Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Year Reminders

Last night's Bachelor: not over it. Barely able to discuss. We'd better move on. Um. Not that I watched it.

It's come to my attention that this blog has been nominated for something called a Weblog Award! If you feel inclined to vote for this blog or for one of the other (more deserving) nominees for Best Literature Blog, you can do so here. You can vote every day if you are stranded on a desert island with only a laptop to entertain you.

It's a New Year, we're soon to have a new president, and with all the new stuff I thought it might be helpful to remember some old stuff. Here are some New Year reminders on general etiquette (Colleen Lindsay also has a refresher on her guidelines here).

Curtis Brown agent Emilie Jacobson requested that I ask that people kindly stop sending e-queries that state "Here's a link to my query and bio: http://MissSnarkWouldKillYouForThis.com" Agents do not like clicking on strange links! Sometimes they bite. Plus it wastes time. It's fine to include a link to your website at the bottom of your e-mail, but anything you really want the agent to see should go in the body of the e-mail.

Please do not call agencies for submission information. If you can find it online: go by that. If not: guess. The default is (still) to send a query letter with a self-addressed stamped envelope through the mail unless you see otherwise. Agents of the world thank you.

Meanwhile, I'm still getting a mystifying number of e-mailed queries professing that they've included a self-addressed stamped envelope in the e-mail. I'm still puzzling out the physics.

Please don't ask if it's ok to send a query. Just send it.

Formatting your query: Don't. Touch. Anything. Don't touch the fonts, don't choose the "Insert Bunny" option in the File menu, don't center your name, don't make the background look like clouds, don't indent, don't change the color to fuchsia, don't attach anything. Just open it up, type it out, and click send. Trust me.

And remember, friends don't let friends begin queries with rhetorical questions.






51 comments:

Anonymous said...

I suppose all email includes a virtual SASE: just click that reply doohicky. Seriously, it does look as though the query sender has crafted a universal query and intend to flog that sucker to death.

Adaora A. said...

I like the idea of a new year reminder. I don't think everyone will follow it the whole year round though Nathan. Just like how I walked into my gym at 5 pm yesterday and it was packed like a couple of sardines. All I could think was 'new years resolutions lasting approximately 2 weeks, 5days, and 4 hours.'

The wedding planner who didn't ge her 'happy ending,' and will continue to 'plan others happy endings,' provided endless fits of hysteria. Not to mention the dental hygenist who seemed to know EVERYTHING about the new bachelor and the reaction on his face when she showed how much she knew. But enough about that.

Still pleased to wish everyone a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Ink said...

There's an "insert bunny" option? I didn't know Playboy made software...



My best, and happy new year,
Bryan

Ink said...

And you're up against Neil Gaiman for that award? He's, uh, mildly popular online... Can I offer my "you put up a good fight" condolences now?

Unless I start borrowing a lot of computers the next few days...

LiteraryMouse said...

Welcome back, Nathan!

"Friends don't let friends begin queries with rhetorical questions."

Or with "that."

Anonymous said...

Nathan:

On another agent's blog, there's been some discussion of whether it's okay to have someone else write your query letter for you. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Curious.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I've been meaning to post on that. I'll have to think more about how I feel about it.

lotusgirl said...

You're so totally the winner in my book! I've learned more here than anywhere.

I mean where else could I learn so much about Tyra and the Bachelor? and, oh yeah, all that writing stuff!

Juliana Stone said...

hahaha...thanks for the laugh Nathan...shoot...didn't know you could send an SASE in the virtual world.....

AC said...

Was anybody creeped out by the hotdog girl? Or the toe replacement girl? Or the scary Myspace stalker girl? Or the inspiration boards girl? Or the...nevermind.

I'm totally sad that there's finally a girl from my hometown on the Bachelor and she might possibly have the fakest-looking face in the history of ever.

LiteraryMouse said...

Actually, my poor mother, when she was learning how to use e-mail, asked me where you put the stamp on the e-mail. Maybe the query writer is similarly confused.

