Friday, October 30, 2009

And the Award Goes To...

Welcome to the first annual Big Litowski Golden Pin Awards! Following in the footsteps of Tina Lynn at Sweet Niblets, I've decided some of my Followers and regular readers deserve some special recognition. Here, in no particular order, are the winners!

The Firstest With the Mostest Golden Pin goes to
Abby for being the first to find, comment on, and become a Follower of The Big Lit, making my day, something she still does regularly with her insightful commentary.

The Thoroughbred Golden Pin goes to
Amber, the Louisville Filly, who always cheers me up with her humor and sensibility.

The Intellectual Soul-Mate Golden Pin goes to
David, our UK ally in the query wars, for elucidating so well the tribulations of the writer's life.

The Are You Experienced? Golden Pin goes to
Jennifer for loving Hendrix and for her always empathetic notes.

The Inspiration Golden Pin goes to
Tina Lynn. This is really a three-fer: (1) for inspiring me to give out these awards; (2) for inspiring me to name 17 Things You Don't Know About Me (coming soon to a blog post near you!) and (3) for having the nicest damn smile ever!

The Best Blog Handle Golden Pin goes to
Too Cute to be Very Interesting. This is self-explanatory.

The Miss Snark Lives Golden Pin goes to
Dawn because she never fails to crack me up with her wicked sense of humor. Also, her blog has an adults-only disclaimer. I mean, fuckin'-A, Dawn!

The Voice of Reason Golden Pin goes to
Jm Diaz for always grounding me in reality when I need it the most.

The Wise Owl Golden Pin goes to
Steve for his infrequent, but invariably sage, advice and counsel.

The Best Blog Name Golden Pin goes to
Literary Cowgirl. I mean, "Horse Shit, Stilletos and Rosin." You gotta love it. She should also get some kind of award for most interesting background: infantry soldier, bronc rider, pipeline worker, survival instructor, writer...!

The Fellow Fed Golden Pin goes to
Lt. Cccyxx because he understands what it means to be inside the belly of the Beast. He should also get an Honorable Mention for his blog handle, though I can't figure out how to pronounce it.

Thanks, guys -- I love having you along for the ride.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Query's 100 Percent Success Rate!

As I mentioned in an update in the comments to the previous post, I snapped off Query Letter Version 4.0 last night to an agent with a reputation for quick responses. I woke up this morning to a request for a partial. So -- woohoo! Version 4.0 is far!

UPDATE: Of course, now I'm afraid to look at my e-mail, terrified he'll take one look at my first few pages, say, "What load of crap is this?" and reject me. (How's that for self-confidence?) I want this heady feeling to last at least a couple of days.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Query Letter, Version 4.0

OK, so I redid it -- again. Put back a little of the mystery I'd taken out before, threw in a couple of new elements, tried to put a bit more conflict in there... Oh, who the fuck knows if this is better or not? I sure as hell don't.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

There's Too Much Confusion. I Can't Get No Relief.

Well, my dear baker's dozen of readers, as the song* says, "there's too much confusion." In August I sent out 29 queries to a batch of agents, some of whom, in retrospect, were probably not an appropriate choice for my novel. I did this with a query which, in retrospect, I concluded was weaker than it might have been. I got three positive responses -- a success rate of over 10 percent.

Since August I've sent out 26 queries to a better-targeted bunch of agents with what I sincerely think is a better query letter. The result? Nothing, nada, nil, bupkis, zilch, the sum of fuck-all. A success rate of -- the math is easy to do -- zero percent.

WTF? What conclusion should I draw from this? If I'm ever going to get some agents to actually, you know, read the damn thing, should I be sending out the flawed query to a randomly chosen batch? Am I supposed to sit down with the "bad" query letter that gets good results and the "good" query letter that gets bad results and tell them to settle their differences, mate, and produce some shiny baby masterpiece of a query letter? Should I target my agents by tossing darts at a list of their names? I mean, seriously, WTF?

