Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fewer Queries, Please

It seems everyone is writing or has written a book they hope to publish. I sometimes think there are more aspiring authors than there are serious readers. Most blogging agents will tell you that their query numbers have skyrocketed the last few years and that this is true for their non-blogging colleagues as well. Part of me, the part that teaches kids and likes to read and reveres literature, celebrates this. More writers means more competition, which means only the cream of the cream will get published, which means it'll be easier for me to find great books.

But part of me is just a little peeved, and it's not because I'm all "Oh, you don't know what it takes. You think you can just slop something down and get a book deal blah blah blah." No, it's because I have to compete with these people and I'm realistic enough to know I'm no that guy who wrote The Shack.*

So let me offer a solution that will make almost everybody happy. I feel bad for myself and other unpublished writers. And I feel bad that the agents have to wade through an ever-increasing number of queries. But they can do a lot to lower these numbers.

Literary agents, I'd like you to be meaner. A little more Simon Cowell and a little less Paula Abdul, please. It seems the worst you hear about agents these days is "He never responded to my query!" This is a problem. Agents are just too damned nice. "It wasn't right for me, but keep trying," they say. "I like your writing, but the story is too close to something I just signed," they say. "It's a very subjective business," they say.

All too positive. With encouragement like this, no wonder every George, Dick, and Condi thinks they can publish a book. In their desire to not offend, agents have created a monster. With their timid form letters and their excessive indulgence they have created a system that treats the persistent few no better than the coddled and misty-eyed many. Agents, let's have a little more honesty. If something sucks, tell the writer it sucks. In fact, if you wouldn't mind, tell the writer he sucks.

Unless that writer is me.


*This is a joke. The Shack sucks. See? Now how hard was that?


Jonathon Arntson said...


I hope they let us know when this becomes their tactic, so I can buy lots of stock in alcoholic beverage companies.

Yes, The Shack sucked. I was in Georgia six months ago and saw God everywhere!

George, Dick, and Condi hm?
Well, Bush can't read, Cheney is too busy writing alibis for himself to focus on characters, and well, I like But, of course you are not referring to those Georges, Dicks, and Condis.

Last and most certainly least, if the current lit agent response were anything like Paula Abdul, they'd send our SASE back with perfume sprayed on it, a big kiss mark, and a poem about how great we are. I do like the Simon approach though.

Tracy Edward Wymer said...

Agree. Multiple times.

DebraLSchubert said...

I'm surprised more agents don't close to queries more often. Kim at Bookends did today - she said she was going to open back up to queries on Jan. 18th, but decided to extend it indefinitely.

If I was an agent, I think I'd be on IV Valium. I definitely don't have the patience. I'm glad my agent didn't take that route, however. It was two months ago today she offered me representation. Friday the 13th will always be a happy day for me. ;-)

Anita said...

I think agents should have form rejections with little boxes they check.

_ If you like writing for pleasure, that's great, but your writing sucks and will never be published by anyone.

_Your writing may benefit from a couple creative writing classes. Take those, but don't ever query me again, because chances are you'll still suck.

_Your idea is good, but your writing sucks, so don't ever query me again.

_Your writing is good, but your idea sucks. If you ever have a totally different idea and write a book about it, feel free to query me.

_Please send me your complete manuscript as soon as possible.

Carrie Harris said...

Snarf. I can only IMAGINE the hate mail they'd get.

Tina Lee said...

A little off the subject(I am avoidant by nature), but can I just say I love the red asterisk? I always miss those things and realize at the end I have to go back and look in order to get the joke. (I'm sure there are a lot of jokes I'm not getting.) So thanks for that.

Paul Michael Murphy said...

The Wife was missing the asterisks, too. Couldn't have that.

December said...

What if the requirement for every new query is that you already have one book finished.
That way it'll take twice as long for that first query letter to go out.
And (from personal experience) that first book is a wet hot mess anyway. You just don't realize it until you get to the second.

Paul Michael Murphy said...

My second one's probably crap too.

Tracy Edward Wymer said...

There should be another box that reads:

_You are a complete Douche Lord, and so is your MC!

I heard that on one of Wife's shows (Kardashians???) and almost fell on the floor laughing. I knew PMM would appreciate this one.

Donna Gambale said...

I'm sure they WISH they could be more honest, and much good would come of it... but I don't think I'd want the job of pulverizing dreams on a daily basis. Maybe you could offer Honesty Services?

Anita said...

If I ever read the manuscripts of people from this blog, I will be honest.

Also, did anyone notice PMM's new follower?! I guess he's back to 60.

Tina Lee said...

You're nice, Anita. Well, what I mean is you're helpful. (I would appreciate the honesty!)

Myra said...

Oh, PMM. You and the honesty. I puffy pink <3 it. *waits for sarcasm, also still waiting for you on Twitter*

Paul Michael Murphy said...

It took me a few minutes to figure out what <3 was.

I though it was sideways boobs at first.