Nathan Bransford said...

AC-

I just can't believe Deanna's coming back. That wasn't on my inspiration board!!

Madison said...

Got it, Mr. Bransford! Thanks for the kind reminder! :D

Sharla said...

I voted for you! Wish you luck, this is a great site to learn and laugh at the same time.

Elyssa Papa said...

I loved the new Bachelor last night and am mystified about Deanna coming back. Not on the visionary board indeed. LOL.

Voted for you. Do you get the final rose if you win??

Richard Mabry said...

Nathan,
So should I retract my query that begins, "How would you like to represent the next multi-million selling book?"
That you would have to remind us of these rules should put us to shame.
Glad you're back. Happy new year.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

What if it it's a really really cute bunny?

Lisa Dez said...

So let me make sure I have this right.

First I call you to ask what your submission guidlines are, then I email you to find out what color and how many bunnies you would like in the query. Then I send my vertual SASE along with my query composed entirely of rhetorical questions starting with "That"?

Anonymous said...

Yes, but what of the author who didn't use a rhetorcial question, followed all the query guidelines, had his query checked and critiqued by a half a dozen talented writers, but still can't get a request for a partial. What am I missing here? I'm beginning to think the story itself is just not saleable because no agent has read the manuscript so it's too early to say that the manuscript is badly written, or something along those lines. Maybe it's the idea that's the problem.

Kylie said...

Here's (hopefully) to the year you deafeat the evil rhetoric questions.

Also wondering, I would assume (but you know what they say when you assume) that when sending a query, unless otherwise specified not to, it is alright to send the first five pages as well. Is that so? Or should you just keep it to the quer if they don't mention it?

Nathan Bransford said...

kylie-

Yes, that's fine.

BarbS. said...

Gasp! Anon 12:16, it sounds quite Cyrano, but wouldn't having somebody write the query for you be like having your mother write the cover letter for your resume?

Wordver: ourble. There was a migrating ourbler at my bird feeder this afternoon... ;)

Anonymous said...

I was reading a writer blog the other day where two YA writers were discussing the difference between "literary" and "high-concept" books.

One said "literary" was character based. And that "high-concept" was a book that was mostly plot, with less character development -- in other words, you are reading for the concept, not lasting characters.

The other said, no, high-concept had nothing to do with plot, but was about HOOK. A hook you could pitch in a sentence = high concept.

Thoughts?

I remember in a previous post you (Nathan) had said "literary" books had plots beneath the surface and "high-concept" had plots above the surface. Which, made tons of sense to me. But now I wonder where hook fits into this?

And also, the writing they were discussing (and claiming was literary) read like chic-lit -- shouldn't literary writing have more complex sentence structures equalling a slower, more thoughtful read than a fast-type of chic-lit read?

(John Green's, Looking For Alaska (lit book) has very different sentence structure than a character based beach read, for instance.)

*Sorry, that's like a hundred questions...

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

There can be high concept thrillers and high concept literary fiction, and non-high concept thrillers and non-high concept literary fiction. All high concept means is that the plot is easy to describe. Thrillers tend to have more high concept plot because that's what readers expect and they're more commercial, but not always (try and describe the plot of THE DA VINCI CODE in a sentence).

What I left out of my delineation of literary fiction is that the prose literary fiction has a unique style, whereas the "style" of genre fiction has more to do with plot/character elements. That doesn't necessarily mean more complex sentences in literary fiction (see: Hemingway), but it does mean that there is more of an emphasis on the writing having a unique style.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! :)

I'm going to come back to your answer and read it over and over until I get this into my brain.

IN THE BREAK, by Jack Lopez definitely felt literary to me, and I assumed it was because -- though it had a difinitive plot -- the book had more emphasis on the MC (Juan's) thoughts ABOUT what was happening. But, maybe it was more because of the style of writing?

I'm too easily confused on this issue, and heck, I'm not even blonde.

