Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sincerely, Mom

Dear Jessica Faust:

My son is a smart, handsome and a fantastically well-spoken recent college graduate. He went to The University of Mom here in Bubbletown, MN, and I just love him loads.

The reason I’m contacting you today is because of the job post you had in Publishing Jobs News. I think Son would be perfect for the position. He loves to read books, he writes the most beautiful letters you’ve ever seen and he’s motivated.

I’ve attached his resume for your perusal.

Please don’t hesitate to call me if you have any questions.



Imagine having anyone else submit your job application for you. Now imagine what it feels like from my side of things when the query letter comes not from the author herself but from a mother, husband, daughter, coworker, publicist, or lawyer. I think we can all agree that it’s probably best (unless you are working through a headhunter) to submit your own resumes, and for that same reason it’s probably always best to submit your own query letters.



KT Grant said...

Wow, that is a first. Never heard of that.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely. Part of the JOB of a professional writer is to learn the skills needed for said job, the same as in any other industry. That includes learning to write things like query letters, synopsis, etc.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I wonder how that conversation went:

"Mom, can you please apply to some jobs for me? I'm too busy not-applying for jobs right now."


"By the way, Son, I applied to some lovely jobs for you so you could start working and get out of my house."

Either way, Son isn't looking too hot.

Anonymous said...

Oh...lol, wonder what could have caused this blog post today. *snort*

Anonymous said...

Ooh, this reminds me of an incident totally unrelated to query letters, but still, I'll relate it...
My first job in the book industry was in a bookshop. We were a small independent shop in an out of the way spot, but we still got heaps of resumes from students, booklovers, etc interested in part-time work.
One day, an officious lady came in with an embarrassed-looking young man -- he must have been about 18. She marched straight to the counter while he loitered awkwardly behind a nearby shelf. She introduced herself as his mother, gestured vaguely in his direction, and thrust his resume at me. "He'd LOVE to work in a bookshop," she declared.
Meanwhile, he was doing a teenage grimace/fidget/squirm routine in the background. I think he would have whined "Aw, Mawwwwmmmm" if he hadn't been too toung-tied.
It was incredibly awkward. I'm sure she thought she was helping him out. And the remnants of teenager in me feel sorry for him, too -- I remember what it felt like to be embarrassed by an overly helpful parent. But of course, no way were we going to hire him. Apart from the awkwardness of her approach, it was patently obvious that he was neither keen on a bookshop job nor self-assured enough to handle customer service.
Oh, it was awful. At the time, I was just a couple of years older than he must have been, so it hit a raw nerve.
The moral of the story: no matter how keen your mother/brother/daughter/uncle is to help, it's probably best to do it yourself. They WILL embarrass you in the process, and whoever it is you're targeting will think less of you for having to enlist a relative's help.
My mother's daughter

Anonymous said...

Jessica, My old mongrel hound just completed her first novel--an epic saga 185k paw prints in length. She's a bit shy about submitting it and asked me to do the dirty work for her.

Are you interested in seeing a partial?

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Aw, anon 8:44 you think you're being original. In fact our dogs receive submissions regularly from the dog's of "potential clients"


Stacia said...

I think there's a misconception among a certain small segment of the population that either A) Having someone else submit their query for them will make them look important; or B) Getting an agent is as simple as calling one up and saying "I'd like to hire you," and thus can be handled by other people just like you'd have your assistant book a plumber.

Carol said...

It never occurred to me to apply for jobs for my kids. Too bad it doesn't work...guess I'll just have to keep asking "Did you get a job yet?" until they get sick of me and find one.

As for queries, I can't imagine letting anyone else write mine. I don't mind having someone look them over for errors, but if I don't have the skills to write them myself I probably am not ready to be published.

Anonymous said...

While I agree wholeheartedly, I am reminded of the somewhat similar situation (an editor was involved, rather than an agent) in the eventual publication of A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES. John Kennedy Toole's mother inveigled Walker Percy to look at her dead son's manuscript (a suicide) and wouldn't take no for an answer. The rest is publishing history (including a Pulitzer). I know, not exactly your point, but there it is.

