I'm going to rant a little bit, and I suspect for many of my friends who read this blog, I'm preaching to the choir...but here we go. I get tired of living in a half-assed world. So many people out there are willing to do the absolute least amount of work and then gripe about not being successful or about the horribly mean people willing to point out that they are half-assers. I see it EVERY day at school. Some students do little to nothing and wonder why they are failing. After determining that it couldn't possibly be their fault, they blame the teacher or the system. Even worse, their parents often support them in this attitude.
This isn't new in my day job, but what set me off was evidence of this same trend in the second career I am fostering. As you know, I've written a novel I am shopping around to agents. In the publishing world this is known as querying. There is a process involved, and if you do your homework, the steps in the process are readily available to anyone interested. On Thursday, one of the agents I've queried hosted an event called #queryfail on Twitter. Several literary agents and editors posted failed queries live as they read and responded to them. They did not identify authors or titles, just bits and pieces of the query that made it clear why the author was not being asked for more. Sometimes the idea was just wrong. I remember one about a relationship based on mutual vomiting practices. Ugh...don't expect to see this in your local bookstore anytime soon. But most of the time, the query failed because of someone being half-assed about their query letter. They didn't follow clearly posted submission guidelines. They queried a genre the agent explicitly states she doesn't rep. They didn't hit spellcheck or edit for nuts and bolts errors in their letter. STUPID stuff...easily fixed stuff...stuff that keeps the agent from even considering asking for your manuscript.
Yesterday, another agent posted a blog in which he commented about his lack of participation in #queryfail. In what I can only attribute as a monumental suck-up to this agent, a long list of comments ensued lamblasting the agent who hosted queryfail (and the 8 or 10 others who participated) for her "lack of professionalism" and "snarkiness."
GIVE ME A FLIPPIN BREAK, PEOPLE!!! If you don't want to be called out for being a half-asser, then DON'T BE A HALF-ASSER! Why do we put our arms around these people and coddle them when they didn't do the work necessary to be successful? One commentor said, "It takes just as much effort to write a bad novel as a good one." Really? Really??? I don't think so, but just for kicks and giggles, let's say that's true. The author tried hard, and we should reward that. Anyone out there ever read Kurt Vonnegut's short story, "Harrison Bergeron?" It's about a world that has completely lowered the bar so that no one fails or feels bad about failing. It's enough that people tried hard, so let's reward them. Are you willing to take that attitude about your surgeon? Your airline pilot? Your kid's teacher? I hope not.
It's not mean to point out that someone did a half-assed job. If you really care about the person, it's necessary to help them succeed. In the business world (and publishing is most definitely a business), then it's instructive to the rest of us to see what not to do. My query letter isn't perfect, and I'm still honing it. I want to be published, so I'm meticulously doing my research on each agent I query. What do they rep? What are their submission guidelines? I don't feel sorry for the half-assers. I'm glad I have a leg up on them.