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July 13, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: A Kick In The Head(er)

Kate Hart
This week, YA Highway wants to know:  
What's the biggest writing / querying / publishing mistake you've made?

Well, the most embarrassing might be the time I introduced myself to agent Jill Corcoran in an elevator at SCBWI LA... while eating a quesadilla. Like a sandwich. For breakfast.

I had to switch hands really quickly so I could shake hers. Because I am classy.

But my biggest straight-up mistake? It happened during querying. This is a screenshot of the manuscript I sent to agents.

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Do you see it? Look more closely. No, it's not the profanity, and it's not the panties.

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Yep. I sent my fulls with "third draft" loud and proud in the header.

Here's a hint: Agents really don't want your drafts. They want your finished, polished, shiny product. And I didn't realize it was there until I saw "Put title on header justified all the way into the top right hand corner, taking out the draft number you currently have there" in the edit letter from my lovely agent Michelle.

This is word for word what I sent back: "Oh my god-- did I really send all my fulls with a draft number in the header?? aughghgh. FAIL." I wanted to email every single agent I had queried and tell them I wasn't an idiot and I really did revise more than three times, I just forgot to change the header and ...

I'm a little high strung. Poor Michelle. But she assured me that if they love something, "agents *do*not*care* about formatting snafus!!" And then distracted me with something else.

The moral of this story: Proofread EVERYTHING. Even your header. But if it's too late to fix? Don't stress.

Also, sign with someone willing to put up with your, um, quirks. And don't eat breakfast in conference elevators. 


Want to read more embarrassing stories?
Head over to YA Highway, check out the comments on today's post, and leave a link to your own!






19 comments:

  1. Well, at least you switched hands ;)

    Seriously though, it sounds like things worked out for you in the end. Although I've still made a mental note to proofread like my life depends on it. (Which I've not been known to do too often. At least not in my academic career.)

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  2. Hehe. Your elevator story sounds like ME. I don't have enough fingers and toes to count all my writing snafus, but I've learned from them (I think). And proofing? I'm neurotic now. It takes me twenty minutes to hit SEND on a query because I feel the need to check it ONE MORE TIME.

    Great stories. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Ooh, ouch! But it seemed to work out well in the end. ;)

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  4. LOL! That's not too horrible, but I think I would have freaked out, too!

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  5. Whoops! I'm sure your story shined through ^_^

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  6. Oh Kate! I think we've all done something like that :-) I spelled an agent's name wrong in my query letter. Realized it, wrote back to apologize, and spelled her name wrong AGAIN (though at least differently than the first time). And I love your exchange with Michelle here! Hehe.

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  7. Good one! It proves that agents who do get hung up on format are missing out on some good stuff!

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  8. I love the quesadilla story. LOL. You make a good point about proofing everything. Very good point.

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  9. Note that it didn't stop SEVEN agents from fighting over you :p

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  10. Okay the Bert Stare-style zoom in to your page made me laugh so hard. This is absolutely something I would do. GAH.

    And it's so much worse finding out you did something wrong a long time ago. Running through everyone that saw it, or what they thought, or what you did without knowing that they knew you made that mistake...

    Kind of like this one time (Tuesday) I was on the metro and the top button of my dress was undone and NO ONE FREAKING TOLD ME like they thought I was just some streetwalker who was interesting in showing the 5 o'clock commute my hot pink unders. HELP A LADY OUT PEOPLE.

    Um... that is all.
    ( <3 )

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  11. I sent out dozens and dozens of resumes once with [wait for it] the wrong phone number. And I wondered why I didn't get any calls.
    Lesson learned: PROOFREAD! :)

    P.S. They were for editing jobs, too.

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  12. Isn't it scary how often we stop "seeing" things when we've read them a million times?

    Yours is pretty classic, Kate, but the P.S. on Rebecca B's comment above mine made me laugh even harder.

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  13. I put the draft number as the title of a document instead of in the header...I should probably make a note to change that before I start querying.

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  14. Well on the plus side, you still got the agent. She sounds pretty amazing, too.

    I'm not at the querying stage yet, but I have made a giant mistake while applying for jobs before. I sent mine off with the wrong company name in my cover letter. I also had a not-so-minor panic attack afterward.

    PS. Rebecca, mine was for an editor position, too.

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  15. Funny stories! At least your header didn't say 1st draft. Glad it all worked out in the end.

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  16. Ay! That's not so bad, though. Maybe agents were thinking... wow, if this is only her third draft, she's amazing (which you are, of course ;)).

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  17. This is SO something I would do. Now I am filing it away in the list of things to check for before I send stuff out.

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  18. Oh noo. I'm glad it worked out in the end and you landed an agent anyway, but this is a great tip to remember!

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