Join me in a journey into madness…mwahahahaha!
Sorry about that. What I meant to say was, today I feel like discussing the process of querying agents, as I am in a swirling vortex of query-induced crazy right now. Hopefully you feel like reading about it, otherwise you’ve picked the wrong day to visit my blog (although I do have some other lovely posts which might be of interest to you).
Based on my—albeit very limited—experience, this is a process which can turn the most sane and rational person (like me, for example. Stop laughing. I said stop it!) into an obsessive, paranoid, irrational, impatient mess.
And I blame the internet.
For those who don’t know, let me give you a little set-up on what it is to query. Let’s say I have toiled for many long years (months, days) and have in my hands the most perfect, brilliant manuscript, destined to be the next Harry Potter/Twilight/Percy Jackson. What do I do next? Well, after many, many rewrites (at least one) and lots of peer critiques (grandma loves it), my next step is to find an agent who will a) see what a super-genius I am, b) help me polish my manuscript until it shines and c) find my work a home with a publisher, thus making me the next sparkly vampire sensation, and making us both gazillions of dollars. There are about a thousand other things agents do, but I’m just knocking it down to the basics, here.
So how do I get an agent to recognize what a brilliant writer I am? First off, I write a query letter, summing up my novel in a neat little package. Some agents wish to see a sample chapter or two, some want a synopsis—essentially a slightly longer query, which hits the story’s high-points from beginning to end.
As you can imagine, agents get a lot of queries.
Some get over 100 per day. So, in addition to all the stuff they do for their clients, meetings with editors, and so on, they sift through this daily deluge, known as the “slush pile,” searching for the next great writer.
We aspiring novelists, all absolutely certain we are that next great writer, send off our queries and quickly descend into needy, demanding shells of our former selves (Excuse me while I go check my inbox. No, really…). And this is where I blame the internet.
You see, it used to be a writer would type up their query, sample pages and synopsis and mail it off with a SASE to said agent. And repeat.
And then wait.
Months later, the writer would receive their submission back with a postcard saying “Thanks, but no thanks,” or words to that effect. Or, if they were supersupersuperduper lucky, they might get a request for a partial or full manuscript to review, and the mailing/waiting process would begin again. In this sort of process, I have to imagine you can’t obsess that much. I mean, you kind of have to let it go. It’s out of your hands, and there’s no way to really follow the process along.
In the age of the interwebz, however, most agents allow (and many prefer) e-queries, which can often result in near-immediate responses. Within hours, or days, you can get that rejection sling-shotted back to your inbox.
But here’s the problem. The refresh button.
No reply yet? WHAT? It’s been two days!
Huh. I wonder if something’s wrong with my email. Or theirs. What if they didn’t get it?? What if I’m in their spam folder with all the Nigerian Princes??
This is not a healthy way to live.
Another problem? Social media. We now have access to celebrities, CEOs, and yes, agents, like never before. Most agents are on Twitter, which can be really handy for the aspiring writer. Tweets like “I am now caught up with all submissions through January 24th” give the submitter an idea of how long they may have to wait. But for an obsessive narcissist, you could find yourself doing this:
Why are they tweeting about kittens when they haven’t responded to my query yet??? Hey! Nachos aren’t THAT important, especially while I’m waiting for a reply!!
Whoa. Take a step back there, sister.
We’re not always the precious snowflake we think we are.
I’d love to keep chatting, but I really have to go check my inbox. It’s been at least five minutes…