Please Don’t Kill Me

I hang out with several military people on twitter as well as knowing many of them personally. Sometimes the stories are funny and sometimes they are sad, but they are always interesting.

Will talked about an experience in Iraq. He was a weapons expert, so he did a lot of repairs even though they had civilian contractors to do the job. The civilians often didn’t know how to fix one or were so slow it didn’t do the soldiers much good as they had missions and couldn’t wait.

One day he was told to go to the special ops section and pick up some weapons that needed work. He, like most of the soldiers, gave the spec op guys a wide berth. The spec ops looked no different than many natives. They sometimes walked or rode through the gate looking like they had just come in from a tribe, wearing full beards and native dress.

Will went over to the spec op area to pick up the weapons. A sergeant stopped him and asked him what he was doing there. Will told him and the sergeant ordered him to wait right there and not move. He did. He didn’t move a muscle from that spot.

Another sergeant came by and asked him what he’s doing there. Will told him and the man told him he knew what he needed and to follow him. Will explained he was supposed to wait there.

“Never mind, come with me and we’ll get the weapons.”

Will reluctantly followed him and the first sergeant saw him there. “What are you doing here? I thought I told you to wait?”

“Sergeant Holman told me to come over here.” Please don’t kill me.

Fortunately, Sgt. Holman verified he told him to come in and get the weapons.

That incident came to mind the other night when I was thinking about agents.

I Twitter, probably too much, but it takes my mind off things and I enjoy most of the conversations. I even learn things every now and then

Occasionally, an #askagent session breaks out and agents will take questions from authors with the caveat they don’t want to talk about queries, word counts or trends.

There are also the tidbits tossed out while going through queries talking about what does and doesn’t work in a query. One session even resulted in an agent inviting some people to submit queries to her via email even though the agency hadn’t started accepting email queries officially yet.

(Note, never pitch your work through a social media. Always use the accepted and professional route. If an agent offers without you prompting it, just accept the invitation and politely thank them. I’ve had two invitations through twitter, but I’m guessing agents can sense when a person interacts with them because they are interested in the agent as a person and when the person is just trying to fawn over them. We’ll go into this more fully another time.)

Following publishing professionals is good and bad. If a person is alert, they can make notes about what an agent’s preferences are. On the other hand, it reminds me that there is far more going on than just what is available in their published submission guidelines. You know the agent is looking for certain genres, what they want in a submission package and even margin and font preference.

What you don’t learn is more specific things like if they like a personal blurb about why the author is contacting them. If they like that, where do they want it in the query letter? Some agents have very strong feelings about where they want the genre and word count. Some agents want all that information at the bottom. They want you to jump immediately into the meat of the query. Don’t slow them down with the other stuff. Others are so adamant about wanting these things at the top they may get excited when the author puts it at the top. As one agent said, s/he thought authors were trying to be cute by putting the word count and genre at the bottom.

No, several workshops and agents say to put them at the bottom. If an agent doesn’t state how they prefer some information, writers don’t know unless they happen to stumble across it. This is why it’s probably a good idea to follow an agent’s blog, twitters, Facebook or whatever social media they participate in. You pick up things you might not have known otherwise.

I’ve always felt many creative people are in various stages of insanity. They are either going insane, basking in insanity or recovering from insanity.

Part of the reason might be we are constantly second guessing what we’re supposed to do. Even if we look at all the guides and Google the agent to a fare-thee-well until it could be proven in court we have enough information on them to be considered a stalker, we still don’t know where they want the blooming word count.

In the end, I think all a person can do is make due effort to find out what the agent wants and be professional about the areas where there is no expressed preference.

Then, just whisper, “Please don’t kill me,” and press send.


  1. Then we headdesk when agents say things like “Don’t stress about where to put the word count, make sure your hook is good!”

    This is why authors are insane. 🙂

    (well, one reason.)

  2. Well, seriously, if you just follow the submission guidelines you are way ahead of the game. If the agent doesn’t address something specifically, just be professional.

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