is essentially a business proposal. If a writer has too many mistakes, it shows that they are not dedicated enough to hack it as a professional author. Yes, it is a profession, just like any other job (how many careless mistakes are you afforded at work?). Talent is part of it, but rarely is talent alone going to pull you through. You have to make an effort, such as turning on the spell check or god forbid, look at a sample query letter from someone else. Would you vote for a political candidate who did not research the issues they might have to deliberate over?

T.J. said...

Slush Pile Hell rules!

With that said, there are certain things that people say and do. I find author's failures humorous. Others obviously do too.

Slush Pile Hell reminds us that a) we aren't perfect and b) we still have a lot to learn.

Really? You want to speak up and get Slush Pile Hell to go away? What about such sites as the fail blog or people of walmart? Those mock people in their faces in an even more public way because more people are visiting those sites.

Stand up for yourself when it makes sense. I think the agents have the right to laugh at us. It's our choice whether or not we go to Slush Pile Hell. It's our choice to even read this blog. It's also our choice to take what they say as offensive.

I'm standing up for Slush Pile Hell. If I can't laugh at me and my writing errors then I have no right trying to get into this business. I laugh at my own mistakes at work all the time. Even publicly.

What if your book offended me? Do you recommend that I a) publicly speak out against it and state that it should be banned? or b) let it go because it's really not worth it?

If Slush Pile Hell bothers you, fin. Don't read it. Can it be any simpler than that?

Anonymous said...

lying to people and telling them that what they write is great and groundbreaking and publishable is not nice, either. i've had plenty of hairdressers tell me i look great when i in fact do not, and several waiters have told me the soup is excellent when it in fact was not. as a writer, i'd prefer honesty; as a publishing industry peon, that website is refreshing and definitely tongue-in-cheek.

T.J. said...

And right on to Anon 1:05pm

inkedhistorian said...

I'm a writer, as well as a slush reader for one company, and involved in the publishing decisions at another.

I find SlushPileHell hilarious. You should too.

For all of the concern that this agent is mocking their writers, please keep in mind that the site is anonymous. The writers aren't named.

As a writer, I'd love to have a personal response to any rejection I might get; one that touches on how I can improve my chances the next time would be even better. It isn't always practical but it would be nice. As a reader/editor, I am in the position of sending out rejections to people, and I do try to take the time to give them some of the reasons why their submission might not work for us at this time. I do so firmly, but politely, and usually with the option to resubmit if the problem is fixable.

Does this mean that I don't feel the exact same way as SPH? Of course not. We get ridiculous submissions sometimes. I had to reject a short story and the guy emailed me back and criticized me for not "understanding his genius." Do I get to be rude in response? Of course not. It's just not good business.

Perhaps the agent at SPH is using this short, snarky, but completely anonymous site to blow off steam so that he/she can go back and write a very polite, professional, rejection. No one's getting hurt, and we get to share in the laughter.

S Spann said...

I'm weighing in on the side of SlushpileHell and those who enjoy it.

Up front: I'm a writer, and one still looking for an agent, so I know whereof I speak.

If I made any of these errors (which, thankfully, I haven't) I wouldn't actually mind being tossed under the bus, particularly in the anonymous way SPH does it. I have made errors which have been tossed under a variety of buses in my career as an attorney and law professor, so I know whereof I speak.

My father used to say that if you couldn't take a joke, you needed to learn how or go to a place like Alaska where there's not anyone to joke with. I completely understand that many people don't like this kind of joking, but writing's a tough industry and (like law) the humor tends toward the black, partially from necessity. You see such things a lot in high-stress professions, and it's normal.

The thing is, without being rude or offensive to anyone who finds this obnoxious behavior, that may be an indicator that this particular high stress profession isn't good for you. That doesn't mean you're weak, and it's not an insult, but it's something to consider. Thick skins are a requisite for publishing.

caitpeterson said...

Look at it this way:

You're instructed to show up at an interview in a suit and tie. You decide instead that either a) not listen/read the directions or b) they don't apply to you. You then show up in sandals, tatty jeans, and a t-shirt. Do you really think that you aren't going to get laughed at? That the interviewer isn't going to want to bang their head against the wall? Especially when said interviewer has the SAME THING HAPPEN ALL DAY LONG??

Writers, agents are human. They get frustrated. There are so many sites out there that instruct you on the basic dos and don'ts of query writing! Follow the directions, take your emotions out of the equation, and BE PROFESSIONAL! Maybe then you won't have to get offended. I value Slushpile Hell and all the other sites like it, because as a writer, it tells me WHAT NOT TO DO.

Marsha Sigman said...

That website is hysterical. I just spent the last half hour reading through the posts.

Thanks, Jessica.

Anonymous said...

It is a dreaded double-edged sword, really. I do believe that some writers need to spend more time learning about format and formality in their queries. Don't include pictures of your Nanna or your kids. Don't pitch blindly. Don't send things your contact isn't looking for. Be professional and to the letter. No one cares if your momma loved it...

With that said, the egotism and sense of entitlement that some select editors and agents publicly display on the net is very telling.

The first thing I personally did when searching for an agent is to look for one WHO DIDN'T post egotistical degrading comments via Twitter, Facebook...etc.

In the end, the agent is EMPLOYED by a writer. If writers did not write, there would be nothing to sell.

I feel that those who spend their days filling social sites with degrading comments probably aren't effective representatives and I would not choose to build a professional relationship with them.

Writers need to research and give these individuals nothing to bark about.

Disrespectful people need no ammunition.

Pitch effectively. Pitch well. Research and never lose hope.

Richard Gibson said...

I agree with S Spann - humorous things happen in all professions but are not (usually) the stuff of public ridicule. I'm a tour guide. Do I share silly things tourists say with my fellow tour guides? You bet. Do I talk about it to other tourists? Nope - or rarely, in a way to make the current tourist feel better about him or herself at no expense to the anonymous other one.

