Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, August 11, 2008

When Brevity Doesn't

Been getting queries from people w/ overly breezy styles. Definite articles dropped. Aversion to full sentences. Way casual. Texting abbreviations (srsly).

Makes me think they didn't take time to write a proper query.

Not taking time to write a query doesn't bode well for the book.

That or they're unprofessional.

Doesn't bode well for the book either.






48 comments:

Furious D said...

I blame text messaging. Someone's going to get a book published that's written entirely in LOL's, ROLLMAO's, BFF's, and other bits of cyber-nadsat.

ilyakogan said...

I got a response from an agent once and I quote the whole email the way it was sent (all lowercase):

"hit me with the partial instructions on the site"

ilyakogan said...

Furios_d - Novel Written In Text Messages

Lauren said...

I blame text messaging. Someone's going to get a book published that's written entirely in LOL's, ROLLMAO's, BFF's, and other bits of cyber-nadsat.

Actually, it's been done. Lauren Myracle's "Internet Girls" series has been selling well for several years. The books are titled ttfn, ttyl, and l8er g8er. All three books are told through IM transcripts. I'm a YA lit aficionado, but I've steered clear of those books.

I remember reading a deal on Pub Marketplace earlier this year about another text-message or IM-narrated YA novel selling.

Anonymous said...

Nate-dog (if I may be so bold) -

If you were reading a manuscript from an author and they completed a revision of that same manuscript for another agent, would you want to see it? Just wondering if I should offer a revision I did for another agent to the ones who already my manuscript out.

I think my revision is like 100x better BTW (I removed 100K of sexy fanfic text messege exchanges)

Ok thx bye!

grace said...

I totally understand your point (srsly), but what if my novel is written with an "aversion to full sentences," as part of the narrator's style? Would it be acceptable to write with, you know, a legitimate business-type tone for the beginning and end of the letter but slip into a more abbreviated style for the middle hook bit?

I guess basically my question is, when/where is it acceptable to reflect the tone of the book if that tone is significantly different from a normal business-writing voice, or should all such stylistic flourishes be limited to the book itself?

...er, hope that was clear.

Dan said...

Perhaps be ok for Tarzan memoir?

Tracey S. Rosenberg said...

Have you ever received a query in LOLcat?

If not, would you like to? ;)

Michelle Moran said...

In LOLcat! Now that I'd like to see ;]

Nathan Bransford said...

grace-

Matching the style of your novel is fine as long as the rest of the query is professional.

Mike C said...

I just sat down to write my first query letter last night and I was afraid that it was too long. It's less than a page in Word, but it just feels a little wordy.

A Paperback Writer said...

I've heard of those cell phone novels, too. I don't think I could stand to read one of them, but lots of people seem to think they're grand.
So, Nathan, I take it you're not currently representing cell phone novels, eh?

grace said...

awesomesauce. thanks nathan!

clindsay said...

My biggest pet peeve in a query so far? The repeated us of LOL! Followed by a zillion exclamation marks. I rejected one this weekend that actually used LOL and OMG.

OMG!

Text-queries. I think you're onto something.

(NO, GOD, NO!)

Marian said...

I'll bet some agent somewhere has received a query letter expressed entirely in pictures.

Or mime.

Dan said...

Could I query you with a YouTube video? Maybe an espn highlight?

RED STICK WRITER said...

I'm 58, and my judgment as to how casual I get goes all the way back to my high school journalism teacher, Dorothy Tooke. She said anything that is in written form and can be attributed to you should be good enough to prevent future embarrassment. The things I learned from her are used more often than the knowledge gained from just about any of my other academic mentors.

Transitions between black and white and color worked in The Wizard of Oz and Pleasantville. I think it is risky to assume that all readers, even those who are agents, will understand transitions between professional and texty or abbreviated styles.

katemoss said...

When this post popped up in my feed reader, I thought something was wrong. I checked to make sure my reader hadn't started providing summaries instead of full posts.

While you make your point quite effectively with the brevity of the post, I missed the usual detail and humor of your normal posts. I guess that's how you feel when you get a query like this!

MyVerbocity said...

@ Lauren:

I've also steered clear - probably because the few YA queries I've seen in text/IM speak have all been unreadable. :-/

Sprizouse said...

You do realize, Mr. Bransford, that if you succeed in transforming our Query Letters into masterpieces then you'll just end up reading A LOT more terrible partials.

