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09 January 2008 @ 03:38 pm
Query process  
I was chatting with kistha a little while ago, and I ended up bending her ear for a twenty minute rant about all my recent frustrations with the query process. (Sorry sweetie - like you need another one of us in your life! ;)


I know, I know - forget the queries, just write the next book. I'm working on it (them). I'm also just really frustrated with this whole getting published process. This isn't the first time I've submitted something around. It is the first time I've sought an agent instead of just blithely sending something to the slush pile. It is the first time I've felt, I don't know, this strongly about something I've written. Not to say it's perfection, but it's definitely the best thing I've ever written; it's not something I can see myself walking away from forever, if that makes sense. I've got novels with all kinds of potential that I will never return to, because in order to fulfill their potential, they would take so much overhauling that it exhausts me just thinking about it. When I was writing them, I thought something like, "Wow, this is an awesome idea - I hope it's good enough to get published!" When I finished this book, I sat back and thought "Wow, this is a really good book. It needs to be published, and more, it needs to be published and do well enough for me to write more of these."

Previous books, by the time I got 3/4ths of the way through, I was tired of them. Tired of the world, tired of the characters, ready to be done and go off to write something new. I finished this one, and thought of two more I could follow it up with. In addition to wanting to write something new (*cough*space pirates*cough*).

Who knows? Maybe one of my outstanding queries will come back with a request for a full - at this point, that's all I'm hoping for. The actual getting of an agent for representation, followed by eventual publication, seems like an impossible and far off dream. Not because I'm not good enough, but because there's this incredible gauntlet 99.999999% of unpublished writers have to go through, again and again and again, to actually get published. (I'm not sure who the other .000001% are, who don't, but I'm sure they exist. I've heard tales of them whispered about in the halls of writing cons, and typed of in the forums of online writer's groups. I just don't happen to be one of them. And neither are any of the extremely talented and also unpublished writers of my acquaintance, more's the pity.) And when rejection pummels you in this gauntlet, then proceeds to kick you while you're down, you have to get up, and keep going until it hits you again, or until you make it through the gauntlet and find the golden ticket, someone who actually wants to represent/publish you.

But back to my personal angst. These are the sorts of things you don't put in your query letter (and for the record, no, I certainly didn't): I had a tremendously positive response from beta readers. Like, wow, I was so amazed and pleased and humbled by the responses I got. And I wrote the sort of book I love to read, the sort of book my Mom, my friends, half the women I know love to read - it has romance, angst, drama, suffering, action, conflicted heroes and strong heroines, hot villains, True Love...wait, I channeled The Princess Bride there for a moment - anyway, back to the point. I read a LOT of industry blogs. Author, agent, and editor blogs. Often I'm reading an author blog before their book comes out, and a ton of these books-that-haven't-even-come-out-yet are the same genre, same basic type, if you will, as mine. Most of these authors are represented by agents I've queried, and agents, like anyone else, have certain likes and dislikes. That's, you know, why I've tried to query agents who seem to like to read what I like to write.

I've gotten, to date, all form rejections. Sure, I had one request for a partial...that resulted in another form rejection. It was very nicely worded, but still a form. I did have one personal response, but it was a politely worded rejection that pretty much restated that very polite form rejection - thanks, but this didn't grab me, good luck with it elsewhere. I have workshopped my query to death - not just me, but I've had professional editor people workshop it with me. It's not perfect, but I'm confident it's at least a good query. I personalize every single query I send in some way, even if it's just a mention of a particular client of that agent's whose books I read and enjoy, (which usually happen to be in the same genre ballpark as mine). I'm doing everything they tell you to do, in order to present yourself in a professional manner and stand out from the crowd in a positive way. And yet.

