Monday, March 1, 2010


So tempting.

For a single hour this weekend, one of my favorite literary agents, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, held a query contest:

Many writers want to know what an agent is really thinking when they pass on a query, right? You want the truth...but can you handle the truth? Well this weekend I will respond to the queries I receive in complete honesty. You may see something as simple as "Not bad, but just not for me." or "I don't represent academic non-fiction." OR you may see something like "I stopped reading when you mentioned that the mailman was a vampire space zombie who has come to deliver a message of PAIN. Because come on...seriously?"

Doesn't she sound awesome? ;) I'd love to have queried her with one of my new stories after all the help she gave me on Evangeline, but... those novels aren't ready. I'd want to treat my next submission to Joanna as professionally as possible, and that means only querying her when my story is really, truly ready.

And none of them are.

I made the mistake of entering a submission contest for a manuscript that I didn't have complete faith in earlier this year. Nothing is worse than having someone express interest in a concept when the execution is not 100%! Fortunately, this blog has been a great tool to shame me into keeping the promises I make myself.

Hold me to this, blogosphere. I vow to never again give in to the lure of internet contests before my manuscript is clean enough to eat off of (you know what I mean. When I'm hungry I start using food metaphors).

Oh, but they are soooo tempting... I'm about to break into song, something from Sweeney Todd, perhaps, very appropriate.



Erm. Okay, venturing into stalker territory. I'll stop embarrassing myself now, but all I'm saying is, if you have a dream agent, make sure you're their dream client before you query!

(Now that song is going to be in my head all day.)


Abby Annis said...

Great point. I wanted to submit to that too, but unfortunately, I didn't have anything ready. Missed opportunities suck, but they're better than wasted opportunities--which is what they feel like to me when I query too early. I have yet to query my dream agent. I want my work to be as shiny as possible before I do. Hopefully, I'll get to that point someday. :)

jessjordan said...

Absolutely agree! I SO wanted to enter with one of my MSs, but I just couldn't. A year ago, I probably would have. But this blogging stuff holds me more accountable.

Way to resist!

Elana Johnson said...

I love Jo. She's one of the nicest people alive! And yes, querying a project too early is like, the worst thing you can do.

Secondly, you may think someone is your dream agent based on what they put out on the Interwebs, but I'm here to say that your dream agent is the one that loves your book and thinks they can sell it. If you're lucky enough to find more than one of those people, then you can pick which one you want.

Suzette Saxton said...

Jo is lovely, I agree. (So is your blog!)

Good for you for resisting the temptation! I'm sure another opportunity will come along.

Suzette Saxton said...

P.S. Love the photo of the girl in the window!

Julie Dao said...

"And are youuuu beautifullll and pale with yellow hairrrrr like herrr." Thanks Tere, now that song is gonna be stuck in MY head all day! LOL. Love Sweeney Todd and that picture. I've been hearing this literary agent's name a lot since I started blogging. She sounds great! It's good that you are waiting until you're absolutely ready before you query. I think that's excellent advice. I don't think I'll be ready to query for a long, long time, but I hope I'll be in love with my story when I do.

Rebecca Knight said...

Such a great post, and a great reminder :). Sometimes it's hard not to put the cart in front of the horse, or a query in front of the manuscript, as the case may be!

Tere Kirkland said...

Abby, wasted opportunity is right. Why waste your chance before your ms is perfect? Or at least as perfect as your inner editor will admit, anyway. ;)

Jess, isn't it great to be held accountable by an inanimate object? LOL. Yeah, a year ago I probably wouldn't have cared, and just leapt at the chance to get my stuff to her. Now I'm treating my writing as professionally as possible.

Elana, I hope someday I'll be in that enviable position! You're so right.

Suzette, thanks! I think long and hard about the pics that go with my posts, hoping they'll help generate interest if my words don't, lol.

Julie, YAY, singalong time!! At least "Johanna" is better than "The Worst Pies in London". ;) "Do they think that walls can hide you? Even now I'm at your window..." Great, now I sound even more like a stalker!

Becca, this is one of my worst habits, something I'm trying to break myself of. I'll know it's time to query when I'm ready. Hopefully, it'll be soon, though, since I'm getting antsy! :D

Voidwalker said...

Yes, there will be a time and a place. Don't try to force it. You will be ready when your text is ready!

Don't Do IT!

Susan R. Mills said...

Great point! I've made that mistake before, and I will never do it again.

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Joanna is awesome, but I too resisted the contest. I'm nowhere near ready to query my latest story.

L.T. Elliot said...

Can I just say--THANK YOU!! I get a lot of crap for not querying yet but I'm making sure my story is worthy of my dream agent. I'm so glad I'm not alone!!!

Anissa said...

I am so with you! But alas I'm not ready yet either. Good for us, I say!

Daisy Whitney said...

This is pretty much the coolest agent contest ever!