Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bad Advice from a Bestselling Author

The Seattle Times ran a profile of James Rollins that had some well-intended but terrible advice:

Rollins advises writers to ignore directions to send a one-page query to agents summarizing their work (though that's exactly what many agents say to do, for fear of their mailboxes overflowing). Submit 50 pages of your book and a synopsis of the rest: "Agents already have a bevy of authors, their cash cows, so it's hard for them to break out of their apathy to represent a new author ... your writing should be breaking through that wall."

Obviously, you want to have some way of breaking through the agent/editor barrier. Ignoring their submission guidelines isn't the way. Put yourself in the agent's shoes. Would you want to work with someone who doesn't follow guidelines?

There's a chance you could really embarrass yourself doing this, too. When you're at work and someone breaks the rules, don't you notice and cringe?

Here's a better path:

- learn how to write a great query letter (Nathan Bransford has many posts on this topic)
- go to a conference ready to meet the faculty -- in other words, read their books, get to know their tastes, and have something interesting you can talk about
- keep working on your writing. Rollins does give good advice about reading and studying manuscripts for craft. If you aren't having other trusted writers critique your work, consider signing up for a critique group (find one here)

With persistence, you will break through. You might by breaking the rules. More likely, you will regret it later.

1 comment:

Joni said...

The idea that an "apathetic" agent would actually read your 50 pages he or she didn't ask for is unlikely, to say the least.

(I really just wanted to test our comments, though. The blog post spoke for itself.)