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Writing - For any value of X...

... X is one less than is required :-).

Perhaps I should explain.

For Jones at the back – wake him up, Spencer – a Query is the letter you send to an Agent or publisher to try to interest them in representing or publishing your work of genius. It’s a one page letter that tries to hide a razor sharp hook tipped with dynamite in about 250 words or so.

Anyway, some time ago I sent a Query for one of my books to an Agent. Well, more accurately another Agent. The book was undergoing the round of echoing silences and form rejections that is Query time. I don't intend that as a negative comment in any way, either on the book or Agents. It is but the nature of the beast. However, it is also where I came in. So I'll say it again.

For any value of X, X is one less than is required.

Yes, I'll even add the :-).

So here's what happened. I have a Query letter for each book I send out into the colrd, hard world, or at least a template. It's a template, and I know it's a template. So it needs editing before sending to customise it for the Agent in question. Things like the salutation and the close. So I did my careful edits and I added the relevant submission content. Well, I added my interpretation of the submission content - but that's another story for another day :-). And I read the submission in its entirety, including the Query letter, and I read it again, and I read it again. And I caught an error, and I corrected it, and I read it again, and I read it again. And all was well, and I hit send.

Then I read it again :-). Er - huh? Well, yes. Because my habit with such things is to send them to me first - Just in Case. And when it came in, I read it again. And, believe it or not, all was fine! So it was time to send it to the Agent in question. However, as with many mail systems, if I just forwarded the message I'd sent to me then every line would be 'quoted' by adding a '> ' to the beginning of the line. And that wouldn't be very professional, right? Not that I'm professional. I think you have to actually get paid for the thing you're doing before that's true :-).

Anyway, it wasn't a big deal. I had the material I'd cut and pasted from in front of me. I repeated the cut and paste, remembered the error I'd found, modified it in the template, modified it in the email I was about to send, read it again to check it, and hit send. Yay!

Not yay.

When I send Queries, I always copy me on the send. So I can see what is supposed to get to the other end. And if you've been following carefully, then you're probably ahead of me. Of course, if you’re ahead of me, you’re not following me. But… oh, never mind :-).

See, the template starts with:

‘(Dear? ) (Insert name here. If I can’t get a name then I don’t know enough to submit)’

It's big. It's glaring. It's nasty. Deliberately, so I don't miss changing it. But I was so focused on making sure I took care of that little error I'd found…Yes. I missed it. I didn’t change that Great Big Glaring Error™. So that's what the Agent got. A Query that began that way. The very first thing they read was something so likely to be so lacking in - OK, I'll use the term - professionalism, I'll be lucky if they read another single word. Yes, I sent them an immediate apology and amendment. But there isn't an Agent on the planet who doesn't have more to read than time to read in. And if, more likely when, they stop reading at that salutation, the only one to blame - is me.

By my count, I read and 'checked' that query submission at least seven times. It should have been eight :-(.

I'll say it again, again. For any value of X, X is one less than is required. And when, not _if_ we mess up, when we do, it's our fault. Just ours.

Or you can blame me. I am, after all, married and thus used to it :-))).

There. For for today I'll claim Segorian's title. I'm an Idiot :-).

So what things have you done for which X was one less than was really required? Go on. Be brave. I won’t tell anyone :-).


Tricia Linden's picture

Dude, if you've only done this 'idiot' mistake once, then you haven't lived. You have no complaints. I must have made similar mistakes at least two, maybe even three times in my half-century lifetime. Bully for you. LOL with your blog. Enjoy always, T

Graeme's picture

Lady Tricia :-).

Many are the mistakes I have made (I am male, after all :-P). Chose the wrong grand-parents, for a start. So I'm not one of the idle rich and have to work for a living :-).

My thanks for the comment!

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