Listening to so many podcasts featuring writers of every known genre that have traditionally published in the past fifty years, one would think it possible to encounter a writer willing to share the real horrors of querying agents. Oh sure, they all give some hint that it was time consuming or tough. Except for those who knew someone who knew someone and have some ridiculously giddy story of happenstance that led to a whirlwind publication. But I don’t want to hear from those people.
I want to hear genuine details. I want to hear how the people who didn’t know anyone at all managed to include a bio, a pitch, why they chose that particular agent, why they chose to write that particular story, the pertinent details of genre, word count, proof of a writer’s platform, comp titles, and don’t forget the target audience for the novel, all conveyed in less than 400 charming, attention-catching words. And I want to hear how those writers chose a significant list of agents who represent … say, 200-page, cross-genre novels, then how much time it took to send all those emails and the response time from email to offer of representation.
I also want to hear the the step-by-step process they followed to complete a 1-2 page synopsis of said 200-page novel and how in wide sky and bloody wonder they kept themselves sane and dry-eyed throughout. Is the process perhaps like childbirth? So truly shattering, terrifying, and painful, that the human mind simply can’t recall the details a year or so later? So now they just smile wanly and say in a thin, daft tone, oh, it was all perfectly natural. Because if that’s the case I’ll have a snog of rum, watch Lamaze videos or something and just get on with it.
What I have found during this process of searching podcasts, online interviews, and so on, is that so many agents confess to merely glancing at the query. Glancing. If it’s more than 500 words or so, there are a great percentage of agents that stop right there. No. If the introduction doesn’t read well, no. If in the first couple of paragraphs word count and genre aren’t mentioned, no. If the word count doesn’t seem to fit the genre, no. The entire query hasn’t been read yet, mind you. No. Therefore the synopsis and sample pages don’t even get a glance.
Now that sounds quite snide. Of course when you give it a bit of thought writers hoping to publish outnumber working agents by approximately a Gogillion to one. Very well. Huge work load recognized. But not even getting past the query? That’s stunning. Paralyzing, actually. Not one smidge confidence boosting to any writer ever. And yet, look how many people get published every year. Why are they not sharing the vital information? Tossers. What’s the possible harm?
Of course there are writing teachers who are willing to give advice on how a synopsis should look, how a query should look. But the information I’ve found isn’t a great deal different than what the agents say they’re looking for: Tell me everything quickly and beautifully or else.
Years from now I hope to look back on this rant and laugh and laugh. Silly old me, I’ll say. Freaking out about nothing. Lalalala.