August 24th, 2006

books

ideas

Apparently, only one person had an idea for my column. Which I have to write tomorrow. And it wasn't me. Uh-oh.

And it's not that the idea is a bad one. Many writers likely want to know how to strike the right tone in a query letter. The problem is that there's no exact formula. And partially that's because what might sound intriguing to me could sound innocuous to another agent. When you get down to the bottom line, we're all individual readers. How many times has something been published and you've discovered that all your friends adore it while you just didn't click with it at all? It happens with agents too. My best advice is to read that letter yourself as if you were receiving it from a stranger asking you to invest in their private business venture. At the get go, that is sort of what one is asking an agent to do. If the agent is a solo outfit, it's money that could be used elsewhere (say, for a trip to BookExpo). If it's a larger company, then the agent is accountable to someone.That's the business side of it.

The commenter actually wanted to know how not to send off a "scary vibe," either in a query or in person at a conference. I'm not sure how to answer that. I think basic courtesy might cover it. Don't invade personal space (I got a query letter once that made it quite clear I had been systematically stalked all over the internet and it has made me quite conscious ever since of everything that I say online). Don't overplay your hand. Hard sells don't work on most agents (we're sales people and we recognize a snowjob). Again, I come back to this idea that you should check yourself with the concept of whether you would want a complete stranger to behave this way towards you. I realize that not everyone has the same boundaries, so add that into the equation as well.

Back to my own stumbling block... Now I know that when people ask writers where their ideas come from there's a lot of rolling of eyes and writers asking how those people manage to stop the ideas from coming. Or something to that effect. I don't think I could quite make a column out of that one I was given (but thank you to that individual regardless). Or at least I didn't get more than a couple paragraphs. I'm going to let my backbrain try to come up with something today, but I really wouldn't mind if someone else proved the muse this time around. Is there really nothing that anyone wants insight about? It doesn't have to be romance specific. I've posted plenty of things there that are more generally industry oriented.

So, any takers?