Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Querying from the other side of the desk

Parents often tell their children to put themselves in someone else's shoes before judging.

After the Query Fail and Agent Fail debates of the last few weeks, one agent is giving writers a watered down opportunity to do just that by becoming literary agents for a day.

I've mentioned Nathan Bransford's blog before because it's an incredible resource for writers, but this week, he's running a contest in which simply participating is enough of a reward. The Curtis Brown agent said he gets 50 query letters each day (for the non-writers who read this blog, queries are the letters writers send en masse to agents in hopes one will say, "Ooh, I love this idea. Send me some pages.").

Yesterday, Nathan posted 50 queries randomly throughout the day, and his blog readers then had the opportunity to be an Agent for a Day (although it's called Agent for a Day, Nathan's giving participants until Saturday to read and critique all queries). Upon reading the queries, the "agents" have the option to: reject the letter outright, reject the letter with a personal note, or ask the writer to send pages for further consideration.

The catch is participants can only request pages from five writers.

It might sound silly, but I haven't had so much fun pretending since I was a kid.

The experience has been incredibly enlightening. My respect for agents has grown exponentially, which I anticipate may have been Nathan's secret plan (I envision him behind his desk cackling lik Dr. Evil with his pinky to the corner of his mouth). The fact is, it's painful to read query after query after query after...you get the idea, especially when you have no interest in the project. What's harder is trying to let the writers down lightly, a task some "agents" had no interest in attempting.

If you take a peek into the comments section for any of the queries, you'll see what I'm talking about. It can be brutal.

In any case, if you're a writer (or even if you're not), I urge you to go to the blog and at the very least take a look around. It takes time to read and respond to 50 queries, but choose a couple and give it a go. I suspect it will be kind of like opening a tube of pickle-flavored Pringles - once you pop, you can't stop.

April Marathon Update: I've been losing steam the last few days. I took a break from the marathon to finish revisions on The Diner on Third, but I have a plan to get back into the race. Word count: 15,500

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