Thursday, March 12, 2009

QueryFAIL!

Following up on the QueryFail brouhaha, my fine colleague Erin Murphy (an agent) comes in with an example of someone who roundly deserves any finger pointing that comes his way.

She writes:
I have been queried via email by a man writing as [redacted], whose email ID says [redacted]--so I'm not really sure who he actually is. He has queried me at least once a month since November for an adult historical novel--the same novel in every query.

In November and December I sent him form rejections, which state clearly that I only represent children's books and outline my submission policy. After that, I just deleted his inquiries.

I just got another, and this time I sent him a firm reply asking him to remove me from his email list and stating how many times I'd heard from him already.

This is what I got back:

"I know you would like to be left alone. But you are a literary agent, and I have a job to do. And I do apologize for any future queries that you must receive.

"But until [my novel] is published, you will be queried."
I've withheld his name(s), but be assured that industry professionals are sharing it freely, so that no one accidentally ends up working with this [redacted].

108 comments:

Anonymous said...

And I will e-mail your friends and family, and your dog.

That's just weird.

Sarah Laurenson said...

LOL

That's too weird and funny and sad. Love the last [redacted].

Kimberly Derting said...

What an [redacted]!!!

Andy J Smith illustration said...

Yikes

Brian F. said...

Am I the only one who finds it frightening, in a Glenn Close/FATAL ATTRACTION kind of way?

Daphne Unfeasible said...

As an agent, I had to recently send out something similar:

I have now replied several times to your emailed query about your novel [redacted], which you sent on February 16th, 28th, March 3rd, 7th, and now 10th. My decision to decline has not changed. I'm afraid I can no longer take time away from other writers' queries to respond to you repeatedly.

Unfortunately, I've found the people who most needed to see #queryfail are not the ones on Twitter!

Anonymous said...

"Am I the only one who finds it frightening, in a Glenn Close/FATAL ATTRACTION kind of way?"

No! Me too. It's the last line:

"...until [my novel] is published, you will be queried."

ie:

"...until you realize that I am your destiny, you will be stalked"

Heather said...

It's sad, but I have very little patience for people who can't be bothered to spend ten minutes researching the industry they're trying to break into.

What an ...

Edward G. Talbot said...

Perhaps he's never heard of flagging someone as a spammer and never seeing anything from them again.

Christine Rose said...

That's just downright creepy and wrong!

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

oh man, can you smell the awful stench of desperation?

Gina Black said...

Most email programs have filters. You could filter him right into your deleted emails and not have to bother with him again.

k-macfarlane said...

I must agree with you, Brian F. How could anyone possibly think this could achieve positive results?

People are frightening.

It gives me chills to think about how he would fare trying to work face-to-face with another person.

Nancy Keim Comley said...

What job? The job of making sure you will never get anything published and people will flee from your emails?

EM Lynley said...

Why does he think you might change your mind? Just the fact that he can't even read or listen, given his reaction when you told him you would NEVER take his work means he'd never be able to work with an editor who might want to change a word.

Part of winning includes following directions...

JuJu said...

"...you are a literary agent and I have a job to do."

Is that job to be a [redacted]-ing creepy [redacted]hole?

If he sends you another query, send him back a virus. Preferably one that infects his e-mail application. It's what I would do :D.

Kathleen said...

OMGosh! If I were that agent...or any agent...I'd set up a filter to automatically delete every query that guy sends. (Says the queen of email filters)

shell said...

Kind of like the zombie querist.

Resistance is useless!

Kathi said...

OMG-

I'm sorry, but I can't help but LAUGH. What an out of touch loser!

Merry Monteleone said...

Umn... okay, maybe I shouldn't post this online, I actually think it'd be a good plot for a thriller/revenge book if it wasn't for the fact that writers are the only group it would truly scare.

This type of behavior is SOOO over the top shoot yourself in the foot, that you have to wonder if some poor writer has made an enemy in a critique group somewhere. I mean, what if this wasn't from the real writer at all... what if someone's out on a campaign to discredit him/her?

And if that did happen, how would the author even know? They'd get form rejections on their real stuff with no real understanding of why... *shivers*

Did I spook everyone out yet?

LindsRay said...

OMG.

This sounds like a thriller.

"In order to save the world, [redacted] must publish his historical novel...at any cost!"

moonduster said...

Well that's just creepy.

Kwana said...

That is just scary. Funny but scary.

Ann Finkelstein said...

