Pub Rants

The Query Spammer

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Status: A bit of a rough start to the year as I’m home with a sore throat. Too much relaxing over the holiday I guess!

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? BETTER MAN by Pearl Jam

Happy New Year! And welcome back, hopefully, to a nice year of generally uninterrupted blogging! It’s my New Year’s resolution.

If you sent us a query while we were closed, I apologize for having to send out the autorespond and making you resend. Really, it’s for our sanity. Can you imagine coming back to work and facing over 2500 queries?

Daunting to say the least. Much better for us to have a clean query inbox and start afresh on Jan. 3. We did get a little slammed today (no surprise). If I were a writer, I’d wait and send next Monday when we are back to normal levels. However, if you did send, we are reading them now.

That is, all except for one person’s query. Lately we have what we call a query spammer. For 2 months straight, this writer has sent the exact same query every single day. At first, we sent our general NO response. Now we just delete.

The person took a break at the end of November but now they are back. It certainly has our attention but not perhaps in the way the writer intends.

I admire persistence as much as the next person but here’s the difference. If this writer significantly rewrote the query or gave a fresh take on the story, then it’s worth our reviewing again. But the same query, day in and day out, for months on end is just spam and gets an auto-delete.

Happy Writing in 2011!

More Pearl Jam music on iLike

38 Responses

  1. Josin L. McQuein said:

    I wonder if this is the same query-spammer who hit a bunch of agents last year claiming he was going to “knock down the doors of publishing” until he got an offer of representation.

    I can’t remember which agent blogged about him, but he/she said all the query-spammer accomplished was getting all those reinforced with new locks.

  2. magolla said:

    Sorry about the spammer. Sometimes writers are so desperate that they do stupid stuff like this. Dude needs to try self-publishing because many writers who are nutso never write another book.

    I did wonder if I approached my query from a different angle whether or not you might give it another look. I approached it from the middle grade fantasy angle instead of the loner kid trying to make friends in a small town angle. Hmm, something to think about.

  3. onelowerlight said:

    Too many would-be writers take “persistent” to mean “do crazy things that no one in their right mind would ever do,” rather than “take a long hard look at your writing and try to improve your craft.” It ticks me off, because it makes the rest of us look bad (except, perhaps, by comparison).

  4. Melissa Alexander said:

    I can’t help but wonder about the person’s query. Does it show any promise at all? Are there pages pasted below? Can the person write?

    There would come a point where I would be tempted to send the person one e-mail with some advice… but then you’d likely need to block the IP address.

    Of course, I’d have already blocked the IP address.

  5. Gina said:

    Hmmm… sounds like my husband when I’m giving him an answer he doesn’t like. If he didn’t avoid writing like the plague, I would think he was your spammer!

    It’s funny how some people think re-posing or re-phrasing the same question will produce a different response!

  6. Karen Duvall said:

    The spammer must know the definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result is totally insane. So his/her actions pretty much define the type of person he or she is. Yikes.

  7. Kristin Laughtin said:

    I have a bit of a sore throat, too. Feel better!

    I too wondered if it was the same spammer that Josin L. McQuein mentioned was blogged about last year. If I remember correctly, the agent posted the actual query and it was very self-important. I hope these queries are all coming from the same address, or at least IP, so they are easy to block. I’ve heard more than one story about a desperate aspiring author adopting multiple email aliases to send the same query over again once agents began catching on. (And if that gives anyone ideas: don’t do this! It’ll make you look even crazier!)

  8. Lucy said:

    Hey, glad you’re back, Kristin! Hope you feel better soon. There seems to be the most amazing variety of germs going around lately–worse than I remember last year, except for all the hoopla over H1N1.

  9. Jóna Svandís said:

    Hello and Happy New Year:)

    I don’t know how I landed on your blog but since I’m here I want to ask one question about publication.

    I am currently revising my first novel and in my opinion it turned out surprisingly well. It is basically the novel that I would want to read. But I also want others to read it:)

    The problem is that I wrote it in Icelandic because I can’t write fluently in English. So that leaves me wondering… should I translate bits of my novel and send to agents like yourself (and then translate the entire thing if you like what I wrote)? Or would I be better off trying to publish it here in Iceland?

    Good luck going through your stack of queries and hopefully you start to feel better soon:)
    Best regards,
    Jóna Svandís

  10. Trisha said:

    Sore throats are the worst!! I totally abhor them.

    Sorry to hear about this crazy query spammer! hehe. Can you block the person automatically?

  11. Cat said:

    @all: Happy New Year!!!

    @Jona Svandis: try Iceland first. I’m from Germany and I do write fluently in English. The problem usually isn’t so much the language, it’s content. I found that many things that interest kids (I’m writing MG and YA) in Germany are of no importance to US kidlit-readers. If you want to write for the US market, you need to get to know what your American readers enjoy reading.

    Good luck!

  12. David Kearns said:

    I would like to add something to the lively conversation here as well, gang!
    This writer who did this is the most dangerous, vile creature ever to have walked the planet.
    I think we should find this person and pull his pants down, all of us together. Let’s really do it this time.
    You know crucifixion was an effective tool. In England back in the 1500s they used a brine-covered end of tar rope impregnated with sand.
    No, I’ve got it. Let’s burn him.

