Look, people: if you don't like it, don't read it. Why is this so hard to figure out?
Seriously. All the people Tweeting yesterday about how much they did not like reading #queryfail? STOP READING IT. And go do something else.
Now, to all the people with their panties in a bunch for those poor writers who "worked so hard" -- NOT reading submission guidelines or spellchecking -- and who never "gave permission" for their "intellectual property" to be "used": uh, do you know much about the purpose of a query? Let me explain it to you. See, you send an agent a query, so that the agent asks for your novel. If your query is good, the agent tries to sell your novel to a publisher. Then the book gets published.
This means YOUR WORDS ARE OUT THERE FOR EVERYONE TO READ. And you know what happens next? PEOPLE POST ANGRY, UGLY REVIEWS ON AMAZON.
If you can't handle less-than-140-characters of your query anonymously quoted in a thread moving almost too quickly to read, then how in 'tarnation do you expect to handle being published?
The agents were not being "mean." They were telling it like it is, and they WERE providing information to writers. They were also not "cherry-picking" queries to make fun of -- the point of it all was to show HOW MANY bad queries they get a day. The agent is sitting in front of his laptop, reading the queries as they come in. He reads a crappy one, and copy/pastes the line to Twitter and adds the hashtag #queryfail. OH MY GOODNESS THAT TOOK SO MUCH TIME.
Seriously, most of the people griping about #queryfail (on the two blogs I've read tonight where it has come up) DON'T EVEN TWITTER. This was not Query Shark with unsuspecting queriers, posting the full letter which yes, would be totally recognizable -- this was TWITTER. 140 characters -- actually, 129 because "#queryfail" is 10 characters, plus a space). And many of the Tweets were not even quotes from the letters, but explanations of what the person did wrong. Look, if you weren't there, or if you don't generally hang out there, then you don't know what's going on. You don't know what it's like, how we Twitterati communicate. So don't bash when you don't know.
As a teacher, I felt the agents' pain. How many students REFUSE to follow directions, and turn in the assignment however they want to do it? TONS. Guess what happens to them?
As in, literally. A fifty if I'm in a good mood; less if I'm utterly fed up with that kid.
And guess what happens to them when they graduate into The Real World? They go on to write stupid queries that irritate agents.
(But that will make my query look golden when they open mine right after one of those gems.)
Also, as a teacher looking for a job outside the classroom, I learned A LOT from #queryfail.
You see, I've never had to apply for a real job. I've applied for teaching jobs, which is kind of a joke. I have a degree in the subject I teach; I teach a high-needs subject; I am actually certified (through an accredited university, through a full teacher certification program). I send in my application and the district will hire me.
If there is one thing you can say for teaching, it's job security.
So I've never been in a position where I've had to fight other applicants or impress the recruiter. (The fact that I want to teach is impressive enough; that I actually know my subject just blows their brains away.) Now, I'm fighting for jobs with other people who are as qualified as I am, but have more impressive resumes (because they have not been wasting their talents in a classroom).
Yesterday I sat down to write an email to a higher-up at my teacher union, pretty much asking her for a job. I've written a few of these emails lately. Before I started reading agents' blogs and studying query letters and hearing agents gripe about dumb mistakes in query letters, I would have written an email similar to this:
Hi!Instead, I started out with a proper, professional salutation. I made a personal connection with the person. I Googled information I could have easily found for myself instead of asking her, and making myself look dumb and lazy. I sold myself, giving her a quick run-down of my skills/talents/qualifications, without boring her or pushing my entire resume and letters of recommendation on her. I did it the smart way, following common-sense query guidelines.
I want to work at TSTA. Are there any jobs open?
I am eternally grateful to Colleen Lindsay and other agents who have helped me learn these things.
If #queryfail was not your cup of tea, then don't follow it next time it comes around. But let's all pretend we're grown-ups and deal, please.
[Edited to add links I forgot to link. This is what happens when you write angry.]