Journey of 1000 Miles

Damn You, Sheryl Crow

Well, in a record time of about an hour and a half, I received a nice rejection to my query. A stew of emotions followed, so let me break them down as I am certain if you are a writer you can relate:

Relief – that first “no” is out of the way

Appreciation – hey, someone read it…

Sadness – the thought of this being a trend. Wondering how badly it might have been received. What did I do wrong?

Doubt – maybe this isn’t meant for me? Maybe it is a hobby and not a career.

Well, after a quick slap to my subconscious I realized it for what it is, someone doing their job. I was told simply they weren’t the right agent for this book. They thanked me for my letter and wished me luck on my journey. Shit, a “no” doesn’t get much nicer than that.

What we (as aspiring authors) have to realize on our end is the right person is waiting for our manuscript out there. It’s a matter of finding them. I don’t want somebody who doesn’t care about my work but thinks they can still sell it somehow. I want somebody passionate about it, not head over heals excited, but passionate. I want someone focused on knowing more about my work and me and where I want to take it.

Literary agents have a tough job and they get it from both ends. They have to tell people no on projects they may have been working on for a better portion of their lives. And, on the flip side, when they do accept a manuscript, they have to sell it to publishing houses who will probably tell them no.

I don’t mind as much when I realize the simple fact my book at a glance may not be the exact thing people are looking for. It’s not a character assault. They aren’t saying it was poorly written or conceived. They just weren’t the one. Now, the rest of you literary agents don’t have to keep telling me no. You can lead me on a little.

Still, that first cut is the deepest.

Journey of 1000 Miles

Quadriplegic Tour Guide

And over there you will notice… no over there… that way. This is how I feel describing some things in my blog. I really don’t know if this is coming across beneficially or not, but hey, I’m trying. Like today’s topic: Query Letter.

Ok, I am not comfortably close to submitting a query letter yet, but I figure  now is the time to at least start drafting one. As I have researched, it’s basically taking all of your elaborate efforts over the past months (years) and condensing them into one flavorful bite. Should be monumentally easy… And if you agree to that, I sincerely hate you right now.

Query letters are the wide-spread hope that your bite-sized, taste test of literary genius is worthy of a full meal. Myself, I thought more words were better, turns out that was mistake 1. I wanted a hefty novel that captured interest while getting my thoughts out, even paraphrasing the imaginarium on my topic, I was (and still am) resting above 137K words. Turns out most literary agents will not be thrilled to wade through hundreds of pages if your query letter is as bland as tofu. So, as I have come across, I will sum up what I’ve found out.

  1. Submit query letters to agents one at a time. Don’t send a copy to every literary agent within one agency. They will not appreciate it.
  2. Choose a literary agent in your genre. If you’re writing horror, don’t bother the children’s literature agent. Research what they do.
  3. Personalize a tad. Within your letter, briefly (key word briefly) mention a book that they may be the agent for that you associate work alongside. It will catch their eye more.
  4. Submit to more than one literary agency. There are over a 1,000 different agencies out there. Don’t just try 3. Pretend you are writing for acceptance into college. You want options to choose from, not settle for.
  5. The Letter… well, let’s save that for last… skip to rejection. Rejection letters or notifications will start piling up to epic proportions. Or at least be prepared for them to. Not everything you do is everyone’s taste or the direction they’re wanting to go (it’s not that you write crap). Pretend you are one of them. You get hundreds of query letters per week. Out of them, you get through 60% and your assistant handles the rest. Of those you see, you have to be in the right mood that day to accept what is in front of you. At the end of the week, your ‘yes’ pile and ‘no’ pile are equal. You can only take on 2-3 new authors in the next month, so you will have to weed the yes pile into ‘definite’ and ‘some other time’. After the query pile, you want more than a taste test, you want a couple of bites so you ask for the first chapter. You see where this is going? Because there is a next week…
  6. The LETTER:
    • First section – make it a once sentence line that sums up the intention of your entire story (pretend this is on the back cover of your book’s jacket)
    • Second section – elaborate that into a couple of short paragraphs including briefly what to expect when reading it (pretend this to be the synopsis inside of the jacket to your book)
    • Third section – Brief autobiography. Let them know a little about you.

Now, query letters are mainly submitted electronically through emails for the agency. However, if you are mailing them in and expect anything mailed back to you, include the self-addressed stamped envelope. Make their job easier, it’ll pay off.

If you do submit, make 100% positive that you are done. If they want to read the whole book, you don’t want an incomplete manuscript to be your answer. You will get tossed to the back of the line indefinitely.

And, for the love of God, make sure you spell check and grammar check your letter. This is your 15 seconds of attention, don’t make them dismiss you after 5 because you used the wrong form of ‘there’.

Keep in mind that I am just paraphrasing. I learn most of my accomplishments through painful idiocy. And since I haven’t tried yet, these are my guesstimates thus far. I am like a quadriplegic tour guide minus the wheelchair. So flop along with me and let’s see what rolls up next. As soon as I get my own template together, I’ll share a copy.