Thursday, January 29, 2009

Praise from Others

A book doctor and editor for a publishing company read a one-page synopsis from my work. When she got to mine she said she found it funny and that if it came across her editor's desk she'd ask for more pages. Is this something a writer can use in a query letter to an agent or would it come across as unprofessional or amateur?

First of all congratulations. It’s always thrilling when a publishing professional gives you positive feedback and you should definitely celebrate that. But should you use it in your query? I get a lot of queries in which writers tell me that other published authors or editors loved their work. It doesn’t sway me. In some cases the agents might not know who the editor or book doctor is and could question whether or not that’s really someone who can judge a book, and in other cases it just seems unnecessary. When taking a look at your material or your query I only want to know about the book. Is it marketable? What is your experience as a writer and can you write? To truly get the stamp of approval from another publishing professional, usually that book comes to me through a referral and then I know that truly this editor is behind the book and I know and respect the editor.

The best person to judge a book is the person reading it at that time. And unless you have actual printed reviews from other books you’ve had published I wouldn’t bother putting in quotes from friends, relatives, or even editors. It doesn’t give much of a push either way to us and can sometimes, depending on the editor, work against you.



Mark Terry said...

Yes, but what if I had someone like David Morrell or John Sandford or Janet Evanovich read the manuscript and they essentially blurbed it. Would that make you pay attention?

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Actually Mark, I get blurbs from bestselling authors all the time. That probably wouldn't jump out at me unless one of those authors actually recommended the author to me.


Anita said...

So I guess we need enticing, well-written stories with a market...and enticing, well-written queries to sell the story to an getting around anything.

Anonymous said...

So basically let your work speak for itself. Sigh...guess I should tell Nora Roberts thanks but no thanks. *grin*

And by the way my word verification for the day is resold...hmmm, an omen maybe? :D

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Thanks for this great advice!

Grimus said...

This is a serious question:

What if the hypothetical power player/person/reader was an enormous Hollywood literary talent. Someone with a star on the sidewalk, notoriously well respected critically and extremely well established regarding the commercial end? The kind of person whose name alone gets projects green lit. Huge.

Now this person doesn't publish books, in fact works the screen side so...can't necessarily get a novel published but could very conceivably make a manuscript into either a film or an HBO/Showtime type series. Further if this person didn't necessarily want to do it him/herself he or she could very likely attract significant talent that would be open to directing, producing, acting, etc.

This would seem to me to be a gimme; attractive to a literary agent, because wouldn't she or he basically have a easy winner on their hands?

I guess I'm also asking 1) are the worlds of Hollywood and lit so segregated that an agent could not really put it all together, and 2) are there rarefied agents who do walk in both worlds such that they could broker deals each way--to a publisher and a studio or production house?

Many thanks. Enjoy the blog.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Do Agents ever ask a celebrity if they can write?

Haste yee back ;-)

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Andy Edwards:

The truth is that this bit Hollywood person is only saying they like the book. On my side of things you become a little jaded. You have no idea how many people come to me with big names on all sides of the spectrum (writers, agents, Hollywood) who say they like the book or would love to make a movie if it's published or love to see it if it's agented. None of it means anything unless I think it's a book I think I can sell and/or if you actually have a contract in hand from this Holly wood person.


Jolie said...

"The best person to judge a book is the person reading it at that time."

This seems to be the key sentence in your response, Jessica. As linda hall said above, the work should speak for itself. From what I've seen of agents, they HATE to be told what to think by querying authors, even if the praise is being drawn from another source. The original source of the praise would have to be the one to speak up, which is how referrals work.

As a book consumer, I know I hate when publishers try to tell me what to think of a book when they advertise it. I don't want to hear that a book is "brilliant," or that other readers find it brilliant, and be expected to take the publisher's word for it. Just tell me what the book is about, and I'll decide if it sounds interesting to me.

Grimus said...

Very interesting. Thanks so much for your reply. The situation is hypothetical, but I assumed, and am apparently correct that this sort of thing does happen. Appreciated.

Jessica Milne said...

Andy, I found your question very interesting. I've never really considered how a big name outside of the writing spectrum would affect things... Definetly good to know, and it made me think.

What if the person was someone like Oprah? She's not only a huge force in television, but she has produced Broadway shows (The Color Purple, based on a novel) and runs a magazine. Possibly most important out of everything: her book club. Would something like that hold any sway?
(I personally would be highly amused if someone sent a query saying that Oprah loved their book. I'm just saying...)