Monday, March 9, 2009

All the Ways You Can't Make People Behave

The internet allows such free communication. It gives us the opportunity to open our minds to countless others, and it gives us the unfiltered thoughts of all the wide world.

The problem, of course, is that a bunch of the world has intellectual cooties.

As proven by QueryFail and the subsequent rancor over at Nathan's place.

If you didn't follow the twitter event last week, it was a few agents twittering in real time as they read queries and rejected them.

Some people felt it was educational and hilarious.
Some people felt it was unprofessional and an outrage.

But here's the thing: then some of them tried to talk to each other.

Honestly, people. When (a) two diametrically opposed factions meet and (b) at least one of them is really angry and (c) neither of them has weapons, you're really only going to end up with (d) name-calling.

You're all poopy-heads.


Editorial Anonymous said...

I feel so adult.

Miriam Forster said...

Harharhar... I have rarely seen a productive discussion on the internet when emotions were running high.

One of the posters on Nathan's blog said something very revealing about the tendency to forget that people on the internet are real. Perhaps that's part of the problem.

And I'll completely accept my status as poopy-head if it means I don't have to grow up. :-)

Editorial Anonymous said...

FYI, while I, like Nathan, don't post things people send me at work, I like Colleen and support her in her work to enclue the clueless.

Some people (for instance my Anonymati) need nothing more than a quick sketch on a napkin or a word of advice in their ears.

And some people need the clue-by-four.

Kimbra Kasch said...

Just thought you might like to read this over at ”GalleyCat”

I too am a poopy head - I guess. ;)

Steve Brezenoff said...

I'm on the fence when it comes to #queryfail, though I did watch it breathlessly. So whatever that says about me.

Mainly commenting because "enclue" is the greatest word, and thank you for showing it to me.

gael lynch said...

The whispered word or the scribbled napkin approach still works, because we are real out here in cyberspace. Last week's QueryFail sounded quite a bit like those nippy/yappy dogs that used to get loose in my neighborhood at least once a week. If you've ever been never forget it! Thanks, EA, for yanking on the leash.

MAGolla said...

Ah, where is Miss Snark when you need her?!
Perhaps you could fill her stilettos, EA?

Anonymous said...

You really made me laugh out loud! I'm trying so hard not to be a poopy-head.

Literaticat said...

The best thing to come out of this whole silly business?

Agentquery's "Agents on a Desert Island Submission Guidelines":

Sarah Laurenson said...


Hah! I always tell people that if they want me to know something they need to hit me upside the head with a 2x4. Now I know the real term.

I looked at some of #queryfail. I think I came in where the outrage was beginning to be expressed. Seems a bit odd to me. In this business, you really need to develop a thick skin. I mean, we're putting our hearts and souls on paper and we will get rejected - by editors, agents, publishers, critics, readers. It happens. Plus, I would love to know what went wrong and why with my own queries.

On the flip side, I would also like to know that this was a possibility with my submission before I sent it in. That way I would be able to be present for it and maybe a little more prepared.

Gotta love The Onion

Becky Fyfe said...

I missed all of it, so now you've got my nosey, poopy-headed self going to check it out! (I won't be commenting on any of it though. I find Internet confrontations a ridiculous waste of time.)

Jo Treggiari said...

It did deteriorate into a Lord of the Flies scenario pretty quick.

Criss L. Cox said...

I am one of the poopy-heads!!!

I tried to be more stinky than poopy. (Except when dealing with people who were pooping on #queryfail but hadn't even followed it!)

Now, the Internet may make it easier to poop on a faceless screen name, but it also does build relationships. There's a writer in the UK whose Twitters I follow and whose blog I read. I blogged in favor of #queryfail, she blogged against it. When I commented on her blog, my tone was completely different than it was when I was ranting on my blog or commenting on a stranger's. The Internet may make it easier to forget those screen names are real people, but all of our social media might be starting to remind us.

Anonymous said...

Good call, EA. Good call. Personally I thought Nathan Bransford handled things pretty dang well over on his blog.

Marissa Doyle said...

I love it when you bandy about those technical book industry terms, EA.

Sheila JG said...

"enclue the clueless"

So funny. The thing is, the clueless probably didn't see it. Because they're clueless.

But I think everyone who read the comments felt a sigh of relief - "well, at least mine wasn't that bad!"

Anonymous said...

I only read educational, uplifting, inspirational, motivational,enlightening,and sweetly snarked internet offerenings. Like this one and the Big, Bountiful Blue.

The vortex of mean spirited/defensive dribble IS a complete waste of my time (which is limited), productivity and energy.

My word verification is appropriate. Sigh.

Sara J. Henry said...

It's a shame the two factions couldn't realize that #queryfail could be two things at the same time:

1. educational (to those who didn't already know most of this stuff from various blogs and other sources) and hilarious (to those not being quoted).

2. unprofessional and an outrage (just a smidgen, or at least it could be perceived that way) - regardless of the purest of intentions.

Sam Hranac said...

I feel so left out, with no poopy on my head. Maybe if I were more tech savy...

Kiersten White said...

HA! Oh, the last line. Perfect.

Anonymous said...

I've always seen every query I send out as public writing. After all, I'm HOPING a query letter will get off the slush pile and be seen by dozens of eyeballs on its way upstairs to the person I REALLY want to see it. To keep a query letter private is the LAST thing I want, as that means it's failed to fulfill its sole purpose of BEING critiqued.

