Monday, March 16, 2009

Some Real Punchlines

One agent, Colleen Lindsay, with FinePrint Literary Management, has started what she calls “Queryfail Day” on Twitter. Other agents and editors have joined up. The plan is to tweet, once or twice a month, the worst lines they’ve received in queries. The first tweeting of bad query lines took place on March 5. You can read the list of participating agents and editors at

I either missed the tweets, or I’m not following any of the participants, because I didn’t know what was going on when I started seeing other Twitterers tweeting about #Queryfail Day. The people I saw tweeting about it seemed to think the lines were hilarious. But I’ve heard others who thought it was wrong and a bit cruel.

In Lindsay’s intro to Queryfail Day, she wrote:
What is #Queryfail Day, you ask? * rubs hands together gleefully * A group of online agents, book editors and periodicals acquisition editors are posting about their queries in real time. The idea is to educate people about what exactly it is in a query that made us stop reading and say "Not for me." We're being very careful not to include personal identifiers of any kind. The idea isn't to mock or be intentionally cruel, but to educate.
I don’t know, but the “rubs hands together gleefully” seems to contradict “the idea isn’t to mock or be intentionally cruel, but to educate.”

As I said, I didn’t see the first go-round of bad lines, but here’s a few that The Guardian put in an article:
"My book is differentiated from Twilight because the vampires have wings, and are half-breed angels"
"My book is about a friendship based upon mutual vomiting practices in high school"
"This book is The Notebook meets The Lord of the Rings"
"43 years of toiling within my own mind have come to an end with this manuscript!"
TweetIt from HubSpot


  1. Driven by curiosity, I had to go and look. I think the "rubbing hands gleefully" was what turned me off, and it really did take the unintentional cruelty out of it. I realize they are trying to teach others how not to query, but write a book about it using fake examples, don't draw out things actual people said and humiliate them. It doesn't matter if it's done anonymously. Rejection is hard enough. As you get the letter and wonder how much they laughed at your manuscript, how many of their friends they passed it around to having a good giggle... imagine how it would feel to see bits of your manuscript up there. The sad part about it is, these are probably editors who simply "don't have time to comment" on your query or your manuscript, telling you just where it is you went wrong so you don't make the same mistake again. How disheartening it is to see people earn their living being purposefully cruel.

  2. I think the whole concept is vile. Firstly, agents have jobs because of writers. I earn a full time living as a writer and I don't have an agent - what does that tell you?

    How about we blog about the ridiculous comments received from agents? I have a YA novel I'm shopping around. The protagonist is the mother of one of the main characters. The first chapter starts with the mother with the boy when he's a baby and a fight with the father. So this agent wants the first 10 pages. She rejects the book saying she doesn't think many young adults have ever been married. WHAT? I just counted my blessings that she gave me a pass. Or what about the agent who was so lazy they wanted a synopsis for a 3000 word story.

    I think the whole thing is disrespectful and, quite frankly, biting the hand that feeds them.


  3. I admit I didn't hear the actual program, but I am always looking to improve my writing skills. If I learned something I wrote might be turning agents and publishers off, I'd want to know so I could correct the issue before sending out more submissions. I think the program could be quite helpful - like a critque group.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton

    Jane Kennedy Sutton

  4. Yup, same here about the 'rubs hands gleefully.'

    I've heard publishers discuss bad queries before, and they threw out examples for laughs. So sorry, while there might be a smitten of educational intent, they are doing it primarily to mock.

    L. Diane Wolfe

  5. I can't see how it would help a struggling writer find out why they were rejected. As an anonymous 'tweet up' it would just seem like hilarious one liners and bear no relationship to any single author's struggle.

    Only constructively pointing it out in a private rejection letter would help, and probably not even then.

    The exercise seems to be to promote the editors/agents involved rather than educate writers.

  6. I agree with most of the comments here, this exercise is crossing a line from funny bloopers to mocking. I know editors and agents tell stories all the time about some of the horrible submissions they have received. I've even done it myself. But that was not in a public forum where my words could possibly get out.

    Writers who really want to learn how to write a good query letter can find all kinds of help online without having to read someone's idea of a joke at the expense of another writer.

  7. I'm one of those who believe in the value of learning how to do something by seeing how NOT to do it. As long as it's anonymous and better yet, paraphrased, I see nothing wrong with this approach. There are plenty of How To Query books and articles out there, but none of them get this kind of attention. I rest my case!


  8. I think it's good to know what agents don't like in a query letter. And it's good that these agents aren't putting the author's name to the one-liners they thought atrocious. It might help if they didn't do it "gleefully." But at least the agents didn't do it anonymously.

  9. OMG - "Queryfail Day" on Twitter now? LOL - this is too rich. I gotta follow this - has to be a buncha stitches.

  10. Great post yesterday on your blog, Nancy -

  11. I didn't read the posts mostly because there was just too much to sift through to find any useful comments. Most of the agents I've met are very nice but I've heard second hand that some of the things said weren't so kind. Writers need tough skins but when starting out they don't need to be beat down. I cringe to see some of my early stuff but with determination and help from colleagues, I've improved. I hope the day didn't discourage anyone.

  12. Hi. I tried to use a link in my post today and couldn't figure out how to use the code. Could you please give me some pointers? Sanks. My e-mail is

    Lynnette Labelle

  13. Thanks, Helen. This is great! I hope you odn't mind if I pass it along to my senior sleuth forum.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...