Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, March 6, 2009

This Week in Publishing 3/6/09

This Week! Publishing! Positive style!

Thanks so much to everyone for participating in positivity week. Judging from the feedback and comments, in these tough times people definitely could use some more positivity, so consider this a humble request to go out and spread it.

It's also why I didn't participate in the Twitter-fest #queryfail, in which agents and editors Twittered in real-time yesterday about the queries they were rejecting. Seems like a good opportunity to remind everyone who is thinking of querying me that you do not have to fear becoming blog/Twitter fodder. Ever. Never ever. Not when you're querying, and not when you're a client.

First up, it seems fitting to link to an end-of-publishing-as-we-know it article, this time by former book editor Marion Maneker. Why during positivity week? Because even though he believes there are going to be major changes at the publishing houses, ultimately the digital era will be good for writers.

While we are thinking positively, you'd better start preparing yourself for success, right? Well, agent Rachelle Gardner has a post about some steps to consider as you contemplate the time commitments that come with being a writer.

In case you need proof that the mainstream publishing industry is increasingly gravitating toward celebrity books and bestsellers, HarperCollins this week launched an imprint devoted to celebrity books and bestsellers. Why is this good news for positivity week? I have another place to send book projects!! Imprints opening: good.

Reader Neil Vogler pointed me to a new e-book experiment by UK publisher Faber and author Ben Wilson, who are attempting the Radiohead "pay what you want" model. According to the article, only 38% of users paid anything for Radiohead's album "In Rainbows" and the average among those who paid was £2.80. But hey -- experimentation: positive.

As mentioned on Wednesday, Amazon entered the iPhone app fray with a Kindle-linked application, and Wired surveyed the other book app companies. The consensus: unafraid. I find all of this extremely gratifying. Anything that can get on-the-go people to buy books is going to be a major boon to the book business.

Do you have a publishing emergency? Author Lynn Viehl is (hilariously) standing by.

The new edition of MentalFloss contains a list of the 25 most influential books of the past 25 years, and the Washington Post's Short Stack blog took issue with some of the choices. Here's hoping your book make the next list!

And finally, we opened positivity week with Muppets and it seemed only fitting to close positivity week with Muppets. I give you: a Bert & Ernie gangsta rap mashup:


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Dara said...

OMG I nearly fell out of my chair watching that video! Hilarious!

Thanks again for positivity week. It was energizing :)

David Eric Tomlinson said...

Congrats NB! Positivity week rulz- with-a-zee.

RW said...

To look even more on the upside re: the Radiohead experiment . . . even if fewer people buy it and if those people paid less, if Radiohead also cut out several middlemen and kept a larger percent of the gross, it potentially works out in their favor. Self-publishing, vanity publishing, etc. has a lot of downsides, including not having the distribution expertise of traditional publishers, but if ebooks solve much of the distribution problem the way itunes, streaming CDBaby etc. do for music, then self publishing potentially yields more money for the artist net.

L.C. Gant said...

HAHA! So funny! I must be getting old because I have no idea what either of them were saying, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

Positivity Week was wonderful. I wish it didn't have to end. Of course, if Rachelle Gardner's post is any indication, the kitties and rainbows are spreading :)

I'll certainly do my part to help it along!

Sea Hayes said...

Thanks not only for positivity week, but for all the links for people who want to be in the know. I love it that your blog elicits so many comments and that you take the time to read and respond. Thank goodness you don't represent my genre, because you would be my absolute dream agent, and this way I can enjoy you without fear of rejection. Have a great weekend!

Anna said...

thanks for the happy vibes, and for link to Rachelle Gardner's post... have a smashingly positive weekend!

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan -

Thank you so much for positivity week. I found it absolutely invigorating. It helped me to renew my commitment to writing during these times that seem to be both bleak and simply the cusp of a fantastic new era. Looking forward to reading the material at the links you posted today. Have a great weekend!

Word Verification: eminc - Sounds like minks reading eBooks!

Nixy Valentine said...

I loved positivity week. Of course, I find this entire blog positive because it contains page after page of resources... all for free. I've learned as much from this as any book I've paid for on the business of being a writer.

Does positivity week really have to end? Can't we make it positivity month? ♥

Thanks, Nathan!

Scott said...

Twitter still escapes me in every way. I guess therein lies my electronic communication boundary. Still, thanks for the steady stream of quality info, Nathan. Name-checked you on my blog and linked to our "TCfaHW" entry yesterday. Good stuff.

Dizedom n. 1. a fictional kingdom where the essence of things is randomly altered in accordance to the whimsical needs of its boy king.

Bane of Anubis said...

That queryfail thing seems cathartically sadistically odd.

Marilyn Peake said...

Whoa, I just looked at query fail. Agents are making fun of query submissions?!? If I understand the Tweets correctly, at least one author discovered her own query in the queryfail discussion. Ouch! Thank God, I'm not querying right now. Thank you, Nathan, from the bottom of my heart for promising to never turn our posts into "blog/Twitter fodder".

Vancouver Dame said...

Thanks, Nathan, for a great week of positive information and thoughts. Making the positivity week a reoccurring event is a great idea.

When you mentioned that you didn't participate in the Twitter-fest on queries that just confirmed my belief that you do not condescend to your blog readers, and future query writers. You treat your followers with respect. Much appreciated.

There were some excellent comments this week by the readers, and there were some that were way out there, but all were good reading. Have a good weekend, Nathan, you definitely deserve it. (although I did like the late breaking news you posted last weekend.)

Also to Scott from Jersey, I checked out your link on your website to 'If Charlie Parker were a gunslinger' and my hubby and I like it a lot. Thanks.

Erin said...

Thanks! I've totally enjoyed positivity week.

JohnO said...

@Nathan: Mad props, yo.

@DavidEric: That's rulz-with-a-zed.

@Scott: Twitter? Wade in, dude. It's like a cocktail party, only without booze and a lot of tinyurls. Or watch Jon Stewart's diss.

@Muppets: Nice video, but where were the big booty ho-Muppets?

reader said...

HarperCollins opening up an imprint for celebrity books and bestsellers isn't really good news for the writers that aren't famous or James Patterson, imo, but whatever... :)

(I suppose it's good for those editors to not lose a job, so good for the editors!)

Thanks for positivity week, Nathan!

Brian Buckley said...

That Publishing Emergency link was hilarious. :-D

Also, good call not participating in QueryFail. Seems kind of unprofessional to broadcast serious queries for public mockery... no matter how hilariously bad they may be.

Sophie W. said...

Bert and Ernie are not Muppets. They're from Sesame Street!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for not participating in queryfail. Dang, the idea of making fun of writers, the very people, who, collectively allow you to have a job -- w/o writers, editors and agents don't exist -- makes me incredibly sad.

Margaret Yang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wickerman said...

I'm a total meathead when it comes to twitter, so maybe some one can help me out. Is there a way to see which agents participated in the queryfail?

That seems like the most unprofessional thing in the world. I am not sure I's want to deal with an agent or editor who participated. That would be like me posting my clients financial info on the web so other financial analysts and I could laugh at it.

james said...

I also thought that queryfail failed. Now I have a list of agents to avoid. I couldn't imagine starting a professional relationship with people who act, well, so unprofessional. Bravo Nathan for doing the right thing, and for making this blog a real retreat.

Ugly Deaf Indian Muslim Punk Gurl! said...

Also check out QUERY FAIL week on Colleen Lindsay's Twitter account. It's pretty funny and educational on how to not fail your query letter.

Mary said...

This has been a wonderful week, Nathan! Yay for positivity ... and Muppets!! :)

Scott said...

Also to Scott from Jersey, I checked out your link on your website to 'If Charlie Parker were a gunslinger' and my hubby and I like it a lot. Thanks.

Terrific, isn't it? Glad you found it.

@Scott: Twitter? Wade in, dude. It's like a cocktail party, only without booze and a lot of tinyurls. Or watch Jon Stewart's diss.

I guess I don't yet understand how it works, John. Might check it out again one night when all the socks are rearranged. ;)

Ugly Deaf Indian Muslim Punk Gurl! said...

oh okay never mind, I didn't notice the comments here about QueryFail...

Anonymous said...


Your name is listed here as having participated. Did you?

Anonymous said...

Hello! My name is Marina.
I have manuscript and I'm looking some agent, who help me.
My e-mail
Sincerely, Marina

Litgirl01 said...

Positiviy week has been positively positive! Can we do this again sometime? :-)

Video: hilarious!

Nathan Bransford said...


No, I only posted a joke about queryfailing my mom when she asked for facebook help (and then querywinning her when she reminded me she gave me oatmeal cookies).

Ash D. said...

Wow, I had not heard of the "queryfail" thing. Thank you for not using anybody's queries (no matter how sad, awful, or pathetic they may be) to entertain others on the internet.

I'm really surprised that any "professionals" would do that. Even if the query is the worst thing they've ever read, chances are good that the person who wrote it put their heart into it and it's just plain mean to exploit that.

So, truly and sincerely, thank you for not taking part.

Also.. no better way to end positivity week than a video of Bert and Ernie rapping.


