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.


  1. Do you think that e-books is giving up?
    I love reading your blog and find your journey inspiring! All the best and good luck!

  2. In today's world, an e-book is not just "giving up." Some people are doing very well going that route-- I'm still not sure HOW they do it, and exactly how an unknown would even begin trying to publicize their project, but it's worth an honest look-see should there be no budge on these latest queries. But still, good luck!

  3. I'm listening, but I don't hear the pitter patter of computer keys hammering out book two. Or the scratch of a pencil on paper or the swoosh of a sharpie in a notebook.
    There is no being a writer without writing. And knowing I sound like a broken record you need to write another book if you really want to make a real push for publication.
    If you don't write the second, third, fourth book, you're just querying and querying isn't writing.

  4. The thing that sucks about writing is that you love it. And you can't disengage from caring about something you love. You can pretend to not care but you can never truly stop caring. So that's why I don't try and that's why when things aren't going well, I suffer like a dog. May God have mercy on our souls.

    Get back to work, Trav.

  5. I was just like you when I was dating. It was a total mindfuck that I was supposed to emotionally engage with women, being emotionally engaged. If I didn't care whether we'd go out again, then I wouldn't have cared to call them at all. And when someone says something, I tend to think they mean it because I'm like that myself.

    I think it's good to be somewhat disengaged as you query. Not not passionate about your work, but not really giving a rat's ass if Agent X or Agent Y feel the same way.

  6. Bernadette WalshJuly 13, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    I have to agree with Ariel. You have a great "voice" and you will develop it more if you write. My story, I wrote a book and starting querying around the same time you did. I had similar results to. I put the first book away and wrote another. And then another. I then went back and fixed the first one, because in writing the next two books I simply had better writing skills and could see it with a clearer eye. Good news was that I sold both my first and second books to independent e publishers. Sure, I would've liked to get an agent and a NY publisher. Maybe someday I'll get there, maybe someday I won't. But I'm in the game.

    I hope this book works out for you but you are a writer. Believe that. You will write something else.

  7. As to the e book question. If you're trying to hit it big on one novel, big advance, big money, it's bound to leave you heart broken. Writing is like building a wall. Word by word, sentence by sentence, book by book.
    Yes, there are those stories of the book y the unknown writer that hit it big. But, sorry for the JK Rowling story, even Harry Potter didn't hit it big right out of the gate.
    It's a long slow slog and if you don't love the creative part, don't keep building stories into books, it will destroy you.
    To write is to have a desire to share stories and whether the story is printed on paper with a hard cover or it's digital the words are the same, the stories are the same and they reach the mind of the reader.
    Because at the end of the day we are story tellers sitting around a really huge campfire determined to make people listen.
    E books aren't a failure, they're a tool, an avenue to be heard.