[redacted] is both sad and scary. Maybe it's time to let a spam filter handle future queries.

Maureen McGowan said...

It's amazing to me how stupid some people can be... Seriously.

Deirdre Mundy said...

OK... you know what REALLY drives me nuts about this?

I've never queried Erin Murphy. I'd like to, but her guidelines say no unsolicited queries and no email queries.

So, because I take guidelines seriously, she's not on my list, even though I think she's cool.

BUT this madman equeries her with an unsolicited novel, and she REPEATEDLY responds with personal replies?

So, in this care, a person who ignores her rules (at least she read his email and took time to think about his proposition and respond... multiple times...) has a BETTER chance at getting Erin Murphy's attention than one who doesn't (because, in accordance with her rules, we will never submit in the first place!)


ARGH!!! Maybe you'd have fewer crazy people if you didn't break your own rules to deal with them!!!

As it is, stories like this drive ME closer to crazy--- 'follow the rules. But we'll reward you if you don't!!!! '

Now excuse me while I beat my head against the wall and tear my hair out! =)

eluper said...

I am highly offended. My name happens to be "redacted" and I consider your post to be libelous. You will be hearing from my lawyer. His name is "anonymous."

Colorado Writer said...

He's ruining it for me! :)

Anonymous said...

How odd.

Philologia said...

Merry! That's not nice, I have to sleep tonight!

Jane Smith said...

I've told this story before (but not here), so if you've already read it, forgive me.

A good few years ago now, when I was a full-time editor, I made the mistake of sending out a handful of personalised rejections. I was young, I knew no better... one of the writers I rejected took this as encouragement and began to write to me regularly. He sent me his "manuscripts" (rambling, incoherent conspiracy theories), warnings about who to avoid, all sorts of things: I realised I had a nutter on my hands and ignored them, thinking he'd go away. And then he sent me a photo. Of me, arriving at work one day. And then another photo of me on my front door step (it's pretty easy to follow someone home if they take a London bus). It was really, really spooky. Especially when he took to hanging around at the entrance to the offices; and especially since I was pregnant at the time, and under a lot of stress.

The police could do little, as there were no anti-stalker laws in the UK at the time. The big blokes at the sorting office next door had a couple of little words with him and eventually he left me alone, but for a long time afterwards I would look over my shoulder and wonder if he was there.

I'd forward any further communications from this man to the police. The laws are better now, and he'll be told to leave you alone.

Kate Lord Brown said...

Yikes. Let's hope the agent hasn't got a pet rabbit ...

Merry Monteleone said...

Philologia,

Sorry - I actually had that thought months ago when an agent posted something equally ridiculous that some writer did, using their own name... I was reticent to post it because I'm afraid I might be giving some crackpot really rotten ideas... maybe I shouldn't be using the term crackpot...

*Runs off screaming to check every critique board discussion has ever taken part in*

David Dittell said...

EA,

Do you think part of the problem is the myth of the persistent writer? Here in Hollywood, you get the occasional story of the valet who left his script in the studio head's car and got a deal, etc., and it's resulted in a world where people chuck their scripts over the walls of the studios. WB actually has special cleanup duty just for all the scripts that are there by morning.

The lesson from those who make it because of their persistence in such a vivid manner is much easier to digest than those who grind it out, and it cements people's beliefs that they're a genius just waiting to be discovered.

Jolie said...

And because he said that, he will never be published. So you will NEVER stop being queried.

D:

cynjay said...

Erin actually does accept queries if you've been to a conference where she's been a speaker (that's how I met her). Crazy [redacted] head-cases can still attend conferences, so he probably queried her that way.

Dan said...

Very very sad, [redacted].

Take some time to learn the rules of the game, and then try spending more time working on your craft and less time tossing out negative energy, and you might find more success.

Like Daphne said, some of the people who really needed to follow #queryfail probably didn't, and many of those who did probably completely missed the point of it.

Anonymous said...

This is Erin Murphy. I just want to be clear that the first personal response I sent this guy was the one that said, "Stop emailing me." Prior to that, I just used a form reply that I use for all unsolicited queries. (My policy is that I only consider new clients who come to me by referral, and I open to queries from people who attend conferences where I speak, too.) So I have a form letter set up in my email, and it takes me something like two seconds to reply when I scan a query and see that the person didn't get a referral and doesn't reference a conference where I met them.

After four or five repetitions, though, I thought, this is starting to seem familiar. And I searched my email file and sure enough, I'd already replied to him multiple times. So I asked him to stop querying me, and you see the result.

