Tuesday, November 03, 2009

argh pet peeve

Dear Agent,

Is this novel you're pitching me *really* "luminous"?

If it is, I simply don't want to read it. I've had it up to my neck with luminosity.

Is the prose "spare" and "elegant"? Or "achingly beautiful," told "with verve and heart"? Is it a "sweeping" saga of "untold passion"? (Wait, what does that even mean?)

If you have nothing but cliches to put in your query letter, how am I supposed to know there's anything new or different about your client's book? Wouldn't it be more useful to show me, briefly, how it's special?

I'll give your client the benefit of the doubt and read it despite your query letter. But really... luminous?

That's all for today.



PS any other bad book copy people want to have banned? Perhaps we should create an index.


Keetha said...

If I see "coming of age" story on the jacket I put the book down.

The Rejectionist said...


The Rejectionist said...

That said, we never want to hear the word "resonate" again as long as we live.

Laurel said...

This made me giggle.

Amalia T. said...

I'm not sure if it makes me feel better or worse to know that agents sometimes have trouble with the query stage too.

Dana King said...

Save this one. That luminosity could come in handy if you're reading and there's a power failure.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I've always had issues when something is described as 'gripping'. Please, make it stop. Please.

Diana said...

A sweeping saga of "untold" passion? Um, wouldn't it be a better if the story told it?

Personally, I am getting sick of vampires and werewolves in romance stories.

Nicola Morgan said...

"My research shows that there's a market for this book" - eg "because lots of people these days want to knit / grow lettuces / keep sheep in the back garden."

And I'm with Keetha on the coming of age novel.

"which will appeal to young and old alike" ?

Anonymous said...

never use the word romp unless describing a rumble between dogs.

Diana said...

I cringe whenever I see the words "tour de force" on a book jacket. Personally, I think the book jacket should be nothing more than a plot summary, and I just can't think of too many "tour de forces" in books.

Barb said...

A sweeping saga has always sounded like a lot of people with brooms.

JES said...


Oh, wait -- that's technically the same thing as "luminous," isn't it? Even so, it's better than what would have preceded it, pre-Edison: "gaseous."

This is already shaping up as one of your "Moonrat's Greatest Hits" posts.

Anonymous said...

"Lyrical." Everything is lyrical, it seems. ("Overwrought" might be a better adjective.)

JEM said...

I love it whenever people's lives are changed in a way that they'll never be the same.

I third the coming of age ban. Even if that's what the story is about, just don't say the phrase "coming of age story."

Christa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christa said...

So it isn't just authors that mess up on queries? Good to know!

Anonymous said...

“unimaginable peril” (try me, I can imagine just about everything) “threatening everything she loves” or “threatening the life she has worked so hard to build” (good!), “will change is life forever” or “life-changing experience” Those are some of my pet peeves. I think a list is a damn good idea. I also found it VERY interesting that agents include clich├ęs in their pitch/cover letters, when authors get crucified for doing the same

clindsay said...

"coming of age"

need i go on?

pacatrue said...

I'd rather not hear about anyone's body parts, most often the heart or the soul, being set on fire, unless actual fire is involved.

Gem said...

I really hate it when blurbs say something like "hilarious, laugh-out-loud comedy". Because they usually aren't that funny.

Maree Anderson said...

I'm with Christa: nice -- and rather terrifying! -- to know we aspiring authors aren't the only ones who suck the big kumara with queries, LOL.

I'm from NZ, BTW, and suck the big kumara is a Kiwi-ism. Mmmm. Can't imagine that one being over-used, so go for it!

Dear Exceptional Editor,

You should totally buy this book because it doesn't suck the big kumara. Really!

Amazing Agent

Yeah. That kinda works for me!


Pen said...

Haha, when I saw Maree had written "suck the kumara" the laughed out loud. OMG there's another kiwi in here. :D If it doesn't suck the kumara it has gotta be good!

Ulysses said...

Is this novel you're pitching me *really* "luminous"?

Actually, yes. The type was set in Radium, and we apologize in advance for any tumors that result.

Is the prose "spare" and "elegant"?

