The agony of the query

So, you spend months, maybe years creating characters and new worlds for the novel of your dreams. 

You agonize over sentence structure and the opening “hook”. 

You paint the scenery of every scene to perfection. 

You give your protagonist relationships, a goal, throw some obstacles at them, and concoct an antagonist to stand in the way of their happiness.

Everything is going according to plan, right?  Everyone loves your writing, so you’re a shoe-in with the publisher, right? 

Wrong.

No matter how great the novel is, your hopes of publication still hinge on the evil query letter and your ability to write a good one.

Whether your story is ten thousand words, or a hundred thousand, you still only have two-three hundred words to sell yourself and the book to an agent or publisher.   And not only that—the letter has to stand out from the rest, convey the unique “voice” of your characters, and sum up the story—characters, hook, conflict and resolution—in two short paragraphs.

Yikes.

And damn.

I like a challenge, but when it comes to writing a query, I’d rather stab out my eyes with a fork.  Summing up the story isn’t a problem.  It’s the voice that kills me.  How can I bring the flavor of the book in without blowing the word count all to hell? 

How can I convey the humor and witty banter that brings the characters to life?

The depth of relationships?

The hot sex scene the ladies will eat up like a creamy slice of tiramisu?

The subplots that weave back together to bring a satisfying ending to the reader?

I wish I knew.

To agent, or not to agent—that is the question

So, I’ve been waiting months to hear back from a publisher I queried for my first novel, The Glass Man.  On average, their wait time is two-hundred and forty days, and they don’t allow simultaneous submissions.  That’s a long time to wait if the response is a rejection, but I waited anyway like a good little author.

By chance, I happened across a thread on my favourite writing site last night that listed a website called Predators and Editors. 

http://www.pred-ed.com/peba.htm

It lists every Publisher and most agents, along with known issues and detailed information about their shortcomings. Apparently the publisher I’d been querying has a habit of publishing books without rights from the author to do so, often didn’t pay royalties due, and their contract is subpar compared to others in the industry.

I take everything I read with a grain of salt, but as a newbie to the publishing world, this startled and frightened me.

What do I know about publishing contracts?

How do I know if I’m getting screwed?

I guess that’s where an agent comes in, but then I think about the percentage they’ll take off the small amount I’ll earn. Is an agent worth the money they take off the top of my hard earned dollars?

I intend to find out.  In the meantime, I’ve pulled my submission from my original publisher and sent it to another with a better reputation and contract. Their suggested return time is 6-8 weeks. That length of time I can deal with happily, and I feel more confident going in with at least a little education about their reputation in the industry.

As for whether or not I’ll pursue an agent–I’ll let you know.