And of course he is now being blocked by my spam filter.

Deirdre, believe me, this guy did not get any further in the process than you did. You didn't contact me, out of respect for my guidelines. I have no bad feelings about you. This guy, though, is mud with me and many colleagues I have given his name to! I am not by nature a vindictive person, but this kind of asinine wrong-headed behavior can really get under my skin for the very reason you state--there are so many writers who *do* educate themselves about the industry, follow guidelines, and otherwise show respect. Who does he think he is, that there's a separate set of rules for him?

Thanks, EA, for airing this grievance!

Robin Archibald said...

Publication by attrition! What a concept.

christine tripp said...

Email stalking, a whole new world has opened up for the sad the lonely and the just plain NUTS!
Jane, that is just horrible. Getting a photo of yourself? can't imagine the chill up the spin.

jeanne said...

The guy's novel isn't even for children. Sheesh!

Does he really believe that on his 45th query, Ms. Murphy is going to say, "Wait a minute! I know I only represent childrens' authors and I know I've rejected this query 44 times, but now I've just GOT TO HAVE IT. (And boy, I really, really want to work with this guy who has been harassing me and probably countless other agents with dogged, and frighteningly irrational, persistence)."?

Well, if it's not the 45th query, maybe it will be the 62nd...or the 133rd.

ae said...

His queries are redundant but this agent made his "JOB" redundant.

He'll find another agent (job) somewhere.

AE Pudderbrains

T. Anne said...

I guess that takes persistence = published to a whole 'nother level

beth said...

*snorting with laughter*

HairBender said...

I had the same thought as Merry Monteleone, i.e., what if the true target of this email campaign is another writer whose name is the one he's using?

But then, I'm paranoid. Especially after I noticed someone with the same name as me (an uncommon one) commenting on some widely-read writing blogs. Fortunately, this person's comments have all been benign, so far.

Anonymous said...

Heh. This is akin to going to a proctologist and asking for an eye exam...it just ain't gonna happen.

Truly weird. But I guess all professions have their down side--for agents and editors, it's close encounters with the monumentally clueless.

Janet Reid said...

If (redacted) is who I think it is, I'm getting his queries too. Well, make that got.

Love them mail rules! Direct to junk, do not pass my eyeballs, do not darken my inbox.

This is one clue-free guy!

wv: horkstur, I kid you not!

Crystal-Rain Love said...

Wow. That's all I can say.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Thanks for clarifying, Erin! =) I'll go back to being (mostly) sane now.....

HANNAH'S DAD said...

> Umn... okay, maybe I shouldn't post this online, I actually think it'd be a good plot for a thriller/revenge book if it wasn't for the fact that writers are the only group it would truly scare.

A friend of a friend (no - an *actual* friend of a friend. Not an urban legend.) wrote comic scripts, and had allowed his main character to get pregnant. At a comic convention he had a scary run in with a revolving eyed fan who thought she wasn't the sort of girl who would get pregnant out of wedlock.

The comic author was really quite spooked by fan, and felt very unsettled, so his other comic author/artist friends decided to cheer him up by taking him to a movie. They chose Stephen King's _Misery_.

Anonymous said...

I've seen this attitude in my own line of work. Some people mistake repetition for persistance. Most of them are harmless, but annoying. They are confident that their work is just as good as that of other people with the achievements they aspire to, and so they've decided that success is only a matter of continuing to ask for (publication, a job, a raise, etc.)

Danette said...

Okay, that's just scary.

Danette

Anonymous said...

Erin is too nice. She should have fed his email address to spam engines.

Christy Lenzi said...

Maybe just send out this music video link to [redacteds]in lieu of a form:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIJYHvnvfNM

Anonymous said...

Erin Murphy again. I just got the same query again from this guy, from a different email address.

Laurel said...

52 comments? Wow, EA, you're getting quite the following!!

Sam Hranac said...

"But until [my novel] is published, you will be queried."

OR, as it has been said before, "The beatings will continue until moral improves."

clindsay said...

This idiot is spamming everyone AND he is using several different email addresses to get past the spam filters. So far we've seen three different email addresses pop up. Am tempted to write up a fake "new agent" post on Absolute Write and list every damned one of them. Heh. Then he'd feel the true wrath of spam.

Colleen

Jane Smith said...

He's STILL querying? Send me his email addresses and I'll send him a link to this page. No joking, I'd love to: my email address is on the front page of my "How Publishing" blog.