Anonymous said...

SlushPile Hell is brilliant. Writers do make stupid mistakes in their queries - I should know, I've made enough of them myself - and I've quoted examples from SPH's blog to writers who are making the same mistakes (which we now know will make an agent cringe) in an attempt to persuade them to rewrite their queries so as to give their submissions the best chance of success.

The naysayers should treat it like the useful resource it is and learn from it, instead of being such big babies.

namott

Brad Whittington said...

SlushPileHell rules. It's that simple.

You want to be a writer? Great, write your heart out. You want a total stranger to invest $50K to $100K to get your book in a bookstore? Then be worth the investment. Don't send crap. If that's too harsh, you're in the wrong business.

Of course, if you really believed in your work, you could always invest $50,000 of your own money. No?

wry wryter said...

The bees are buzzin' I love it.

Hey, all you anon's that don't have balls enough to out yourselves you are missing my point.

No one has a better time laughing at me then me. I'm talking about laughing at someone else. We all giggle when someone trips but do you laugh when they get up with a bloody nose.

Well, I'm off to work now. They better be nice because I might just grab a beer, pull the slide and hop on out.
Read the news instead of slush-vile you might learn something.

Eric said...

The doctor comparison above is all wrong. What's happening here isn't a doctor laughing at patients, it's the head of medicine laughing at a bum on the street with a rusty knife saying he's a brain surgeon.

Not everybody is cut out to be a writer, but it's one of those rare professions that allows anyone to think they're capable. Some of these folks need to be weeded out.

wry wryter said...

Eric,I stand corrected. I'm changing brain surgeons.

Anonymous said...

What I don't get is how people are moaning about the poor writer being ridiculed, as if it is an inalienable right to be published. Have we learned nothing from the multiple seasons of American Idol that uber-confidence, unmerited, is one of the funniest things to observe as it reaches its logical conclusion? So you want to be a writer; have you not researched one on the thousands of books out there that explain in painstaking detail how to draft a successful query?

I have no sympathy for those people, talented or not, that are arrogant to think that they can avoid doing the basic steps to achieve their goal. Finding it funny is what is crucial to most comedy. When the query is inappropriate, well isn't that the same thing that makes us laugh at Steve Carrell's character in The Office? And imagine being on the receiving end of these pathetic pleas for publishing. I'm sure Slush Pile Hell must receive hundreds in a week. So do lighten up; taking offense at something offered to instruct and entertain means you will are looking for an extremist fatwa to follow.

Eric said...

Wry: A wise course of action. Despite that very official looking soiled napkin diploma, I hear Dr. Mickey's Bigmouth is actually running a racket.

Foley said...

Out of curiosity, is there any evidence that the person behind Slushpile Hell is actually an editor and/or that the queries posted there are real?

Having done slushpile duty, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the queries SPH is mocking are real.

On the other hand, as someone who's prone to exaggeration (read as "lying") if I think it's amusing, I would also not be at all surprised if this was the work of an artist/writer/hoaxer trying to ruffle thin-skinned would-be writers' feathers for their own amusement.

Either way, I think it's funny. And even if SPH is exactly what it claims to be, I'm less inclined to see it as insulting to the writers (who aren't identified) than as a service offered to inexperienced writers intending to make queries. If they learn what not to do before making a query, it saves everyone time and grief.

Anonymous said...

Definitely standing on the side of SPH on this one. A vast majority of the posts on the site (and I'm not even involved in the industry!) seem like completely unprofessional query letters and are the best examples of what not to send to an agent. All of the posts remain anonymous, so I'm failing to see what the problem is here.

Developing a thick skin is a necessity in making a career out of writing, so stop being such a baby about it. Learn from your mistakes and move on. The time you spend complaining about how unfair the publishing process is could be better spent on, oh I don't know, improving your writing.

elayne said...

A commenter said:
"It’s like me making fun of my customers while I’m waiting on them or a doctor laughing at her patients in the examining room. Would we remain at the table of a waiter who mocks us or in the chair of the hairdresser who calls us ugly?"

No, it's not. It's not like that at all. It's like you making fun of your customers over dinner with your friends the next evening, or a doctor venting her frustration with a particularly obtuse patient in the lounge once the patient's been sent home. Is there the POSSIBILITY that the person you're griping about is going to be sitting at the next table over, or that one of the nurses just so happens to be Mr. HorriblePatient's daughter? Sure. Is it likely? No. Do you need to vent your frustration before it bottles up and turns you into a bitter, mean, ugly-tempered person? YES.

There are no names attached to SPH's jabs - not his (hers?) nor anything to identify the submitter's identity. As someone else mentioned, the only way these entries would be "in anyone's face" is if the submitter him/herself happened to stumble upon the site and recognized his/her own submission. And the only way to identify the agent's identity is if the author only submitted to one agent.

Even if that sort of discovery DOES happen, hopefully the letter-writer will recognize the cringeworthiness of the excerpt and go on to draft more professional, appropriate, productive cover letters.

When I worked as an office manager, I once received a resume for a front-desk position that was, by all appearances, written by a developmentally delayed eight year old. I mean, in pencil, on a torn-out sheet of spiral-notebook paper, with references to the fact that she probably only needed a job until her boyfriend got out of prison. It ended with something along the lines of, "Please, please, PLEASE higher me for this job because I am A GOOD PERSON and I think you would really like me and we could be friends." ("Higher" for "hire" sticks out in my memory, though there were likely a half dozen other errors.)