Anonymous said...

While I agree wholeheartedly, I am reminded of the somewhat similar situation (an editor was involved, rather than an agent) in the eventual publication of A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES. John Kennedy Toole's mother inveigled Walker Percy to look at her dead son's manuscript (a suicide) and wouldn't take no for an answer. The rest is publishing history (including a Pulitzer). I know, not exactly your point, but there it is.

Anonymous said...

This is hilarious. I'll have my husband start working on my query right away!

Anonymous said...

Dear Publishers,

Sorry I can't finish my MSS right now. I am too busy sending out the hundreds of query letters, and changing everyone of them to meet different agent's criteria. You know this one likes a full synopsis, this one a personalized query, that one likes first chapter, another one wants snail mail, etc. Maybe in five years I'll get that second book written for you, or possibly I could get a little help from someone so I have time to do both. I realize that looks tacky to you, but you do have your interns to help you, and CEOs have secretaries, and doctors have nurses, and even lowly vets have assistants. I wish I had a magic potion that gave me all of the time in the world, but Adladdin stole it.


Exhausted Author

Anonymous said...

Ok that made me laugh really hard.

Sounds like Mom can't let Son do things on his own or Son is unable to do things on his own, both of which are major problems.

Aimlesswriter said...

I think if I ever did this to my (presently unemployed) daughter she'd kill me! lol But I can picture the kind of mother who would do this...I think its my sister in law. But she also used to do his homework for him so go figure.
I'm really surprized you get queries from people other then the writer. I would never have thought of that.

Stephanie said...

My mother would have done this completely unasked. I would definitely not assume the son condoned it. There's a good chance he doesn't even know she's doing it.

Vicki said...

So...you've received one or two of those for real. Huh? Kinda stumped on this one.

Anonymous said...

I have known mothers (quite a few, believe it or not)like this and they rarely even bother to get their child's permission to do this sort of thing. The kid doesn't even know.
I know they mean well but they end up hurting their kids in ways they can't even imagine. They usually interfere in their friendships and relationships with teachers, as well.

Martin Willoughby said...

Dear Exhausted Author,

I have no problems with you getting help from people in writing a query letter and all the other paraphinalia that agents and editors ask for.

In fact, no successful MSS (or query letter if the truth be known) has ever been produced without guidance, help and more than a few critiques from friends and writer's groups.

All I ask is that you don't let your mother do it for you and beg on your behalf.

Exhausted Agent

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I should laugh, or point that mother to nearest support group. It's gonna suck when her son finally gets around to snipping the apron strings.

Cathy in AK said...

Maybe Mom just wants the kid out of the house, but to me she sounds more like one of those helicopter parents. You know, the kind that constantly hover around the kid, making sure they get to their 8am college class, call the prof if a bad grade is received, that kind of thing. Either way, not good for this kid.

Kate Douglas said...

PLEASE tell me you didn't really receive a letter from his mother...it's a joke, right?

Inkpot said...

I wonder would she have turned up to do the interview for him too? ;)

Anonymous said...

Dear Exhausted Agent,

That's what I was hoping you would say. It was never my intent to even let someone else even write my query, but I had hoped it was okay to let someone else send them out on my behalf so I could continue writing.

Relieved Author

P.S. So I guess whoever is helping me should remain ANON? LOL! I just found some of that magic!

Anonymous said...

OH!! This really made laugh! I wonder if the son even knew about it. I'm an English professor so I see this sort of thing a lot. Recently the mother of a 40 year old man called to check on his grades! Eh um...

Michelle D. Argyle said...

People really do this? I'm stunned!

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

I work in an HR department and sadly, this sort of thing is not unheard of. Moms sending resumes on behalf of the kid, moms tagging along on interviews (yes, for real) and moms calling to follow up. It's bizarre and freaky. What's worse is that some young people seem to think this is acceptable.