I feel a blog post coming on about this. Good grief. I can't believe the density of this man.

Anonymous said...

"Some people mistake repetition for persistence."

Well said.

Persistence = keep honing your craft, query widely, keep writing new stories, keep revising, keep studying, keep learning.

It's not pursuing people to take a project they've already declined.

Crunchbird said...

So, in this care, a person who ignores her rules (at least she read his email and took time to think about his proposition and respond... multiple times...) has a BETTER chance at getting Erin Murphy's attention than one who doesn't (because, in accordance with her rules, we will never submit in the first place!)

You seriously had this thought? As Ms. Murphy herself already kindly pointed out, attention is not the same thing as positive attention. The fact that you think getting a hostile response and public mockery is better than having no contact at all, and the overall tone of your comment, hint at a fairly unhealthy combination of self-pity and masochism you might want to work on.

Merry Monteleone said...

I wonder if this would legally fall under some sort of harassment or stalking thing... I mean, he's been told NOT to contact these agents again and is persisting. You could give the authorities the email addresses and have them tell the guy to stop, couldn't you?

talshannon said...

It appears that some folks think that agents are like plumbers -- when feel you need one, you just contact them and they show up on your doorstep, ready to work for you. They're there to be your butler, nurse maid, etc. and they're not supposed to reject you.

You have my sympathies!

Melissa said...

I assume he isn't changing the title of his book or that there are some phrases in the query (maybe a phone number) that are consistent. Create a mail rule based on those. You *can* successfully kill them!

Anonymous said...

I think this guy confuses the "persistence" so often bandied about that writers require in order to succeed, with insanity--doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results.

And this is coming from a guy (me) who did (prior to obtaining representation), re-query all agents who never responded until he got a repsonse. Because no response does not mean "no." Only no means no. But this guy--continuing to query after receiving his "no"--he's wacko.

Anonymous said...

Have any of you considered that this author may already be dead, but he was determined to be posthumously published, so he automated his computer query process before he died so that he could still someday sell his book. It could be done. When he gets a "yes," his email program fires off his "yes response" okay, I accept"--here's my info), otherwise he re-queries. What else could you do if you were deceased? (Sort of a Daemon adaptation for the publishing world).

(treatment avialable upon request).

Anonymous said...

Well, this fellow is obviously wasting his own time, but ultimately, I'm not sure why Erin is wasting hers giving it even a moment's thought. Can this really be the only unwanted email that Erin gets? Does she take the time to ask to send emails asking to be taken off the lists of the Nigerian princes she does not want to hear from? This is just another Nigerian prince.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the scariest part of this post is the conclusion by EA assuring us that the author in question is being blacklisted throughout the industry simply because he sent three or four emails to Erin Murphy that she did not want to receive and (gasp!) was forced to spend one or two seconds of her life deleting from her inbox. (The monthly emails started in November, and it's only March now, so the total number of emails is apparently five. I get that many emails a week from Abes of Main telling me about discounts on flat screen tv's).

If the man has written a wonderful novel that deserves to be published, it's a shame that it will never see the light of day just because he may (according to Erin) have sent three or four emails too many. Hemingway used to punch people in the nose. Norman Mailer used to stab people. Does that mean that no editor should have agreed to publish their work? Or is the offense of sending Erin Murphy one email too many a more serious infraction?

I'm not defending the jerk for his stupid emails or unwillingness to research the market, etc. He's a jerk. I'm in complete agreement. But I do think that a problem that can be solved merely by not responding (as one doesn't respond to countless emails each day) ought not to involve the sanction of blacklisting a person from the industry regardless of his talent or how much people would enjoy buying and reading his books.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Crunchybird-

Heh. =) I suppose that's why I should refrain from ranting when I'm not fully caffinated.

Editorial Anonymous said...

Well, I don't mean that ALL industry professionals are talking about this person.

And there are certainly industry professionals who, upon seeing a fantastically lucrative (in one way or another) manuscript, will not care how obnoxious or looney the author is.

But lots of us are people with as much stress in our lives as we can reasonably take (especially right now), and no promise of fame for the author or money for the publisher is likely to tempt us to make the next two years a living hell.

Which is what you get when you sign up obnoxious, crazy people.

And finally, if you are worried that this man's personality is going to get in the way of the wonderful novel he has written, I say to you: Fear not!

It's probably just as stubbornly asinine as he is.

Kimberly Lynn said...

