For the past couple of months, I’ve taken a few tentative dips into the boiling acid oceans of literary agent querying. If I’m being honest though, it’s really more the equivalent of French-kissing a dementor and may very well be the reason boxed wine was invented in the first place. Unfortunately for me and my enormous hydrogen-filled ego, I haven’t even gotten into the meat of it yet, querying agents is just the first bit. Apparently, it gets a hell of a lot harder – the book still has to be picked up by a publisher! In any case, even from this point, I’ve still managed to collect a few observations.
First off, over the past couple of months I’ve spent all of what would normally be my writing time on rewriting synopsis, query letters, and researching agents. The ‘best’ advice I’ve received on this process is keep at it, someone will eventually be interested. In the mean time, keep writing. – What? Keep writing? With what time am I going to do this?!
Second, don’t ever tell a writer this: ‘Even J.K. Rowling was rejected 3.75 million times before finally getting published.’ THIS is supposed to make me feel better? The one thing I know for a fact about my book is that it’s not the next Harry Potter. If it practically took an act of god to get Harry Potter into print, there really isn’t any hope for me.
When I started this process, I loved Wine Bottles and Broomsticks. I enjoyed the characters, the writing of it didn’t take much time at all (comparatively), and I was chomping at the bit to start a sequel. It’s literally been a couple months and I’m starting to really hate the book. Not because I suddenly think it sucks (which it probably does by the way. See fig A.). No, it’s more like having been savagely attacked and left for dead by a beloved pet. The reason for this is that for each hand-crafted form rejection that comes through within minutes of having sent out the query, I am forced to face the real possibility that what I’ve written falls into one of a few categories:
- This work is brilliant and nobody can see it
- This book sucks
- Nobody will ever buy this book
- There is not, nor will there ever be a market for this story
- I’m a terrible writer and should spend more time playing video games and programming
On the whole, the last category might be the easiest for me to take because I like programming and playing video games. Perhaps not as much as writing, but I will never be querying an agent for how well I cleared that dungeon.
Yet another observation is that many agents ask for a bio and past writing accomplishments. I don’t have any previous writing accomplishments. Loads of past writing, but nothing that could be called an accomplishment. As for the bio, someone very kindly informed me that the bio is more about you as a person, rather than your writing-specific experience. I tend to think this is, at best overly optimistic thinking, and at worst the equivalent of telling me that even J.K. Rowling was rejected so many times she had to be reincarnated before she could get published. Publishing is a business. What they want to know is: Will this book sell? and are you the sort of person to participate? My lovely bio is excellent for research or might be an asset if I were writing books about Alaska. I can not, however, bring myself to believe that it is helpful to point out that I have more hobbies than a craft-store and once seriously investigated cooperage as a hobby because it sounded interesting. As a hiring manager for a number of years, I didn’t care that much about someone’s history unless it told me something specific about how they were going to do the job. I’m (obviously) not an expert at publishing, but when it comes to business and making money, irrelevant skills are actually a huge distraction that tend to gloss over the fact that the applicant has no relevant skills. On the whole, I think my distinct lack of writing accomplishments seem to cover that ground pretty well. So, with all of that non-accomplishment burning a hole in my back pocket staring at an agent profile requesting a query letter, the first 7 ½ pages, a bio, and all past accomplishments along with the advisement that she only takes best-sellers, I’m really not super-motivated to continue.
So now, where does this leave me? We all know there’s a fine line between stupidity and stubbornness, though really it’s less of a line and more the phrase “well that didn’t go as expected” written in blood. As I haven’t discovered that point just yet (I think) and I haven’t yet spent half the life-age of the universe querying, I suppose I need to keep on it. Some folks say they get advice from agents, I have yet to get more than silence & form letters, but hey, even J.K. Rowling got published right?