I showed it to some of the other people in the office, whereupon we proceeded to laugh our heads off. Once I got that out of my system, I took her "resume" and rewrote it for her as a proper resume (typed and everything!), and sent her a three-page letter along with it pointing out all the things that she might want to avoid (or include) in future resumes and cover letters, and why. She sent me a letter a few months later (still with terrible spelling and presentation, but oh well) to let me know that she'd used my suggestions to get a job, and thanking me. And asking if I wanted to be friends, but anyway.

I could not have found the energy to help her if I hadn't been able to release some of the frustration by laughing at her first. It's quite possible that something similar is at work with SHP - as another commenter said, once s/he vents all the snark that some of those queries richly deserve, his/her mind and attitude are then freed to write a polite, possibly even helpful, "traditional" rejection letter.

Lucy Woodhull said...

I wish I knew who SPH was so I could query him/her. They have a sense of humor and I wrote a funny book. At least I think it's funny. If I showed up on that Tumblr, then I'd know I failed!

Suzan Harden said...

For the writers who feel they are being trashed by agents and editors: What are you going to do when you really are trashed in public by a reader?

True Story: A published friend had a book signing at a major chain store. A woman walked up to her and said, "I hate your book. I read it four times to make sure."

Kristin Laughtin said...

I love that site, and everything is anonymous enough that I don't see the point of being offended. Most of the letters are extreme examples of what not to do, so take it as a learning experience. (Although I still have a hard time believing some of them are real...)

jjdebenedictis said...

Agents don't reject writers, they reject the words on the page.

Likewise, they don't laugh at writers--they laugh at the words on the page.

The words are not you.

Don't let your self-esteem hinge on what people say about your writing.

Anonymous said...

SPH: It's just so yesterday, though.

Blah, blah, blah.

I'm not saying SPH harmful or helpful; just tired. And when you consider the fact that one highly outspoken (arrogant) agent from queryfail isn't even an agent anymore, it rides that thin line of being just plain pointless.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm shocked. Slushpile hell is stupid. Sorry, I won't follow with the rest of the herd.

The person behind it is an idiot. Plain and simple.

Whoops...I said something that would be funny if it were directed at a writer. But now I'm in trouble because it was directed to a "professional" in the business. No one seems to get how unprofessional this really is.

Come on! This is so stupid. Don't people have better things to do?

Sorry, I don't buy the writers can't handle the truth. They can, there are just better ways to do it than ridicule. Only small minds belittle and besmirch people for a laugh.

In the end, this tells me a lot about the person behind SPH. It speaks volumes about their self-esteem issues and their relationship problems. Too bad their collective asses are wrapped around their heads, whoever they are. No wonder they`re anonymous.

I just can't believe how many people fall for this crap.

Slushpile Hell can go to Hell.

aquen said...

Wow. I'm shocked. Slushpile hell is stupid. Sorry, I won't follow with the rest of the herd.

The person behind it is an idiot. Plain and simple.

Whoops...I said something that would be funny if it were directed at a writer.


You're mistaking "funny" for "bitter". Try this: Slushpile Hell is like watching a quarterback beat up kindergarteners. See? Amusement generated, point made. Which is also how SPH operates, I might note. Humor: more than just crankypants ranting.

MisterBastard said...

"One grumpy literary agent, a sea of query fails, and other publishing nonsense."

*snort*

Aren't all literary agents grumpy?

SPH is merely a lesser retread of better blogs like Miss Snark, Evil Editor, Pub Rants and Bookends. A writer can learn many things from these other sites and it's easy enough to ignore the ones that don't.

Anonymous said...

Why do you think Miss Slushpile is anonymous? Simple. If her clients were to find out what she really thought about writers, they'd be upset, and would wonder if she makes ugly comments behind their backs. (She probably does.)

Do not think her clients don't remember the days when they were once part of the slushpile.

Furthermore, it's unprofessional for an agent to make fun of a class of people who support their livelihood. Today's slush is tomorrow's source of income. Writers are always told to be nice to the editorial assistant, agent assistant, bookstore clerk etc. A similar dynamic is at work here. You never know who the next bestseller is going to be.

I'm always shocked at the number of writers who will come out to support
unkind behavior in agents. It's so sad. It doesn't win you any points, so why do it? Do you really think it's cool to make fun of people who know less than you? Everyone makes newbie mistakes in every business. Everyone. Be kind.

Janet Morgenstern said...

On one hand, I find it very funny and educational. I'm just learning how to write queries, and examples such as these help me avoid stupid mistakes.

Every profession has bits of their job that become extremely tedious. As a teacher, my colleagues and I get very sick of creative spellings of normal names or creative abnormal names that set kids up to be beaten on the playground. Several teacher friends and I swap horrendous names sometimes. Dragynfyre, Voldemort, and even ABCDE, pronounced, "Abisidee," have all gone rounds around our dinner table. Do me a favor, please: give a kid a solid name that looks professional on a business card.

Bad queries get old, I get that, but I have to agree that the agent behind the blog is behaving in an unprofessional manner. When we talk about horrible names, we never forget that there are kids to be pitied and loved and parents to be dope-slapped behind those names. I could see agents swapping these query phrases behind closed doors in commiseration, but if I knew who posted Slushpile Hell, I wouldn't want to touch them with a ten-foot pole, figuratively speaking.

Anonymous said...

This type of thing is why I will only publish my work in e-format now.

If I were in publishing, I would swoop down on this person and insist they stop. They are hastening the end for everyone.

Sometimes I feel sad that the publishing industry is about to die. Then I see things like this, and I am happy that almost every single person working in publishing will be out of a job in about five years.

They will not be employed by me. I keep track of names of agents and editors I will not deal with when the shoe drops. My only regret is that the person who is running this site is too much of a coward to put their name to it.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think SPH makes up most of it anyway. Did anyone read the part about the pancakes and stalking?

It's all in fun, no one really cares, and if the author of SPH wanted to be taken seriously he or she would have used his or her own name.