I've always assumed every sentence of my query letter would be judged to the highest standards of each person who read it. I should HOPE it would be or else I wouldn't want to end up with that agency. To be dismayed or upset by the public sharing of something that was really already public, and the critiquing of something that was meant to be critiqued from conception seems counterproductive. If you're not ready to handle the public critique of one paragraph, are you ready to handle the public judgment of an entire work?

Oh hell yes, criticism hurts -- and if a writer doesn't get over it, they'll never live past the first negative review of their work on At least with an agent on #queryfail, the criticism you receive stands a chance of being useful (and coherent).

Now here's a challenge I'd like to see bloggers meet: post your OWN failed query letters. The ones that got your work rejected. Post them, take a deep breath, and show yourself you can survive the resulting comment critiques. Or, potentially, the total silence of indifference.

#queryfailing yourself is a good test of nerves; the more you test yourself, the more resistant your nerve ends will grow.

The Swivet said...


I try to wear Pampers on my head for just such occasions! =)

Actually, I totally respect Nathan, love his blog and think he did his best to reign in the crazy on that comment thread. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.

I read back through the whole #queryfail stream this evening and, aside from one agent who did break the rules that Lauren and I laid down at the beginning (no personal identifiers, no character/place names, no titles and paraphrase instead of direct quotes), I'm pleased with how it went.

We got so much positive feedback from writers that we'll probably host another #queryfail in late April. (Queryfail 2: Queries Never Die).

All the best,


Criss L. Cox said...

@talshannon: "the total silence of indifference" gave me chills! That IS scarier than snarky comments!

Editorial Anonymous said...

That was my impression, Colleen, but I'm new to twitter and wasn't sure I was able to read the whole thing.

I'm glad you'll keep it going.

And while I can't help agreeing it's a bad idea to be specific, the cat-hair potholder proposal was CLASSIC.

clindsay said...

The cat hair pot holder came with samples. I asked the editor involved if she called a Hazmat team to remove them. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Gee, clindsay, what comments were you reading? The ones I read on Nathan's pretty much skewered you. I get the feeling you like being the center of controversy.

Janet Reid denounced it. Nathan didn't participate for what I assume were the same reasons. Rachelle Gardener apologized on her blog and said she wouldn't use unsuspecting queries anymore. And you still think it's a swell idea?

I would hope you'd at least give those that query you the option of not participating. It just feels like a breach of trust. Writers weren't seeking to be mocked online but were sending you private communications concerning a book they'd probably spent a year writing.

There's nothing wrong with snark. Snarky comments are great if you sign up for them (Query Shark, or EA's own first pages clinic) but these people didn't sign on for that.

Yes, I'm posting as Anon, lest I become twitter fodder.

Criss L. Cox said...

The Internetz is so confusing!

So, it's okay to attack someone when YOU remain anonymous and the attacked party is clearly identified?

But when you identify yourself and post an anonymous example that's "mean" and unprofessional?

Golly gee, my poopy head hurts now.

Anonymous said...

Some people take all the fun out of being immature.

Anonymous said...

I guess to me the thing is I dont mind if *I* know the query being ripped apart is mine...that's part of the writing game...

but if I thought anyone ELSE would know that was me, I might get my feelings hurt...

sorry -- this was anonymous because googleid is STILL not recognising me...

Anonymous said...

erm and how do I GET to this mysterious #queryfail on twitter??

I signed up and joined twitter but can't work out how the heck to get to ANYTHING useful!


none said...

Just goes to show how much dislike of agents is simmering out there, waiting for a chance to be unleashed.

Anonymous said...

The most fascinating part of all this to me, in regard to Ms. Lindsey, is that she seems to fight for the rights of those who share her lifestyle (a lifestyle many believe to be punishable by death)yet she attacks vulnerable writers. You'd think someone of this nature would never do anything to hurt another person, especially a vulnerable person. Hey, Skinheads, when they kill those "breaking the rules," say their actions are for the better good. Hate is hate is hate is hate. And nothing that Queryfail did will turn any of those writers into published writers. In fact, Ms. Lindsey, on her blog when referring to another agent who was doing this very same thing, used the term "mocking writers". So very sad.... George W. Bush, when asked about the tragedy of the war, said it was his job to educate us . . . .

Criss L. Cox said...

Anon 3:07,
You disgust me.

Yes, you know what? That's what this is all about. It's about Colleen being gay.

Can you please explain to me exactly HOW you manage to draw any sort of parallel or similarity between #queryfail and the gay rights movement? Seriously, I need to know. I've always been sickly fascinated by how brains like yours work.

Being frustrated with lazy people who can't be bothered to read submission guidelines... denying a group of people basic rights of personhood, and (in the case of nutjobs like you) trying to kill them. Yeah, I really don't see the connection.

In fact, Ms. Lindsey, on her blog when referring to another agent who was doing this very same thing, used the term "mocking writers".

Uh... did you even read her blog? Or did you skin through quickly, lest you got gay cooties on you? Because I read her blog. And I have no idea what in 'tarnation you think you're talking about.

And nothing that Queryfail did will turn any of those writers into published writers.

It turned me into a better writer. And I'll bet many people will agree with me -- certainly more people that will agree with you that homosexuality is "a lifestyle many believe to be punishable by death."

Look, if you got your panties in a bunch over #queryfail, then express yourself intelligently and state your objections to it.

DO. NOT. bring your homophobic hate and idiocy into it.

(EA, sorry to bring the ugly to your blog. I know people like this don't generally think or listen, so I'm writing to a wall, but I also couldn't just sit here and say nothing.)

Editorial Anonymous said...

I totally missed the "lifestyle" comment.

Anonymous said...

Did someone seriously just compare having a 140-character query summary posted on the internet to being beaten to death for your sexuality?


Unknown said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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