Lupina said...

The video was great, although it made my dog jump off the sofa in alarm.

Queryfail was a fascinating glimpse into snarky agent-think. Not sure it fits into positivity week, though. I'm appalled both at the number of clueless writers and the kiss and tell 'tudes of some agents.

Scott said...

I love you, Marina.

Brian Buckley said...

The more of this #queryfail thing I read, the less I like it. The agent who came up with the idea says "The idea isn't to mock or be intentionally cruel, but to educate." But that's clearly not what's happening in practice.

This is just insulting to authors. I understand agents are within their rights to do whatever they want with their query letters, but that doesn't mean they should.

Ink said...

I don't think the agents/editors doing the queryfail thing were intending to make fun of or mock writer's queries. I'm pretty sure the idea was to be educational, to show how and why writers failed to catch there interest in a way that would be beneficial for those engaged in the query process. I haven't seen the actual responses, though, and I was hesitant to read because the writers hadn't given their permission. I think you could probably be generic enough that no story could be identified, but if it starts getting specific... And I'm guessing the natural human instinct to entertain might sneak into the agents' commentaries. Seems like a slippery slope. I think I prefer Nathan's volunteer method, since we seem to have a plethora of brave souls around here. I do think queryfail had good intentions... but that's not always enough. I wonder what the writers involved think? Upset... or happy to see how they might improve their queries? Maybe a bit of both?

My best, as always,
Bryan Russell

Anonymous said...


I am glad you did not participate in Queryfail. I just found it all so very unprofessional.

Does Colleen really want that kind of attention?

Alexa said...

Positivity week was great and the Muppets was the perfect way to end it and start the weekend!

Glad your Mum was a querywinner in the end, a good oatmeal cookie can get you far :)

Rachelle said...

I always learn so much from your blog, Nathan. And thanks for the link!

Kelley said...

I'll ditto all the others and say thank you for not participating in the query fail. I also want to thank all the other agents and editors who were kind and didn't participate, either. I know several people did enjoy it, and it certainly garnered quite a bit of publicity, just made me sad.

Anonymous said...

Ok, my next query letter will be written in free verse and can be rapped to one of Enminem's songs. Request for partial, for sure.

Ink said...


Might be a good query stats post in that edgy queryfail topic. You could do a very generalized breakdown of rejections and the major causes. No specifics, but a sort of:

33 queries - writing not up to standard
22 queries - improperly formatted
18 queries - genre not rep.
12 queries - no platform (non-fic)
8 queries - unclear on story
7 queries - well-written but not my line
2 queries - what the heck?

Anyway, might be interesting. What mistakes are we making, and which ones are we making most often? (Note: this post is entirely fictional and no writers were harmed in its making.)

Just an idea. Maybe when the query flow has lessened... if it does. (Think Twilight Zone music here.)

My best,

Adaora A. said...

I can't even begin to express my delight at seeing the muppets more then once on this blog. Complete win.

An imprint for best-sellers and celebrities eh? So that means John Grisham and Britney Spears could (technically) live together in print. Something that I find wierd and fancinating at the same time.

Nathan Bransford said...


Thanks for the (very good) suggestion. I've actually thought about that and started doing it one week. Then I realized it was incredibly, incredibly time-consuming. Most of my query decisions are made on the gut level, so I don't sit there and break down precisely why it's not working. It's either working for me or it's not. I let my subconscious do the rest.

So actually putting together a query stat post on categories other than genre: takes a looong time.

I'll definitely do this someday, but probably over the summer if/when things slow down.

TC Laverdure said...

Great week. What is next weeks theme.

How about rationality week?

Negativity to positivity to the balanaced ground of rationality.

Hey just an irrational guy looking for some rational advice and words of wisdom.

Question? Is it irrational to need to be a novelist? We need water, shelter and food. Why do we need to be a novelists?

Nathan has the best blog on the web. Three cheers and a plate of crispy bacon for Nathan.

Rick Chesler said...

Lots of interesting links here--thanks for posting.

ryan field said...

Yesterday I went to tweet, and re-tweet a few things, and I noticed a few of these queryfail tweets. I didn't know what they were until I read something about them early this morning.

I think it's nice you decided not to do it. I'm not querying now, but when I was I took it very seriously.

I use twitter to network a long list of things, from work to a few political causes I believe in. And when I'm retweeting something positive about basic civil rights and I see a tweet about an agent's bad query below it, queryfail becomes irrelevant.

Jen said...

I read a bunch of #queryfail when I got home yesterday (just before I survived the Melbourne Earthquake OMG!!! and got distracted by Tweeting about that...) and some of the queries that were posted were hilarious.

Yes, it was unprofessional. I notice agents have been doing it on other blogs for a while now, so that's nothing new. I would think if you saw your query there it would be humiliating BUT at least it would be a wake up call - rather than a form rejection you would know that you were really on the wrong track and you needed to completely overhaul your query or your project in general. This sort of information is valuable, even if done in a snarky way.

But then again, maybe it was just cruel. All I know is that I am such a Twitter addict (follow me! follow me! follow me!!!)

Kristi said...

Thank you so much for your positivity week. I'm also glad you didn't participate in queryfail - it even makes me want to write in the areas that you represent instead of what I'm currently doing just so I can query you. Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!

Anonymous said...

Would it be disrespectful for me to start an agentfail? All's fair, right? :)

1) I followed submission guidelines. Your website says you respond in two months. It's been four. Fail.

2) You asked for a partial. I sent it. Haven't heard back. It's been five months. You won't answer my polite nudge email. Fail.

3) You say no reply means "no." Gee, because it's so hard to hit "reply" with a canned "not right for me" response so I can at least know it got there?" Fail.

4) You did email me with a reject, but you spelled my name wrong. My name is only 4 letters. Fail.

5) You asked for a full, said you were "excited" to read it. Said you were taking it home with you to read over the weekend and would get back to me within the week. That was 16 weeks ago. Fail.

6) After signing me, you said you'd do whatever it took to sell the MS; you lied. One round of submissions and you threw in the towel. Told me to write something else. Why, so you can not try to sell that one too? Fail.

Anonymous said...

This is partly why that whole query fail was a horrible idea--Anon 1:21's comments. It's this vicious cycle of attacking and blame-bad agents...stupid writers...bad agents...stupid writers...he said it first thing.
There are unprofessional boobs on both sides. Can we move on, pls?

Thank you for not participating, Nathan.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for positivity week...but I'm looking forward to regular programming. Keep it real man! We can take it.


clindsay said...

Okay, I think you all got the totally wrong impression of #queryfail.

The idea wasn't to mock but to educate. We were pointing out mistakes that people make over and over again in their queries, as well as those queries that were clearly sent out without any regard to spelling, grammar or typos. We used no personal identifiers of any sort, and didn't mention names or titles of books.

These were exactly the same kinds of examples that all we blogging agents use every day to point out what people are doing to shoot themselves in the foot when sending a query. The only difference that all of us agreed to do it live, in real time. And judging by the number of thank you emails I got from aspiring writers yesterday, I'd say we accomplished what we set out to do: educate people.

I certainly didn't save up bad queries to make internet fodder out of them; I commented on the as I was opening them. And if you read through the entire #queryfail stream, you'll see that we also posted examples of great queries and those that made us ask for partials.

Just want to make sure that your readers have all the facts.

Cheers and have a great weekend!


Jen said...

Colleen, I should say, to be fair, that a lot of the snarky comments weren't from the agents posting the #queryfails, but from readers responding to them.

Mira said...

This has been a wonderful positivity week, Nathan. Thank you.

I thought the article about publishing emergencies was soooo funny. I loved the article about the future and kindle - I think it was totally on target.

I'm really appalled, though, at twitter fail. I don't have a twitter account - does anyone know if there's a way to get a list of the agents that participated?

Not only will I refuse to send them a query - ever - but I plan to send a letter of complaint to their bosses.

How dare they.

I don't want to end on such a negative note, so I positively thank you for being the classy gentleman that you are, Nathan.

Anonymous said...

"Seems like a good opportunity to remind everyone who is thinking of querying me that you do not have to fear becoming blog/Twitter fodder. Ever. Never ever. Not when you're querying, and not when you're a client."

Amen. I have issues with parts of business mail directed to a specific person being published via internet without consent, no matter the intent.

Ink said...

Hi Colleen,

I really do think you guys had the best intentions, and I'm quite sure it was very helpful for a lot of writers to see how an agent evaluates queries. But there's also a lot of people laughing about it, too, bandying lines about and making jokes. If I was one of those query writers... might be hurtful (even if educational). I mean, to have what was a confidential business communication put on a public forum without permission... I don't know. There's definitely a flipside to the positive gains from such a process. There's a lot of mockery, even if not directly from the agents. But the agents willingness to post made it possible. Maybe if it had been more generic, without using specific lines and elements from the queries...

Anyway, don't mean to rain on the parade. Best of luck with everything,


lotusgirl said...

Positivity week was a refreshing change. Thanks for taking the challenge.

Have a great weekend!

clindsay said...

