Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, June 22, 2009

Following the Guidelines

Hello all, I am back, eating solid food again (who knew it tastes so good!) and although still weak from eating nothing but three hot dog buns, ten saltine crackers, and a piece of toast over the course of five days last week, I have officially turned the corner. Nothing a little green tea, cough drops, and a celebratory "I can eat again!" pizza can't cure.

So just a short post for today.

Being out for a while means that I end up reading and responding to queries in bulk, and thus I'm much more attuned to trends. And the current query trend isn't a good one: people are mentioning that they read the blog but then, when writing their query, ignore everything I have ever said in it.

Don't get me wrong: I do not expect people to read every single post I have ever written before querying. But I do hope queriers mentioning it will at least read the essentials and make a stab at conforming to the query guidelines.

If you haven't taken the time to familiarize yourself with the suggestions or attempt to follow them, it's probably best that you don't mention the blog at all. At least that way I won't be confused.






75 comments:

Ina said...

Amen, brother.

onipar... said...

Good advice. Glad you're feeling better.

Eva Ulian said...

Ha! Beaten you to it. In my infinite number of queries I have yet to mention an agent's blog, also because I started querying long before blogs were invented. On the other hand I have always mentioned this magical phrase: "In accordance with your guidelines..." However, it hasn't done me any good has it?

Mira said...

Nathan. Nathan....

Nathan's back! Nathan's back! Hey, everybody, Nathan's back! Nathan's back! Whoo Hoo! Yippee! Yea! WhaHoo! Eeeeee! Happy, happy, happy! Nathan's back! Yay!!!

Er....I mean. Welcome back, Nathan.

Wow, a stomach flu plus. Boy that so sucks. There are few things that will make you feel as miserable as that. You have my total sympathy. I'm really glad you're feeling better.

I know you may not have meant it this way, but this post was a little funny.

Maybe when you're feeling even better you can tell us specifically what people are ignoring....unless it's everything.

So good to have you back and getting well!

nkrell said...

I would send you some chicken noodle soup, but I'm really not that great of a cook and I'd hate for you to have a relapse.

Glad you're feeling better. Hope it continues. (We need our 'Nathan Fix' for the day)

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Mr. Bransford. Glad you are feeling better.

Melanie Avila said...

Welcome back to the land of the living.

I have devoured all your query posts, so I think I'm in the clear.

WV: blogate

Dawn said...

Welcome back, Nathan. I missed you.

Stephanie Faris said...

I read every single post. But I do try to read other agents' blogs and find them hard to get through. Yours are entertaining and fun to read, and that makes a huge difference.

As for the guidelines, I suspect this will be another case of preaching to the converted. Those who are here every day commenting are the ones who follow the guidelines.

Other Lisa said...

Miso soup, Nathan! It's great too. Seriously take it easy though. Flu really can kick your *ss for a long time.

And, yes. Chalk up another point for following directions.

Rick Daley said...

Welcome back, glad to hear you are feeling better.

serenity said...

I queried you after reading only a few posts. I liked your writing and sense of humor, and I could tell you'd be open to my story. I shouldn't have done it though. I wasn't familiar enough, and I feel ridiculous for the way I worded the query - which I assume, and sincerely hope, you don't remember.

I'm happily agented now, but I'm still convinced a writer would be lucky to have you on their side. I've been reading a lot about trying to rush the publication process (esp. regarding querying before you're a polished writer). I sincerely hope people take heed and read you for a while before they query. It's good sense and common courtesy. Plus, this is a business of patience, and you might as well practice that from the beginning!

Ink said...

What the hell am I going to do with all that pink query paper?




wordver: bininis. Bikinis made out of panini bread, very popular in California and used mostly for... no, maybe I shan't go there.

Duluk said...

Yeah I'm sure if I were to send a query I would probably blunder my way through it the same way. Think, "Hey I'll mention that I read his blog; that will get his attention!" and then commit every flagrant foul you try so hard to help us prevent. Oh well.

I've enjoyed reading your blog. Glad your better.

Scott said...

Pizza after having stomach flu? Dude, are you trying to kill yourself?

Chris said...

Glad you're feeling better. Sounds like you had quite a virus.

I've yet to query anyone [young writer here - experience only, not age] but I can't imagine sticking strictly to the guidelines. Does not compute! If I ever query you [or anyone else] I will ensure I do my homework. :-)

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Ah, welcome back and lang may yer lum reek, as we say in Glasgow. In response to the comment that there is nothing worse than stomach flu plus, (Mira), I beg to differ. Some years ago I bought twenty oysters at an oyster fair. I had ten on the Saturday, the next ten on the Sunday. On Monday morning, I was ill beyond my wildest fears. I left my death bed only to evacuate the oysters from the top and bottom orifices available to me. Luckily the sink was located very close to the loo and both functions could be performed simultaneously – however, there was always the fear of imploding due to the violent retching and parping at the same time.