It's amazing how seriously people take these things, though.

Anonymous said...

Barnes and Noble just went up for sale.

Do agents really not see the writing on the wall?

Carol said...

I find it interesting that SPH is on Twitter today making fun of him/herself and all the bad things that are being said about them here. Gee, self-deprecating humor. Maybe all these folks who take themselves way too seriously need to learn something. If you folks don't like the site. Here's a crazy idea, don't read it.

Renee Miller said...

Why is anyone getting upset over a blog like SPH? I don't understand why there is even a debate.

I'm a writer. Unpublished. Querying agents and hating every one of them just a little more with each rejection I receive, and I can still laugh when I read SPH. I know what the game is because I researched before I jumped into it. I've got a few more rejections to go before I'll get that one letter that says "yeah, we'll take a look" (that agent will forever be on my Christmas list. Just saying)

SPH is funny, and if those queries are real, those writers deserve a little of what SPH gives.

Do your research. Don't just toss a letter out there that is full of spelling errors or that is unprofessional in any way. You want to be taken seriously as a writer, then be serious and learn what it is agents want to see in a query letter.

I can imagine if I had to read that kind of stuff day after day when there are a million resources out there for writers so that they can write a proper query letter, I'd snap.

SPH is not like a doctor mocking his patients. First of all, the doctor patient relationship is not one professional to another. An agent/author relationship is supposed to be one of two professionals. You want to hire them, they would like to work with you...but not if you don't have enough motivation and intelligence to refrain from telling them you're tired of submitting queries, so whatever. There's a real go-getter. Yeah, I'd love to work for that person.

Writers who get upset over SPH are perpetuating the myth that writers are oversensitive. Now stop it. I don't want to be seen as sensitive.

Renee Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jjdebenedictis said...

Hey, Anon 3:55 (and various other Anons and/or sockpuppets),

How is what your gloating over C-- L-- taking down her shingle any less hurtful than what SPH is doing?

And if you feel justified because you're doing this anonymously and it's unlikely Ms. L will read it, well--can't SPH make the same justification?

And if you think your action is okay because maybe some agents will learn something valuable from your words, then again can't SPH make the same justification, except for writers?

If it's okay for you to come here and anonymously snipe at people who may or may not recognize themselves in your remarks, then it's okay for SPH to do the same thing on hir own blog.

Lauren Moriarty said...

Absolutely hysterical! Thanks.

wry wryter said...

Well, hello, I’m back.
It’s nice to see that not everyone fell into the herd mentality.

For those of you who are not published and struggling to find your way with queries and proposals laughing at those less learned might make you feel better about your writing but it is simply juvenile and not professional.

For those of us who have been published, we know how hard it is and continues to be to stay out there.
I remember when “I got it”. I remember the head slapping moment of sh--, that’s what they want, okay, I get it.
Until that moment we trip and stumble and look really stupid sometimes. I’m done laughing at someone else’s struggle.
I think I’ll laugh at my own. Spoon is ready, Edy’s is the best.

Oh, about slush-vile, they have a perfect right to act unprofessional and stupid. They do it quite well.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the clown posting all of this is doing all she/he can for all of the clients of the agency before wasting time with this nonsense.

Yup. Sure. And maybe a monkey will fly out of my butt.

I could care less if SPH makes fun of people or not. I'd just like to know who the agent is behind it. I would never query said agent because IMO, any agent with that much time on his/her hands has clients he/she could be doing more for.

And as far as the agent that quit the business - one of many. The business has lost nothing. If anything, there are too many agents.

The world will miss one as much as it will miss 1,000 wannabe writers. Plenty more fish in the sea folks...

randine said...

I love SPH! I am a writer seeking publication, and I don't take offense to it at all. No one is getting hurt here- it's completely anonymous, and I'm not so certain these are even actual query letters.

Besides, it assauges my own query letter insecurities.

Miriam S. Forster said...

*raises hand politely*

I don't really want to wade into the SPH debate, but those of you who are referencing the departure of a "certain agent" as proof that publishing is dying need to do some homework.

That particular person left agenting because someone offered her an amazing job at a PUBLISHING house for a regular salary and (one assumes) benefits. This says nothing about the state of publishing as a whole.

If we must have negativity, can it at least be ACCURATE negativity?

Anonymous said...

Again, I'm dumbfounded.

The wit that has come here today...

jj- Sorry, you have no idea what a debate is. SPH started this with his/her shit talk. Certain writers stood up and said, "...this is stupid. Wow, what an idiot. How could someone be so unprofessional? This persons actions speak volumes. This person is showing signs of being a serious fool..."

But, according to you, that's no different than what SPH is doing. You missed the boat. One to nothing for the writers.

And the comment about the agent leaving the business recently; good riddance. That agent has a horrible attitude. Doesn't anyone remember a few months back when that agent vilified a writer publicly like a school yard bully. Numerous blog posts went up as writers were appalled. And agents wonder why a current of agent hatred is out there, meandering through the stream of publishing. Last year over 700,000 books were self-published. Sure sales may be less per book, but I have to attribute some of that to the way agents are treating writers.

What they don't get: the writer is their golden goose. I thought everyone understood that. I guess not.

I actually had no idea that there were this many idiots in this industry. Things are a changing...

In the meantime, assholes like SLP can still go to hell as I said earlier today.

Jillian said...

So, to sum it up, most of us writers are able to laugh at the mistakes we make and chalk it up to experience. But there is a vocal minority, who apparently are writers tired of being rejected by agents and are walking around with a lot of bitterness and vitriol, ready to spew. Life goes on.

Anonymous said...

Loving this debate! I'm submitting to agents and getting ignored and rejected like everyone else and feeling smug that I don't write stupid queries like SPH makes fun of. But even if we can and do laugh at those "mistakes," it reinforces the notion that writers are, if not crazy, then weird and self-absorbed misfits.