I had no idea this phenom had migrated into the publishing biz, but I'm not at all surprised.

Tara Maya said...

When I was still a teen, with my first 400 word saga ready to send out into the publishing world, my mom, bless her heart, offered to become my agent.

"Thanks, mom," I said, "but you'd have to live in New York, and you wouldn't like the cold."

Even then I knew an agent didn't *have* to live in NY, but I didn't want to be mean to my mom. :)

Martin Willoughby said...

Dear Exhausted Author,

Glad to have been of help.

Now, where's that intern with my coffee whilst I read someone's query letter written in green ink?

Exhausted Agent :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Exhausted Agent,

Are you telling me I can't print in green ink, but it's my favorite! :(

So many rules, so little time ;}

Have a great day.

Anonymous said...

Dear Exhausted Author,

It's all about choosing the right assistant. Find one good enough to write a great letter AND sign your name to it, and Exhausted Agent might never know the difference. Of course, if you have someone that good, you might want to have them edit your manuscript as well so that the quality will match.

Evil Genius Assistant

Anonymous said...

Dear Evil Genius Assistant,

HA, I'm one up on you. I am the assistant. No, just kidding, but I have two assistants. One of them even sounds exactly like me. (Multiple personalities, you see. JK)

Best wishes,
Possessed Author

PS are you for hire?

Kristin Laughtin said...

Even if that letter is made up, it scares me that such things exist. Even if you have someone write your resume or query letter for you, don't admit it by having them send it too! (You'll probably get caught, though, when the quality of your other work doesn't match that resume/query. Always best to just do it yourself.)

Tana said...

If I thought it would help, I'd beg my mother to do it!

Anonymous said...

I've heard of this happening a lot these days. A guy who works for a railroad company told me he's had parents come in with their kids for interviews.

I teach kids in junior high whose parents would definitely do something like this. They are SOOOOO dependent on Mom and Dad, it is a disability.

Robena Grant said...

Does anyone remember the Everyone Loves Raymond episode where mom scorched Robbie's lucky suit prior to his interview for a position with the FBI? Then to make matters worse emailed or telephoned the interviewer. Didn't she go in and deliver cookies or something like that too? Ha ha. Can't quite remember the entire storyline, just recall how Robbie's eyes were big and about to fall out of their sockets with fury as he opened the front door looking for his mom.

Megan Burke said...

how hilarious!
what a complete joke

perhaps you should reply with this:

"dear mom, my daughter was too busy to reject the app. so sorry, love jessica's mother"


T. M. Hunter said...

I'm with Eden, there's no guarantee said author even knew mother was sending the letter...

But I find it interesting that on another agent's blog, there was a success story of an author who was signed after another author (previously signed by said agent) rewrote the entire query letter...

So, I guess it's not always a negative.

Sandra Cormier said...

Gosh, I would never embarrass my kids like that. They have to do their own laundry, help with the dishes, put out the garbage and do their own homework. I would never send in a resume for them.

Oh... crap. I got them both jobs at our newspaper's warehouse. Oops.

Okay, but from now on, they're on their own!

RJ said...

lol, OMG. I can't believe that. What was she thinking?!?!

Jenna said...

Oh. My. I'm getting flashbacks to my marriage. Thank God that's over.

This son is one of 2 things: Utterly inept and useless, or a delicate genius whose hands can't be sullied. in his defense, he's likely that way due to his mother.

I got sucked in, and I did a lot of things to 'help'. Like, pretending to be an agent. Doing his bookings. Helping him obsess over the placement of A PIECE OF TAPE on the envelopes. Enduring his fury when I dared to use an eraser.

The Confederacy of Dunces thing is VERY different: seeing as the writer was deceased, and his mom the holder of the estate, she was well within her legal right to submit. I don't even really find that strange. I can see why some agents would be leery, but if the 1st three chapters are included in the package, I would still read them. You never know.

Artists make it big posthumously, as do many writers. Someone had to make the submissions or pick up the individual works. Chances are, that will be a friend or family member out of love.