Sarah Jensen said...

"(John Green's, Looking For Alaska (lit book) has very different sentence structure than a character based beach read, for instance.)"

But Looking For Alaska had such strong characters. Alaska herself drove the book along, even.... through the second half. :)
Miles journey through adolescence seems very dependent on people. So where does that leave this book?
I felt it was plot/character driven. Am I wrong? Or do I just not understand the whole thing. I'm sure it is different than a lot of take to the beach reads, but they seem to be more high concept to me.
Am I totally off on what you were saying Anonymous?

Sarah Jensen said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one confused by this.

Anonymous said...

Sarah --
No, that's pretty much what I was trying to say...

For me John Green's, Looking For Alaska, would be literary because while it did have plot, the emphasis was on characters, as opposed to say, an outward "quest" plot, we got Miles feelings and thoughts about/toward Alaska, Lara, his roomate. Also, the sentences were more complex and more at a distance than an in-your-face sort of present tense chick-lit type read.

To me, a beach read would be "high-concept" because they are meant to be quick, easy reads, where plot and hook has dominance over the character's thoughts and feelings??

AGHH!!

Nathan Bransford said...

All books have plot and character, and one category isn't more plot or character driven than the other. What separates literary from genre is 1) plot usually interior focused whereas the plot happens above the surface and 2) literary has unique prose and style. There is some overlap, but that's how I break it down.

Scott said...

Thanks for the info, Nathan.

I recently emailed an agent about her submission requirement of fifty sample pages because I thought that sounded like a lot to be pasted directly into an email. I've yet to get a reply, and don't expect one. I've since seen the request again, so I guess fifty sounds a lot bigger than it is.

I also downloaded a book (free, which was nice) on writing the perfect query written by an agent. The book was over 70 pages long, which also seemed like a lot, but at the end he added a checklist. That was pretty cool, even if he included such absolutes as "Don't make it over three paragraphs, don't make your plot summary more than three sentences, and don't use the name of your main character".

And here I thought the "sweet spot" was my only rule of thumb. Any thoughts?

ankersho n. 1. any of the many varieties of seaweed flavored liquor cordials.

Anonymous said...

Barb:

Having someone else write your query letter seems wrong to me, but I'm not sure why. I have a secretary who writes many of my business letters, which I then sign my name to. But it seems different somehow. I think my problem with it is that the query letter is supposed to not only be an introduction to your story, but also a representation of your writing ability.

After seeing this topic on another blog, though, I'm wondering how common it is, and how other agents feel about it.

Sarah Jensen said...

Thanks Anon. That made perfect sense. And I loved that book. :)

Kathleen Peacock said...

The hot dog thing was strange, but I'm still pulling for her out a strange sense of Canadian duty.

Having someone else write your queries just seems wrong. Yes, I have written letters and speeches for my employers but they weren't trying to sell their own writing.

Nikki Duncan said...

"Meanwhile, I'm still getting a mystifying number of e-mailed queries professing that they've included a self-addressed stamped envelope in the e-mail. I'm still puzzling out the physics."

Did we forget to tell you that we can now scan and attach physical items? :) Yeah, all right. I think I'd be stumped on the physics of that too.

Starrie said...

On the query letter argument:

The query letter is the first glimpse an agent gets of you as a writer. Letters are primarily supposed to sell your stories, but agents also use them to determine your voice and style. Giving them a letter written by someone else seems terribly false, yes? You set up their expectations on false grounds.

Lucy said...

"Lisa Dez said...

Then I send my virtual SASE along with my query composed entirely of rhetorical questions starting with "That"?


I'd ask you to go ahead and post that for humor's sake, but then, I have a twisted sense of humor. And we don't want to make Nathan sick. ;-)

LiteraryMouse said...

Agreed that not writing your own query letter seems wrong. You can get help and feedback, but to not write your own query would be like applying to enter an art show and not submitting your own work to get in.

