September 27th, 2006

books

whatever you do, don't lie to me

At more than one conference where I've participated in the agent panel, we've gotten asked what our pet peeves happen to be. I know that most of the people asking that question want to know what to avoid in their manuscript so that they have a better chance of snaring the interest of the agent they want. I used to tell this story about how I didn't like first person narratives. Hated them. And then one day, I had a friend in the audience when I made that claim. Afterwards, they pulled me aside and told me that not only had I represented a book written in first person but that it had been published. I didn't believe them. They had to drag me off to the bookstore and show me. The moral of that story is that even if there is some element of writing a person tends not to like, if someone does it well, that resistance can be overcome. And besides I got over my first person problem anyway. I'd just been reading bad examples and reached that flawed conclusion.

That's not what I set out to rant about this morning, though. While a person might have the talent to write the perfect novel, there are a couple things that will still be a problem in terms of building a writing career. One of those is dishonesty. It starts right at the query level. The thing that set me off last night was a package that I received which was labeled as requested. Requested is supposed to mean that I asked for it. This means that either I've received a query and responded. Or I've met the person at a conference (or, more rarely, somewhere else) and asked for it. Somewhere online I've read advice telling people to just put requested on packages because an agent will never remember whether they asked for it or not. Do not do this. I don't know if every agent recalls every request. But I have a well-trained memory for linking authors/titles from my Waldenbooks days. Plus, I write them down at conferences. And I keep the query until the requested material shows up. Therefore, I have a record of what I expect to receive. If you do not fall into one of these two categories but send me a POD book and label the package as requested, you are attempting to begin a potential business relationship by trying to mislead me and/or manipulate me. Needless to say, one isn't inclined to work with a person like that. I also tend to have this feeling that it implies the author doesn't think I'm that bright. I'm not sure what that says about the writer, either, if they are willing to work with an agent so easily fooled.

I don't like being lied to. I don't like being tricked. There is every likelihood I will find out at some point if it occurs. Lying is hard to maintain. I like mystery novels - my favorite part is figuring it out before the detective. I adore puzzles. 'Nuff said. When I write it out like that, it just sounds so obvious to me....

(I apologize if this is less coherent than usual. Little to no sleep last night. It's definitely slowing me down.)
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