While we writers know that isn't true--we're intelligent, interesting and observant creative types with lots to say---I'm afraid this type of site sends the wrong message. Sure, agents may hold the keys to the kingdom for now, but our time will come--sooner than you think. I applaud all the Anons with the courage to stand up for writers, professional or newbies.

Ken said...

To the anti-SPH crowd:

You guys are kidding, right? Unprofessional? No names are posted, plots disclosed, identification of any kind ... Just some humorous responses to some odious queries. If you don't like it, don't visit the blog; it isn't like CNN is broadcasting it. I think that a vast majority of the nay-sayers are those that are miffed that their queries are being rejected and take THEMSELVES waaaaay too seriously. As for SPH being a contributor to the demise of publishing as we know it, well, I suppose that you believe the Barak Obama wasn't born in the US as well. As for those that believe the SPH has ego-issues due to his comments (assuming the blogger is male) why don't you just come out and say, Slush Pill Hell has a tiny peeny?

The Wolf In Me said...

Um...wait. SPH is examples of what you're not supposed to submitting in your queries?

Crap! Ahhh...Jessica, can you delete my query? It's the one where I said each of my 10 personalities would be happy to by my book.

#KtksBy

Now how do you make this thing anonymous?

jjdebenedictis said...

**cuddles all the cute li'l sock-puppets out tonight**

Just for the record? Insulting me doesn't actually prove your point. Come back when you manage to assemble a persuasive argument.

Mira said...

Wow.

Part of the problem is that SPH is quite funny and clever. But that doesn't change the fact that she is making fun of people in a public setting. It's true that she doesn't use names, but she's posting and mocking information from letters sent to her for a business purpose, which is a breach of trust.

In addition, those people may see their own statements and feel humiliated and betrayed.

If I knew a letter of mine could be posted and mocked I would never send it.

In fact, it just occured to me there could be legal liability here due to this. Infliction of emotional damage, with a lack of permission to post a private letter. I thought that with queryfail as well. I'm not a lawyer, so I could be wrong there.

But my biggest concern is that this person is posting anonymously. She is obviously trying to avoid negative press by keeping her identity a secret.

This is unfair for two reasons:

a. it does not allow writers to opt out of the process.

b. she is placing her colleagues at risk of being misidentified as her. It's obviously a female voice, so Nathan is probably off the hook, but I'm sure people are thinking, oh, that sounds just like Janet, or Rachelle, or Jessica. Which is terribly unfair - to place her colleagues in the position of having their reputations damaged because she wants to stay safe.

And I think this thread demonstrates that although perhaps not all writers will have a problem with it, a large segment will take extreme exception to it.

Foley said...

Anonymous said: "I applaud all the Anons with the courage to stand up for writers, professional or newbies."

I'd applaud them if they took responsibility for their words and signed their name to them. I find little courage in the actions of "writers" who take shots from behind a shield of anonymity.

Anonymous said...

I can't help but laugh so hard I'm crying. Thank you for the link.

There is nothing personal there to harm anyone, IF these queries are even real.

This is humor. And I don't see how it's hurting anyone. I can't get how anyone smart enough to read this blog would be insulted by that site.

Anonymous said...

And I've always posted as anon. There's lots of reasons someone would want to do that.

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clindsay said...

I'm finding it rather hilarious that so very many confused writers online are using my leaving agenting as a glaring example of the death of publishing...neglecting the very important fact that I left my agenting position to take a newly-created job at a publishing house.

Cue laugh track.

Kim Lionetti said...

Anon 11:33

I certainly think anyone's entitled to voice their opinion on the tone or content of a website. But it's another matter entirely to resort to name-calling, brand industry professionals as "idiots" and then try and make the argument that we're the ones who are so disrespectful. Frankly, it weakens any point you were trying to make.

Agents aren't going anywhere. And we do "get" that our writer is the "golden goose". What you don't get is that we are the writer's biggest advocate and cheerleader, so you shouldn't want us to go anywhere. It would be bad for writers and bad for the industry.

Some people might take offense to websites like this one, but if you've seen the website and you've read our blog, you're clearly educating yourself on publishing. You've gained some knowledge that can get you one step closer to getting published.

Anonymous said...

"Can't we all just get along."

Rodney King

Brenda Sedore said...

What really astounds me about this whole debate is that the agents who do websites such as SPH and make nasty comments on Twitter about writers, don't realize how unprofessional all of this is. Teaching writers what not to do is a good thing. I like learning how to avoid pitfalls. It's why I attend a writer's conference. But, learning something at the expense of another is not my idea of learning.

I will say the same thing I said back when that writer was publicly humiliated by an agent. Sharing anything someone has written in private, in a public venue, and without their permission, is wrong. End of story. I even think it is, or should be, illegal. I am not talking about sites like Nathan Bransford's where he evaluates queries. The writers send in their queries specifically for that purpose, thus giving their permission.

The very beginning of sites like this and ones like Miss Snark, were to teach writers how to be professional. Write a query like a business letter. Don't make silly statements like the ones laughed about on SPH. But, in this writer's opinion, it's now gone too far.

I, myself, was humiliated by an agent. One I had a lot of respect for. I was asked, at a conference, to submit a query. I did so in good faith, never giving a single word of permission for said query to be posted on a website. My query was not horrible, but I was still learning the business. My book was decent, but definitely needed more work. Again, it wasn't horrible. I anxiously awaited a response from the agent. Before I got the response in the mail, I saw it on her website. It was clearly about my book because the plot points were obvious. I was devastated, but not because she didn't want my novel. I felt betrayed. I got her very nice rejection letter a few days later. She had taken the time to write personal comments and show me where I could improve my writing. Her comments were neither mean nor unhelpful. If I'd only gotten her rejection letter, I would have been encouraged. But, because of the website, I knew I would never submit to her again because now I didn't trust her. This agent is no longer in the business, but I'm sad because I really liked her as a person.

