Friday, April 21, 2006


STATUS: Slightly frantic. I have to leave for Colorado Springs in one hour for the Pikes Peak conference. Have I packed yet? Nope. Must blog first! Priorities, right?

What song is playing on the iPod right now? STONE WOMAN by Bryan Ferry
(the sexiest voice on the planet in my humble opinion)

One of the great things about this blog is that it ends up inspiring other agents to come out and play (translation: rant) as well.

Yesterday, I got an email from Dan Lazar at Writers House, a blog reader and fan (hey, I’m constantly amazed at who’s reading this page), and he asked so nicely that I bring this interesting email query trend to everyone’s attention because it’s driving him crazy. I’ve been getting them too and I have to say they are highly annoying. I’ve convinced him to guest blog because I couldn’t have said it better.

Personally, I think the readers of my blog are way too savvy for anything this amateur but hey, fair warning to all you clueless queriers who might not realize your “form” email queries are getting deleted or generating automatic NOs.

So now, without further ado, I give you Dan Lazar at is ranting best:

Ms. Nelson,

I thought you might want to see a 300-word literary rant that's available for representation and posting on your blog.


"Small-town literary agent Dan Lazar has a problem. He’s happily inundated with query letters by mail and email; he reads each one with loving care and attention. But recently he’s received a host of similarly formatted email. They all open with a casual and offhanded, “Oh, I thought you’d want a shot at this available property,” as if the writer of the letter was an old friend breezing through town, catching up, and – oh yes! – here’s a project you should look at.

The title follows this opening, in caps, surrounded by stars before and after the name. Then the authors launch into a very generic, very “Hollwood” quick pitch. Which means they all sound the same, with no voice, nothing unique that makes them stand out from the crush of other (authentic) letters.

The final paragraph is usually a third person blurb about “the author's experience”—referring to the author in third person, as if he or she is too busy attending literary galas for their latest memoir to be bothered by anything as silly as writing their own query letters. Pshaw. These presumptive and overly-familiar letters are driving me nutty; and I’ve been talking to more and more fellow agents who feel the same way. Authors, we’re eager to hear from you. But some of you are just shooting yourselves in the foot.

Finally, the best (read: worst) part of these letters are the same rushed, assuming closings, which read:

“Should I send it off to you now and do you like hard copy or by email?” or “How shall I get this to you, email or hardcopy to the address below?”

Dan Lazar

p.s. Thanks for passing this along. I wanted to get the word out, and frankly, I’ve also been told I’m at my most charming when I’m most self-righteous.

p.p.s. I just figured out why I'm single.

Okay, couldn't resist adding this after Dan asked me to add the pps. Doesn't this just make you want to pinch Dan? I think I need to post his pic so maybe we can line up some dates in New York City for him. Little did he know that matchmaking is my second favorite thing to do beyond agenting. I'm good at it to. I can boast three marriages from my set-ups.