And once you helps us transform our partials, a lot more full manuscripts and so on. Where will it end? When every book written is the next Macbeth? How will we, as readers, know what's good if nothing is bad???

Nathan Bransford said...

sprizouse-

I have contemplated this conundrum, but bad queries have an invincibility of their own -- they will never be eliminated, they feel no pain, and they can't be reasoned with.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bransford,

I think this 'overly breezy' style may be an unfortunate side-effect of the blog. We out here get to feeling that we know you, that we're all pals. Though my query was not that casual, it may not have been formal enough to suit you, either.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

It's very rare that a regular blog reader is overly casual -- I'm really not a stickler when it comes to formality, and cracking a joke and addressing me by my first name is totally fine. However, if the informality is taken too far and the query is similar to the style of my blog post today, it's probably not going to convey the writing quality and professionalism it would need to.

Trust me, the class of queries I'm referring to in this post have taken informality to the nth degree.

ChrisEldin said...

LOL at this post, and the commenter who called you Nate Dog! Oh man, this is twice in a row I crack up over here. Usually I get my joke fix at EEs.
:-)

Michael said...

I don't have the equipment, I don't have the urge, I don't have the skills to "text."
But has this now become the new form of acceptable communication?
Have the younger generation's members learnt this is the acceptable way to "speak"?
Do they view as "stuffy" those who don't?
[Lots of quotation marks]

Anonymous said...

I smell a new category for your query stats.

By the way, haven't seen you blog about query stats lately. I miss them.

Anonymous said...

lauren --

I write YA and when those text books first came out I felt sorry for the author -- you know, oh, dear, all that work for nothing, because who would read that! Imagine my surprise when they all ended up on the NYT bestseller list. And me, I can't get a second novel published to save my damn life. Go figure. :)

Marion said...

Believe it or not the world of readers out there do not all possess a computer or the knowledge to operate one hence why should anyone buy that its okay for the techno speak to rule the day?

I agree with Nathan that all contacts with a professional should be professional. Without that respect in place, the point of contacting any agent or publisher would seem pointless. It's the same as assuming it's okay to pat a cop on the back while he's holding a loaded gun. That kind of respect will get you shot.

Anonymous said...

Apologies, Nate-Dog

Just saw your multi-question FAQ. That better not be textese for what it sounds like! Fah-Q!?! LOL

I wonder if having a blog tempts otherwise sensible queriers into a breeze informality?

*Terror fist jab bonk*

Anonymous said...

Nathan-

How long do you hang onto a client before letting them go? If thier work hasn't been accepted and it's been like two years, do you stick with them?

Sam Hranac said...

Someday, I'm going to query you and you're going to come out with an "I've been getting some really dum@$$ queries lately" post and then I'm going to go crying off to my secret security sanctum under the bathroom sink.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I definitely stick with authors! I'm a very patient man.

Anonymous said...

haha Sam!
you go girl

It was only a couple of weeks ago, I googled for hours trying to learn the meaning of some of the text-language
(almost wrote Tex-language,like in howdy partner) that someone had e-mailed me. Couldn't find it. Finally, needing to know (inquiring minds...) I wrote her and it was her own signature text language.

Next I'm going to meet someone from Pluto.

Anonymous said...

oh yeah and then I bookmarked:

http://www.urbandictionary.com

Nathan, glad to hear you stick with your authors.

Anonymous said...

such useful information as:

ROFLEW: Rolling On Floor Laughing whilst Eating Waffles

Kim Kasch said...

Seriously???

;-)

It took me a minute to even get that.

Adaora A. said...

LOL. It's the age of texting, MSN,IM,and everything else Nathan.
I can't bring myself to do it. I'm always afraid someone isn't going to understand me. I text in full and I message in full as well. People are like "what the heck are you doing," when they see me in the real world.

janeyolen said...

The amazing Marilyn E. Marlow, agent extraordinaire (alas, deceased) of Curtis Brown used to regale me with tales of submission letters. Letters in crayon, letters with accompanying chocolates (dumped as dangerously unknown and she a huge chocolate freak), letters with family photos, letters shaped as scrolls and dipped in tea or coffee to make them look old. You name them, she got them. Yeah--but did she take them on as clients? Not a one.

Until you actually have an agent and know your agent's taste, sense of humor, and loyalty to you, remind yourself this is a business. Conduct yourself accordingly. Let's face it, there are more good writers out there than good agents. It's a buyer's market, not a seller's.

