I’ve been talking a lot about doing queries since last summer but I didn’t walk the walk until yesterday. I did it! I sent TWO queries to agents who seem very cool and who might like Creampuffs (and one who might like Ashes I made a note of for the future).
Querying is hard. And scary. But not for the reasons you might think.
Thanks to ten years of sending out short stories (and a previous decade before that of writing fanfic and posting it on the intertubes for anyone to read/comment on) not to mention my eleven years as a graphic designer, I’ve learned how to not read a rejection letter as a rejection of me.
I get bummed out, of course I do, and I have moments where I wonder if I am good enough yet to be selling my work; but I also know that even if I never get past “mediocre” or “unsellable” that I am still a nifty person with many other fine qualities. (In fact, I was once told by a shitty art director that I was a terrible designer and I should give up my career/aspirations. I cried for a bit–he was really horrible–but after that I went out and worked for another 6-7 years before choosing to write instead. Screw you, asshat.)
So yeah. I am not afraid of a potential agent telling me that I am no good (because screw you, potential asshat). I almost wish it was that simple; there are many, many people out there who want to sit you down and give you a heart-to-heart about how you shouldn’t fear rejection because reasons. There are fewer people, however, who are in a position to sit you down and give you a heart-to-heart discussion of the multitude of variables and possible courses of action in today’s market and how they apply to you, a 36 year old with no publishing credits.
Do I query editors directly? (Old hands say yes.) Do I self-publish? (People who enjoy using Twitter say yes. People who don’t enjoy Twitter say no.) Should I query agents? Should I query agents in Canada or in the US? What about editors? What do I say to people who say an agent needs to know what my book is comparable to? Is it okay to tell them that “I wrote this book because I saw a hole I needed to fill and therefore I don’t know what it’s comparable to”? Is it okay to make up genre terms? Everyone else seems to. Wait I am supposed to read lots in my genre? But my genre doesn’t seem to exist yet? That’s why I wrote the book in the first place?
Round and round and round we go.
I’m not getting any younger, and that’s an added pascal of worry. Traditional publishing can take years and years. What if I screw up? What if I miss a window I don’t realize is closing? What if something something millennials something?
Round and round I went. And then in October two things happened: an article crossed my path on social media, and I applied some of my own advice to myself.
Step back, re-frame. It’s maybe not a mantra but it should be; I’ve written about it before as a tool in one’s problem-solving kit. Right about the time I was trying to figure out how to reframe my short-story rejection problem and the sorting out mass of variables of querying someone posted “Why You Should Aim For 100 Rejections A Year” and I recognized the solution that I’d been seeking.
Instead of trying to collect acceptances (which depend on other people), one should look to collect rejections, because the only thing it takes to collect a rejection is a willingness to research and gumption to send out. I have both those things. And in the modern age, you don’t even need any envelopes or a roll of international stamps.
Taking that idea I combined it with my other favourite approach: “If I achieve X, I get to treat myself with Y.” (Some people work better with a stick but I much prefer the carrot.) After talking it over with Cutie, I drew up a ‘queryometer’ to colour in for both Creampuffs and Ashes, and I taped it to my door: 50 sends and I’m treating myself to something relaxing. Maybe a massage or a mani-pedi. Because–and let’s face it–after needing to send out 50 queries I will probably need the cheering up.
The more astute of you will no doubt recognize that this is January, not October, and that 2 months are unaccounted for. Well done. You are correct. November I shelved all of my projects to focus on NaNo and Blackout Odyssey; and December was a stew of holiday mayhem, family engagements, frantic/failed editing; general Christmas stress.
I was so excited for the start of the new year. A clean slate! I can dedicate myself to achieving 100 rejections, both for short stories and queries! This will be the year I fling everything out into the world like so much spaghetti, and hope something sticks. Monday the 1st was even Submission Monday, the day I set aside an afternoon for submission updates, emails, queries and placement research.
What ended up sticking, of course, was plague. The week rolled by in a series of coughing fits and general moaning and malaise, and I watched writing peeps (some of whom are also doing the 100 Rejections A Year challenge) tossing their written pasta around with gay abandon and I was jealous. I wanted to be out on the playground and getting rejections too.
Monday the 8th arrived and I sat down with a list of to-dos and a hazelnut coffee and also some Halls (don’t ever mix the two, take my word for it), ready to get to work.
Instead I ran into my old friend, Too Many Variables To Consider, and spent several miserable hours bouncing from one potentially-out-dated article to another while sinking into a nutty, mentholated haze of despair.
And that might have been the end of the story, if not for a return of a villain from act one.
Different hat, same head up sphincter. While part of me recognizes that the writer of said article (no I am not going to link it to it) wasn’t talking to me but to perhaps someone underprepared and overenthusiastic about writing for a living in today’s market, I still took it to heart. They told me that it was unlikely to find a market for my first novel, that I should prepare myself for the possibility that it will never sell. And I (caffeinated and clear of throat) said
SCREW YOU, ASSHAT
And then googled “agent looking for novel about girl nerds”.
Because, sometimes, you need to cut through all the shit and go with what you know.
Half an hour later I’d queried two people about Creampuffs and jotted down a couple of other leads for Ashes.
Do I think I’ll hear back from them? Probably not. It’s not that easy. But what I needed to was just to start somewhere, and now I’ve done that. Thank you, unlinked nasty advice giver, for that unlikely burst of motivation. I hope that somehow, some day, you can manage to grow past your need to shit on people’s dreams.
Happy 2018, everyone. Make this the year you go out and do the thing. Don’t let any asshats tell you otherwise.