Yes, one illuminated word on each page.

Or "achingly beautiful,"

Yes. It resonates. Really. At a frequency so low that it causes tooth pain.

told "with verve and heart"?

Um. Sorta. Unfortunately, I misspelled "Verbs." On the other hand, I did dot all the i's and j's with little hearts.

Is it a "sweeping" saga

Yep. The pages are perfect for getting cookie crumbs off the desk.

of "untold passion"? (Wait, what does that even mean?)

Sorry, I can't tell you.

Kate said...

The Four-Theme Meme:

"An unforgettable story of love and [three more generic theme-y nouns]."


An unforgettable story of love and family, greed, and hardship.*

An unforgettable story of love and guilt, grief, and redemption.

An unforgettable story of love and
revenge, faith, and legacy.

*Actual sample blurb, with actual punctuation.

David said...

So I should print my manuscript on paper that doesn't glow in the dark? I was just trying to save your electricity with my luminous manuscript. The radioactivity is very low, I promise.

a cat of impossible colour said...


a cat of impossible colour said...

Hey, just noticed how many Kiwis there are in this comment thread - including me. Hi guys!

Mike Lindgren said...

"Compelling," unless it actually forces me to take a physical action. And must every thick biography be "magisterial"?

Nicola Griffith said...

"Supple and muscular prose" always makes me put the book back on the shelf. Makes it sound like a fish...

Becky Mushko said...

Anything that ensues after something else (possibly unrelated) happens: hilarity ensues, tragedy ensues, hi-jinx ensue, etc.

If the word hi-jinx is mentioned, whether it ensues or not.

Jemi Fraser said...

Okay - that was FUN!!

Maree Anderson said...

I'm just reading a book which is touted as "A thrilling and darkly erotic tale of betrayal, passion and redemption, ?? is a rich novel that will ensure the senses with lush prose...(etc)". And I gotta say, it totally lives up to all that!

This one definitely does not suck the big kumara. I guess sometimes you really can judge a book by its jacket, LOL.

BTW, big shout-out to all my fellow Kiwis! *waving from Auckland*

xensen said...

"Compelling" goes hand in hand with "luminous."

Anonymous said...


Truthfully, I would love someone to describe my writing as luminous. Even though I don't know what it means.

Jolie said...

I am sick of the word "fierce," especially in adverb form. Fiercely honest, fiercely protective. And if I see one more fierce hug in fiction ...!

magolla said...

Oh, man . . . this blog post AND your responses woke me up better than coffee could!
Don't have much to add, except "riveting".
To be rivetted to a book sounds painful and a new kind of torture.
--Good to know that agents suck at queries, too!

Margaret Yang said...

"facing his/her demons." Yeah, had enough of that.

GK said...

Ha, ha, as an agent assistant trying to write my first marketing pitch, I thank you for your timely letter. I shall keep that in mind. Frankly, I figure I should avoid using adjectives altogether. Obviously you don't need my opinion about the work, since my very sending you the pitch means I think it's pretty kick-ass. A straightforward summary of plot and characters (obviously brilliantly written *casual hair toss*) should do the trick. ...I hope.

Is luminous alright if one of the characters actually glows? ;)

Similarly, I don't want to read in any query that the main character is "battling/struggling with their inner demons" unless they are actually possessed.

Ethel said...

This applies more to non-fiction, but I'm tired of seeing mktg copy that promotes a book as "highly readable". I'm almost ready to start pitching books as "Too complex for any human being to understand", just for a change.

The Novelist said...

Best blog post comments I have seen in a long time! Keep it up!

ellewiegert said...

"Dark and witty"
"Dark and realistic"
"Dark and compelling"
"Dark and WHATEVER"

Ugh. I'm assuming that the "Dark" being referred to is the conflict the characters must face. Well great! But is it really dark? I mean, what does that even mean? Wouldn't it be nicer if we were told what was so dark about the conflict rather than being dumped with the "well, duh" knowledge that conflict isn't usually luminous?

Tara said...

I love this. An index would be fabulous, by the way...

Cakespy said...

This post was absolutely...luminous. OK, someone had to say it! ;-)