Jen -

That's exactly right. We were posting examples of what not to do, either as descriptions ("Four paragraphs about your former career as a technical writer. Not one sentence about plot of book." - an actual post of mine) or snippets of sentences that really should never appear in a query ("Promotional opportunities include Oprah, of course." - another actual queryfail post).

Most of the snark actually came from other writers.



JohnO said...

Colleen has it right. Yes, there were (quite) a few queryfail boners -- the follow-up blog posts aggregating them are a laff riot -- but most of the time the original tweets were from agents just reacting to stuff in the way Nathan described: with gut instinct.

The one imponderable is whether those who sent horribly misguided queryfails ever got (to borrow Miss Snark's phrase) shot with a clue gun.

One can only hope.

Brian Buckley said...


You say "The idea wasn't to mock but to educate." But your Twitter posts include comments like these:

"Forty three years of toiling within my own mind have come to an end with this manuscript!" Um, okay. #queryfail.

"Easily the boldest novel so far written in this fresh century of ours." Sure it is! And I'm dating Angelina Jolie... #queryfail

This sounds like mockery to me.

I can sympathize that it must be annoying to get so many bad queries every day. In the same way, I can ask you to sympathize with authors who have spent years of their lives on something, and be respectful of that.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen queryfail. I hope to see it tonight when I get home. We all start out dumb and have to learn somehow. I'm nervous to see what the atrocious queries entail, but anxious to improve my own technique. As long as the critiscm is constructive it will be appreciated and useful. As far as making fun of people "Snarkingly" as I have seen on other blogs, it is in poor taste, and has no good purpose (SHAME SHAME!!!)

Jenny said...

HC's new imprint is already gushing that they're going to sell books filled with tweets. Sounds like that last round of firings must have got rid of the last person on the staff who reads for pleasure.

Unless Michael Jackson has queried you recently, they won't be looking at anything your authors are writing.

Mr Maneker seems to be missing the point that when things do move to where we all publish on Kindle and sell from the web we won't need publishers. Or agents. We'll need web marketing experts, and publishers have shown themselves to be the dimmest of all the very dim old economy industries when it comes to web marketing.

Just look at HC's latest exercise in wasted bandwidth a.k.a. Authonomy. They've got thousands of people coming in to a site they promoted heavily, but nothing to sell them.

Even worse, they attracted people by offering a prize--escape from the slush pile, but no one who won their editor review got anything more than "not for us." When the buzz got around that it was a fake, they pretended to acquire some manuscripts but in fact the books they acquired were posted on the site but acquired through other channels.

Instead of pissing off thousands of writers, for the same amount of money and effort, they could have built a community that, gasp, sells books.

To paraphrase Marie Antoinette,
"Let them sell tweets."

Dawn said...

Too good! I haven't laughed that hard, long, or loud in a very long time.
Thank you, Nathan.

adrcremer said...

Thank you! Muppets = Bliss
Postivity week = Hope

Word verification: Enemate - the crux of every urban fantasy (I write in this genre so I say that with love)

clindsay said...

Jenny -

Carrie Kania has excellent taste in literature, both in literary fiction and in pop culture reading. She also runs Harper's Perennial imprint, which consistently publishes great books. I think that putting her in charge of the new imprint speaks to Harper's grasp of the importance of melding the two things to make this new imprint work.


(Verification: Blearks!)

Anonymous said...


How about a Query grade A instead?
I think it would be better to post those.Everyone can write a failing query, show us to do it right, and not just one or two examples. Let's see if you can come up with as many good ones as you did bad. I dare you, I double dog dare you. After all this is positivity week.

Anonymous said...

Okay, Nathan, you seriously need to model for the cover of romance novels, guy.

Love the positive post. It was recommended on one of my RWA forums. The links were great, too.


Rick Daley said...


If you would ever like to use my query for FATE'S GUARDIAN as a follow up to the query critique you did Jan 25-26, feel free. I'm also fine if any of the post-query dialogue is referenced.

And if anyone's interested in public queries, I started a new blog yesterday:

Submit a query, I'll put it in a post, and people can offer advice / feedback through comments.

I'm just an aspiring novelist who thinks this could be cool and helpful to fellow writers, so there is no agent on the receiving end...but agents are more than welcome to stop by and check it out!

Who knows, maybe they can even find a new client there...

Of course, right now there is only one query. Mine. Please join in the fun!

Nathan Bransford said...

Great idea, Rick -- I'll link to it in next week's TWIP.

Mira said...

Colleen - I was taken aback when you posted here. I realized you're a real person. I tend to forget that people on the internet are real, it's a bad habit of mine.

I'm sure you didn't mean to be disrespectful. I'm sure you didn't get up that morning and think to yourself, "Oh, let's humiliate people today." You probably saw this as a fun and creative way to get some information out.

It sounds like you're being praised in the media right now. That can also make it confusing to see your own actions clearly.

But, honestly, given some time and perspective, there really isn't any way to view this other than highly disrespectful.

It's okay to acknowledge, even to if just to yourself, that you're human and you made a mistake - with the best of intentions. Then think about how to help repair any damage.

You might re-think defending it. I would just get quiet for awhile and think about it.

I've made mistakes - huge ones. I know how it feels.

T. Anne said...

Wow, queryfail has left a pall on positivity week. Thank you Nathan for not partaking and for posting the link. I'm sickened.

clindsay said...

Mira -

We'll have to agree to disagree. =)

Have a great weekend!


Mira said...

clindsay -

actually, if you don't mind, I'd prefer not to agree to disagree.

I'd prefer that you just agreed with me.

Thank you for honoring my preferences.

I'm sure you're a very nice, interesting person. But please don't ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever do that again.

Elissa M said...

Evil Editor also posts queries in his "Guess the Plot" feature. If you don't want to be mocked, definitely don't go there. But if you're ready to learn something, Evil and his minions will be happy to oblige.

clindsay said...

Anon. 2:06 -

The participating agents and editors were actually going out of way to try to find good queries to post as examples, but since we were streaming this in real time, it was an accurate representation of the ratio of good to bad queries we'd received.

We also talked about doing a #querywin thread at some point in the future, so I've been saving up good examples for that. The sad truth is that there are far fewer good query letters than there are bad ones.

Mira -

You're certainly welcome to your own opinion, which I respect, but I'm under no obligation to actually share that opinion.



jimnduncan said...

Positivity week was a grand idea, Nathan. Actually, it should just be the theme in general. Most topics can be spun in a positive way. Very interesting article (yet another one on the dying publishing industry) but stil quite informative. I downloaded that stanza for desktop program just to see how it worked. They have a long way to go. It looks much more intriguing on the ipod. I prefer pulling up stuff on the old standby acrobat reader. It at least pulled up my novel as seperate pages. The Stanza app imported it as one long page. Bleh! I still see all kinds of possibilites in the 'ipod' type of market for writers. I'm surprised there hasn't been much in the serialized book market, but then I probably just haven't come across it yet. Makes me wish I had the know how and money to get into this market while it's still young. Hopefully, I can take advantage of it as a writer at some point.

clindsay said...

Anon. 12:09 -

Nathan isn't actually listed as one of the participants.



Anonymous said...

How the heck do you read a twitter anyway???

It is VERY confusing!

wickerman said...

What ms. Lindsay means is that he is not listed ANYMORE. Her site has been edited since this began. Being the thorough type I retrived this around noon EST.

Here are a few of the agents and editors participating (other than myself):

Secret Editor Rockstar Moonrat
Anonymous Ranty Editor
Editor Angela James (Samhain Publishing)
Publisher Public_Affairs
Publisher Renee Ting (Shen's Books)
Publisher Hollyridge Press
Illustrator Agency IllusArtist
Agent Lauren MacLeod
Agent Greg Daniel
Agent Kate Schafer Testerman
Agent Rachelle Gardner
Agent Matt Wagner
*Agent Nathan Bransford*
Agent Deirdre Knight
Agent Elaine Spencer
Agent Kate McKean
Agent Diana Fox
Agency Intern Sarah "JJ" Jae-Jones
Author Ben Mezrich

Emphasis on Nathan is mine, of course.

I have some sympathy for agents and editor - I know how much it sucks when people refuse to do the very basic things to prepare themselves and their work before approaching you - I don;t work in publishing but if I had a nickle for every time I got a phone call at work from some one looking for something that my firm doesn't do, I could retire and own Maui or something.

However, after reading some of the comments by agents - and yes the worst of the worst was from the non-agents - it still smacks of snarky childishness. It's right up there with agents who complain about how 'busy' they are and you are wasting their time. Busy? Like 50 hours a week 4 kids, soccer practice, karate classes, piano recital, diaper changes AND writing a book worth publishing busy? Call me when you are the only one in the world with a job...

That isn't to say i think I work any harder than an agent - it is to say that it gets old hearing about how writers are stupid and waste your time. As old, I imagine as writers who email you and tell you you suck because you rejected them. And to think our parents tried to teach us that two wrongs don't make a right. I fail to see how #queryfail advances anyone's understanding of the process or helps the community of writers and agents.