Of course, once you are happy with an agent and he/she is selling your work, send chocolates, champagne, pieces of jewelry, antique boxes. Exchange drolleries, family photos,
gossip.

But remember even then--this is a business. Sometimes hard choices have to be made. Agents let people go. Writers let agents go. It happens.

Jane, at Curtis Brown 43 years

putzjab said...

I'm still trying to learn how to write a query letter that piques an agent's interest. I wouldn't dare dream of sending a less than professional query letter, which brings me to my next question.

Nathan, in your profile, you mentioned that you like fiction. Does this include YA fiction and would it be okay to query you within the next month? I know that some agents have periods where they stop accepting clients for various reasons. I just wanted to make certain you were still open to new clients.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Lena

Maris Bosquet said...

Eek. I'm not surprised it's happening in the publishing industry, where the young and unpublished think it's the trendy thing to do. What shocks me is that we see this kind of malinformed writing in cover letters and resumes. An odd pestilence. De-serves writer. Deserves POS file. (With all respect, that's NOT short for "point of sale"!)

Ashley said...

This is my first comment on this blog, though I've been visiting and reading it for months!

I just wanted to put in my two cents about the topic after reading a couple of comments about the "younger" generation thinking it is acceptable to use text language when dealing with a professional. Unfortunately, there are those who either a) have not been taught how to communicate in a professional manner, or b) have been taught but choose to ignore it because they think text language makes them sound cool.

BUT - there are plenty of us young'uns (did I mention I'm southern?) who do understand the importance of respect and professionalism. I'm sure no one meant to imply that all young people are doing this - it's just that (while I'm not a teen, I am just 23) I don't want to be lumped in to a group of people just because I am young and unpublished. :)

Just a warning for the future, while you won't catch me commenting on this blog using text language, I do have a smiley face addiction. I'm a very smiley person and since that doesn't show through text, I always add lots of smileys to make up for it. Though, I promise not to do it when I get around to querying Nathan. :)

Sorry that was so long, especially for a first post! I'm slightly bored and putting off working on my manuscript...

Maris Bosquet said...

Ohhhhh Ashley,

Please imagine woman-older-and-allegedly-wiser-than-you repeatedly banging head on keyboard while pulling foot from mouth.

Clearly, I should have said SOME of the young and unpublished. "The Y&P" phrase was meant as a play on the soap title "The Young and the Restless," which consumes many of the wonderful people who work with me when they should be, well, working with me! I meant no generalization, though on re-reading, that's precisely what it looks like. Gaaa... ;)

Adaora A. said...

I'm 58, and my judgment as to how casual I get goes all the way back to my high school journalism teacher, Dorothy Tooke. She said anything that is in written form and can be attributed to you should be good enough to prevent future embarrassment. The things I learned from her are used more often than the knowledge gained from just about any of my other academic mentors.

Transitions between black and white and color worked in The Wizard of Oz and Pleasantville. I think it is risky to assume that all readers, even those who are agents, will understand transitions between professional and texty or abbreviated styles.

I agree with that a lot actually. I think that has to do with the book you're writing though. You push boundaries when you're trying to write in a way that makes the story real and authentic to the readers and the character. But, when you're submiting to people, it's still a professional work. So those professionals, who you want to represent and reproduce your work - and make it available to the public - have to be sure that you're a professional (even if you wrote your ms in a 'silly' or 'different' style). So thanks to agents blogging, many of us actually GET this.

Ashley said...

Maris, no worries! I was sure you meant to say "some" and not all. Sorry I missed the Y&R reference. I'm more of a General Hospital gal myself! :)

Precie said...

roflmbfao! so I should stop signing my queries "bbf"?

Oh, my. The very thought of writing any kind of professional correspondence that way just made me throw up in my mouth a little.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
s.w. vaughn said...

RE: ur brevity rant

sux 4 u!

:)

sylvia said...

I suspect it's an attempt to show you that they know you don't have much time. They are taking up as little of it as possible.

But what's making me laugh is that I've just noticed my bookmark is cutting off your blog name, so it now says

Nathan Bransford - Lite

"When this post popped up in my feed reader, I thought something was wrong. I checked to make sure my reader hadn't started providing summaries instead of full posts."

It's the new "lite" version of Nathan Bransford! Low-cal and full of sweetener! ;)

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