* Bob Dylan, "All Along the Watchtower"

Friday, October 23, 2009


Well, if'n you check the stats, you'll see the verdict on my outstanding partial is finally in, and it's November Oscar (i.e., No). Bah. I suspect my dissing was part of a general housekeeping but of course there's no way to know that for sure.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Query a Day Keeps the Nuthouse at Bay...

I couldn't stand it. I had the query heebie-jeebies, that antsy feeling that comes when you're not flinging queries into the void and just checking your e-mail a hundred times a day to see if something, anything, anything at fucking all, has arrived.... So I broke my resolve not to query more for awhile and fired a single salvo -- to California this time, my first non-NY agent target.

I'm good for now, but I'm an addict. A query addict. I need rehab.

Anybody got the address of Queryholics Anonymous?

UPDATE: Well, this is...interesting. Not fifteen minutes after I sent the above-mentioned query, a form rejection came screaming in from another agency. It's as if I prodded the cyberbeast into action. Hmm...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Two Months In...

Tomorrow will mark the beginning of the third month of The Quest. (The word "quest" always reminds me of the movie Quest for Fire, summed up neatly by comedian David Steinberg as, "Caveman goes off in search of fire and discovers fellatio.") Anyhoo, some reflections.

There are innumerable frustrations and disappointments in The Quest -- the waiting, the self-doubt, the rejections, the not-knowing if your query's been dissed by an assistant or an actual agent. The only part of it I actually hate is the non-response: bad as a rejection might be, it's preferable to an e-query sitting out in cyberspace like a big matzoh ball, completely unremarked-upon. I still say there's no excuse for this, as I did in this post.

From all the reading I've done on the internets, it's clear agents have their different styles. Some allow queries to build up like an enormous mound of autumn leaves, then every so often plunge in and purge the pile. Others never take more than a day or two to respond. Others just close themselves to queries periodically and work all the way through their backlog. Hard to say which style, if any, is superior. One does wonder if the slowpoke agents don't miss the occasional blockbuster or literary gem -- you snooze, you lose, right?

For me the angst of the search is compounded by the fact that I quit my very well paid day job with the Very Important Organization to devote myself to house-husbanding and writing while the spousal unit decided to embark on a real-estate career just in time for the biggest crash in real estate since the Great Depression (thank you, Wall Street). For a lot of complicated reasons having to do with my VIO pension, it almost doesn't pay for me to go back to work, especially if it's part-time (two school-age kids at home). So. It's just one more aggravation to add to the mix.

Still, there's nothing for it but to plod on, yes? We know it's partly a numbers game -- finding the agent who handles your kind of fiction, likes your "voice," isn't too busy with other projects, didn't just sign someone whose work is remarkably similar to yours, didn't get to your query at one a.m. after slogging through 300 others... So, onward, ploddingly, we go.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Naming Your Characters

During my I-have-no-future-as-a-writer despair yesterday, I recalled something my friend B. (he of "your detectives are dumb" fame) said, namely, that I had given a too-obviously evil name to the main villain. What he didn't know is that I picked the villain's surname more or less randomly from a frozen food product.

I recall reading many years ago Kurt Vonnegut saying that he found the names for his characters from the phone book. That's more or less what I do too, though I also look at book jackets. Because my novel takes place mostly in L.A., I gave it some polyglot texture -- some Hispanics, a couple of Asians, one Iranian. I try not to get all politically correct about it or anything, but I don't want everyone to have a WASPy name. Not everyone's last name can be Cavendish or Wilson or whatever.

So -- how do you choose your characters' names? Do you try to assign them names with a symbolic purpose or something that sounds cool or are you just tossing darts at the phone book?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oh, Optimism, Where Have You Gone?