After crawling back to my pit I would wait in fear for the crippling stomach pains that indicated another trip to the loo whereupon, much to my distress, I would repeat the process. I was in and out of bed so much that I wore a track into the carpet between the bed and the en-suite loo – quite helpful when I was almost in a coma from dehydration and needed only to operate in autopilot for my brain was busy keeping my major organs going to fight the onslaught on my system. All morning I was terrified I would die. By midday I was terrified that I wouldn’t. So you see, some things are just too awful to bear. The post traumatic stress that I suffered has ensured that to date, no oyster has passed my lips. But it’s a darned good way to lose weight though. Hopefully you are on the mend and ready for action. Nice to see you back.

Chuck H. said...

You can't fool me. I know that you don't want us to join arms and march in lock step to your fascist rules. You really want free spirits, demonstrating our creativity in the querying process. Therefore, mine will be the one on black paper covered with yellow wing dings. Yeah, that's the ticket and with a picture of Morgan Fairchild. Yeah!

Dara said...

Glad you're feeling better!

Maybe someday the trends will change and there will be more writers who take the time to read the agent guidelines. :)

A Paperback Writer said...

Stomach flu. Ick.
My sympathies.

And I KNOW I didn't put any rhetorical questions in my e-query..... so that can't be making your head hurt worse. ;)

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

Take it easy Nathan - wheat and cheese together after illness? Pizza is flashy but doesn't follow health related guidelines!
Get Mira to read through the backlog of queries - you know she is keen to sta... - be useful!

Margaret Yang said...

Glad you're back. We were all concerned.

Please, please, please don't say that someone who claimed to read your blog opened his query with a rhetorical question. That would send an agent right back to his sick bed.

Laura Martone said...

Nathan -

Welcome back! We really missed you - glad you're on the mend. :-)

I know you're keeping it short today, but since you brought up queries (again! - ugh!), I'm just wondering... which guidelines are people ignoring the most? Rhetorical questions? Poor grammar? No compelling hook?

I'm not just morbidly curious - I've been trying for months now to learn the art of the query, and I'm afraid I'm still learning.

--Laura

P.S. Thanks, MOB, for that graphic tale of oyster woe. Being a New Orleans gal, I happen to LOVE raw oysters... and hope the day never comes when I have such a tale to tell. :-(

Thermocline said...

Maybe you should set up an online submission form for your queries that has a Terms of Service check box

1. I've read the guidelines.
2. I haven't read the guidelines but I know you'll love my manuscript.
3. There are guidelines?

Jen P said...

Glad you're on the mend. Perhaps some people's remark is misleading, an you're reading 'I read your blog', as an ongoing therefore with-the-intent-of-becoming-informed activity - present tense - as opposed to ' I read your blog', as in, once, ie: I noticed you have one and read the current post, past tense. Adequate research is sadly not such a short term activity.

Along similar lines, Janet Reid's had some really amusing posts recently, on what's not a query (for her) as well.
"Here's Why Your Query Got NO today" and What's not a query letter

Anna said...

Glad you're feeling human again. :)))

Aimless Writer said...

Glad you're feeling better. Welcome back.

Marsha Sigman said...

Not sure what rules people are breaking exactly but I know that I read more than one facinating agent blog and everyone has a slightly different style and preference. Some want you to jump right into the story (Query Shark-Janet Reid) and others prefer you introduce yourself first. I try to combine all the advice and information from the most respected sources and just do the best I can. Of course at 1:00am everything looks good if a little blurry.....that might have been a mistake.

jjdebenedictis said...

Hurrah, solid food!

Glad you're better; sounds like you suffered some profound icky last week.

Lunatic said...

You have a blog?

Fred

Vacuum Queen said...

OOh, MOB, GROSSSSS!!! However, I would welcome a wee bit of a stomach flu for bathing suit season's purpose. :) "I'm just a stomach flu away from my goal weight."

Nathan Bransford said...

It's not so much that the ones I'm talking about are breaking a rule or two. It's more that they're playing a different sport.

Laura Martone said...

Vacuum Queen -

That's my favorite line from "The Devil Wears Prada" - and, oh, so true! (only, I'd need three stomach flus in a row!) :-(

Laura Martone said...

Nathan -

Oh, well, that's a different story... wow, I find it hard to believe that people who frequently read your blog would make so many missteps all at once. I mean, I made some fairly awful blunders when I sent my query to you two months ago - but that was before I started reading your posts on a daily basis... I'd be hard-pressed to make the same mistakes today. Course, "new" mistakes are highly probable. :-)

Maybe it's as Jen P. said - some writers just read one or two of your posts, and think that's enough research. As I'm gradually learning, one can never have too much research (although it can make the eyes bug out a bit).

