Pub Rants


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STATUS: Slightly frantic. I have to leave for Colorado Springs in one hour for the Pikes Peak conference. Have I packed yet? Nope. Must blog first! Priorities, right?

What song is playing on the iPod right now? STONE WOMAN by Bryan Ferry
(the sexiest voice on the planet in my humble opinion)

One of the great things about this blog is that it ends up inspiring other agents to come out and play (translation: rant) as well.

Yesterday, I got an email from Dan Lazar at Writers House, a blog reader and fan (hey, I’m constantly amazed at who’s reading this page), and he asked so nicely that I bring this interesting email query trend to everyone’s attention because it’s driving him crazy. I’ve been getting them too and I have to say they are highly annoying. I’ve convinced him to guest blog because I couldn’t have said it better.

Personally, I think the readers of my blog are way too savvy for anything this amateur but hey, fair warning to all you clueless queriers who might not realize your “form” email queries are getting deleted or generating automatic NOs.

So now, without further ado, I give you Dan Lazar at is ranting best:

Ms. Nelson,

I thought you might want to see a 300-word literary rant that’s available for representation and posting on your blog.


“Small-town literary agent Dan Lazar has a problem. He’s happily inundated with query letters by mail and email; he reads each one with loving care and attention. But recently he’s received a host of similarly formatted email. They all open with a casual and offhanded, “Oh, I thought you’d want a shot at this available property,” as if the writer of the letter was an old friend breezing through town, catching up, and – oh yes! – here’s a project you should look at.

The title follows this opening, in caps, surrounded by stars before and after the name. Then the authors launch into a very generic, very “Hollwood” quick pitch. Which means they all sound the same, with no voice, nothing unique that makes them stand out from the crush of other (authentic) letters.

The final paragraph is usually a third person blurb about “the author’s experience”—referring to the author in third person, as if he or she is too busy attending literary galas for their latest memoir to be bothered by anything as silly as writing their own query letters. Pshaw. These presumptive and overly-familiar letters are driving me nutty; and I’ve been talking to more and more fellow agents who feel the same way. Authors, we’re eager to hear from you. But some of you are just shooting yourselves in the foot.

Finally, the best (read: worst) part of these letters are the same rushed, assuming closings, which read:

“Should I send it off to you now and do you like hard copy or by email?” or “How shall I get this to you, email or hardcopy to the address below?”

Dan Lazar

p.s. Thanks for passing this along. I wanted to get the word out, and frankly, I’ve also been told I’m at my most charming when I’m most self-righteous.

p.p.s. I just figured out why I’m single.

Okay, couldn’t resist adding this after Dan asked me to add the pps. Doesn’t this just make you want to pinch Dan? I think I need to post his pic so maybe we can line up some dates in New York City for him. Little did he know that matchmaking is my second favorite thing to do beyond agenting. I’m good at it to. I can boast three marriages from my set-ups.

43 Responses

  1. Dave Kuzminski said:

    Tell Dan to pass a copy of it along to me. I’ll bet it’s from one of those services that charge writers to send queries to agents and publishers.

  2. Anonymous said:

    If he’s innundated with query letters, both e-mail and hard copy, and reads each one with loving care and attention, the replies shouldn’t be coming back the next morning’s e-mail! There aren’t that many hours in the day for the amount of loving care and attention an innundation of query letters would require.

  3. MadScientistMatt said:

    Shades of Lee Shore, or more recently, Robert Fletcher. I agree with Dave – is this some scammer trying to collect rejections? Or is it somebody selling querry letter templates?

  4. writeaway said:

    I’ve seen a posting like this elsewhere although I don’t believe it was from Dan. I am a writer and I get embarassed when I read something like this. If you are a true author and have a great story, there is no need to send a query “beaugarding” your foot in an agency’s door. A well written query will say it all.

    There must be a template out there.

  5. Eileen said:

    I hate when people do the Bob Dole talking about themselves in the third person thing. If Dan looks anything like George Clooney, he and Miss Snark might hit it off. Depends if he likes being walked on in stilletos and his affection level for poodles.

  6. Kendall said:

    Cheryl – yipes! But is it a joke? Look at the home page, (you may have to scroll down some) — a program to write instant short stories? 😉 That’s gotta be a joke. Uh, it’s just gotta be….

  7. Kendall said:

    p.s. the same site also has software to generate query letters for books, so you were not off-base. (I still suspect it’s a joke though, but I don’t want to try ordering it to see…. 😉

  8. RyanBruner said:

    Personally, I think it sounds like a distraction technique. There is probably some author out there that hasn’t had much luck with their query letter. So, rather tha write a better query letter, they inundate the agents out there with really bad and annoying query letters. And when they can’t take it any more, this author sends off their own query letter. In comparison to the others, it is simply charming, and they get an instant request for a partial.

    At least, that’s my theory. I mean, after all, there was that guy a few years ago who claimed he had a dragon in a bottle in his garage, which was a lie (sort of), but it got him a book deal of some sort.