If Stephen King, James Patterson and Danielle Steele threw an internet party posting the rejection slips they got from editors and agents and then posted their royalty statements next tot hem and followed it all up with comments about who much said agents and editors suck, there would be no debate about someone 'taking it the wrong way' or 'missing the point'.

Shame on those who participated.

Carley said...

Here's my contribution to your positivity week: I went to a book store to pick up a book and waited in line behind 10 other people buying books! There was no book signing going on, it was just a middle of the week evening, but all of us were there buying books of different genres. What do you know, people still buy books! Have a great weekend. :)

Anonymous said...

Do you actually have to join twitter to read this?

(gedlights) (wudem)

clindsay said...

wickerman -

Yes, as I said, he is not listed because he didn't participate.

Yesterday several tweets came up under the #queryfail hashtag that Nathan actually did post.

I didn't read the content of those tweets; I was just trying to making a quick list of the agents that posted anything under #queryfail, so he was added to the list.

This morning, I went back through and looked at the actual Twitter streams of each participant, and realized that the few posts that Nathan had put up were in jest, so I removed his name.

If the rest of you feel the need to keep attacking me personally, I'd ask that you at least do it under your own name and take it off Nathan's comment thread because it's sort of going against Nathan's whole stated wish to be positive. If you want to debate or rant, feel free to email me directly.

All the best,


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
clindsay said...

Anon 1:21 -

Actually, I thought your comments were pretty funny! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Nathan Bransford said...

I share Colleen's sentiment that whatever is said can be done so in a non-personal and constructive fashion.

People are free to express themselves, but please remember each other's best intentions and not let this devolve into rants. Thank you!

Strikethru said...

Queryfail was funny, I confess, and constructive in some cases. I am cheered by positivity week, though. I love reading about publishing, but there is often an overall tone of scorn toward unpublished writers that can be a little disheartening (although after reading some queryfails, I can't say it's totally unjustified).

Bane of Anubis said...

Colleen - I give you high props for standing up and taking the flack with equanimity.

That being said... and I'm not sure if this is done or not... but I think it would be perfectly fine to do the whole queryfail thing if agents either asked the querier to allow them to use the rejected query or (b/c it's real-time) if there is some disclaimer on the agent's query submission page that indicates that a querier's query could be used for queryfail.

If nothing else, it might make a couple of people think before submitting queries and might reduce some of the chaff.

Dana said...

Nathan- can I just carry you around in my purse so you can constantly make me laugh? :)

clindsay said...

Bane of Anubis (can I just say? RAWKIN' good handle!) -

Not a bad idea, although truth be told, the only queries I used yesterday were those from writers who had made no actual attempt to follow my submission guidelines. I'll consider this for the future, however. Thanks for the positive feedback!



(word verification: TRATIZA - man, my word verifications are never this much fun.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the names of the agents who sent in queries for queryfail. That helps me narrow down my list of preferred agents...

Kudos to Anon 1:21: You rock!

clindsay said...

This comment is about nothing - I just had to share the word verification, which is made of win: FOOPLA!

Is that a failed hoopla?



Robin Constantine said...

Bert and Ernie always bring a smile to my face...well mostly Ernie, Bert always looks a bit angry to's the eyebrows, I guess. :)

Thanks for positivity week!

Jo said...

I find it ironic how defensive some are about their participation in queryfail. Could it be they forgot what they keep telling us authors? Be careful what you post. The internet is forever.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...


Cool idea. I'll be checking it out!

Nathan Bransford said...


You had your say, she had hers, let's not keep spinning in circles.

Mira said...

Aw Nathan, really? Was I disrespectful?

I was trying not to be. Sorry.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mira said...

Oh! I'm sorry. I see why you deleted my message. Or I'm guessing.

Yeah, okay.

Shalanna said...

You wrote, "It's also why I didn't participate in the Twitter-fest #queryfail, in which agents and editors Twittered in real-time yesterday about the queries they were rejecting. Seems like a good opportunity to remind everyone who is thinking of querying me that you do not have to fear becoming blog/Twitter fodder. Ever. Never ever. Not when you're querying, and not when you're a client."

This alone would have made me like and respect you, if I didn't already. Y'know.

I blogged about how shocking I found it that professionals would do that "queryfail" thing at my LJ ( and then I prepared for flames. Oddly enough, I didn't get flamed to death. People agreed that they thought it was not nice to mock people who were trying hard.

So I salute you. Great blog.

And muppets!! Yay, muppets!!

Kimber An said...

Those who participated in queryfail at Twitter must be swamped with bestselling clients to risk driving away the next-Stephanie Meyers-still-in-the-learning-stage like that. Who do you think she'll call once she finally scores?

Nathan Bransford!

Janis said...

Writers are already profiting by changes. In 1994, I could only find 3 books by IPV survivors. Now there are 12, the bulk of them self-published since 2002.

Anonymous said...

The glaring legal issue I see with #queryfail is that these agents are publicly disclosing intellectual property that does not belong to them.

With or without my name, if I see my book ideas "published" (which Twitter is a form of) without my consent,, there will be legal action. And this goes equally if my query is held up in a good light--don't do it--it's mine, and I'll sue you if you do.

Wicked MoXie said...

If writers cannot handle a little criticism and snarking amongst their peers, how do they ever hope to survive the world of critics and the general public?
Personally, I enjoyed queryfail and hope to learn from it again.

Anonymous said...

I am looking at Queryfail, and seeing titles, and specific details.

Anonymous said...

And pen names.

Anonymous said...

and real names!

clindsay said...

Anon -

Certainly not from me you aren't.


Kate R said...

Tangent time:

The whole Code of Confidentiality and emails is wildly interesting. I see lots of forwards on yahoo loops with little notes at the bottom all seriously up in your face about Confidential Material that Should Not Be Distributed.

I THINK unsolicited email is fair game so the receiver can legally do whatever the heck she wants to do with the content--excepting plagiarism of course.

But I have only a vague idea about this from a couple of slightly legally articles.

Anonymous said...

No Coleen, it wasn't you and you even warned him.

Michelle said...

Wow. I'm amazed that so many people have their panties in a twist because agents were trying to be helpful. Honestly, I'm sure those agents will be happy they don't have to wade through all the queries that won't be coming from those violently disagreeing. It'll save them time for the writers who are seriously about learning the trade from professionals.

ryan field said...

Rick...I'll check out your new blog. Sounds interesting.

Anonymous said...

First, I read #queryfail avidly yesterday, trying learn what I could and also because I just plain love learning about this industry.

Agents are just people with a rough job, who need to vent sometimes. And QF day felt like a vent to me. Lucky us, it's also a time to learn. The fact that agents even care enough to share and help educate aspiring authors is huge. This is one of the only art-related industries where that is the case.

trust me on that.

I didn't find the QF exercise to be disrespectful. But I do find it disrespectful to query an agent without checking their clearly posted submission guidelines, to query an agent without bothering to look up what they represent, etc... and most of what was posted yesterday were examples of the various ways that agents are disrespected on a daily basis.

I honestly can't even imagine doing that job, taking work home with me nightly and on weekends because there just aren't enough hours in the day to get through all the stuff I have to do plus wade through the dreck that comes from people who can't be bothered to spend 30 seconds looking me up on a website.

I'm pretty sure i would go crazy.

That said, if you can't take the heat... for real. Because all of the arts come with critics and harsh rejections. And if you can't take it, get out now.

If you think publishing is bad, try the music industry. Most auditioners make Simon Cowell look like a pussy cat.

Or how about the fine arts? Where you spend your whole life just trying to break into a gallery only to be trashed openly and loudly by critics as they walk around your opening night art show.

Dance? Theater? Please. Put your big girl panties on before you even think about stepping into those audition rooms.

Art is subjective and full of overcritical feedback and rejection. There is no formula for success other than tenacity, hard work, and a willingness to learn.

I loved positivity week, and I love this blog. I also have great respect for anyone who takes any time out of their day to help aspiring authors, including those editors and agents who participated in #queryfail.

Mira said...

Nathan, I feel as though we are becoming comfortable with each other.

So, I need to clear the air.

I don't want this to come between us.

I'm mad at you. I'm mad at you for deleting my post.

There I said it. I'm mad at you.

Even if my post maybe should have been deleted, and I was sort of out of line and instigating a fight and trying to make someone feel badly, I'm still mad at you.

Ppppfffftttttt. Mad, mad, mad.


I feel better.

Okay, that's good. It's good to keep a relationship with a stranger that's based on infrequent and fairly impersonal writing healthy and clean.

Okey dokey. Have a nice weekend.

You, too, Colleen.

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

if writers cannot handle snarking or any sort of critique from ANYBODY, then they shouldn't even bother trying to become published writers.

if you become a writer, you should get used to people mocking your style and saying how much your book sucks (while others will praise your book and say you're a great writer).

Get over it. Grow a thick skin.

Anonymous said...

For those wondering how to see the twitter queryfail, the link below takes you to Colleen Lindsay's website, scroll down to the "participating agents", click on the agent you want to see. Their twitters follow.

What I find funny, is that agents complain every chance they get about how busy they are, yet they have time to get together as a group and cherry-pick queries to make fun of. You can't be THAT busy now, can you?