I told this story to illustrate something. This business is one where trust is very important. Writers are sharing their dreams and hoping the person on the other side will handle them carefully. It's an honour. If the writer doesn't act professionally, or presents writing that isn't up to par just yet, pass them over. That's what agents and publishers have been doing for decades. Laugh about it with colleagues, but not in a public forum. It's beyond me why this is even up for debate.

Anonymous said...

Let me just tell ya: writers ALL suck. 99,99999% of them think they are the last cookie in the jar, think they are fricking genious and anyone who doesn't sees it is an idiot. Probably there are dozens of blogs out there from unplublished writers who hate agents and editors. My first advice for you, if you don't want to be mocked, is: don't mock the agent's or editor's intteligence. If you are stupid and mean, doesnt know how to spell, and still think you're the greatest great good in the world, well... we know better. We don't like to be mocked and we will mock you right back.

anon 153 said...

I'm a day late to the party, but wanted to comment...

I always feel that the outrage of certain agents and their willingness to publicly lambast writers is an indication that they aren't cut out to be agents.

Just like there are certain "writers" who would rather chat about writing than actually do it, there are agents that just feel superior and put upon because they "have to" read queries.

I wasn't a fan of C.L.'s queryfail AT ALL, but thought she was probably just venting after spending a decade or two in the business. How sad to find that she'd only been an agent for THREE YEARS!!!

Yes, I do think it's elitist to act so put upon. Most agents don't respond if they don't want your ms anyway; it's not like it's that hard to push a delete button.

Also, it's amusing -- don't agents understand that writers often, very often think ill of them, too? Agents request fulls, never get back to you. Agents request fulls, keeps it for seven months, send you a form reject with your name spelled wrong. Agents call to talk about the changes they want you to make, you do the changes, and then they act offended when you email to ask if they've read it (five months later). An agent signs you, sends your work out, but doesn't do any editor status checks because "she doesn't want to bother anyone." Agent signs you, swears she has a list of twenty editors who are "looking" for your type of ms., but gives up after five places, because "I'm losing my enthusiasm for it." Agent decides to dump you but doesn't have the needed balls to do so, so she just stops answering your emails until you're so frustrated you fire her -- BUT THAT email she answers within an hour, wishing you well.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Everyobody in this business is guilty of something, at some point. To act otherwise makes me lose respect for all involved.

jjdebenedictis said...

Brenda Sedore:
I even think it is, or should be, illegal.

Brenda, this is very much legal under the terms of fair use. SPH isn't reproducing whole query letters--just excerpts for the purposes of satire.

Also, although I understand your feelings of betrayal, if you've sent a letter out to several dozen complete strangers, you can't argue you had any reasonable expectation of privacy.

The legality of what SPH is doing is absolutely as it should be. This is a matter of freedom of speech and expression.

Voltaire is credited with saying, "I may not agree agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Writers in particular need to absorb and support this maxim, because we depend on freedom of speech to do what we do.

Satire must be protected as surely as reasoned debate. In fact--it might bear greater protection, because satire is often the thin end of the wedge when it comes to the erosion of freedom of speech. A hard-working government saying, "You can't ridicule us" is just as understandable as an emotionally-hurt writer saying, "You can't ridicule me"--but it's far more dangerous.

Everyone in society needs to acknowledge that yes, you can ridicule me. I may not like it, and I am allowed to fight back verbally, but I will defend your right to do it.

Brenda, you have every right to say SPH's site is rude, mean and unprofessional. However, SPH likewise has every right to run that site exactly as s/he is.

And I defend the right of both of you to do so.

Anonymous said...

Agents and editors who have such obvious contempt and lack of respect for writers don't belong in publishing--and vice versa...Sadly, it may only take one "bad apple" to spoil the whole bunch.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:07: Speak for yourself and by the way, why don't you learn how to spell before you get a job in publishing? Bitter, are we? Case in point (see rant below):

"Let me just tell ya: writers ALL suck. 99,99999% of them think they are the last cookie in the jar, think they are fricking genious and anyone who doesn't sees it is an idiot. Probably there are dozens of blogs out there from unplublished writers who hate agents and editors. My first advice for you, if you don't want to be mocked, is: don't mock the agent's or editor's intteligence. If you are stupid and mean, doesnt know how to spell, and still think you're the greatest great good in the world, well..."

Mira said...

Brenda,

I found your post to be moving. I think sometimes it's not malice that's so hurtful, but thoughtlessness. I'm sorry that happened to you.

Jillian said...

Very thoughtful and well-stated comment, jjdebenedictis. Thanks for being a voice of sanity.

Daryl Sedore said...

JJ- In your earlier comments, you seemed rash, out of context at times and a little lost with your direction. In your last comment regarding my wife, Brenda, you made more sense. I agree with your stance regarding freedom of speech and the right to defend what people say, even if others are in disagreement.

What I feel people are missing here, is how unprofessional SPH really is. Same with the other predecessors. In my opinion, it's immature.

There are business models used as examples through this stream of comments from a tour guide to a teacher and they describe how discreet they are in making fun of the people who have it coming.

In the publishing business, because writers are so eager to get noticed, they don't stand up for the right and the good, they sidle along and laugh as if they're in with the big boys.

People: examine your current job. Think about the last time you had a talking to from your superior for a particular wrong you did. Now ask yourself; what if you heard from your co-workers that somebody, anonymous, had done that wrong and the superior was going around telling everybody, but not mentioning names. How would you feel? I think, even without names being used, that this is a form of public humiliation. This is a version of the Scarlet Letter with an anonymous twist.

