Sunday, November 29, 2009

100 Fraking Days

It's now 100 days into the quest, and I'm no further along than I was on Day 2 -- one partial out there. The difference is that on Day 2 I had a sort of giddy, enthusiastic optimism, and now I feel like I'm adrift on a leaky life raft without oars or sail, hustled hither and yon by currents I don't understand, powerless.

Excuse me as I try to get a grip and remind myself that I'm an adult.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tales From the Slush Pile

This piece in Seattle's alternative weekly The Stranger by The Rejectionist, entitled, "A Good Author is Hard to Find," regales the reader with tales of the misbegotten and miserable that the agent's assistant must contend with. It's fun reading. But it also prompts the question: for those of us (which clearly includes the regular followers of this blog) who can, you know, write, who use proper spelling and syntax and grammar and don't have a hellacious premise, why the fuck is this so hard?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I Got Nuthin'

Since I've been in a frak-this sort of mood for the past few days, I began to wonder if I'd still want to write if I hadn't read The Cruel Sea in ninth grade -- because it was immediately on finishing it that I decided I wanted to be a writer. I suspect I would. So then I began to wonder what impelled others to write. You tell me. Did you have a Cruel Sea-type epiphany of your own? Was your desire to write the culimination of a long journey? Or have you just always known you wanted to write?

Despite my current state of humorless blahness, I know I have a lot to be thankful for. Being lucky enough to be born in what is, despite its many imperfections, the most gloriously wonderful country in the world. Two smart, well-adjusted kids whom I love more than life itself. Stuff like that. Happy Thanksgiving to my loyal followers -- and anyone else who drops by today.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Born Under a Bad Sign

No sooner had I posted my chipper, "Jennifer Juniper"-inspired post (see below) than Donovan's little ditty was blown out of my brain and a darker tune started playing. Into my in-box came an e-mail from the agent who'd had my full for over two months, containing a form rejection. No feedback. No way to know if she stopped reading at page one, page five, page fifty...or even read it at all. A serious bummer of a day followed. If I'd had a tube of cookie dough I would have eaten all of it. So much for the "perspective" I so gamely claimed to have found just a couple of days ago. I'd feel better about this if I had another three or four or five partials or fulls out there but as we all know, I don't. Tell 'em how I feel, Starbuck...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jennifer Jackson vit sur la colline

I don't read agent blogs much anymore. After weeks and weeks of reading about what to do and what not to do with queries, I don't think it's likely I'm going to miss some new, essential, invaluable nugget of info. I rely on other blogs to highlight anything I might want to read. And I don't really worry about what my royalty statements are going to look like (I should be so lucky).

I do still read Janet Reid religiously, even though she had the audacity to form-reject my query (Version 1.0), because she's still funny and takes no prisoners and I admire that. I check in with Nathan Bransford every so often (I am the only person in America who hasn't queried him), particularly his "This Week in Publishing" feature. But mostly I confine my publishing-related blog reading to Literary Rejections on Display, the Rejecter and the Rejectionist (notice a trend?).

However, I always check Donald Maass Literary's Jennifer Jackson every Friday afternoon (she too gave the boot to Version 1.0) for her "Letters From the Query Wars." If you're not familiar with them, they usually read something like this: "# of queries read this week: 275, # of partials/manuscripts requested: 0."

Even considering that Jackson is, thanks to her blog's notoriety, one of the most-queried agents around and further that some not-insignificant portion of her queries comes from the clueless and semi-literate, the fact that she requests a partial or ms. only once every two or three weeks (i.e., one out of 500-800 queries) gives me hope that maybe my query success/failure rate is not so bad after all. And that is why, as the week goes by, I'm wondering, Qu'est-ce que tu fais, Jenny mon amour?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

90 Days, 90,000 Words of Crap

If you'd told me 90 days ago that by this point all I'd have gotten out of my query quest is two partial requests, one full request, and a boatload of rejections, I'd...well, I don't know what I'd have said to you, but I wouldn't have believed it. Not that I hadn't read some stuff indicating the process could, you know, take some time, but...well, that wasn't relevant to me, right? I mean, my book's different, you know....

I didn't feel that way because I have a huge ego. I'm wracked with insecurities. (And not just about writing.) My usual way of describing my novel to friends gushing over my "success" as a writer is to proudly aver, "Well, it may be 90,000 words of crap, but it's 90,000 words."

Here's the funny thing. I seem to have developed perspective. So this is all the farther I've gotten in 90 days? Pfftt. C'est la guerre. That full request from early September that I haven't heard a peep about? Ah, maybe I'll nudge in January. Or February. It may take another three months just to gin up one more request for a partial? Feh. It's like I've just accepted this crazy system as...normal.

