Monday, July 14, 2014

Querying Is Like Applying For a Job - You only apply if you are qualified

I saw a blurb last week about query letters. The writer essentially made the comment that you should just send those queries out and just see what happens. They went on to say that it is even fine to send out those queries to agents that might not even represent your work because they would always look at a great piece of writing. The over-all implied message was to get those query letters to as many people as possible and don't worry if it isn't a match. 

Personally, this author was wrong.

First of all, remember that sending out query letters is the exact same as applying for a job. If I want to find a new employer, I don't just take my resume, run up to the copy center and make 100 copies and start mailing the resumes out to the first 100 jobs I find in the classified ads. I don't just go to those job search engines, or the "job app" in many of the social media sites such as LinkedIn and start sending it to every job that opened recently. This is a complete waste of time, energy and money. Along the same lines, you are now wasting the time of the person on the other end who, has to read this drivel you just sent. Sure, they may delete it quickly but it still took up time to determine the person was applying for something they weren't qualified for.

I did a quick search to see what the "business professionals" said about applying for jobs you weren't qualified for and there was an interesting pattern. There were numerous places that said it was OK. to apply but (and here was the catch), every one of the examples they provided showed you at least had "some" experience in the field. For example, one article used the example of applying for a position if a job description said you needed 10 years of experience and you only had 5". Another used the example of a company that wanted someone with experience with one piece of software but you had experience in another program that was similar. The key here is that you are qualified for the job, but just might not have all of the requirements. 

What I did notice is that not one of these sites promoted the idea of just applying for everything out there disregarding the qualifications. The key was to match your skills with that of the employer. Look, I may use Microsoft Office software. I might know how to do some html work when it comes to my website, but this does not make me a programmer and I certainly would never apply for a position with a company that wants this type of a candidate. And I certainly wouldn't apply with the attitude that said, "What is the worst that can happen? The company will just say no." This behavior is far from professional. As I said earlier, this is a waste of time and energy, not just for you, but for the company who has to deal with this haphazard approach.

As an agent, I don't mind reading queries and responding if the author thinks their project is close to what I am looking for. Like the example earlier, I might want someone with 10 years of experience and you only have 5. You're close and let's work with that. But, I do have to say, I have grown increasingly frustrated lately with so many people out there who seem to think that you can do anything you want to out there and it doesn't matter. Publishing is a professional business and we need to treat it as such.

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