Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Query Hell, or the problem with getting Published

Today is an anniversary of sorts.

   Yeah, it’s not really one the average person would take note of. Just myself.

   Today marks one full year since I began the Query Process for my novel.

   “Who cares?”  you must be thinking. “Who cares that you’ve been sending out queries for a year?”

   I do.

   And now I find myself in that place that all new writers (and a few veterans) find themselves, the dreaded ‘Query Hell’.

   What is ‘Query Hell’ the non-writers out there might ask? Well, it’s the place your query goes and never receives a response. You wait the appropriate number of weeks (or months), then send out a nice reminder to the agent or agency you’ve queried, and guess what?

   No response.

   I realize that most literary agents are busy with their regular, money-making clients. I do. But if you state in the LMP or other sources that you are “actively seeking new authors”, then maybe you should actually respond to said query.

   Even another rejection is better than not knowing.

   Yes, for one full year now I’ve been busy, not only with revisions and (extreme) editing, but with the creation of selective queries to ‘hook’ experienced literary agents into sitting up and taking notice.

   And of the queries I’ve sent out, less than ¼ of them have been acknowledged, the majority of those being rejections, with one request for a full manuscript (that ended up being a rejection).

   Of those rejections, more than 75% were in the form of a ‘Standard Form Rejection Letter’ which basically states (to me, anyway) that the agent or representative has neither time nor desire to look over any new work.

   And the result of this? Many talented writers become disgusted and distrustful of the traditional method of becoming published, and seek out ‘Vanity’ or ‘Self-publishing’ alternatives, that greatly reduce the quality of the ‘literary’ works available on the shelves of the (now-defunct) bookstores.

   Then you hear agents rant about the fact that they can’t find any new talent out there. Small wonder.

   Maybe said agents should check their ‘In Box’ for submissions? Naw, too demanding. Hard to check e-mails on the laptop when you’re busy bitching about the ‘lack of new talent’ while downing your third martini in a bar on an extended lunch because you have no new clients to represent.

   If I sound a little harsh, it’s because I’ve actually taken the time to go to New York and observe some of the daily practices of a few of the ‘Guardians of the Publishing Gates’.  A few that I talked to were very understanding, and even went so far as to state that they have no control over what the agency they represent puts on its website regarding queries from new authors.

   But the vast majority, over 30 that I spoke to, said that they were not seeking new clients unless those clients had a history of being published.

   So, in order to get represented, you have to have been previously published.

   But in order to be published, you must be represented.


   With this type of attitude toward new talent, it’s small wonder that many people either give up, or take the self-publishing or vanity route, allowing their works to be hashed-out without the benefit of editing or some form of support, which is an agent’s job, after all.

   The result is a glut of senseless, hard to follow, overdone genres that permeate the bookshelves and brings down the quality of literature.

   I mean, seriously, how many more effing ‘vampire’-genre books must the public endure?

   And who is to blame?

   Agents and Literary Agencies unwilling to give new writers a look.

   If you are an agent reading this, don’t expect an apology on my part, rather, do a couple of things that benefit not only the writers out there, but yourself as well.

   The first step is to start looking at what is in your In Box. The next great money-maker might just be sitting in there.

   Next, you need to RESPOND!

   Okay, maybe the query describes something so abysmal that you would never even think of considering it. Still, your duty is to respond to the author. Even if it IS a rejection in the form letter-style many agents like to use, at least give the writer some closure so that they can move on. It might even inspire them to revise that ‘Vampire meets girl, becomes president and saves world from Global-Warming’-genre and pound out something along the lines of a literary masterpiece…

   But you’ll never know unless you check your In Box.

   Sic vis Pacem, Parabellum (or is that para undies?)

Wiley (Coyote)

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