  13. Jen Zeman said:

    Happy New Year Kristin! Sounds like the spammer has a military mindset: bombard until they surrender! Ugh…

  14. Giles Hash said:

    I wonder if this spammer has tried sending daily “World’s Best Agent” mugs with $20 Starbucks gift cards in them. Perhaps that would sweeten the deal? Or maybe it would just clutter your desk 😀

  15. tospinayarn said:

    What a P.I.T.A. I hope it stops soon, who needs to waste their time deleting the same exact spam every day.

    Good luck for a wonderful 2011!

  16. Anonymous said:

    Ah, Oscar Whitfield and his “abused woman is the greatest composer who ever lived” email (I’m sure this is what you’re talking about).

    Almost every agency gets this whacko. He even has a website where he brags about his 7,000 rejections:

  17. Aspiring to Greatness said:

    Hello Kristin,
    I have been reading your blog for sometime now and have found it to be extremely enlightening and helpful. Perhaps you could answer a question for me when you’ve got a chance (After catching up from the windfall of queries from the holday)?

    I am closing in on finishing what I hope will be my first published novel. Do you recommend authors to completely finish a work before sending a query, or is it acceptable to start testing the waters of agent interest while still putting in the finishing touches? I cannot seem to find the answer anywhere.

  18. Pip Hunn, Write-Thing said:

    I have in my mind a picture of an Ogrish heffalump, enragedly clicking the ‘Send’ button, pounding his spare, hairy fist on the desk infrustration.

    “I don’t get it”, he bellows, startling his fellow care-trolls. “I’ve written the best thing since Dan Brown mad man-love to Patrick Rothfuss and smeared it with Oprah Sauce! How can they NOT want to give me a multi-million dollar advance?”

    Another Ogro wanders up behind him and offers a consoling pat on the back.

    “Maybe you shouldn’t have put the deposit down on that Lear.”

  19. Tawna Fenske said:

    LOL, I believe my agent (Michelle Wolfson) mentioned being hit by the query spammer for awhile. You’ve gotta wonder if it’s ignorance or just someone who thinks persistence will pay off.


  20. Lucy said:

    @ Aspiring

    Kristin doesn’t usually answer questions directly in the comments, but most agent blogs I read will tell you to finish AND polish your novel before querying. If you get agent interest, you don’t want to be scrambling to finish that last round of edits you should have done–“Oh, wait, oops, I’ve decided I hate this chapter. Let me send it to you in a month!” Also, it’s better to finish a project and let it sit for a bit before doing that one-more edit. You’ll more likely spot things you didn’t see before.

    People who query incomplete or just-finished manuscripts tend to be the people who follow up with apologetic letters begging for a chance to send the revision, and sometimes the revision after that. This is not a good way to start your author-agent relationship.

    Finish. Wait. Revise. Then query. 🙂

    Hope this helps!

  21. HowLynnTime said:

    Not to play devils buddy here, but is there even a tiny chance he’s got some issue with his email that is resending without him really knowing?

    My email is sending scary versions of my query … and I can’t fix it all without the fix making new nightmares.

    Putting myself in nut job’s head, I would change them and not send the same one. He’s not lazy or he would not sign in and paste it to you every day? I would send a new one, with an adjustment of key points every day, if this was a bombing you with volume prank.

    No – Im not a nut job but I do know a few who live in my head, Bwaahaaa.

    I do think it is something to pay attention to, but 3 years ago I went through a time in which every email I sent, showed up times 6, so i just wonder if there is any reason besides nut job??? Resend loop, quantum email vortex leaper, old guy who can’t run his email are all possible.

  22. Lucy said:

    Huh, this is weird too. Kristin, did I offend you, or did Blogger just eat my comment?

    Not even a “comment deleted.” Just totally vanished. Assuming that Blogger did it–Aspiring, I think I was trying to tell you that it’s customary to finish and polish your work first. Except I took a lot longer to say it. 🙂

  23. Amanda said:

    Wow, just got a rejection in 3 days. That is still fast for the amount of queries you have over the holidays. As I replied my auto fix sent the email with an “e” instead of an “i” so now I fear I am truly doomed.

  24. MCPlanck said:

    Wow. Oscar is quite interesting. On his own web page he acknowledges that he has “alienated literary agents all over the United States.”

    Pretty clearly he does not expect to get published via this method.

  25. Lynne said:

    That’s just creepy.

    And sad. Because no doubt that writer took the time to write a novel, and is shooting himself –or herself– in the foot by the spam query tactic. Persistence is fantastic; stalking, not so much.

    Happy New Year! Your blog is a great resource for writers. Thanks for all the great posts.

  26. Jóna Svandís said:

    Thanks Cat… I think my content is fairly universal but I agree with you, I think it’s better to try to get it published here first:)

    Have a great week-end all!

    Jóna Svandís

  27. Vivian said:

    Wow, I remember reading about that guy on another industry blog MONTHS ago. It’ hard to believe he’s still at it. Maybe he thinks if he can’t be the next bestselling novelist, he can be the guy who aliened the most agents?
    I was going to bring up the definition of insanity, but I see someone’s beaten me to it.
    Aspiring to Greatness, based on everything I’ve read, if it’s fiction it should be finished before you query.