A query letter isn't just about communication, it's a demonstration of skill.

Jean said...

Technically, an email query does come with a form of SASE. Hit 'reply'.

:)

A Paperback Writer said...

Dang.
I don't have an "insert bunny" option on my e-mail. I'll have to look into that. You just never know when you're going to need one of those.

Anita said...

Am totally against someone else writing the query on prospective author's behalf, unless said prospective author was hit by a bus and is in lengthy coma or vegetative state.

And, ooooh, did you see Jason crying over the balcony??? What could be the reason???

BarbS. said...

Well, folks, in the Taking Credit for Writing Something I Didn't Write department, here's something I just saw on NYTimes.com:

"Author of ‘Conversations With God’ Admits Essay Wasn’t His"

Yep, it's another case of an author masquerading plagiarism under the guise of the fog of reality.

Appropriately, wordver is DRIERPOU

Yes, you may pronounce it as you wish. ;)

Adaora A. said...

I'm suprised the girls on the show didn't see the obvious wall that they backed themselves into when they were asked to pick who they want to go home. As if that would ever happen on reality TV. If you remove the 'competition,' that means taking out the entertainment too.

Adaora A. said...

Was anybody creeped out by the hotdog girl? Or the toe replacement girl? Or the scary Myspace stalker girl? Or the inspiration boards girl? Or the...nevermind.

I'm totally sad that there's finally a girl from my hometown on the Bachelor and she might possibly have the fakest-looking face in the history of ever.


The Myspace girl creeped me out the most. The way she rattled off everything about him kind of made me wince and go into convulsions. It reminded me of when Brad Pitt was on Oprah and this woman was asking BP about tatoos on his body that People Magazine apparently hadn't even got word of.

The girl who was 'voted off' and started cursing like a sailor kind of made me laugh. I was suprised that she'd be cursing like that when she's trying to 'win the heart' of a single father. Ahh the joys of watching reality television.

Anonymous said...

"I'm too easily confused on this issue, and heck, I'm not even blonde."

Why bring hair color into it...trite and inaccurate...

Joe Iriarte said...

I'm tempted to include ASCII art of an SASE now.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:52--

Q: "...Why bring hair color into it...trite and inaccurate..."

A: Because the OP started off by mentioning the The Bachelor episode, on which one all of the girls were dissing each other for a variety of stupid reasons. I was trying to continue with the humor of that show and obviously, it failed. Sorry. But come on, get a grip. Really, why would I insult you? I don't know you.

Dara said...

A SASE in an email? That's a bit on the confusing side...

Anyway, thanks for re-posting the etiquette of sending a query. I'm still baffled as to how some people do some of those things, like calling agents or putting strange links in email. Just a bit of research by these writers could prevent that.

Kathleen Peacock said...

I'm still baffled as to how some people do some of those things, like calling agents or putting strange links in email. Just a bit of research by these writers could prevent that.

It baffles me but I sure am glad they don't take the time to research.

Means less competition for those of us that do.

Keep sending strange links and, if your sending snail mail, don't forget to put in some glitter!

MzMannerz said...

The opening paragraph of this post was worth the effort to boot up my laptop this morning. V. funny. V. good. LOL

Sharla said...

I'm stunned by the Bachelor! This may be the most down and dirty catfight yet. I cannot BELIEVE Deanna is doing this, and I actually liked her. Now I want to slap her. What a crappy thing to do, and I'm a little ticked off at the show for going for it. It's not fair to the other girls there to do THIS SEASON'S show, and it's certainly not fair to Jason.

And it seems like they are showing way too much ahead of time, aren't they?

And I kind of liked Hot Dog girl, she was more normal than some of the others. Dental Hygenist stalker was freaky, Vision Board chick was psycho, and the girl from the park with the sewage plant? Yikes. Sailor girl probably sunk herself. Poor Jason!

Ann Victor said...

Nathan, your blog has my vote...and my vote...and my vote...! :)

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