Fourteen rejections in a row since the last positive peep (the request for the full), not counting the ten I just wrote off. Four this week. All form rejections, so no way to divine meaning from them. As the number of rejections piles up and the number of queries outstanding dwindles, the doubts grow. Maybe I can't write. Maybe I can write but it makes no difference in this lousy economy. Maybe I should have held myself to writing a straightforward, banal whodunit instead of going all angst-ridden Martin Cruz Smithy. Maybe this whole writing obsession just isn't worth the aggravation. Maybe I could get rid of it with hypnotherapy or Freudian analysis or yoga. Or something.

Blah blah blah.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Achy-Breakies

Feeling better -- no cough -- but still got the achy-breakies and a killer headache. This flu, whatever strain it is, is no fun. A tip for you parents out there: our pediatrician has already run out of flu vaccine, as have a number of local pharmacies. I was able to find a pharmacy that still has some and am going to bushwhack the kids this afternoon and take them in for shots. So if you're planning on getting your kids flu shots, get on it now before there's no flu-juice left.

In other news, followed this link to a hysterical New Yorker parody of a modern publishing marketing plan.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Yay, a Rejection!

Why, you may ask, am I celebrating the arrival of another rejection (snail mail, sent late August)? Because after so many weeks of nothing, something happened.

Still sick -- stay away from me!

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Ordinarily I only blog about the agent quest, for a couple of reasons: (a) lots of other people blog about other stuff, and (b) I have nothing interesting going on. I will make an exception today to note that I am sick as a dog with some kind of flu and hope you avoid it, whether what I have is of the swineish variety or not.

The curiosity: the average time agents took to respond to my e-mail queries has been 7.92 days (not counting those I wrote off for no response at all). The median was actually shorter, like 6 days. But it's now been 28 days since I've gotten any kind of response at all to the rest of my e-queries out there, only a quarter of which date to August. What gives, I wonder? Do these longer response times mean anything? Or is it just a random walk?

Excuse me while I cough. Wash your hands when you're done reading this. Ack. Ack.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Road to Twilight

I was reading the comments in Nathan Bransford's blog and someone mentioned how you could take solace in reading Stephanie Meyer's road to publication on her website -- she admits her queries "sucked" and she didn't have an idea what she was doing, ad inf. Except when all is said and done, her road to publication was swift and serendipitous, summed up in this sentence: "And that's how, in the course of six months, Twilight was dreamed, written, and accepted for publication."

Six months. Written, agented, accepted for publication...

Six months.

Don't Just Stand There, Query!

Had nothing better to do so, WTF, I blasted out three more queries (now playing: Version 3.1), two by snail mail, one into the ether. It's like querying has become my job or something.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Raft of Rejections

A good first question: what's the collective noun for a bunch of agents? I've chosen "raft," in the sense of a grouping of waterfowl sitting together on the water, as the collective noun for rejections, but agents... Hmm, a "murder" of agents, as in a murder of crows? How about a "query" of agents?

Anyhoo, as promised, I decided to move a query of agents from the "waiting to hear from" column to the "rejected me" column -- ten in all. Arguably I could have moved a few more in, or left a few out.

I could have put these ten in a separate category, like QueryTracker's "Closed/No Response" option, but I think it's better just to call a spade a spade and count 'em as rejections. I felt a certain relief at writing them off that way, sweeping them away, the kind of feeling you get (or I get) after straightening up all the crap that's accumulated around the house and vacuuming the carpet.

Plus, it opens up space for more querying if I so decide!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Start Working on Your Next Book!

That's the advice a lot of agents give you about what to do with your time as you wait for the rejections to flow in -- get started on that next book of yours. took me, uhm, decades to finally write a book that I consider publishable. As much as I like to think I have another in me -- and I do have a really vague idea for a sequel -- I just don't know if I can stand the idea of writing another 90,000-100,000 words completely on spec.

How does my huge stable of readers feel about this?

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Turns out one of the agents I queried back in August is/was no longer with that agency, so that reduces by one the number of agents I'm waiting to hear from. And perhaps opens a slot for a new query to someone else!