"The Waiting Is the Worst Part"

So says Nathan Bransford who lasted a week and a half before freaking out about there being no replies in his in-box to his queries about his novel. As someone in the comments said, if only all agents were trying to pitch a book, maybe they wouldn't make the rest of us wait so long.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Titles -- the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I just finished reading a novel entitled Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. When I saw that title in the library, I had to pick up the book. How could I not? Titles sometimes work that magic on me -- The Yiddish Policemen's Union and When Skateboard Will Be Free are a couple others that drew me in. But most titles are pedestrian, dull or worse.

What about you? What titles do you find entrancing? How much thought have you given to the title of your own book?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I'm a Big Dope

Evidently misreading the bios on one agency's website, I sent a submission to someone who only handles foreign rights and is not, in fact, an agent. Duh. A metaphor for much of my queryquest.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Some Rejections Don't Faze Me

So, Mr. Big Shot Agent with a backlist as long as your arm whizzed an e-mail rejection my way as soon as my snail-mailed submission came over his transom, and I just nodded and updated the stats box, my spreadsheet, and my QueryTracker list and that was that. I was much more upset that I didn't win the state lottery.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Livin', Lovin', She's Just An Agent...

It occurred to me, as I was thinking about the things I dislike about the agent search, that there must be something I like about it. Hate is the flip side of love, right? To achieve karmic balance in the universe, something must be enjoyable in this quest.

First, a quick reminder of what I hate/dislike/am frustrated about (as if you need one): waiting for a response (patience is a virtue I apparently do not have); agents who don't respond at all; not knowing if your rejected query was seen by an actual agent or only a 19-year-old intern; not knowing, if you've sent along a chapter or two or three with your query, whether the agent/intern looked at the writing before rejecting you; having one's publishing hopes attached to the very narrow thread of a single query letter. I'm sure I could go on and on.

That's the easy part. Now, what do I like about this process? Feedback, certainly -- I only got it once, but it was helpful, and nice to know there was an actual human on the other end. I've learned an awful lot about how publishing works ("works," is perhaps more accurate) in a short space of time. I've enjoyed reading agent blogs, even the snarkiest of them, and am grateful for their advice. Feeling that I'm part of a community of writers trying to get published. The grueling nature of the process has forced me to focus harder on my query letter and which agents to target (I can't say I've enjoyed that, but it has been useful).

So, what about you? Got anything good to say for this crazy system of snaring an agent?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hooray for Holly Root

A loud round of applause for Waxman Literary's Holly Root, for writing this sensible piece demystifying the query process and telling everyone to chill out a little. Here's some pithy quotes:

If you really read and adhered to every.single.thing. every agent said online you would never finish a book or a query letter....

I have heard from so many writers who are terrified of "offending" agents or breaking some rule. Nothing about this process should be anywhere near that scary.... It's publishing -- not nuclear disarmament. I am an agent, not Emperor Palpatine.

OK, let's agree not to make her regret writing this by all querying her at once.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What Now?

If you've been reading this blog awhile you know that I was determined at one time to keep 20-25 queries "out there" at all times. Well, this has dwindled to seven, as you can see. (Technically there are still 25, because I went back on my resolve to count as rejections those agents who haven't responded in a dog's age -- by the way, that's a weird expression, isn't it? -- and moved them into their own category, "Lost at Sea." I did this, I confess, because the number of rejections in the old stats box was depressing the hell out of me. It's psychologically comforting to keep that number down, even if it requires legerdemain and bogus accounting practices.)

Anyway, as I was saying -- what now? I sometimes feel like I'm going to run out of literary agents to query, though I've got this huge effin' list of unqueried agentes de la genre de mysteries y suspense/thrillers, so I don't know WTF I'm worried about. Still, I can't work up the enthusiasm to cut and paste the query letter into an e-mail or print it out and make up another SASE. I don't want that pile of rejections to get bigger -- even though they're not really rejections of my book, just my query letter. So I'm just sitting here like a lump on a log -- another weird expression -- and doing nothing. Nothing at all.

UPDATE: Well, you can see I got off the log and sent out a few queries. WTF. It can't hurt, right?

Monday, November 2, 2009

17 Things You Don't Know About Me

As promised, here are 17 things you don't know about me. If you haven't already done so, check the post below to see if you won a Big Litowski Golden Pin Award.

1. I do not currently own a dog.
2. I am distantly related to Sam Houston.
3. I grew up in Tucson.
4. My favorite movie is not The Big Lebowski; it's Bladerunner.
5. I once watched the July 4th fireworks from the South Lawn of the White House.
6. I have never been thin. Ever.
7. I drink scotch, never bourbon.
8. My favorite Beatles song is "Norwegian Wood."
9. I rode in an elevator with Sophia Loren and was very rude to her.
10. I have lived in or visited 42 countries, not counting airports.
11. The best decision I ever made was taking my family to New York to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.
12. My favorite color is purple.
13. I speak Italian.
14. The one thing I really hate is hypocrisy.
15. I have never had sex in a car; once on the beach, though.
16. If I had it all to do over again, I'd be an archaeologist.
17. My favorite meal is corned beef and cabbage. Seriously.