Thursday, May 5, 2011

Starting from Scratch. Again.

No matter how many times I query agents with The Astral Palace, it seems like every time I do so I have to go back to the drawing board and reinvent my query letter.

Partly this is because different agents want different things up front and partly this is because every time I reread the old ones I think: "No, wait, that hook sucks." I think that even about the ones that generated requests for partials. Suddenly it's too long, or too short, or goes into too much detail, or doesn't explain enough, or -

So here I am again, laboring hard over small things, tearing down all that went before to start from nothing, and all the time knowing - the query isn't going to sell the book. The query's going to give the book a chance to sell itself, and me - because the book and I and my sales history and the unsold backlog and the stories I'm going to write all come in a package.

No wonder getting an agent is harder than getting a publisher. The publisher only has to commit to one book.

This makes shoving the stupid ego aside much, much harder to do than normal. The ego has a legitimate stake in an agent query. It has to put its best foot forward. So what does it do instead? It turns to jelly and gets in my way, flopping around wailing about how nobody likes it and it's ruining our chances. I don't know why I've got the dang thing. I can't take it anywhere, and it never gives me any useful input.

Blank page. Hook. Onward. Upward. The only way out is through.


  1. Peni, you might put your query in the hands of these magic makers. No one I've sent to them has been disappointed:

  2. You take such good care of me. Or you try. I think my basic query problem is me, continually second-guessing myself and the whole irrational paralyzing terror of intruding myself on the notice of a complete stranger (I don't have this problem approaching editors I've worked with before), and no amount of critique will make that go away. But maybe it would help me get over the hump. I will consider it.

  3. Peni, I can so relate to this. Sometimes marketing feels like an uncomfortable party. The kind where you stand on the edge, so much a wallflower that when someone comes up to you and tries to talk, you can't say a word to recommend yourself.

    Overall, I think that the advice for both shy girls and writers trying to sell themselves is the same: just be yourself and let your book be itself and never mind the rest. Forget the second-guessing-the-hook game. And don't reread your query when you're tired. Believe in your work.

    Easier said than done, Sigh. I think I will go have a look at my own stalled query. I had happily forgotten about it.