Emails are personal whether it’s for business or not. And once someone has been told to cease and desist—they should. Erin Murphy’s situation is just another example of why the internet needs policing.

The ‘QueryFail brouhaha’ doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me so long as real names and plots weren’t shared. I work very hard to write original material so I would be very upset if even a hint of it were broadcasted online without my permission. I didn’t follow Twitter so I have no idea if the agents and editors who participated actually did this or not.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Kim-- I started reading them (haven't waded through it all yet) but it seems to be mostly along the lines of "1500 page novel based on the experiences of your shelter-kitten? Query-FAIL!"

So nothing too identifying, and also (if you read blogs like this one) nothing too exciting....

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kim.

Were my plot or premise to be published on Twitter or anywhere else without my permission, I would sue the poster for intellectual property theft, and probably win. Even if it were held up in a good light. The ideas are sacred to me, they are worth $$$$ and shall not be used for any purpose without my permission.

Writers are not consenting to have their material published when they query an agent; until a contract is signed there is no agreement, so the agents have no right to publish the material anywhere. I would be suing for sure if my work appeared in QueryFail.

Hope Vestergaard said...

Wow. I can't believe how personally people took this exercise. Most of the queryfail twitters I read were not snarky. As for potential lawsuits over people's "valuable" ideas being broadcast publicly...ideas are cheap and relatively easy. Writing a good book is hard. Would that aspiring writers would take the energy of their umbrage at this situation and apply it to their craft...

Anonymous said...

"ideas are cheap and relatively easy."

Make that cheap ideas are cheap and relatively easy. Good ones most certainly are not. A book is comprised of 2 things: a concept, and the execution of that concept. You cannot have a great book without both. Therefore, publishing what effectively constitutes half of a book is a form of theft and punishable by law.

Merry Monteleone said...

Anon 6:18,

I would sue the poster for intellectual property theft, and probably win. Even if it were held up in a good light. The ideas are sacred to me, they are worth $$$$ and shall not be used for any purpose without my permission.

You might want to consult with a lawyer before trying that bit of silliness - you can't copyright an idea and they're not worth anything monetarily on their own. It's the execution that counts.

Hope,

I've been staying largely out of the queryfail fray. I don't see anything wrong with it, and I don't see anything wrong with agents and editors deciding not to participate. Most of the nastiest bit of sniping I've seen has come from people who only heard of it second hand through other blog comments, which is kind of an odd way to form an opinion.

I think the best way to avoid that sort of thing if you're that adverse to the idea of being tweeted about, is to research the people you query extensively. But that's a good idea either way, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

"I think the best way to avoid that sort of thing if you're that adverse to the idea of being tweeted about, is to research the people you query extensively.But that's a good idea either way, isn't it?"

Disagree on this oft-adopted research strategy. I actually think it's a waste of time. Yeah, you need to "research" agents enough to be sure they're open to submissions when you want to query, and that they handle your genre, and that your delivery method is what they prefer, but that's about it. Anything more than that and, statistically, you're wasting your time since the majority of agent contacts will result in a "no." I'd reserve the true "research" (track record, bio, web habits, client testimonials, etc.) for agents that request fulls. At that point you want to make sure you'd sign with them if they offer representation. But before that, it pays to query widely and reserve your time for writing tghe best possible product.

christine tripp said...

As for potential lawsuits over people's "valuable" ideas being broadcast publicly...ideas are cheap and relatively easy. Writing a good book is hard.

Hope, that's it exactly. There are really no new idea's, just twists on existing ones and really, the fact that the query's ended up on Queryfail is because none of those used as examples were any good. Often the query didn't include their books "idea" at all.

Also, to equate Erin's spammer with Hemmingway or Mailer is, to say the least, a stretch. These men, by all accounts including their own, WERE drunken b------- but... they were talented drunken b------- and talent and money offer up the much nicer title of excentric (fair or not).
Erin's nut job, is just that. If he were the next Hemmingway he would be needing to spam the world, he'd be published by now.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I hate to break it to you, anon, but if I put a list of "The top 100 unexecuted story ideas bopping around my head" and you write SciFi or Fantasy, at least one of your "highly valuable" ideas might be on there.....and there'd be nothing you can do about it...

Do you ever wonder why there tend to be tons of books with similiar ideas published all at once?

Why you'll have a year where suddenly, there are 37 YAs about teens who must escape from the modern-day druidic cult before they're sacrificed to ancient deities?

It takes a long time to write a book... the authors COULDN'T be copying off each other....