  9. lottery ticket said:

    This has to be someone either selling queries as a service or posting a template up on the web.
    In either case, it’s just plain dumb.

  10. December Quinn said:

    Too bad I’m married. 🙂

    What a terrible query. Who surrounds their title with stars? Why not just draw little pictures of jazzhands?

    (Or am I the only person in the world for whom any mention of “jazzhands”, in any context, automatically = funny?)

  11. joanr16 said:

    So, k, know any Midwestern actors who are single and not gay? Physical resemblance to George Clooney not required.

    On second thought, you’re doing enough for me already! It was worth a shot though….

    Have fun in Colo. Springs!

  12. solGreer said:

    Or you can post testimonials: Dan’s a cutie, and witty to boot. Hard to find ’em employed, cute, *and* intelligent at that age, but too bad I’m a decade past it (and, uh, with someone).

    Hey, I think we should get him down to Texas and set him up with Shanna. Hoooooo.

  13. MTV said:

    Agent Kristin – I knew there was something even beyond your blog that I truly liked … a matchmaker … Yentl, even as it were. Of course when you think about it, is there much difference in concept between a manuscript and publsher matchmaker and a human matchmaker … your true calling comes shining through … always …

  14. NL Gassert said:

    Dan was very nice about this (new) trend. For a harsher, but no less honest opinion check out

    I was once tempted to use one of those services that researches agents and, depending on your genre, creates a list of agencies to query. (I write for a niche market that isn’t widely represented.) But I would have still done the querying myself.

    Now I know that doing the research myself was a great learning experience. I came across blogs such as this one and a myriad of other equally useful and informative articles, websites, etc. All I know about the business of publishing I learned doing agent research.

    Not only are these inexperienced writers wasting their money and chances, they also remain completely ignorant about the business, which they obviously know nothing about to begin with or they wouldn’t be using a querying service.

  15. Elektra said:

    I was bored the other day and filled out the “personality profile” at
    Apparently, in the entire world, I don’t match with a single person.
    If I were born into the Fiddler on the Roof family, I think the dad would kill me.

  16. Anonymous said:

    Wow, all you do is type in your book’s stats and you’re done? Wow. Didn’t know it was so easy to become a best seller! ; )

  17. Anna said:

    Goodness. It is this sort of thing that makes me relieved to know that although I am a rank newbie so far as sending out proper query letters go, at least I know enough to write my own. I mean, geez, people! It’s exactly like writing cover letters for any other job; you wouldn’t want to trust your employment to something a piece of software spit out.

  18. Jennifer Jackson said:

    I’ve been getting these particularly formatted queries as well, and I agree with Dan. They do not come across as professional, and they do not encourage me to read further. They also mean I have less time to spend on queries that are being individually crafted by writers who are giving it their best shot. My favorite part about the last line is that they keep using the address from our previous offices (we moved last October) — yet another sign that this service isn’t worth whatever authors are paying for it.

  19. Norah said:

    Ahhhh …on the match making! Now that’s an art in and of itself! Good match-makers are few and far between these days.

  20. Stephanie said:

    december quinn–
    I disagree with Nathan J. I got a good chuckle out of your jazz hands imagery, though I thought it even better as a border around the entire pitifully constructed quick-query template. It’s right up there with “spirit fingers.” I mean, how can fingers have spirit?

  21. Patrice Michelle said:

    Whatever the technique is meant to accomplish, it sounds very offputting…like a pushy salesperson trying to close a deal. It reminds me of going to one of those “resort” timeshare things. I think every person should experience that just once in their life. Talk about learning to hone your “no” skills! *g*

  22. Anonymous said:

    Me! Me! Kristin, please, fix him up with me! He’s adorable — I can’t resist a man who rants with such wit. Tell him I said: “I can copy-edit that man like no other woman ever has, ooh, baby.”

    Please remember the “ooh.” sounds like a pyramid scheme: You pay less ($147 — think of the gas fill-ups that would buy) if you dragoon others into this option.

    DIY. Agents don’t bite; the worst thing they can say is no.

  23. Anonymous said:

    Would it not be an agent’s worst nightmare to be sought after by writers! Especially unagented, wanna be writers.

    “Hmm. Do they love me for me, or is really my possible book deals??”

    Tell Dan never to go to an RWA conference again, now that the word is out. He is so a marked man…

  24. December Quinn said:

    Tee-hee, Stephanie. Spirit fingers! That’s going to make me giggle all day.

    And yes, poor Dan is a marked man. He’ll be the Pied Piper at the next RWA conference he dares to attend.

  25. Shelli Stevens said:

    I saw a discussion on that letter on another agents blog! Wow, that really is a bad letter, and I’m sorry you guys are getting slammed with such crap.

  26. DanStrohschein said: has been plaguing Miss Snark with these sorts of queries as well. I can’t possibly imagine why a writer would want to hand over the most important part of the agent-search to a template or third party service. The query letter is your first impression on an agent or editor, and it shouldn’t be left to anyone else. I will go help warn my writing groups of this snare.