Put any spin you want on "educating." The entire vibe of queryfail is agents getting together to point fingers and say look how stupid these writers are! Way to be supportive of the very group of people that pay your bills.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Seriously. Wow.

Eva Ulian said...

One thing seems to have been overlooked in the query fail analysis debated here and that is the sheer volume of stupidity that lie in query letters sent by writers who claim can actually write. I am one who read agents' sites with a fine tooth comb and notice some agents receive as few as 50 queries a month. Nathan, you too, mentioned some time ago you get over a hundred- can't remember precisely- But some of the agents taking part in query fail are getting an average of 500 and that's in a week alone.

I hate to think any writer who has submitted their query after having given reasonable thought and effort, where in the scale of the 500 other queries their own rates.

Why should writers who can't be bothered to look at the guidelines, who have the audacity to think their work can change the world or use the agent's in box as a psychiatric coach without even placing a spell check when they know they can't spell, be given the same consideration or treatment as those who have done otherwise?

Query fail has only reinforced my belief in the advice I give to writers- you will do yourself and the world a favour if you don't write.

Mags said...

Thank you, #queryfail, SIR! May I have another?

Hell, you can post my complete query, full name, embarassing birthmarks and dental records, and a googlemap image of my neighbor's house if it'll give me an edge on the process. You can mock me if you like. I'm totally cool with that. Inside 411 rocks. All of it.

It's hard out here for a pimp. Bring it on.

Um, folks horrified by #queryfail... What happens when you land an agent and s/he has trouble selling your book? 'Kay, book sold (congrats!), now you've got to get the right kind of attention from said publisher who's got little to give? Done! You ROCK! 'Kay, who protects you from the reviewers?

How was #queryfail not an honest depiction of the process? It's one long personalized rejection. I can yell about it or learn.

I choose to do both.

Gina Black said...

Nathan--thank you for positivity week, and thank you especially for reminding me of the genius of Jim Henson and how much I love those muppets.

In return, here's one for you with two of my fav guys:

Gwen Hayes said...

#queryfail rocked. The only really bad thing about it the people who needed it most probably are not aware that they can read agent blogs/tweets for research. Or they are hyper-sensitive and took the experience personally.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed QueryFail and felt it was an education that I needed.

I equate it to segments on many of the reality shows--like "Confessions of a Teen Idol" and "America's Next Top Model"--when industry professionals honestly discuss an actor's pitch or model's performance. It's detailed (and sometimes harsh) criticism that they need to hear in order to improve.

The majority of rejections are form rejections. I understand there's no time for agents or editors to explain WHY a manuscript was rejected. And I'm okay with that. You have jobs to do, books to sell.

But QueryFail provided useful feedback from agents and editors, specific feedback writers don't receive because agents are inundated with manuscripts.

There's much to be learned from it.

Merry Monteleone said...


I loved positivity week this week. Didn't comment much, but it made me smile more than once... so thanks.

As far as the queryfail thing, I didn't catch it until late afternoon, and didn't see all of the agents and editors participating, only the ones I usually follow. But I enjoyed it - for the most part I didn't see much in the way of pointing out who wrote what, either. Mostly it was just quick and interesting.

Of course, writers can decide not to query agents who participated in something they don't like or agree with - after all, you're querying to find a long term agent you can work with...

But asking for a list of agents that participated in an activity you haven't seen, so that you don't make the mistake of querying them... because bloggers you don't know in real life dislike the practice and are discussing it... I think maybe you guys should look at the individual agents and what they actually said / tweeted before making that kind of decision.

That's just my 2 cents, but why burn bridges you haven't even built over someone else's second or third hand opinion?

jimnduncan said...

Curious why agents and editors posting up failed queries on twitter is really any different than posting them on their blogs to explain to others why they failed and to snark on the general cluelessness of some queries. They're both publicly available spheres of speech, and I've never heard anyone complaining about the blogs. The only exception would be any who put up stuff directly traceable to the writers. Have to fail anyone who did that, and I don't have twitter so I didn't check it out, but apparently that was nipped in the bud for the few occasions it did happen. My general thought is that writers like agents/editors to post on what makes queries good or bad, as it's found to be fairly helpful toward writing decent queries, and god knows they need more of those, and not less, which seems to be the case of late with the huge increase in queries they're receiving.

Jen said...

Gosh, I go off to my Aus History exam and when I get back there's too many opinions for my mushy brain to handle (and hopefully it wasn't an #examfail hahahahahahaha).

As I said, I read #queryfail and I thought it was funny. Unprofessional yes, but informative too.

However, I don't think that just because an agent participated that they are automatically the devil now. Someone said they deserve to vent, and I agree with that. At work I constantly have people coming in when they have an appointment with the office next door. Both of our offices have very clear signage, it's really not hard to find the right place. If I could do a day of #officefindingfail I probably would. So I understand that part of it.

Also, I don't think that tweeting 140 characters or less of the query with titles removed and names changed really counts as "publishing" someone's work.

Annnnd one final point, I agree with everyone saying that if you want to be a writer you're going to have to learn to deal with the snark. Embrace the snark. Love the snark.

Anonymous said...

Names, pen names, and titles were mentioned by certain agents. The people that had that happen to them are going to have a rough time dealing with that. Otherwise I didn't see a problem with it, but I do have to say the only thing I learned there is complement and compliment, which I felt was a pretty petty thing to point out. Can't say I learned anything else except there are some really bad queries out there and those are not helpful at all. Basically it was a burn session.

Jen said...

I think there are people who would have learned from it. In fact, I saw their Tweets about it. People who didn't know that as a first time novelist, a 9-book fantasy series is not the ideal thing to pitch. People who didn't see a problem with a 400,000 word submission.

But you're right, anon, that no names or titles should have been mentioned, and I think that only one or two agents did that, not the majority. I didn't see any at all in the pages that I looked at.

Ello said...

Nathan, Personally I didn't have a problem whatsoever with queryfail and yet not surprised by the response. All I wanted to say is that you are absolutely awesome and I have so much respect for you!

Thanks for positivity!

And Colleen - I think you are a better person than me for responding so gracefully! I wish writers would respond as professionally as you both always have.


Anonymous said...

No writer's names were mentioned. A character's name was mentioned because the query was written in the protagonist's voice. Only two titles were mentioned, one for a non-fiction proposal (misspelled).

Mike Jung said...

You know, positivity week was great, and queryfail was equally great. They served different purposes - might as well say you shouldn't ever eat oranges because you already eat apples. I think the educational value of queryfail depends partially on a person's level of skill and accomplishment with querying - personally I found it VERY educational, since I've done very little querying myself. And I agree that the publishing world has MUCH more difficult things in store for aspiring writers than a series of snarky tweets. Sensitivity is an understandable and common quality, but for a person engaged in the chase for publication it also has the potential to be a significant liability. If tolerating the snarkiness of queryfail means I know one more thing that I SHOULDN'T do when querying an agent, then please, bury me in snark.

J. M. Strother said...

Thanks for a great week. Baking oatmeal cookies now. Do you prefer with or without raisins?

Marilyn Peake said...

Hi, Rick,

Very cool idea to open your blog up to query posts. Very generous of you.

BarbS. said...

Thanks so much for Positivity Week, Nathan. I miss it already! :(

Anonymous said...

If you look at queryfail analytically, a pattern emerges. Many of the most biting, sarcastic agent comments are coming from one literary agency in particular. Much of the bantering going back and forth between agents about specific manuscripts are coming from one agency. Perhaps there are problems at that agency right now, maybe not the best place to be represented.

Julie Weathers said...

I was there for queryfail. I was also there for the first one.

Unless you read through all the posts, don't jump to conclusions too quickly.

First off, it started out as a, "don't shoot yourself in the foot," exercise. We've seen them done many times.

A few examples:

"How much are agents going for these days?"

This is a query?

Emailing an agent to ask their contact information.

Some commented about people who query and never get around to mentioning anything about plot.

"I have an idea I want you to write and we'll split the profit."

What's sad is many times something that seemed quite unbelievable was not. It had happened to others and more than once.

Hints like, "don't send material that smells like stale cigarette smoke," were in there.

Interspersed through the comments were other comments about things that worked. Some of the agents discussed doing a query win and describe how a writer did things right.

I wouldn't do 99% of the things mentioned, but I did learn a few things. Namely, simply following submission guidelines puts you in the top percentile of writers.

A friend commented it reminded her of the Surrey IWC Idol workshop and I agreed.

I had an entry in that. I was devastated when Janet Reid and Rachel Vater held up their hands at the same time to stop mine. Crushed!

When the panel discussed why it didn't work, I did some radical changes. I had a meeting with an editor who invited me to submit the first 50 pages. Two agents invited me to submit.

Perhaps, just perhaps, some of those people who recognized their mistakes in queryfail took it to heart and made some very necessary changes. I doubt there is a bona fide agent out there who would accept most of those queries as they were.

If you followed the whole line, you would have noticed a lot of give and take between agents and writers. Writers asking agents why or how something works and agents, very generously answering just about every question that got tossed out.

One interesting discussion was the non use of contractions and why it might work in the novel, but not the query letter so much.

