Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Query woes

I'm meeeeeltiiing!

Yeah... really. I wanted to do this post hours ago, but it was so hot that my only option was to stay in the pool until I resembled a raisin.

And then I remained in the water for an hour longer.

Which means, of course, that nothing I want to do is getting done. But while I'm there, I'm swimming and doing some resistance stuff, so at least I'm getting a bit fitter.

Other than that, I'm basically resisting the siren's call that is the Doorways sequel. Of course, there's nothing wrong with writing it per se... but it's a problem when I still haven't worked on the query or the synopsis like I'm supposed to.

That's a problem.

Thing is. I don't really know what to do with the query. Even an agent said that I should have people look it over, but all I get when I do that is more contradiction. How am I supposed to learn what I'm doing wrong when all I'm getting is some people saying add more and others saying take more away?

It just really annoys me. Then there's this situation where some agents insist that my sub-genre is unsellable, but when asked directly, agents say that there's no such thing.

...

So yeah... me wondering if it's even WORTH the effort isn't helping me get a new query done.

It's all just one big procrastination exercise right now.

Anyone else getting frustrated with queries?

I mean, I don't mind getting no's. But getting no's when I don't know what's turning the agents off really is starting to annoy me.

42 comments:

  1. Every one is different. You just have to find that one agent or publisher that is looking for what you wrote. One size fits all just doesn't work.

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    1. I agree with Alex. It really is about finding the right fit. And you will...just keep at it!!! Best of luck!

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    2. You're both COMPLETELY right! I just sometimes like to think that I have some sort of control over this process. Stupid, I know.

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  2. It's really hard to find that balance with feedback ... it very commonly leads in different directions. The challenge is to find that common thread, or the REAL issue, hidden amongst what they're saying. I think most agents, writers, readers, etc. are very good at telling you what feels wrong, but not always able to articulate what the real problem is.

    Example: Agent says the MC needs to be more proactive and aggressive. Beta says the same character is overbearing and needs to be toned down. The real issue is voice: you aren't sure who the character is (or at least what's on the page isn't), so neither are they. They just know they don't like her as is. When you've got the MC just right they'll both say the MC fits the story perfectly, even if they don't like her. (Most likely, one will love her, and the other will tolerate her--and tolerate is okay. It's the putting down of the book we can't have.)

    I guess I'm saying we have to break out those cereal-box-decoders and figure out what's really bugging them. (And it's usually one of those big, annoying writing terms like 'voice' or 'pace' or 'tone'.)

    Hang in there, you'll get it figured out if you're determined. And the pool sounds awesome! :-)

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    1. Oh this is amazing advice, which is so expected, coming from you. Thanks for helping me see a sensible solution to a seemingly impossible problem. :-)

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  3. I know what you mean on the query. I re-wrote mine a million times and still feel like it's too dry to spark any interest. I'd try writing the synopsis first (I find the synopsis easier) and then pare it down to query size.

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    1. My biggest problem is this: My story as a whole makes complete sense, but it's too huge to narrow down to 250 words.

      If I do, I focus it so much that even I think it looks like the story I'm querying is too small to fit into my word count.

      If I put in more, I end up with too little focus and crits tearing the letter to shreds.

      :-/

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  4. I never got a rejected manuscript back with a note that said, "You're story is great, but your query letter is awful." I just try to write the best letter I can with the tips I learned, and let it go at that. If your story is what they need then they will take it.

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    1. Yeah, but at this stage, no one seems to be reading the dang story. *headdesk*

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  5. I agree with David. Write the best book possible, and do your best with the query, too. A lot of agents read the first few pages. Some even prefer it over a query letter. And I know Veronica Roth, author of Divergent, said she was awful at writing query letters, so she focused on agents who asked for the first few pages, because she was confident in her writing.

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    1. That's actually a good idea. Hmm... No wait. I burned through those. Now it will be agents with pages and synopses. Oh gosh... the synopsis... *pathetic whimper*

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  6. I say go small press and get the thing published. Trying to go Big Five with an agent and all the trimmings is like slamming your head against a wall. For your book, I recommend Rhemalda Publishing. They do a great professional job.

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    1. You know, I've been thinking about this again and again. I can't help feeling like Doorways is too different for a Big Five publisher to take the risk. That's the sense I'm getting from what I've read, in any case.

      Still, I want to explore avenues before settling one one and don't want to give up because I'm getting annoyed with the query writing process.

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  7. I spent about three months querying agents before I started to self-publish. One of them wrote that she got 4000 queries a month. Is it any wonder agents or publishers don't pay any attention? They just expect to get is a bunch of trash and so they skim over everything and pay no real attention. Maybe after three or four years, you might suddenly strike the right chemistry with somebody. But I couldn't wait that long.

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    1. Yeah I sometimes wonder how many agents pass books without paying attention, only to bang their heads against walls when said book goes on to sell insane amounts.

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  8. Yeah, the whole querying thing is pretty crazy. But keep getting feedback, because I guarantee you'll find a common thread in what's working/what's not.

    That's what I did with mine until it was finally finished. It's far from perfect-- I'm sure it could still be messed with and I'm sure it will win me plenty of rejections, but there's nothing I can do about that.

    I put my query through the wringer on like four different sites--Write On, Mathew McNash's site, GUTGAA and at least one other I can't remember.

    For a long time, all the advice had a common thread. I revised, revised, revised. And FINALLY, I had either one of two things happening when people read it.