JJ- The reason you lost me in your earlier comments was because you were calling the anonymous contributors "sockpuppets". You yourself said to an anon that calling you names doesn't further an argument. In addition to that, I applaud every single anonymous contributor, because all they're doing is the same thing SPH is doing and no one caught on: announcing their opinion and stating it loud without anyone knowing who they are.

For the record: I still think the site (SPH) should go away, only because so many writers like Brenda are secretly being hurt. My wife is a loving, caring person. In the years we've been together she often does random acts of kindness. Her book brought tears to my eyes as it was so beautiful, along with the few hundred who've read it. She was the chairperson of a large writers group in our old hometown and part of a large critique group here. My Brenda has been published now and will be again in the future.

The day she saw her writing on that agents site (not SPH) she cried. To this day it still breaks my heart to think about it.

So, come on...I know the comments are coming. Tell us to grow a thick skin, deal with it, if you want to be a writer then you better learn...well, I disagree. Yes we have to deal with it, it being rejection. But we don't have to be beat up about it. There are better, nicer, more humane ways to tell someone that this book idea or these mistakes in your query letter are just not up to par.

There, I said my piece. Good luck to everyone who continues to query agents and take a moment to protect your heart.

Daryl Sedore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jjdebenedictis said...

Daryl Sedore:

The term "sockpuppet" refers to one person pretending (usually anonymously) to be several people in order to make their (one) opinion seem more popular than it is.

By calling the anonymice "sockpuppets", I was stating my belief that someone was doing this. It's not an insult; it's commentary on how similar (i.e. insulting, disdainful, and lacking in persuasive arguments) some of the anonymous comments were.

As for your wife's sensitivity, I'm glad you care so tenderly for her, and I do empathize with her pain because like many writers, I'm pretty sensitive myself--but her right to comfort doesn't supersede anyone else's right to freedom of expression.

Human Right >> People Teasing Me

Anonymous said...

JJ, this is not really a freedom of speech issue. It is about the trust relationship between writers and agents. Agents may have the 'right' to break that trust, but is it a good idea?

Anonymous said...

To clindsay: So glad you find us writers so amusing! We don't think your departure as an agent is the end of publishing at all. Rather we hope the era of rude and cruel "queryfail" experiments have ended. In fact, you're the personification of agentfail. Good riddance!

Cue: laugh track

Daryl Sedore said...

Well said anons...

Especially: cue laugh track.

So true.

You anons are awesome. Keep up the good work.

wry wryter said...

I want to start a Daryl Sedore fan club.

Yesterday when I posted my 12:24 posting as me,(not as an anon), I thought I would be vilified.

After I got home from work, I read, got discouraged and then the tide turned.

JJ, I respect completely, and agree, it is most definitely legal but just because it's right doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. Sometimes we have to step back and do what's decent.

When I told my husband about these postings, he thought the whole debate was stupid. Well, he thinks hitting a little white ball with a stick is fun. All that does is fill his shoes with sand and piss him off.

Anyway, Daryl I hope you get some tonight.
Brenda I'll bet you know how lucky you are.

wry wryter said...

One more thing.
Ah, forget it, I'm out of Rocky Road.
JJ got any? I got spoons.

jjdebenedictis said...

Anon 6:17
JJ, this is not really a freedom of speech issue. It is about the trust relationship between writers and agents. Agents may have the 'right' to break that trust, but is it a good idea?

That's for the agent to decide.

And the writer is free to anonymously post and ridicule the agent's rejection letter if they so desire. Freedom of speech really does work both ways.

It is a freedom of speech issue, and it is equally a matter of manners and professionalism. However, SPH gets to decide where hir line-to-never-cross is located, not us.

Wry Writer:
I have no Rocky Road, but this tub of French Vanilla is begging for a splash of maple syrup and some pecans. Dig in!

wry wryter said...

Mmmmmmmm, thanks JJ, well said.
Love the nuts.

Anonymous said...

"We, the members of the Association of Authors' Representatives, Inc., are committed to the highest standard of conduct in the performance of our professional activities.

- We affirm the necessity and desirability of maintaining full individuality and freedom of action.

- We pledge ourselves to loyal service to our clients' business and artistic needs. We allow no Conflict of Interest that would interfere with such service.

- We pledge our support to the Association and to its principles of Honorable Coexistence, Directness and Honesty in relationships with co-members.

- We undertake never to mislead, deceive, dupe, defraud or Victimize clients, other members of the Association, the General Public or any person with whom we do business as a member of the Association."

anon 153 said...

I think that writers are tired of agents acting so superior.

So what if a writer made a query mistake? How many bestsellers has that AGENT guided to the top? None? How many critically acclaimed novelists does that AGENT have in her roster? None?

If an agent's taste is so beyond reproach, so pristine, that they can make fun of others, why aren't they super successful? What does it say about THEIR taste or market knowledge that THEY don't have the JK Rowlings or Stephen Kings of the world as clients?

Agents that are WORKING for their clients probably don't have time to create condescending little websites slamming writers, because they're too busy making MONEY for their authors. For that reason alone, I go out of my way to avoid the whole "#queryfail," "writers are so stupid" set of agents.

Marjorie said...

I wrote a piece, at my blog, about SlushPile Hell and it can be read here:

http://marjorie-digest.blogspot.com/2010/07/slushpile-hell-pathetic-madness.html

Here are some excerpts:

My opinion is that the blog, SlushPile Hell, is unethical. And it serves to diminish the professional integrity of the blogger.