There were probably more general comments than specific comments from individual query letters.

The advice not to send pictures of yourself in full bdsm regalia along with your query, was, hopefully, not a common occurrence.

I would much rather have a reason than simply wonder why there is no response or a form rejection.

There were lessons to be learned and many times the agents reiterated how important it is to follow instructions, be professional and agents really are willing to sift through thousands of queries to find that one gem.

That being said, I certainly hold Nathan in high regard for his commitment to keeping queries private. He is, and always has been, a class act.

Anonymous said...

Many of the agents in queryfail are making constructive comments. Regarding the agency where several agents are making extremely snarky comments -- Turns out it's a relatively new agency that has numerous book deals with a publishing subsidiary recently hit by lawsuits, layoffs, and firing of top executives. Agents are human; some are under more pressure than others. In sending out query letters, it's important for writers to research the agents first. One of the more pleasant agents in queryfail has a long list of recent major book deals on her website.

clindsay said...

Anon 10:58 -

Turns out it's a relatively new agency that has numerous book deals with a publishing subsidiary recently hit by lawsuits, layoffs, and firing of top executives.

I think that probably applies to every single agency out there right now, as that description applies to nearly every large trade publisher I can think of. (Sadly! Been a rough year for our publisher colleagues.)

Only one agency had multiple agents Tweeting, and that very reputable agency has been around since 1996.



Sophie W. said...

I still can't believe that there isn't some kind of uproar over the fact that Nathan doesn't know the difference between The Muppets and Sesame Street.

Anonymous said...

I've commented before on the thread, but I'd like to add that I think what's riling the offended (including me) is that there are places to sign up to get your query butchered. Query Shark is an amazingly helpful site, but even Janet Reid, on her own blog, states that NO, the queries you send to her (at her agency) will not be used as Query Shark fodder. You have to send specifically to Query Shark if you want to get butchered/helped.

The difference with queryfail is that the writers thought they were sending their query in all purity and instead (some of them) were made fun of. Even if certain agents weren't mean, it left them open to other's comments that were.

No one is disputing that writers need a thick skin. But a thick skin is learned. Those signing up for Query Shark are doing so because they already have a thick skin. The queriers on queryfail thought they were just sending a query.

Also, it's easy within the format of Twitter to make snap judgments and spout information that has no truth. Take for instance, this very mild comment from Kate Mckeon's twitter:

"... doesn't know what's up with all the YA queries featuring teenage suicide. (DON'T DO IT!)..."

Jay Asher's, 13 Reasons Why, has been on the NYT bestseller list in the past year and is still going strong, and it's about teen suicide. So DON'T DO IT may be correct for the query the agent had in her hands at the moment, but certainly, making that broad statement is not true for the other 50 YA authors that have tackled the subject very successfully.

So for the other comments that say, "I'm never gonna query these agents!" they are also making a snap judgment -- DON'T DO IT! --just like agents do with queries. Is that right? Maybe...

Anonymous said...

That was McKean, sorry for the typo.

Ink said...

The Sesame Street characters, I do believe, are muppets, creations of Jim Henson. They simply had a different target audience. I could be wrong, of course, but I seem to remember reading about this. Yes, I read about muppets. If you don't like it I'll make Swedish Chef sounds at you.


My best,

Karen Duvall said...

Anon 6:48, I thought Kate's remark of DON'T DO IT referred to her thoughts about teenage suicide, as in don't commit suicide, not a blanket don't write this YA topic. I didn't make that connection at all.

See, that's the thing about Twitter and email and blogs... anything that's written. Readers infer different things from what they read. Interpretations differ.

I read quite a few queryfail tweets, not all, and I found absolutely nothing derogatory in any of the ones I read. None. Snark, yes, but it was like it was directed at a hundred generic mistakes. I often wondered if many of the fails were made up because they were so outrageous.

Gina Black said...

Sophie W.--

The Sesame Street characters (Ernie, Bert, Kermit, etc.) *are* muppets.

clindsay said...

Yet Another Anonymous -

An agent not wanting to see a zillion queries about the same thing over and over again is an agent doing her job. Yes, we do see a lot of queries about teen suicide, because ONE book about teen suicide sold well; now it has become a trend in the queries we receive.

I say the same thing every single day about teenage vampire romance queries. I see hundreds of them a month; they aren't original in any way but because Twilight was a hit, now everyone seems to want to write a similar book.

So when Kate McLean is saying DON'T DO IT! I'm pretty sure the subtext here is: "Write an original story. Stop chasing trends." Something, by the way that every agent will tell you.



HairBender said...

I had mixed reactions to queryfail. Yes, there was some humor, and maybe even some education. But, the underlying sentiment seemed to be one of "look at all these dumb writers".

When I saw that you weren't participating, it reaffirmed the basic courtesy and respect you show writers in a number of ways: the tone of your blog, your quick response to queries and requested materials, your fun/educational contests, and your follow-through on said contests (i.e. announcing winners when you say you will and providing useful feedback to the winners).

All of the above might not be seen as a big deal, but it's these tiny courtesies that make us writers appreciate what you do.


Anonymous said...

Gee I wonder why anyone would blog under Anonymous.

1. previously threatened by agent for disagreeing with them.
2. have your name splattered all over query fail.
3. never bothered to open account
4. can openly say what everyone else is to chicken to say
5. don't have to worry about butt kissing

It's easy to poke fun of ANON and everyone else if you hold all of the power isn't it?

clindsay said...

And now I spelled Kate's name wrong.

* face palm *

Kate McKean, an awesome agent by the way.



Janet Reid said...

Anon 3/17, thank you for mentioning Query Shark and the policy for posting query letters.

I was moved to start the Query Shark blog when I realized it took about three revisions to get a query from "form rejection" to "let me read pages."

The problem with query letters to agents is there's no way to give people second, let alone third chances.

My problem with queryfail, in addition to everyone else's mentioned here, is that these truly egregious examples of people who don't know what they're doing, are a MINISCULE percentage of the overall queries received.

Saying queryfail educates people is like telling someone they will improve their piano playing by watching a toddler bang on the keys.

I'd actually love to see #agentfail. I've learned a lot, and changed some of my business practices, based on what my blog readers have yelled at me about.

I hope this is positive enough for positive week Nathan...I had to edit out all the cursing.

Nona said...

This has been more fun than the South Side Irish Parade: streetfighting, public urination, and people throwing up on one another's shoes.

Anonymous said...

Janet, I am impressed. Now I am going to have to watch your sight as well.

Anonymous said...

oops, it's site isn't it?

Mags said...

"...teenage suicide. (DON'T DO IT!)" is a reference to the movie Heathers.

Anonymous said...

Thought I'd share that "Teenage Suicide-DON'T DO IT"
Is the name of a fictional hit song in the movie Heathers. Probably the "DON'T DO IT" in that twitter post was just a pop-culture reference for those who know the film.

Best movie ever, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Oops. I should learn to refresh before I post.

clindsay said...

I heart Heathers!


Anonymous said...

See, Colleen, I knew I queried you for a reason.
Hearting Heathers=WIN.

Kimber An said...

Ms. Reid, I don't think you represent the sort of stories I write, but you just won a new blog reader!

valbrussell said...

It would an interesting experiment for American writers to reach beyond their own culture when examining the publishing business. The state of the arts in other countries is closer to the truth of what being an artist is. Americans have such an obsession with money that it's led to a state of artistic bankruptcy. It's not good enough to support yourself with your writing, you have to be a bestseller. Postivity is fine, but it also needs to be partnered with a large dose of reality.

clindsay said...


It's been way too long since I've seen it, though. I don't remember the reference to that song.

In my high school it was Julies, not Heathers. They were scary Julies, too.


(Word Verification: refork. Does that mean forking again?)

Nathan Bransford said...

Yeah, I was kind of appalled to discover I didn't have a link to Query Shark on the front page. It's really an awesome blog.

And thanks for weighing in, Janet, lack of cursing notwithstanding.

Bane of Anubis said...

Janet's biting commentary on queries is near priceless (even - or perhaps particularly - when it was directed my way - I don't think I'll forget the Bill& Ted reference :)... Jumping the shark's normally a bad thing, but if you can get over this shark on the first try, you've done a mighty fine job.

Marilyn Peake said...

More great news on posivity week: Watchmen is now in theaters! I saw a movie review show the other night in which the reviewers said it was a great movie for those who read the graphic novel, that the director stayed very true to the book for the fans who love the graphic novel, so much so that the movie might be difficult to understand without having read it. They mentioned that the heavy intellectual and philosophical aspects of the novel were carried over to the movie. I cannot wait to see this movie, and am delighted that there was so much respect given to the written version, including the deeply intellectual and philosophical ideas that make that graphic novel so special it actually won a Hugo award. Woot! Woot!

Marilyn Peake said...

I just now caught up with the blog comments here. As others have mentioned, I'm very impressed with Janet Reid's comment and am going to more faithfully follow her blog. Didn't know about Query Shark and that it only includes volunteers - an awesome idea.

O.K., my Word Verification is "ledbut" - not kidding!

ryan field said...

