Monday, August 30, 2010

Questioning Query Letters

“Will you allow me to send you my manuscript?”

“I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

When I brought my standard query letter for A House Divided into the North Branch Writers critique session last week, my fellow writers (and good friends) all suggested that I put one of these lines near the end of the letter. They said it was a courtesy, something to turn the basic letter into a query. I didn’t really agree but, like all critique I get, I mulled it over for a few days before I made my final decision.

It’s been about a week now. I’ve rewritten my query letter from top to bottom and it’s definitely much better than before. Still, these lines are not in it; and I don’t think they ever will be.

Now, these are only my musings on the subject, but the fact is that I don’t like the subtext these lines present. In my mind, they establish or insinuate the establishment of a hierarchy that just doesn’t belong. It might be because I’m fascinated by and therefore very conscious of the way that people establish their importance in comparison to others, but the underlying meaning in these lines just…unsettles me.

“Will you allow me to send you my manuscript?” indicates that the writer is placing his-/herself lower on the social hierarchy than the agent to whom they are submitting. It is essentially placing the agent on a pedestal and yourself at her (since I notice that most literary agents are female…) disposal.

On the other hand, “I do look forward to hearing from you soon” and its variations sounds like a boss leaving that trite little memo on your desk that sounds really nice but actually means, “Get your ass in gear or it’s fired.” It has the opposite effect, placing the writer above the editor, with the implication that they’re working for you.

I just don’t think either one is the proper way to approach an agent-author relationship. There shouldn’t be a hierarchy between them, they ought to be on the same level – it’s a mutual partnership. Agents call their writers “clients,” but they don’t work for them like an office drone in an investment firm; and writers aren’t at their agents’ beck and call like puppy dogs begging for scraps.

As far as I can understand it, a fair author-agent relationship should be a mutually profitable endeavor: the writer gets a represented in the publishing industry who already has some sway with editors and the legal know-how to get the writer their best deal, while the agent gets their fair cut of the eventual profits and the bragging rights should they discover the next up-and-coming big star. I just don’t think the relationship works as well as it should if it’s not an equal partnership, so I’m not going to insinuate otherwise in my initial contact.

And that, I suppose, is that.

P.S. – If anyone reading this cares, I did finish my review of The Legend of Rah and the Muggles. I’m just too lazy to post it here right now. Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I can now officially say that I’ve begun collecting rejection notices, as I have received three in the last week: two for my novel and a third for a short story. And they were all form rejections, which means that they probably didn’t get pass the query letter. Sigh. It’s weird. I’m not actually upset about it. I’m more…well, not really annoyed, but…put-out?

You know that feeling that you get, when you’ve got a big day planned with your sweetheart, with a trip to the zoo and a nice dinner and finishing off with a movie, but then you get to the zoo and you find out that it’s closed because of a turkey flu outbreak and now you and your sweetheart have three hours with nothing to do before your dinner reservations?

That’s a little like what I’m feeling right now. Which may or may not explain why I spent the last three hours firing off queries to four other lit agents. I’m determined to at least get one of them to request extra pages and or give me a reason why they don’t want my book besides the standard, “Dear Author, you’re just not right for me, srry!” note.

Oh, and having them offer to represent me would be nice too. But I figure if I set my goals low I won’t be too disappointed.

On a completely different note, at least one of my roommates who are moving out this week is an idiot, because we have this little spout on the sink where the overflow from the dish washer gets belched out, and someone keeps turning the damn thing so that it spurts water all over the counter and, if it’s allowed to run all the way through, floods the kitchen. And they set it up like that when the only person living in the apartment right now (me) does not really know how to properly wield a mop and therefore has a lot of trouble just not making the mess into an even bigger one. Sigh.

Finally: Today I received my incredibly cheap used copy of The Legend of Rah and the Muggles. Despite what TV Tropes has told me, I have discovered that it is not just the worst children’s book ever written. It is the most HILLARIOUSLY bad children’s book ever written. I totally cannot wait to bite into this thing, because just, wow. XD