Thursday, January 08, 2009

If an unpublished author has an opinion....


Nathan Bransford (I called him Nathan once and my husband freaked out, wondering who this online persona was) wrote about queries. I have some strong and not necessarily well thought ideas on this, so I'll put them on here instead of on his blog.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that a query is a bit of an antique. You don't see artists peddling query letters to galleries; no, they send photos of their work. They don't paint a picture and then hope that the gallery likes the painted mock-up.

A query letter, to me, is to precarious. There shouldn't be so much weight put on the letter. It seems to me that first chapters would be much more useful, although of course I understand the agent's time is precious and so on.

But seriously, folks, there has got to be a better way to do this.

Here is my dual nature coming out in full force. I guess if I were to send in a resume it's that same type of hook; I'm trying really hard to get someone to want to call me for an interview based on a few lines on a piece of paper. Same dodgy process.

Although somehow it seems more fair in that context. One of the commenters on NB's blog suggested that he's a writer, not a salesperson and I thought that was whammo-slammo.

Maybe there is no answer. I wonder about shaking the whole system up. What that would entail, what it would (could) look like at the end. To expect that people write books, there is no real "true" set of rules that govern the process for publication, other than researching the rules that each agent/publisher has and gingerly trying to remain unoffensive yet compelling...arg.

Honestly, the system and processes seem whack to me. Of course, were I to be published tomorrow I'd be extolling their very virtues, so really my opinion isn't exactly scientific.

I think this is a tree falling in the forest type of post. Interesting to only me. Let's see. Do you have an opinion on this?

12 comments:

Justus M. Bowman said...

I view queries as painful necessities on the path to publishing.

Oh, Nathan's last post depressed me. :(

Marty said...

I do not think of query letters as "antique" but still somewhat outmoded. I believe that we have to pursue every avenue to make our voice as writers be heard. If getting published is the primary goal then use all means to achieve that end. Right now, I am simply trying to tell the best story possible and generate interest in my work. The query letter will come in time and only then, can I engage in the angst of the true author.

Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jill Wheeler said...

I think Firebrand had the right idea with the query holiday. If it was standard procedure, then agents wouldn't be bombarded by first chapters. They could skim and see if they liked it, and if they didn't, then reject it. Although I do see the merit in trying to "hook" the reader. Maybe this can just be done in a paragraph?

Lisa and Laura said...

Is it crazy that I sort of love query letters? Of course I also love job interviews, so that sort of figures, right?

I think part of this stems from the fact that Laura and I spend a lot of time thinking of marketable concepts for our work, so the query is easy for us because we're big fat high concept sell outs.

Don't get me wrong, we still went a few rounds in query hell, but we actually thought it was sort of fun. *ducks*

Jill Wheeler said...

If it *were* standard procedure. Sigh. Time for bed.

Lady Glamis said...

Good post! I do have an opinion...

I think the system could be better, but so could every other system out there. Right now, it works as it has worked for years and years and years. It will take a huge turn of events or a really gradual change to bring about a different system.

And no, we may not all like this system. I, for one, think that it is all right. I think Nathan's finest point was in saying that he doesn't have time to read a ton of stuff from everybody every day. A quick, short summary is all he needs to see. And that happens to be the query.

I still hate queries. They still scare me to death. And I still dread this coming year as I plan to send out about 500 of them...

spinregina said...

All such interesting thougths. Given that I change my mind about 1.5 times per second I'll likely bounce around on this.

My only thought on this at the moment is that if the guidelines were standardized. I know agents and publishers like to feel special, but if there were strict guidelines and a format, would it make the process easier for writers? Instead of combing through websites for information, simply follow the standard formatting and voila; query letter.

Although I can already here the argument against; the weeding out of the chaff would come from the weeding out of those too lazy to figure out the ever-chanign rules.

Tsk.

spinregina said...

See? A tree does make a noise.

Anonymous said...

I've sent out many query letters over the course of the last year. Some have garnered interest while others were sucked into that vast query letter black hole. The letters themselves were useful to a point, but I feel like it would have been a better use of my time to not have to customize each to different requirements. I do have an agent pending, so I'm going to post this anonymously. Cross your fingers for me!

Lisa and Laura said...

One last thing - it's hilarious that your husband was jealous of Nathan Bransford. That cracks me up.

Laura and I talk about him all the time like he's some guy we work with or lives next door. Sometimes we like what he says, other times we bitch about him.

Amazing how the interweb makes you feel like you actually know people that you've never even had a conversation with.

lotusgirl said...

I don't care for the query, but I figure I just have to work within the current system. It could be worse.

I appreciated Nathan's opinion. He seems to have a finger on the pulse of what most agents like. Jenny Rappaport had a different take on them, and I found it interesting. Her blog is litsoup.blogspot.com.

Speaking of Nathan. Did you see where he linked to my blog today? Cool, eh?