But lots of people have the same ideas all at once, or over and over again....And sometimes, for whatever reason, a bunch of books with similiar premises bubble to the surface. And for some, the EXECUTION is so good that the book becomes iconic. Others fade into the bargainb book bins, never to be seen again.

Concrete example: Harry Potter was NOT the first series about a normal kid who finds out s/he's a wizard and trains to fight some big bad guy. I know... I've read tons of these stories years before HP came out! I'd argue that Harry Potter wasn't even THE BEST execution of the idea.

But Harry hit a moment, and became iconic.....

In conclusion ---because this is WAYYY too long----(sorry EA)
If you think your ideas are totally original, read more and get some humility! Or run them by a trusted friend, because sometimes something that you think is original is really a pastiche of other people's ideas and someone else can show you the truth.... (like my husband, who can read a book of mine and then tick off the top 20 influences)

Oh...one last thing... I'm not even sure that a TOTALLY original idea, if it existed, would make a very good story. All books are building on what came before, in a way. Playing with it, marking it, making it their own.

For instance, there are TONS of takes on "Tam Lin" out there! And many of them are GREAT. But the idea "Mortal girl must take great personal risks to save her true love from evil fairies" is OLD............

(Sorry for the rant, EA... it's my first burst of the morning, so all the ideas are smashing at my finger tips, desperate to fly free... and uncaffinated, too)

Editorial Anonymous said...

Rant away, Deirdre. ;)

Kimberly Lynn said...

I’m not upset about the QueryFail at all. I’ve participated in numerous online critiques and contests so I am obviously supportive in regard to receiving this type of feedback from editors and agents. I think several of you took my previous comment and kind of ran with it in a way that I most certainly did not intend.

On another note . . .

For anyone who is being harassed via email, I found a site that lists a few suggestions that might help you deal with the situation.

Go to:

http://www.angelicinspirations.com/page189.htm

Then scroll down to the heading:

IF YOU ARE BEING STALKED, HARASSED, TERRORIZED – About Emails

Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

Believe me when I say that there is no need to be overly loose with ideas and concepts in this business.

A good book is equal parts concept and execution. A lousy idea can still be pulled off with great execution, but it still isn't going to be that successful. The converse is also true. A great concept can be ruined by faulty execution. Got to have both to be a smash hit.

Some book concepts truly are original, though usually not in the hardcore genres of SF/F/Romance. But I'd say The Da Vinci Code was firmly in the grounds of originality, and was well executed. The copycats it spawned took the idea and rendered their own execution, some of which have been quite successful. But do you think Dan Brown was blasting the plotline for DVC all over the web before he sold it? Hell no. You have to have sufficient confidence in your work not to rely on praise from the internet in order to continue.

The fact is that there are some plots and premises that are so strikingly original that they will immediately be "borrowed" by other writers--some of whom will be more experienced and connected than you--if exposed. Jurrasic Park was an original concept.

DAEMON is original--watch for the copycat flood on that, I can hear it now, because it's a premise that lends itself to endless variations. If well executed, some of these will outperform in the marketplace.

But to be first to market with a commercially appealing out-of-the-box premise in genre fiction--that is priceless.

Hope Vestergaard said...

Anon 9:42 says,"...Therefore, publishing what effectively constitutes half of a book is a form of theft and punishable by law."

A query is not half a book by any stretch of the imagination. And what law are you citing? The "Iwishitwereso" precedent? Sorry, that's snarky, and snarky feedback often misses its mark. This is meant to be sincerely helpful: Stop worrying about people stealing your ideas. Write a fantastic book that only you could write.

ae said...

"that only you could write..and/or illustrate"

(I amended that quote, Hope)

Wise, wise, wise words. Thanks, Hope!

Anonymous said...

I happen to agree that a query contains the premise, or "hook" of a novel, sometimes even the actual plot. Therefore, they a are a significant component of a book, although I couldn't put a specific percentage on it. But all that's left after starting with a great hook is to write it down. There are plenty of writers out there just looking for something to write.

I don't know if #queryfail included the hooks, or if it only highlighted bad queries from a business letter standpoint, (those containing such classics as "This book will sell more copies than every other book every made") and obvious ha-ha fodder. But I do concur that, while the plot of a book alone certainly does not in and of itself a good book make, it's certainly a promising starting point.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Um, yeah. The DaVinci code was TOTALLY original.

Just ask Umberto Eco!

