HomeReviewsInterviewsStoreABlogsOn Writing

In the wake of the mean vs nice discussion regarding people in financial hot waters through no fault of their own vs moochers  or wanting a free ride…

… there was some squeaking over the agents twitter conversation known by now as “queryfail.” There is applause, there is heckling, there is mocking, there is cheering, there is… well, the usual. (You can follow some of the noise here and, of course, here)

But that is not quite what I want to address here.

My issue is with the tired old cliché, brought up this time by Roberta Hawell, that goes:

“… if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all. Why do we have to beat someone else up to make our selves feel important. If you have a problem with someone, take it behind closed doors. Not some place where the whole world can see. People need to remember when you are saying something hurtful to one person it could come back to bit you in the a-. We as humans need to start being nicer to each person we meet and not be so critical of each other. None of us are perfect. I’ll get off my soap box now. Have a great day.”

wtf-gorilla1With apologies to Ms Hawell, there’s a lot of irony in calling for others to shut up unless they have something nice to say-it implies that the people one is admonishing to be quiet are *not* nice, which isn’t, in turn, nice. Plus, isn’t there a bit of “look at how much better a person I am!” from the people dispensing that particular pearl of wisdom?

And I say, if one wants to live one’s life by that maxim, please and by all means, have at it! But as part of it, could you try to refrain from criticize people who believe otherwise?

Oh and winning comment this week, by Kimber Chin:

I don’t want a ‘pleasant’ relationship with my agent or editor. I want someone I’ll cuss about because he or she is pushing me so hard. I want someone who will say ‘Kimber, this story bites’ so I don’t waste my readers’ time and money. I want someone who cares enough to be nasty.



  • Sparky
    March 15
    11:43 am

    Hmmm am I the only who reads “If you have a problem with someone, take it behind closed doors.” As “bitch about them behind their backs?”

    Personally I prefer people who are openly honest. It helps me identify arseholes, it helpes me clarify everyone’s position. It helps me know someone’s GENUINE opinion and not just whether they’re making nice. Whatever else, some people may not have diplomatic tongues but you know that when they say something they mean it – and that’s something you can bank on

    Someone can’t be honest if they can say nothing but nice things


  • Michelle
    March 15
    2:48 pm

    I guess my question is- is there or should there be any expectation of privacy when a writer sends a query letter to an agent?


  • I don’t remember anybody posting the names of anyone’s query.

    I think the same people who complain about something like queryfail are the same who complain about negative book reviews.


  • I thought #queryfail was informative as hell. Yeah, there were some laughs about some of the worst ones, but mostly it was very informative as to what agents and editors want queries to look like, what they consider to be pertinent and not. If agents and editors don’t tell us what they look for, how will we as writers know how best to query them and improve our chances of standing out in the crowd?

    It was much less mocking than people are making it out to be. Mostly it seemed to be a lot of “Do not do this. If you do this your query will become shredder bait. Do this instead.”

    That’s helpful to me.


  • Here’s the deal – I don’t want a harsh or cruel editor OR agent – but when writers constantly ask what editors and agents want to see and they get a whole day’s worth of specific instances of what isn’t working, it seems silly to complain.

    I didn’t see every single entry in the queryfail day, but I did see quite a bit and none of it was of the “you’re stupid and your baby is ugly” variety that I saw. I saw “three paragraphs and no reference to the book = fail” which IS helpful. Or “don’t tell me about your high school drama awards if you aren’t writing about that” etc.

    This business is full of criticism. That doesn’t make it easy to hear, but the way queryfail was done didn’t identify “this query from Susie Author of Seattle fails because she has no imagination and she sucks” or whatever.

    I’m a fan of being gracious, but I’m not a fan of pretending that some people screw up and don’t do their homework when sending queries and it ends up hurting them because they turn people off.

    The reality is editors BUY books, agents try to sell them. If you want to sell your books, you’d better be willing to work to make it happen and stop complaining when someone tells you to fix something. At the very least, it helps you to know who you don’t want to send your query to if you’re so offended


  • I didn’t follow this at all, and cannot speak on the “fails” but I did see a querywin posted. I remember distinctly that Colleen posted something like:

    Just received a perfect submission from a 15 year old. There are no more excuses, people.

    And seriously, yeah. It’s not rocket science. Do the homework, follow the guidelines and you won’t wind up on queryfail. This is a classic case of people blaming others for their own mistakes. Now sure, sometimes people are ignorant of how things are done, but how do you learn except through falling, dusting yourself off, and trying again? And yes, there may be a little of the “point-and-laugh” element in this, which isn’t nice, but it’s not the end of the world either. Tell me you never laughed a video of a dude getting smacked in the groin, and I’ll call you a liar.

    I also agree with Lauren who points out that the only way for anyone to know it was you in the queryfail is if you cop to it. Me, I’d go about my business quietly and do better the next time.


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment