Friday, March 30, 2012

It's Not Rocket Science—Just Read the Directions!

I had this experience in elementary school, and I bet some of you did, too (then, or at some other point in your life). My teacher passed out a quiz/assignment. The first thing it said was, "Read everything before doing anything." It then proceeded to list a number of random tasks, from writing your favorite color in the right margin to hopping around the room on one foot.

The very last item said, "Write your name at the top of the paper and do none of the items listed here."

A good chunk of the class got through some of the sillier tasks before catching on.

Okay, that was third grade or something. Kids are still learning that whole follow-directions concept, right? By the time we're adults, it's a no-brainer, right?

Not right.

I see it with my teenage students. Student: "What am I supposed to do for #13?" Me: "What do the directions say?" Student: "Umm ..." Me: "Maybe you should read them, huh?"

But teenagers aren't adults yet, right? By the time we're old enough to legally drink, smoke, and otherwise shorten our lifespan, we know better, right?

Still not right.

If you follow agent @SaraMegibow on Twitter, you've probably seen her weekly #10queriesin10tweets. She goes through ten random queries in her inbox and tweets whether she's passing on it or requesting, and a quick reason why.

Guess what one of the most common reasons for a pass is? Wrong genre. You can find Ms. Megibow's fair-game genres easily, on AgentQuery, QueryTracker, the agency's website, or her page on Publishers Marketplace.

Yet people still query her with thrillers and non-fiction and who-knows-what-else.

Want to look smart? Be one of the few who doesn't go hopping around the room on one foot. We'll have plenty of time to make ourselves look like idiots later, in slightly more intelligent ways. (Yes, let's aspire to be intelligent idiots.)

What directions do you find people not reading when they really ought to know better? Want to confess to your own "shoulda paid more attention" faux pas?


Tracy N. Jorgensen said...

Any of this inspired by our conversation last night?

R.C. Lewis said...

Ha! No. This blog post was written before our conversation. It actually was inspired by how many times I saw "wrong genre" in Sara Megibow's #10queriesin10tweets.

E.B. Black said...

I've heard this a ton of times, but querying for the right genre isn't as easy as it sounds. First of all, some of us have written books that can loosely fit into several genres. Secondly, sometimes we're not sure of our own genre or the genre's listed aren't specific enough to tell us if our book fits into those categories. Thirdly, I've been to a lot of agents sites and for all the complaining they do about books being in the wrong genre for them, they rarely actually list on their own site what genres they want to see. I've gone searching for long periods of time before and found no information on their sites.