BTW-- My husband claims Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics as an original idea. Any arguments pro or con? I was wondering if the old Golem legends might have some similar themes, but can't get to the library today.......

Deirdre Mundy said...

Anon -
"There are plenty of writers out there just looking for something to write."

Really??? Because most writers I know have a huge BACKLOG of ideas.... the hard part is actually working on one from start to finish---

hooks/first chapters are the EASY part. The hard part (at least for me) is to keep going once your intial crush on an idea wears off.....

Anonymous said...

Wow.

Anonymous said...

"hooks/first chapters are the EASY part. The hard part (at least for me) is to keep going once your intial crush on an idea wears off....."

That's quite true; I can relate to that. However, not all writers have a huge backlog of ideas; or at least if they do, they're willing to set them aside to jump on the next bandwagon. Witness the tidal wave of copycats inevitably spawned by every mega-hit. Obviously all those copycats weren't sitting around thinking up their own ideas--they're writing out other people's ideas, because they've been proven to sell! In other words, they're business people churning out widgets more than they are creative thinkers forging new ground.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Art Buchwald win a big lawsuit because a studio used his plot idea in "Coming to America"? I'm pretty sure he did. So plot ideas can, indeed, be protected in some way, though I can't say what the legal rubric is for this kind of case.

Ruth @ Bookish Ruth said...

Wow. That's really going to get him far in the industry. This is the epitome of QueryFAIL.

Anonymous said...

Just as ideas for inventions not yet created can be patented, plot ideas can be and are protected. Why do you think there are so many lawsuits aimed at each and every #1bestseller? Because people figure, "Hey, there's a grain of MY idea in there!" and they think they have nothing to lose by taking a spin on the wheel of justice that is our legal system. Of course most of these suits never win because the one who publishes first has a tremendous advantage.

All writers should register their works with WGA before submitting anywhere, including web "query help" sites. I don't know why these sites don't protect themselves by having such a recommendation posted, or even making it a requirement. It's only a matter of time before a lawsuit brings down the whole post-your-query phenemenon. To assume that you are the only person capable of creating a commercially viable work with your premise is naive at best.

Publishing is a business, and in all businesses, there are poeple who will resort to dishonesty in order to survive or succeed. In fact, many probably don't even see adapting someone else's plot as being dishonest, since, after all--it's all in the execution, right? That's sort of a rationalization common among writers to help themselves to any idea they want, regardless of source.

Merry Monteleone said...

Anon 4:42,

Buchwald won a settlement due to Breach of Contract. His original treatment was under contract with the studio and even set to star Eddie Murphy. After it was cancelled the movie came out and he sued by proving that the film was the same basis as his original treatment...

Now... how exactly does a case like that, relate to a 140 character tweet... seriously, we're talking about a flippin' sentence here... not quite the same thing as stealing an entire specific premise and characters and the lead actor for a movie.

Anonymous said...

"a 140 character tweet... " They could post it over several related tweets....But the real point is, Twitter is not the only venue for this kind of thing. There are also the blogs and other websites dedicated to queries.

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to make a different point about filtering this guy, and other emailers who seem to have stalker-like characteristics. Even though it's stressful and annoying to get these emails, I would *not* filter them. I don't want to upset anyone, but if, heaven forbid, the emailer progresses to the point of making actual threats, you need to know it so that you can call in the police. If he's sending you threats and they're sitting in your spam folder, you could be in danger and not even know it. I certainly wouldn't respond--not even with a form letter, after the first couple--but I would keep them and maybe even forward them to somebody you trust so that you have a record of his correspondence.

Merry Monteleone said...

They could post it over several related tweets...

Theoretically....umn, okay... but 1) they didn't, and this discussion stemmed directly from someone indicating they'd sue if they were tweeted about in the manner that queryfail utilized. and 2) why the hell would an agent spend their time line item tweeting his or her query letters?

But your point is apparently that everyone posting their query for critique is opening themselves up to intellectual property theft... I'm not even going to go into the value of group critique or the number of authors I know personally who've used such networks to meet, hone their craft, learn more about various aspects of everything from writing to submissions and gone on to sign with agents and get publishing deals... I can think of five books coming out this year for first time authors who improved and networked in this manner...(Okay, I guess I was going to go into it - I lied... must be of the caliber that would steal someone's idea)

If you're that concerned about your plot and story being stolen by someone who will then have to do the real work of writing it from scratch, then don't post it openly.

BuffySquirrel said...