--Laura

allegory19 said...

Nathan's back, back again. Nathan's back, tell your friends!!! Woot! Woot!

I wonder what people are thinking when they don't do research and start querying away. When I finally started querying I began to think that writing the MS was the easy part.

Now that I'm back to writing a new project I'm not so sure (Re: You Tell Me: When is your novel really finished).

But still, no matter how time consuming the writing or querying process is, it's important to do the research!

Eric said...

Welcome back, sorry you were feeling bad but glad you're better. This is good advice, but it probably needs to be filed under "really haven't read the blog at all". This seems to happen alot, despite the vast amount of information out here on the 'Net for us new writers to learn from.

Justus M. Bowman said...

Glad to hear you are still among the living.

Gwen said...

Glad you're feeling better. Being sick sucks, so hopefully there's somebody around who doesn't mind babying you for a few more days. :)

I, too, would like some examples of the blunders committed. I sent you a query this weekend and now I'm paranoid, even though I think I followed your guidelines pretty well. I'm definitely with the people who would like more information.

Lady Glamis said...

I'm happy to hear you're feeling better! I agree with you on this. It's rude and stupid to suck up in a query - with a blatant lie. I'm just wondering if you let that affect your decision on whether or not to request the writer's work.

lotusgirl said...

A big cheer for keeping solid food down! I think all agents would agree with this advice.

Ulysses said...

Pardon the rhetorical question:
Why do people go out of their way to draw attention to their mistakes?

Lucy said...

Ink said...

"What the hell am I going to do with all that pink query paper?"

Reed N. Lurk will be happy to recycle your pink query paper, as he is about to spam-query five hundred agents with his upcoming blockbuster novel: Bachelor Space Monkeys, Part Nine. The resulting agent-signing, five house auction, two million dollar sale and movie deal will ensure that the first eight novels of the series, seven of which have been created since April 1, will likewise go on to be bestsellers.

Welcome back, Nathan, can you tell we have missed you?

(That wasn't a rhetorical question. Or was it?)

:-)

Kristi said...

It's good to have you back, Nathan.

Neil said...

Personally I have read every post that this guy Tatum Brunsford has ever written, and I'll be mentioning that in my query letter. I've got a little original something up my sleeve I like to call "The Da Vinci Pattern". World ain't never seen nothing like it. Glad you're back tapping keys, Tatum.

Scott said...

Welcome back, Nathan. When I'm recovering from an illness I tend to crave vinegar, for some reason. A huge salad with lots of peppers usually does it for me, but I've been accused of having strange eating habits anyway.

Good luck catching up.

D. G. Hudson said...

Sometimes you have to state the obvious. There will always be people who think requirements (& laws or rules) are for everyone else - but not for them.

Welcome back, Nathan, we missed you. (I don't know about the healing power of hotdog buns, though. . .)

Good advice as always.

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

Glad to hear you're feeling better, Nathan. Flu is never fun.

I'm extremely grateful to have found this blog and will spend as much time as I can in the coming months reading the backposts on your and other agents' blogs.

My promise is to always do my best to internalize the advice given so that my queries and writings may be the best they can be so that I won't be a thorn in an agent's or editor's side as I try to get published.

Lydia Sharp said...

I have a feeling the next trend you'll see is piles of queries that DON'T mention your blog...and still don't follow the guidelines.

Have fun with that.

April Hollands said...

Sorry to hear you haven't been well. Meaningless (to you) from a complete stranger I guess, but meaningful (from me) nonetheless. I've been missing your helpful posts.

Diana Evans said...

Sorry to hear you were ill...and solid foods always help...

and great points to take into account....

reader said...

Glad you are up and about, Nathan.
On the plus side I now have about 400+ book options to add to my summer reading pile thanks to the last post question.

I always love to hear what others are reading and liking.

Jo said...

Glad you're better, Nathan.

But I don't know why you think you shouldn't be confused just like the rest of us.

Laurie said...

So glad you're feeling better, Nathan. Curious what rules people are breaking, but I'm sure you're way too busy to elaborate.

Adam Heine said...

I did that once. I sent you a query and mentioned the blog. The next day I read your post on rhetorical questions for the first time.

Guess what my query started with?

M. K. Clarke said...

Glad you're back, Nathan. Great note in "following the rules."

Anonymous said...

Did you know you are in TOP position at Query Tracker for agent queried?

Lucky you!

Glad you're feeling better.

A


Top 10 Most Queried Agents
1 Nathan Bransford @ Curtis Brown, Ltd.
2 Ethan Ellenberg @ Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency
3 Kristin Nelson @ Nelson Literary Agency, LLC

..

Tris said...