I'm glad I read more about queryfail in these comments. As Colleen Lindsay said, I got the wrong impression at first, and I didn't have the facts.

I usually block everyone who isn't directly invovled in my own personal network on Twitter, and the two queryfail tweets I saw clearly didn't represent the entire concept.

Thanks for explaining.

Anonymous said...

OK,we realize these queries were the EXTREME version of bad, but what about those of us who follow all the directions, play by the rules and we don't even get a form response? I've gotten enough requests for partials and fulls to know I'm doing something right, but this lack of courtesy from agents is annoying. Hey, we're busy too!

Anonymous said...

Of course agents are stressed these days, of course they need to blow off steam, and of course they are pestered by ill-conceived, inconsiderate writers who haven't done their background research. But none of these are excuses for forgetting their primary role when in public: that of author advocate.

This would be somewhat akin to a group of doctors twittering about their day, and expressing their cynicism, anger and feelings of helplessness by subtly mocking their patients.

Kudos to you, Nathan, for understanding the slippery slope this experiment engendered.

Anonymous said...

And so, we have come to the end of positivity week. From one dare to hundreds and hundreds of comments later, I'd call the week a success.

I hope that with this week came the realization of what real power you have for aspiring writers, and that one blog (for better or worse) can and does really make all the difference.

I would imagine that many have taken your lead and are spreading their own forms of positivity. NBC's Brian Williams, to name one.

Well done.

Rick Daley said...

I find great value in reading reading Query Shark, Evil Editor, Nathan's blog, and other agent / editor blogs. The comments can be just as entertaining and informative as the posts.

Even though you can't learn to play Mozart watching the toddler bang on the keys, sometimes learning what not to do is a valuable lesson. The critiques of the queries at the bottom of the barrel help to prove points that might be too subtle for everyone to comprehend when the query is fairly well written, just barely missing the mark.

I recently got a rejection from one of the agents posting in this thread. It was for a query I submitted last Novemeber. I scrolled down on the thread and shuddered when I read the query, it was so bad.

But I'm learning, and a query I submitted in February responded in a partial request. Ok, so the partial was rejected, but I've learned to improve my query, and now I've learned some critical lessons to improve my manuscript.

Having thick skin is a small part of it. What we (the aspiring novelists) need to do is learn from each experience, and leverage that learning to improve our overall writing.

Anonymous said...

clindsay –

Only one agency had multiple agents Tweeting, and that very reputable agency has been around since 1996.

The agency I’m referring to has only been around for two years, although it’s run by agents who have worked at other reputable agencies, only has a handful of book deals listed on their site, and most of those deals are with one particular subsidiary that has been hit by so many financial difficulties, it’s been reported in business news as a huge drain on its parent company. Enough to make any group of agents feel particularly snarky and sick of dealing with mountains of query letters? Maybe those agents have finally reached the point that many writers reached a long time ago - - tired of being thick-skinned, tired of being polite, tired of facing mountains of work in a business where their financial futures are uncertain. I noticed that another literary agent who is being polite and restrained at queryfail recently negotiated a long list of very good book and movie deals for her clients.

Anonymous said...

What about the legal aspect of #queryfail? Publishing book ideas you don't own the rights to? Could that be construed as copyright infringement, thereby opening the agent posters up to lawsuits? I know I wouldn't want my book ideas published on the web without my permission.

Anonymous said...

Re: queryfail –

Is poking fun at books about teenage suicide ever really a good idea? Is even just commenting publicly about those queries without permission a good idea? Teenage suicide rates are alarmingly high right now, and it’s possible that some of those books were written by fragile teenagers contemplating suicide. Maybe some types of query letters should never be mentioned at queryfail? Just a thought. Could you ever imagine psychiatrists or suicide prevention hotline workers blowing off steam in a public forum that way?

Julie Weathers said...

I've gotten enough requests for partials and fulls to know I'm doing something right, but this lack of courtesy from agents is annoying. Hey, we're busy too!--

Several agents have listened to what bothers writers. Many are making attempts to at least send a form rejection. However, others are simply swamped with numbers and don't have the manpower or time to respond to each query. I was surprised to hear the number of agents who try to be polite and send rejections only to be met with harassment and bullying techniques for saying no.

One person on queryfail mentioned being called 16 times by an irate author who wouldn't take no for an answer.

Yes, I would rather have at least a form rejection to know, but sometimes others shape the world we have to live in.

Kelly Maher said...

To Anonymous 1:00 PM 3/7, ideas are not copyrightable the same way titles are not copyrightable. The way in which you interpret the idea and create an original work out of the idea *is* copyrightable. As evidence: the suit against Dan Brown by 2 of the 3 authors of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" for using the idea of there being descendants of Jesus via Mary Magdalene. The case was tried in Britain because Britain has even stricter definitions of copyright infringement than the US does, and the British courts found in favor of Brown.

(word verification - oriessed, is that anything like the R.O.U.S.'s?)

Mags said...

(word verification - oriessed, is that anything like the R.O.U.S.'s?)

Rodents of unusual size? I don't think they exist.

Anonymous said...

A cowardly anon weighing in...
First, I loved your warm fuzzy week, Nathan. As others have said, you are a class act and your blog posts are always fun and educational.

I'm glad to see Janet Reid adding her two cents to this queryfail debate. Her "Query Shark' blog is done properly and because of this, it is enjoyable to read. Anyone submitting a query to Janet on her blog KNOWS what to expect. Sometimes her comments aren't pretty, but you know its a possibility going in.

Anyone needing to learn about query writing should take a look there and also at Jessica Faust's Christmas time blog entries, Nathan's FAQs, and Agent Kristen's blog. Unfortunately, the people who need this information the most are not hooked in to these sources yet nor will they benefit from the 'helpful' comments on Twitter because they may not know to look there. For most of the writer's who provided fodder for query fail, it is probably a matter of not knowing what you don't know. No one is born knowing how to write a query letter or understanding how publishing works. We all had to start somewhere.

Jen said...

First, Heathers is awesome. Just awesome. What's your damage Heather?

Second, Janet Reid is also awesome. Always my second stop on the Agent blog trail!

Third, I am amazed at how extreme reactions to #queryfail have been. I didn't think it would be that much of a big deal!

Mira said...

I'd like to add my praise to Janet Reid for her comments. I thought you made some extremely good points. Well spoken!

Okay, so now my list goes like this:

Favorite agent #1 - Nathan
Favorite agent #2 - Janet

Colleen, I get that you feel strongly that you did something helpful. But if you'll acknowledge that maybe you inadvertantly stepped on some people's toes, and you're sorry because you meant no disrespect, I would be so impressed by your graciousness, that you could be my favorite agent #3.

Anonymous said...

I must confess that I'm a bit appalled that this thread has devolved into a de facto excuse to slam a few agents who were trying to do something that most writers on Twitter found to be quite helpful.

And I'm disturbed that much of this thread seems to have become a personal attack on one agent in particular. I would have thought that Nathan would have stepped in at some point to stop this ridiculousness.

Writing is a business, and the kind of query advice that those agents and editors gave during the whole Query Fail thread was invaluable. If something like that can traumatize you to the point where you no longer wish to become a published writer, then most certainly you should consider another career.

Even a cursory read through the blogs of several other well-known blogging agents turns up plenty of instances where portions of bad queries were used as a part of a blog post illustrating how not to write a query, which is the entire reason that most of us frequent these blogs - including Nathan's - in the first place.

In fact, on Janet Reid's personal blog - not the Query Shark blog - she has on several occasions posted the contents of entire emails that she's received and deemed to be mock-worthy.

So perhaps we can all stop pointing fingers at one another and get back to the original theme of Nathan's post, which was about being positive.

My two and a half cents,

Sara Fenwick

Nathan Bransford said...


I did step in when I thought the comments were personal, disrespectful, and/or nonconstructive. Ultimately I think you'll see from this thread that I've left the vast majority of posts stand, both pro and con, because I hope that this is a space where people can state their opinion, whatever it happens to be, provided it's done in a respectful fashion.

Obviously there are some strong feelings all around on this issue, and with that comes some stridency. But overall I think people on both sides have handled this in a dignified fashion.

Anonymous said...

There are many misguided writers. There are also many misguided agents. I had coffee with three very successful authors a few days ago, and all three of them are on their second or third agents. For all three of them, leaving their bad agents (including one of the agents that participated in queryfail) was the thing that took their careers to a new level. I've heard in private about so many boneheaded things that agents do, but I've fortunately never seen a group effort by writers to trash agents. I find the concept and execution of queryfail undignified, immature, mean-spirited, and just plain dumb.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, I love the blog. But I'd like to know what the typical advance payment is for an average novel. Secondly, what do the royalties following usually look like?

Kimber An said...

To put a positive spin on the Twitter Queryfail Fiasco, try looking at it as an opportunity to research which publishing professionals are most compatible with your style. What are your priorities?

I can recommend my favorite resources for creating query letters.