Yes, if you patent your invention, you will get legal protection. No, this does not mean that if you have an idea for a story, that kind of protection will extend to it.

Those lawsuits fail because they're unfounded. Look at the suit against Dan Brown over Da Vinci Code--the claimants had to prove not that Brown took the idea of their non-fiction book, but that he copied their treatment of that idea. They failed to establish that and therefore, they lost their case.

Further, in my experience, many apparently copycat books or stories come out after a bestseller not because the authors are imitators but because publishers are; they buy up books that are similar to a bestseller in order to jump on the bandwagon. The authors may have written their books years before.

Post hoc does not automatically mean propter hoc.

Tommy Donbavand said...

Anon - As a published children's author, I promise you are wasting energy by worrying about people stealing your ideas - and even more energy in trying to convince others that they are wrong and you are right.

There are two, basic types of writer out there: those who aren't good enough to be published, and those who are. Trust me - those who are good enough to be published have enough ideas of their own. If - and it's a BIG if - your ideas were ever stolen, it would most likely be by someone who can't think up a great story themselves. That person is never going to be published, whether they use your idea, one of mine, or the plot for To Kill A Mockingbird.

I could post a 140 character idea here, right now, as a free gift and every writer who took it (although most wouldn't as they have plenty of their own) would write a completely different book.

Please do yourself a favour and redirect that energy into your work. Your writing will benefit from it, big time.

Daphne Unfeasible said...

Eeek! I'm on that guy's list now, too!

Anonymous said...

"I could post a 140 character idea here, right now, as a free gift"

I assume you mean, "commercially appealing genre fiction" idea. If so, I'm waiting...

Jane Smith said...

Despite feeling a bit like I'm picking a scab here, I like this post so much I've now written my own "foolish author" blog post (in which I get called a racist and a half-wit), and linked back to this one.

And Anon, if you're still waiting for that idea to be posted, you could try just reading through this thread again. There are already enough potential plotlines in it to keep me busy for a good few years, but I don't mind if you write about them too--I'm sure our stories will be so different that no one will notice they came from the same source.

christine tripp said...

Well how timely. I just got spammed this morning by the author of "the secret of making up"!

Save me from ever, EVER getting that desperate to sell a book!!!!

Anonymous said...

"Were my plot or premise to be published on Twitter or anywhere else without my permission, I would sue the poster for intellectual property theft, and probably win."

Thanks for my morning laugh. You can't copyright ideas for stories like that.

Anonymous said...

poster 1 "I could post a 140 character idea here, right now, as a free gift"

poster 2"I assume you mean, "commercially appealing genre fiction" idea. If so, I'm waiting..."

There's THOUSANDS of story ideas at http://evileditor.blogspot.com/

They appear under "Guess the Plot". Some are crap but a surprising number could make good books. They're all totally free. I and many many others made them up. If you want to use one, go ahead!

Glen Akin said...

hahahaa! This is really funny, especially the part where the bloke says he will keep querying as long as his novel remains unpublished.

Jena said...

My husband informs me that [redacted]'s response to the agent's request would be breaking Canadian anti-stalking laws. If [redacted] were Canadian, Erin Murphy could probably get him in a lot of trouble.

smsarber said...

Somebody has too much time on his hands, and has perhaps been partaking of some psychotropic drugs. Actually, very likely been partaking. What a schmuck!

Gillian Philip said...

Coming VERY late to this thread, but it's via a current discussion on Twitter, and this subject is depressingly/entertainingly perennial (depending on one's mood).

What Tommy said: good writers make it. Eventually. With hard graft and patience and the kind of persistence this idiot stalker doesn't understand.

But saints preserve me from people who think we want to steal their ideas; as someone else said, ideas are frequently ubiquitous and the sad fools who try to sue (Willy The Wizard and Harry Potter come to mind) don't succeed for the simple reason they haven't got a leg to stand on.

I first met a very good friend when it turned out we had both written YA knife crime novels, published within weeks of each other, from the point of view of an aggressor (and the similarities went on). Did either of us throw a tantrum, or assume the other had somehow got wind of our 'idea'? No, we thoroughly enjoyed each other's books and the entirely different execution in each case. It happens. Please don't make silly threats about legal action.

Oh, and Jurassic Park was not an entirely original idea. Theme park creations getting out of control had been done two decades earlier in 'Westworld'. I daresay I could trace the concept back indefinitely (creations getting out of control? Er...) but I'm too busy on a piece of my writing that needsa lot of work before submission...