Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Query Blasting: The Scattergun Approach

There are all sorts of organisations out there which will, for a fee, send your query to agents or editors, or your press release to newspapers, TV stations and the like. They usually do what they promise, and e-mail your information out to all the names on their mailing lists—and those lists can be vast, with tens of thousands of names on them. But what is the usual outcome of such a scattergun approach?

Well, first, you pay for their services. Then they send out your information (and if they've written your press release or query letter for you, they'll have charged you extra for this and will probably have written a formulaic, template-based piece which will have a very limited effect); and then—nothing.

You're unlikely to see good results, or to even make back the money that you paid them. Because the queries that they send out on your behalf will be generic, one-size-fits-all; they're not going to be personalised, addressed to individual people, or even targeted to appropriate agents or editors who represent your genre; and the press releases will go out to all their media contacts regardless of whether you're promoting a book about train-spotting in 1920s Sweden or a contemporary romance novel with an S&M twist.

Let me remind you: each time you send anything out, you have to target the right people. If you had a problem with your phone bill, you wouldn't just write to every person in every phone company you could find, would you? Regardless of what country you, or they, are in? No. You'd write to the customer services department of your phone provider, and tell them exactly what the problem is. It's the same with queries, submissions, media packs, press releases, and review copies. You must send them to the right people, otherwise the whole exercise is a pointless waste of everyone's time and money.

10 comments:

Paul Lamb said...

As with most writing, there are conventions for writing press releases: certain types of headers, certain information in certain orders, even a certain consistent look to them. When I was working for a small publishing house we attended a conference hosted by a major newspaper chain. I was concerned that our press releases were getting ignored because we made ours look and sound quite different from the generic. The public relations man for the newspaper chain practically fell on his knees to thank us for creating interesting, outside-the-box press releases. He said he remembered ours specifically and said their nonstandard appearance made them stand out and get his attention.

I think that is similar to what you say about generic query letters pumped out by a third party. They will be quickly recognized and just as quickly ignored. The query must bear the stamp of the writer.

Jane Smith said...

Exactly, Paul.

Anyone would think that you knew what you were doing...!

Paul Lamb said...

Well, let's not go that far!

Jim MacKrell said...

A good rule of thumb is; If it entails the writer being hands off, chances are really good it won't work. I love the old adage, "If it's going to be, then it's up to me."

Lauri Shaw said...

Jane, email me and I'll send you THAT LETTER if no one has yet.

Jane Smith said...

Jim, you're spot-on. Thanks.

(Lauri, I've just received my fourth copy of it, thank you! And for anyone else reading this--don't worry, it has nothing to do with the subject we're meant to be discussing here, we've just become a little distracted. Carry on as normal without us.)

Sally Zigmond said...

Boo hoo. I feel all left out. But then I always was an over-sensitive little soul.

Jean said...

I saw an advert for one of these book promotion companies recently. They charge £396 for their services. Among other wonderful things they will do for an author, it says 'Professional book review created'. Surely a book review has to be by someone who has read the book and gives their honest comments on it. If you pay someone to 'create' a review, what if they don't like the book? I would steer well clear of these organisations even if I did have enough money to throw down the drain.

Jane Smith said...

I think it must be "send out all the emails" week at Bostick Communications: after a couple of weeks or so of hearing nothing from them, on Monday of this week I got two emails from them, on Tuesday four or five, and yesterday a few more. All the emails are press releases for new, self-published or vanity-published books. I'm not interested. It's not going to help the authors sell their books at all. And yet the authors are paying for these emails to be sent.

Eugh.

Jane Smith said...

Apologies for the comment-spam which appeared here just now: I've deleted it, and have switched on the comment moderation feature in an attempt to stop it happening again.