Mr. Bransford and Pub Rants both have their query writing instructions linked on the sidebar. Can't remember if BookEnds does, but you can always write 'query' in the search function at the top, left had side of the of the page. Also do a search on 'query' at the other two blogs and glean as much wisdom as you can. Read those posts, memorize them, put a lot of time and hard work into perfecting your query letter and researching who you send it to and how they want to receive it. That's the best advice I can give with my own limited experience.

And don't forget about Query Shark. That's a new one to me and I'll be keeping an eye on it.

Anonymous said...

Nathan -

Thanks for the reply. I suppose that what upsets me most is that you actually (if perhaps unintentionally) set the tone for the Query Fail bashing with a somewhat disingenuous statement about your queries never becoming "blog fodder". The truth is that you and all the agents who query use your queries in this manner. Every "what not to do" post is comprised of examples that you pull from the queries that exasperate you most. And as a writer, I'm grateful for the examples. Just as I was grateful for the examples on the much maligned Query Fail.


Anonymous said...

This would be somewhat akin to a group of doctors twittering about their day, and expressing their cynicism, anger and feelings of helplessness by subtly mocking their patients.

The person who wrote this has obviously never worked in the medical profession.

Anonymous said...

"This would be somewhat akin to a group of doctors twittering about their day, and expressing their cynicism, anger and feelings of helplessness by subtly mocking their patients.

The person who wrote this has obviously never worked in the medical profession."

Actually, on this point you would be 100% completely wrong.

Anonymous said...

I think the discussion here on Nathan's blog has been very civil, mature and professional. Quite a few of the agents on queryfail said that it felt so good to "vent" -- hardly the same as "teaching". One agent on queryfail said that he takes home the "doozies" among his query letters to read outloud to his family over dinner -- How exactly does that teach anything to writers??? There are also quite a few derogatory statements at queryfail claiming that writers who have complained about queryfail are probably too technically ignorant to even find queryfail or Twitter. Ummmm, I'm not sure how they commented about posts they read on queryfail then. Another rumor being thrown around on queryfail is that the writers who are complaining are probably those who write so badly, they got rejections. Actually, some of the appalled writers are those who are successful, reach out to new writers on a regular basis, and can't imagine having been mocked when they were starting out. To each his own, I guess. It is, after all, hip and cool to be rude these days -- It's how so much of our modern public discourse is conducted. Thank goodness there are other places, including Nathan's blog, where discussion is much more analytical.

Nathan Bransford said...


What I meant is that I never quote from or reference individual queries, unless they specifically volunteered themselves for the blog. Yes, I try and offer generalized advice and sometimes discuss specific problems that I have seen, but I intentionally try and keep a threshold of privacy so that no one would be able to identify their individual queries from the advice.

courtney summers said...

I think all the discussion queryfail has inspired is great and I can see both sides of the issue. No, QueryFail wasn't perfect, but ultimately, I think it has the potential to be incredibly helpful (and from what I'm hearing from lots of people, it was). Given what I know of the agents who participated, I'm sure the points raised here--how the queries were quoted, etc--and in other places will be taken into consideration when QueryFail 2: Queries Never Die etc goes down. Colleen is really generous with her time and has gone out of her way on her own blog and other forums to help writers who are preparing to submit their work and I did--and still do--see QueryFail as an extension of that and I am looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

(Also what is great about QueryFail is it's spawned fantastic offshoot discussions about professionalism in agents and writers, how to constructively critique someone, where the lines are, what to expect when you're expecting... these are good topics to discuss.)

(But I am just a big fan of discussion, what can I say.)


(Yay, Nathan, for letting your blog EXPLODE with it!)

clindsay said...

Courtney -

What, no sparkles for Nathan? =)

~*~ sparkle! ~*~


courtney summers said...

Colleen, I didn't want to distract everyone with the blindingness of sparkles, but wellll. Now that you have twisted my arm. And I don't want you to sparkle alone!


MaLanie said...


Only men with integrity and b@lls make great leaders! And you definetly have both!

Query fest was a great eye opener; not at all educational, other than showing me which agents I cannot trust.

Nathan your archives are educational and thank you for not publically critizing people to educate them. I have learned more from your site than hundreds of other agent's sites.

Writing with dyslexia is extremely hard and embarrassing at times. I have to work extra, extra hard as I don't see the words like others do. The thought of an agent/editor posting an error I made and making fun of it is like a slap in the face. For me it is no different than making fun of someone with downsyndrome.

Nathan you truly are a great represenative! Thank you for being a stand up guy. This makes me work even harder to earn your representation.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted you to know, you are not the only with dyslexia trying to get published. I have it most of the way licked, but failed to learn everything properly as a child because of it. It's wierd how we take on the biggest challenge we can find and can beat it. I sent off a couple of query letters before I was ready and frankly if I had seen them being mocked by an agent (unless I asked for them to) I am not sure what I would have done. I am sure it would have been a set back, but like others said before, in the beginning I would have never looked at queryfail. I hadn't figured out the blog system yet, much less all of the other links. Which in case I haven't mentioned it thank-you to all of the kind agents who understand it is far from easy to figure out what an agent wants to see. Heaven forbid if anyone had mentioned they had dyslexia on one of those letters.
Malanie, best of luck.

slcard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
slcard said...

I shall try to do this again, and I will try hard to spell 'response' correctly this time.

Dear Eva Ulian,

Firstly, thank you for your response to my question regarding creation vs. interpretation; I could chat in this area for perhaps days. Before I continue I would also like to say that in the areas of pets, Pavarotti and Italian opera I'm sure we stand together arm in arm.

However, on Wednesday when I very enthusiastically agreed with your comment regarding the wisdom of writing, I unfortunately did not understand your implication. After your above comment, I fear I do not agree at all. I thought you were warning the naive away from the desperate hard work that writing well entails, but that is often disregarded in the early stages; not telling them to save themselves and the world from their stupidity. I truly believe everyone's brilliant, some just need a little (or a lot of) polish and an appreciative eye. If writing happens to be someone's passion, then I invite he or she to get their plastic spoon and start digging. Although if anyone new to writing reads this, please do research agents carefully.

Not to say we can't or shouldn't try to learn from other's mistakes. One of my favorite quotes (and you'd think I'd remember who said it if it's a favorite, but I don't -- perhaps Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo?) is: "Learn from the mistakes of others; you might not live long enough to make them all yourself." However, I never think it's a good idea to highlight another's misfortune.

In regards to queryfail, I have no knowledge of it other than what is posted here, but I believe all business correspondence, regardless of quality, should be confidential unless it has been clearly expressed it will be otherwise.

Kind Regards,


And, Mr. Bransford, thanks for Bert and Ernie.

Anonymous said...

Kimber An, thanks for posting the details for Bookends and Pubrants blogs. I should have done that when I mentioned them, too.

I found the information on these blogs we've mentioned invaluable. After intense study and a complete rewrite of my query, I went from immediate rejection to requests for material. Following these agents' advice my query is read and responded to within HOURS not weeks. --Sorry Nathan, you were the recipient of my old query--but I've never received a nicer rejection :-) --

The best advice the agents gave: voice is everything. It appears to be the truth.

And to the writers with dyslexia, I think you are amazing. I work with a woman with this condition and everyday I am astounded by her. Her job: a rural mail carrier who deals with letters and numbers throughout the workday--with great accuracy. She is also a writer. Impressive.

Charlie (cowardly anon, feeling braver)

Marilyn Peake said...

Today's Sunday, the official start of another week. I'm crossing my fingers that Nathan will have a second positivity week. And what a week this is: it's officially Read an eBook Week.

I'm giddy with excitement because I just found out that one of my books won an EPPIE in Las Vegas this past weekend, so I will definitely being helping myself to another week of positivity.

Marilyn Peake said...

Apparently I was a tad too giddy - In my last post, "being helping" should have been "be helping". Grrrrrrrr, typos!

Marilyn Peake said...


I admire you deeply for pursuing your writing goals. I know an author with a learning disability who struggled to master writing, started out in small press, moved up quickly to big publishing houses and best-selling novels, and now travels around the country for book signings. There are quite a few dyslexic writers who have been very successful, and quite a few famous scientists with learning disabilities. I wish you all the best with your writing dreams!

Mira said...

You know I was thinking about a previous post. Someone was upset that this discussion was primarly focused on one person involved in queryfest, Colleen.

The reason for that is that Colleen, very bravely, came here to discuss it in person. I give her definite kudos for that.

I also want to give kudos to those who pursue their dreams despite disabilities that add extra challenges. Writing is hard enough. When you add having extra troubles, that's just blatantly unfair. You have my admiration and respect.

Lastly, way to go, Marilyn! You go, girl! Wow. Winning an award - that is sooooo validating and wonderful! I am impressed and happy for you! Congratulations!

Mira said...

Hummph. Let's see Nathan delete THAT post.


Actually, in retrospect, I'm really grateful to you Nathan for deleting my post. Thanks.

As a reward, I won't post the truly touching, 36 line tribute I wrote:

"Ode to My Deleted Post"

You're welcome.

TennesseeDoe said...

Hmmm. Celebrity books? I see Blago got a six figure deal to write about, get this, dirty politics. Wonder if he'll venture into children's fiction next?

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