Monday, April 19, 2010

More Query Don'ts

Happy Monday! This weekend was gorgeous and sunny without being too hot, and we spent Sunday at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. We'd never taken the whippersnapper before, so it was a new one to him. He loved it. He especially loved the trolleys that frequently passed by, and the garbage truck we saw, and also the firetruck that went blazing down the street. Life is so simple when you're a small boy.

Right then! More query don'ts! (I posted 5 do's and don'ts before here.) The other morning I got this in my e-mail inbox at work:

Good morning,
Due to a series of unfortunate events, [Major California College]'s 2010 [industry] Career Fair has been cancelled. Apologies to the companies and organizations that have already registered and made plans to attend. Please look for invitations to next year's [Fair]in early 2011. If you have any questions or concerns please email me.
(Frank isn't really the name.)

Now, I don't know about you, but I had a few thoughts about this:

1. Pretty unprofessional to inform companies that had already committed time and money (because participating in these things takes a crap load of time and money, even if it's just a table top). "Apologies" doesn't cut it. "Please accept my apologies at canceling and please contact me for more information about refunds" would have been much better.

2. "Due to a series of unfortunate events." Are we living in a Lemony Snicket novel? What on earth happened? I know, right, you don't even need to tell me. An alien mother ship landed SMACK in the middle of the exhibit hall and my GOD those little octopus buggers could NOT be caught. A few are still loose, and that isn't even the half of it. They got into the heating ducts and a few died, and the smell was atrocious and of course it was piped into all the administrative buildings. The career fair staff smelled it, and promptly began vomiting everywhere. They couldn't get three feet without vomiting, and I'm talking pea soup exorcist projectile here. What a clean up job! Fortunatley, there's janitors -- oh cripes, not anymore! Cause the alien ship landed right on them as they were having their morning see how this domino effect has led us to cancel the Career Fair, yes? Yes?

3. This email was basically spammed to me. There's no way to tell if my company was actually exhibiting at this event. I choose to believe no, since I can't remember signing up for it. Nonetheless, that smacks of a) sending it to the wrong list and b) being too vague.
In case you don't see where I'm going with this, you want to make sure all your professional correspondence, particularly that surrounding your query letter, adheres to some basic courtesies:

Don't assume things
Ranging from wanting to read your work to representing you, to the fact that the agent remembers anything to do with prior correspondence or having met you.

Don't use cliches, book titles as sentences, or vague and rather dramatic statements (unless as part of your book pitch).

Make it EASY to contact you
Don't make them search. In the case above, if we had been an exhibitor, I would have had to spend time finding the name and number of the person in charge, who may or may not be the same person who e-mailed despite their invitation to respond with questions by e-mail. And in any case, what if I'd gotten the e-mail on my phone? I hate responding via e-mail on my phone! These are all small quibbles. Just cover all bases and put all methods of contact.

Do not spam the agent/editor!
Again, it doesn't speak highly of the college to have sent me the notice when we hadn't signed up for the Career Fair and had no intention of attending, so obviously they spammed their entire contact database. Don't do that.

You all know these things already, of course. Just using a little real-life example to help point these things out.


Anastasia said...

This is important also for everyday life. I think children need to be taught appropriate email etiquette in a professional setting. I have one more suggestion. Always use spell check!

Tina Lynn said...

Thank you in advance for a most awesome query letter that I have yet to write. But it should be amazing, since you've given me so much advice:)

Simon C. Larter said...

I sent that e-mail. While you were distracted with crafting this blog post, I was further eroding your support base. Mission accomplished.

Travener said...

Good advice. Ah, Fisherman's Wharf. I miss California sometimes. Were the seals lolling about?

JEM said...

I was thinking the same thing about Lemony Snicket! Brilliant.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Great tips and I loved your alien story, lol. I used to be a recruiter, this would have highly ticked me off to have a whole job fair cancelled with no valid explanation.

Julie Dao said...

So awesome and very good advice that I'll keep in mind. I hate vague spam emails. Every company should have a talented announcement writer to send things of that nature out there.

DL Hammons said...

When the time comes...I'm going to hire you to write my query!!!

Sierra Godfrey said...

Anastasia – couldn’t agree more about teaching children email etiquette, plus phone etiquette. Can’t count the number of times that a kid’s gone “Who’s this?” when calling ME.

Tina – ha ha, I wish. I’m glad you find this useful.

Nemesis – nothing accomplished, I'm afraid, but A for effort. :)

Trav – The sea lions (not seals) were indeed lolling about. We had a good time watching them.

JEM - :)

Roni – Aha, see. It’s a big thing to cancel a job fair, right? Especially when you’re a company who really wants to be there!

Julie – A talented announcement writer…well…that’s only as good as a company’s policies on spam, unfortunately.

Don – No probs, I charge a modest fee of $500 per query :)


Thanks for the tips! Well said! Amazing how much we need others to help us! And thank God we have those resources.

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