Monday, July 18, 2011

The Decline and Fall of Publishing

If you're like me and cringe whenever you see a typo in a published book, you'll enjoy this article by Virginia Heffernan in the New York Times. Particularly interesting to me was the revelation -- which seems obvious in hindsight, though I hadn't thought of it -- that manuscripts are obese as well as full of spelling errors these days, thanks to computers.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Liberation of the Long-Distance Queryer - Part II

Yes, querying is a lot like dating, isn't it? You're full of expectation, hoping to make the perfect match. And, if you're a sensitive soul -- and what writer isn't? -- you're full of dread, fearing rejection.

I always admired those men for whom being rejected by a woman was of no more consequence than water washing over the back of a duck -- something to shake off and instantly forget.  These were the guys who always said, "Women are like buses. Another one will be along in a minute."

Guys like me lived in fear of rejection. However logical and analytical you might be about it -- after all, a woman declining a date, whether a first, second or third one -- was probably no more commenting on your lack of worth as a human being as your lack of suitability as a romantic partner -- just as you yourself did when you declined to ask out other women because they weren't your type or their interests/politics/religious views didn't mesh with yours.

So I told the story in Part I to illustrate what had been a particularly liberating experience for me (and one that never repeated itself).  After awhile, I became totally indifferent to whether or not she had any interest in going out with me.  I didn't care what she thought of me.  I was in control because I had no expectations -- and it was amusing to call her, chat, hear the same obviously insincere line about getting together.  It made me laugh.

I told the story to illustrate the attitude I've adopted in a final round of querying. (Perhaps final. I keep saying I'm through with it.) As promised, I'd decided to give up on agents and query solely publishers. After looking into it, I discovered there are only five or six publishers of mysteries taking unsolicited subs.  Even some of the smaller independents are now insisting that your novel come through an agent. (There are a couple of others that take mss. over the transom, but they're publishers of "hard-boiled crime" fiction, which is not my turf.)  I could send out those five queries and be done with it.

But...then I'd be done with it. Over. Finished. Finito. On to e-booking.

Too soon, too soon to give up on the hardcover.  So I went over to QueryTracker to see if there were any new agents that handled mysteries.  Agents come and go with regularity; some new ones arrive, moving up from editorial assistant, while others switch outfits.  WTF, I said, I'll query 'em all.  I did this without even bothering to research them (other than checking a couple of agencies I'd never heard of).  I didn't bother to see if the "mysteries" they handled were really romance novels with a mystery twist, or so-called "cozy" mysteries. 

It's like calling that woman and not caring what she's really thinking.  I'm just in it for the laughs.

I've had one laugh already. I queried one agency I'd hit up before, sending the e-mail to a different agent.  That agent forwarded my e-mail to another agent, who has asked to see a partial. The only thing is, she's already seen a partial of my book -- and rejected it!  (You can tell it must have made a great impression on her, since she didn't even remember the title.)  That was almost a year and a half ago.  So I'll send it and see if the new summer intern rejects it.

I feel so liberated.  I was kind of down after the rejection by Poisoned Pen Press, though I knew going in that my nontraditional mystery was probably not a good fit for them.  Unless you're a water-off-a-duck's-back kind of person, the rejections -- and I've had plenty -- do start to take a toll. (Please. No more J.K. Rowling stories.) But tossing out a new batch of queries to some new names in previously hit-upon agencies after already deciding to move on to publishers is like having one of those casino tokens good for one shot at the slots.

Costs you nothing to play but you still get to watch the wheels spin.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Liberation of the Long-Distance Queryer

Many years ago, I asked a woman out on a date. She was quite beautiful, while I, in sum, was not. Always shy and lacking in self-confidence, I hated dating anyway, but I was more aware than normally on our date how this particular woman could have her pick of men.

The date seemed to go OK -- I could never tell about these things -- but when it came time to drop her off at home, I was even more uncertain than I would have been normally. What to say, do? Should I just thank her and tell her I had a good time? Should I suggest going out again some time or leave that for later?

Much to my surprise and delight, she relieved me of this burden by saying, as we neared her house, "The next time we go out, we should see a movie" (or something like that). Wow. That was great, I thought as I drove away. Here this beautiful woman has made it clear she wants to go out a second time! So when I call her for another date, the heavy lifting has already been done.

So I waited several days and asked her if she wanted to see that movie. She couldn't that weekend, she said -- she was going camping, or something, with her family -- but she ended the conversation with, "But we should definitely get together again soon" or words to that effect. When I called the following week to ask her out, still feeling confident that this beauty was interested in being with me -- me! -- she was again unavailable, but again ended the conversation with, "But we should definitely get together again soon." Or words to that effect.

The next time I called, I didn't actually ask her out. I can't recall whether it was because by this time my confidence was already shattered or if she was in a rush and I never got the chance. But again, without prompting, she ended the conversation with the same sign-off.

By this time, I concluded that she didn't really want to go out again. So why did she continue to suggest it at the end of each conversation? Why had she suggested it at the end of our first date? Was she just trying to be "nice"? How could she not see that she was torturing me instead? What was she up to?

After that, I still called her occasionally. She never seemed to be in a big rush to get me off the phone. I never again suggested we get together. But she continued to end the conversation the same way, saying we should get together soon. At the end of our first (and only) date, this had filled me with happiness. Later, it was confusion and then a touch of anger -- C'mon, what's the point of this? -- and later, mirth. After our conversation, her suggestion still ringing in my ears, I would just shake my head, laughing to myself, wondering what she was thinking.

What has all this got to do with querying, you ask? You will have to wait for Part II to find out.