If the SPH blogger did not receive permission from the writers to post those query snippets, aren't the pieces of the sent queries that are being ridiculed at that blog under an umbrella of privacy protection within the agency? It may not be within that agent’s legal right to even post those snippets that s/he receives (as an employee of the agency) to a personal blog. I would think that the lines posted are part of privileged communications. They are not his/her personal property. All sorts of issues should cause concern. I do not think it matters that the snippets are posted with no names attached. I would be worried about litigation if the targets in that site are remotely identifiable by any other indicators. The flip side of that is really funny. It could be copyright infringement or plagiarism (using quotes without giving credit to the authors of the material being used)!

How do you think those query senders would feel if they saw parts of their queries insulted for the amusement of an internet audience? You don't think they would be hurt or humiliated or mortified? They are filled with hope and they may want to send the same query to many agents. How would their chances for representation be damaged if another agent read the blog and then recognized a line ridiculed at the blog in a query s/he received? There seems to be no question that it damages the query sender's chances of getting another agent. He has been designated a joke.

Marjorie said...

This is a reply to JJ:

Me, in my Judge Judy voice: "You don't get it!!!!"

It's NOT okay for SPH to do the same thing on her own blog because she is a PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYEE and the same rules of correct conduct DO NOT APPLY!!!!!

You think it is a freedom of speech and fair use issue. You don't seem to understand the issue is about integrity and professionalism... and what is appropriate for personal use on the internet when you are an employee at a job and handling the private communications you receive as that employee.

Satire is fine. But the satire should be all fiction, written by the author. The content of the satire should not be constructed from communications you receive as an employee and then use without the permission of the authors who wrote the material. Fair use is not the barometer for correctness here. I would think it's a matter of ethics.

SPH does not own those queries and she may be opening her agency up for a lawsuit for DAMAGES (if those queries she posts are authentic) How? If the chances for other agent representation of those authors of the queries posted are damaged if another agent reads SPH and then later recognizes a line ridiculed at that blog in a query s/he receives. There seems to be no question that it damages the query sender's chances of getting another agent because he has been designated a joke, a fail, in visible ridicule.

Even if the writer changes the query after the ridicule, the humiliation may result in damaged self-esteem and halt his confidence in querying further. He may feel he is marked for rejection and is not sending queries out that will be looked at objectively.

SPH treads on dangerous waters if the content is not comprised of all fiction. It's a dopey blog, written by a person not too swift, and is written by a wannabe whose desire to be funny is unprofessional. And if the blog is a teaching tool.... go teach query writing skills at NYU.

And by the way for all those who will tell me to lighten up and find a sense of humor... I am a stand-up comic (and a retired teacher) and I perform regularly at NYC comedy clubs.

Daryl Sedore said...

A publisher has done a blog about this and posted it on Facebook. I shared the link on my profile.

Now JJ is silent. I'd have more respect JJ if you came out and said you feel you've seen the other side of the argument and you aren't as convinced SPH is such a good idea instead of deleting comments on your blog. Interesting how you are against free speech now.

Here's the link:

http://www.facebook.com/darylsedore?v=wall&story_fbid=151945478150172&ref=notif&notif_t=share_comment

jjdebenedictis said...

Darryl: I'm silent because I don't lurk around other people's blogs re-arguing points I've already made, especially when my opinion remains unchanged.

The only reason I came back at all is because Marjorie trolled my blog.

Marjorie said...

Again, she throws around the word "troll." Whenever somebody disagrees with her, she calls the person a "troll."

Her opinion is flawed. She thinks it is a freedom of speech and fair use issue... when it is an issue of professional conduct, integrity, and ethics.

At least she could have replied to why she deleted my comments if she is such an advocate for free speech.

Her opinion seems transparently designed for the approbation of others and she also seems not to understand the fine points and the possible ramifications of a blog like SPH for the company.

Anonymous said...

Marjorie and All the Anons-in-One:

Troll is the right word. You've totally hijacked this agent's comment thread. It's juvenile. I think it's safe to say that once you decided to make this thread your own personal anti-agent platform, there was no further constructive conversation to be had.

Pity.

Best,

Sarah Dunston

Marjorie said...

To Sarah Dunston, whoever you are:

"Troll" seems to be the word applied to any person who posts a comment with a different opinion than the lemmings who find everything hilarious, amazing, awesome, full of so many parts of win, and snort coffee out of their noses.

Nobody can "hijack" any comment thread when the owner has the option of NOT PUBLISHING COMMENTS!! This blog has comment moderation in place! Also, there is the ability to DELETE comments.

I am not "anti-agent." I have a strong opinion about agents who are sarcastic and mean on the internet. They create blogs for the purpose of ridicule and I think it is unprofessional and unethical. On Twitter, they banter with each other all day hipster lingo. I wonder how they ever do their job.

I think these agents really are stand-up comic wannabes... whose day jobs happen to be not waiters, but literary agents.

And Ms Dunston? Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, whoever YOU are!

Dayana Stockdale said...

#1 slush pile hell is hilarious.
#2 its anonymous
#3 other writers get to learn from their mistakes.

Debbie Kaufman said...

I'm late to the party, but decided to chime in anyway.

I love SPH. I check it every morning and inevitably get a laugh. It's like anything else in life--not everyone will like it.

The problem with most writers is that every word we pen becomes sacred to us. As a group we need two things: A sense of humor and the professionalism to research how to write a good query.

Agents are on the front lines trying to find that story, that writer, that fit with the publisher. Considering all the crap they have to shovel out of the trenches, I don't begrudge them a sense of humor.

TheUndertaker said...

SO SPH is real? The first thought that came to mind is that someone is making these up for some creative writing and successful blogging? Because it is working, huh. But maybe that's just me : )

Marjorie said...

Omg, it is almost 3:30 AM in NYC and I am still up and these two weigh in with this narisha zach. And I will spend more time explaining that it is an issue about professional ethics and integrity, not whether you find it personally hilarious or funny. And it is not about learning how to write a good query.

I should be in Boca tanning my tuchas and here I am still trying to explain these salient main points.