You hear all kinds of rumors about the industry - about how books aren't selling like they used to, particularly genre books, and how it's harder to get published these days than it used to be, even five years ago. You hear things about numbers and money and how publishers want shorter length books because they cost less to produce - the 150K word fantasy novel of yesteryore is a disappearing beast only permissible from the 500-pound-gorilla list (that would be folks like Jordan, Martin, Goodkind, Hamilton, et al. Bestsellers.) You hear how your book has to be perfect - has to hit exactly the right note at the right time, for someone to take a chance on it. And then you go to the bookstore and pick up someone new you've never heard of, and you think "Damn, this could have been me - I'm as good as this." Either that, or it's crap, utter crap you can't believe got published, especially not by one of the major houses that have rejected you.

It's a vicious, frustrating, and melancholy cycle, and upon reflection it's amazing more struggling authors aren't in therapy for inferiority issues, considering the sheer number of times we face rejection.

I've still got queries out there. I've got another all printed out and ready to send off. I'm still picking myself up and continuing through the gauntlet. But there are days when it's so frustrating, I want to cry, or scream, or shake some hapless agent or editor and say "Look, if you would just read the damn thing..."

/rant


Well, I feel mildly better having spewed all my frustrations onto LJ. And very relieved that I don't link my real name to this blog or include it's URL with any of my submissions. I'm sure agents and editors understand and sympathize with the frustrations struggling authors go through, but they don't need to read about them when I'm venting, either. I mean, I sympathize with them, too. I've read aaaaallllll about their frustrations on those industry blogs I read. I get it. But either way you slice it, it's still damn frustrating.

I've also got to decide what to do about the two agents I still haven't heard back, weeks after their usual response time. Resend the query? Send a polite note asking if they received the first one? Oh, wait, actually I already did that with one of them, and didn't get a response to that, either. Which makes me somewhat loathe to do it again for the other. Aaaargh!
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-peartreealley on January 10th, 2008 12:16 am (UTC)
Yeah, I feel your frustration. I think that's part of why I have so much trouble getting through revisions--I enjoy writing the first draft, but then I go through all these revisions, and I submit everywhere, and all I get are rejections. I know I'm learning, and I know it's a crapshoot in the land of acceptance, but man, it seems like all that frustration isn't worth it when there's no return. If I was writing just for me and not trying to get published, too, I'd probably be happy to leave it in first draft form ;)
"Connoisseurs of Difficulty"kistha on January 10th, 2008 01:15 am (UTC)
Anytime, mon chat!
Seriously. I feel like I've sounded like one depressing whine after another for the last six months. You have plenty of whine time coming. :)

I feel bad that while I can sympathize, I can't really relate. When dthon first turned in Ferry Folk - I was sure that he'd be published, after all it was better than many a book I'd read, how could it not? I joked that he needed to be published, just so I could drag his book around in paperback, the easier to read it.

Now, 7 books in, and many enlightening conferences later, I don't joke about being published. If anything I've gotten madder and madder at the industry the more people I know who are GREAT writers, who are still grinding along taking abuse like they somehow deserve it. Add to that the way writers get treated in the Game Industry - it's enough to make me just fume.

It's a vicious, frustrating, and melancholy cycle, and upon reflection it's amazing more struggling authors aren't in therapy for inferiority issues, considering the sheer number of times we face rejection.

This is why entertainment writers are happy to be paid 4 cents a title. I'm just glad they're finally striking, and they're still apologetic about it. Writers are an important commodity, but we've taught them that they aren't. Just one more commodity, "It's something a trained monkey could do". It isn't. I've had jobs that a trained monkey could do - and they are much, much less complicated.

All you writers have my love and admiration for the shit you shovel, to do this crazy thing that entertains ME.
Trixie: Stock: Curiositytrixalicious on February 2nd, 2008 08:02 am (UTC)
*hugs* I think the world of you and your writing. I think that there's something in the genetic blueprint of writers that allows us to handle rejection to the point of even expecting it (and being appreciative when that rejection is at least personalized!) Ahem. I don't know if it's an evolutionary defense mechanism or what, but the writer's strike has really driven home this point to me.

I am proud of you for persevering and plucking away even through all the frustrations and the heartache of the querying process. Don't lose heart. We'll be here to cheer you on through the slow days and the bad days, and we will be here to celebrate with you when the great news comes! And yes, I honestly believe that it will.