So great to have you all(most) well and back Nathan =D

Nathan's back! Nathan's back! Hey, everybody, Nathan's back! Nathan's back! Whoo Hoo! Yippee! Yea! WhaHoo! Eeeeee! Happy, happy, happy! Nathan's back! Yay!!!

Er....I mean. Welcome back, Nathan.


Mira... your hilarious (though I do second your sentiment =P)!

Kristin Tubb said...

Glad you're feeling better, Nathan. A bounce-back pizza is a good sign!

And now I have a new favorite word: "parping." Thanks, MOB! ;-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Glad to hear you're on the mend, Nathan.

As to following guidelines, you make an excellent point. I think many are looking for a connection to get a reading and I can't blame them, but it's wise to cross your T's and dot your i's before doing so, or not say anything.

Anonymous said...

Phew. Glad you're back & feelin' better!

Anonymous said...

I'm anon 7:15p

Purple Clover

Jil said...

I had a shock when a rejection from Nathan appeared in my mailbox the other day. Evidently my computer took it upon itself to resend, minus a few parts, a query I had mailed him several months ago. (It could have at least sent my new, revised one!)

Maybe, Nathan, you were too sick to notice but I was very embarrassed. So sorry. and I ordered my computer to never send you anything again.
Glad you're better! Hey, maybe my computer missed you too!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Good to hear that you're feeling better!

Tracey S. Rosenberg said...

*sends you virtual matza ball soup*

(Mine float, by the way.)

Jill of All Trades said...

Glad you're on the mend.

Whirlochre said...

Springing vibrantly like a gazelle: that's how we love our Nathoid motion.

Anonymous said...

Happy to hear you feel better, Nathan.

Maya / מיה said...

Glad you're feeling better! Take it easy as you make a full recovery!

Marjorie said...

Welcome back. It is a pleasure to visit a blog written by an agent with a pleasant demeanor.

thoughtful1 said...

Welcome back, Nathan,

I followed your guidelines and researched two agents who had written kids' books I both liked and emulated. I queried them regarding a picture children's book I had completed. I thought I followed the examples set by your published good queries, but got back in one case a xeroxed copy of a not accepting queries form letter of very low quality, and in the other case just a rejection. Now. It could very well be that my story line was not up to standards, considering all you've said about the increasing selectivity going on. And don't take offense I didn't query you yet, that is a yet. I am deep in the throws of pulling together major scenes in a historic novel I have been developing for some time. That is the one I plan to query you on, eventually. And I hope I follow your guidelines enough for a more personal response than my previous attempts have gotten me.

Take

Anonymous said...

Glad you're feeling better. Must have been a wicked virus. Ick!

Coll

Ms.Gail said...

Presently I'm reading the 2nd edition of Writers and Illustrators Guide to Childrens Book, paid twenty bucks for it. Been reading it for two weeks and missing writing so much I feel sicker'n Scarlett when she trotted through the fire with Rhett (heard she threw up after that scene) Heck fire man, I just want to contact an agent and write my stories. Lo and behold, I now get a message from an agent everyday and he's much too famous for me to contact. I'm still reading my 'What not to say to an agent' book. Lived in Atlanta all my life and I hate to be rude but now I wonder if finding an agent needs to be on my bucket list. Something I may do before I die.

Annabel Candy said...

Dear Nathan,

You may remember me, I've been reading and acting on your indispensable articles for months. My manuscript's coming on but two things are worrying me deeply. I've tried to find the answers and failed and would love your advice. The questions are about a travelogue.

1. In the query letter when choosing a book to compare it to is an old book (A Year in Provence, 1991) better than taking the risk of a newer book that may be selling badly for all I know?

2. It's a true story, so can I write freely about the other real people I met? Do I have to get them to agree to it legally, or should I claim the book's all made up and a huge coincidence if it sounds like any real people? Or is there an alternative in between?

Many thanks for your help with this, I really appreciate your time and am eagerly awaiting your thoughts.

Best wishes,

Annabel
http://inthehotspot.wordpress.com/about/

Donna said...

Well Dude, you were gone so long I forgot to check back to see your current posts! I missed the blog event, but that's ok with me because I'm more of a "lurker" than commenter (commentor?). But, I do love your blog - I read it at least once a week - and I guess I too would fall into the query rote of "I'm a follower of your blog" if I were to query you. Not that "that" would be my only reason for query but - well, the phrase just rolls off the keyboard naturally. I gotta tell you though, my favorite blog was the one you gave the "query tips" about what you like to see in a query. Actually, it wasn't your post about form that intrigued me; it was all the comments people submitted with the quirky, uh, pretend queries that really made me laugh. And think seriously about how to query. Not just to you, but to query to any agent. I'm a firm believer that sometimes the outrageous makes the most sensible point.

So, can I challenge you Nathan? Come on, what have you submitted lately? How do YOU query? Or, what did your first query look like, back in the day . .

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