    There were the people that liked it. And there were the people who were still critiquing. But, when all my critiques started contradicting each other, and picking apart random stuff that someone else loved, I stopped messing with it.

    I waited until there was NO common thread--at that point it just became a subjective thing and you're NEVER going to please everyone. BUT-as long as your getting critiques where people are still agreeing on the main points that need to be changed/fixed, than you can assume it still needs work.

    Phew. I feel like I just wrote you a book. Having said all that, I'm good at critiquing queries. (no sense being falsely humble haha) I'd be happy to take a look at yours if you want. Hit me up in my comments if you're interested and I'll send you my email address. :)

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    1. That's similar to my editing process. I have 6 cps. If one picks on a point I'm unsure about and none of the others do, I leave it.

      My query letters are difficult because no one is ever displeased for the same reason nowadays and all I keep getting back are no's.

      Personalizes, yes, but no all the same. :-/

      Thanks for the offer to help! I did comment, but it might have been too busy for you since it was Christmas season.

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  9. I haven't entered the query submitting process yet, but I'm terrified. Sounds like a lot of people (most, probably) go through what you are going through so I kind of expect it too.

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    1. Yeah it is. Actually getting rejected isn't hurting me as much as annoying me.

      I love getting no's and critique. If I learn something. If I get the possibility to improve and sharpen my skills.

      NOT what's happening now. I'm getting plenty of both with no consistent reason, which is driving me up the wall.

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  10. I've written a couple query letters, but I've never sent them out. I think researching the agents is where it comes into play. Find out if an agent seems to like longer query letters or shorter ones. Customize the one you have to fit each agent. It may take a bit longer, but sometimes it can be just a cut and paste to make it fit right. It definitely can be frustrating not to know what's wrong with the letter.

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    1. This is DEFINITELY something I'm planning to do this time. I'm going to pick five agents at a time and stalk them as much as I can before querying.

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  11. Getting conflicting opinions on query letters is frustrating, but I guess that's when you just have to trust your heart. Cherie's advice is good.
    Hugs
    Lyn

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    1. That's the thing. I am, but it's just not getting me anywhere. Which makes me doubt what I've sent out, even if I know it often comes down to personal preference.

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  12. I think conflicting feedback is just part of the game, given how subjective this whole business is. Someone up above mentioned common threads, which I think is good advice. If several people are saying the same thing then I pay more attention to it. If people are contradicting each other, then it's a sign that the point is probably not inherently wrong, it's more a matter of personal preference. That's when you have to start using your own judgment and trusting in your own opinion and voice.

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    1. Yeah that's how I feel too. Sadly, the no's keep rolling in.

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  13. Yep, query letters are frustrating. You need to keep it short and concise, but in a way that doesn't make your story sound generic. It's finding those few sentences that explain why your story is special and different from all the other books out there. You'll get there!! Good luck!

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    1. Hahahaha yeah. While (in my case) focusing on less than 40% of the book's plot. *sob*

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  14. Nothing is black and white when it comes to queries. There is supposed to be a formula, but there really isn't. Good luck.

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    1. Yeah exactly! It sometimes feels like I can write any sort of query and still end up with an agent. Thing is, I'm not gunning for just any agents. I'm aiming for the best. So not knowing how to do this is agonizing.

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  15. Oh, I'm all about procrastination. In fact, I'm procrastinating right now by commenting on your post. Thank you for enabling me.

    But hey, your query doesn't have to be perfect (except grammatically). All it needs to be is compelling. Compel the agents to read the first five page (which you've hopefully included unless their rules forbid it) and grab them there. Then don't let them go.

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    1. Excellent point! Only thing is, the one query I had overwhelmingly good cp feedback on managed to bring in about 15 no's.

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  16. There's no way to predict the tastes of strangers. Some will like X, others will prefer Y (I never enjoy Y, but there it is). I think Nate nailed it with the grammatical correctness and compelling query. The most frustrating bit's that compelling's in the eye of the reader, eh? Getting an agent's kinda like finding everlasting love. (I'm guessing; I'm divorced, so maybe I'm not the best resource, here...) ;-)
    Some Dark Romantic

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    1. Hahahaha I know what you mean. I'm sort of coming back to the realization that I should sort of take my current query (which is probably as good as it will get) and just go through the list, hoping someone will like it.

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  17. Of course it's worth the effort! As Michael said above, the small presses might be a better option. I automatically think of small presses for my novels because I know the big publishers wouldn't look at them.

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    1. Makes sense. My WiP is sort of on the cusp, I think, which is probably why I'm torturing myself.

      I know that I've got something that'll achieve mainstream success.

      Problem is, no one wants to freaking believe me and I can't make them.

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    2. I think 4 of the Booker Prize nominations this year from the small presses - it's not a non-mainstream option at all.

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  18. The eternal conundrum! You know we can only do so much, and if it's just not working then, start a new project while you query. Sometimes it helps put the previous project into perspective. :)

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    1. I have. I definitely understand what you mean. Writing subsequent novels definitely helped me edit Doorways.

      BUT, Doorways is the one I keep going back to. It's so difficult to explain, but it's the story that will end up defining me. I just know it is. It won't let go until I get it out there.

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  19. I agree with Alex. You only need one agent who gets it to have success.

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    1. Yeah that's true. It's just demoralizing that not a single one in over 20 agents wanted to give it a chance.

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  20. Query letters...what's a query letter? I haven't written one in years.

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Thanks for commenting! I love to read what you think.