Thursday, August 26, 2010

Constructive Criticism or Unbecoming Conduct?

Literary agent Nathan Bransford started an interesting discussion yesterday about web sites that poke fun at writers' queries.  For those of you unfamiliar with queries, a query is a short letter to agents and editors that "pitches" a book.  It's an attempt by a writer to get an agent/editor to read his novel and, ultimately, offer representation. 

There's a definite art to writing an effective query, and I'll save that discussion for a later day.  However, there are lots of web sites out there that use queries to teach new writers how to pitch their books.  Some of the web sites from literary agents, editors, and even other published and unpublished writers offer constructive, helpful criticism; others are just plain cruel.

I've always believed that those web sites that make fun of queries are just plain tacky.  I tend to ignore them.  What do you think?

13 comments:

Kristabel Reed said...

I don't believe I've seen one personally, but I have heard of them. Aren't they a what not to do post?

On the one hand, I like knowing what I shouldn't be doing. But on the other, if that were me up there, I'd be mortified and may never send a query out again! (Which may be the point.)

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Kristabel - long time no see!

Yeah, it's sort of a "What Not to Wear" for writers. If it's posted with the writer's permission, that might be one thing, but when it's posted and then skewered in a cruel way, I think that's a bit much.

Susanna said...

I'm tired of easy shots at writers. Constructive, useful, compassionate criticism is fine, but some like to use to the work of others for their own comedic and egotistical purposes.

Liz Fichera said...

Susanna,

I agree. And when people behave that way, IMO, it's usually a sign of insecurity too.

Kristabel Reed said...

I'm really bad at balancing! Considering all 1 story I have published so far is e-pub, you'd think I'd be better at promoting, but it's a bit overwhelming and blogging seems to be the only thing I can do on a very irregular basis. Trying to catch up on old posts now. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Bloggers who ridicule queries are bored and tired of the same mistakes so they liven things up by insulting the query and/or writer.

Assume the query writer didn't know any better and educate him. There's no need to get ugly.

That sort of snark says more about the blogger than it does about the query letter.

Liz Fichera said...

Maria, well said. I think it all goes back to the blogger's own insecurities. It certainly doesn't paint a pretty picture.

Joanna St. James said...

ha ha (nervous laughter) if that ever happened to me, I would crawl away and hide out for a while. That is just evil provided the letter writers have not given their consent.

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Joanna, so nice to meet you here!

Yes, could you imagine opening up a web site or blog and finding your query staring back at you?! With lots of jokes all over it? Granted, writers do get pretty thick-skinned but, still, that would be pretty hard-core.

Vegetarian Cannibal said...

I've never seen anything like this either. But I don't necessarily disagree so long as they're not ripping the query writer to shreds.

I've actually never written a query letter and I've been trolling the internet for a suitable list of what and what not to do. For new writers like me, something like that could be useful.

But making fun of the author is just mean. Constructive criticism (a little snark, not insulting) would be nice, methinks. But I haven't seen this website, so I don't know.

Liz Fichera said...

VG,

And that's where the line is drawn, I believe, between offering help and making fun. Good luck with your queries!

eleristone said...

When I was trying to figure out how to write queries I came across a few of these and even though some made me cringe in sympathy for the writer, I did find some of the advice helpful too. You can usually tell by the tone who's posting to be helpful and who's using it for a cheap laugh. Would hate to see one of my own up there!

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Eleri!

Yes, wouldn't that be awful?! To see your query on display?