It seems like the beginning of every year begins the same. New Year’s resolutions are made and I am reminded that I haven’t submitted my work in a few months of holiday craziness. So, I spend the first part of the month submitting queries to various places. The query process has always baffled me. For those who are not sure, let me take a brief moment to explain. Basically, most agents/publishers want writers to sell themselves and their work in one single spaced page. Although, that’s never really accurate because a query letter is a business letter. Therefore, all the headings, margins and signatures take up space. I would say it really comes down to .7 of a page. Talk about being concise. Sell yourself in the amount of space that this blog takes. Oh, and don’t forget to sell your work and convince them why you are different and the best person to write the piece.
The whole process seems unfair. However, I do understand the requirement. Every day they get thousands of writers seeking to be the next big client. It also makes sense why writers hate these. After all, we write novels. Words are our friends. We don’t like to discriminate amongst them and shorten their gatherings. Some places, especially agents, only want the letter. After that, it varies. Some want samples others just a synopsis. Publishing houses are the nicest. They normally ask from anywhere between the first three chapters to the first fifty pages. Recently, I had one ask for fifty pages that gave the beginning, ending and various elements in between. Of course, big page counts also equal longer wait times for a response, typically six months. One agent who asked for the entire manuscript took close to eight months to get back to me. I hear that is fast. I did have one agent ask for the first page. That was it. Not even a “good” page from anywhere. Nope. The first page of the book. If you didn’t capture her by then, she wasn’t interested. She got back to me that day, though.
It’s a rough business. I think writers tend to be introverted people. Pushy selling techniques are not natural, especially when I grew up trained not to “brag.” But that’s what writers have to do. We have to brag and sell without lying (although I have met a few who blur the edges of a lie to sell). That’s the business writer’s choose. Because, after all, after the publisher comes selling to readers. If you think about it, reader’s standards are not much different. For instance, I read the back jacket of a book to judge it first. If not captured, I put the book away. If it interests me, I leaf through a small portion of the inside, maybe even read the first chapter. Isn’t this the whole publication query all over again?
It’s a tough business, but the first five-star review makes all the trouble worth it.