You Could Just Tell Me, Really

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.

3 thoughts on “You Could Just Tell Me, Really

  1. Rio

    I used to have a book called “Shakespeare’s London” (although it must be out of print because I can’t find it on Google) and it included a picture of life based on data collected at the time of his life, written by a woman whose name I can’t remember. London was between plagues and the force of growing Puritanism and an influx of refugees and veterans from the undeclared war with Spain, yadda yadda, things really impacted all the Playwrights (sp?) and theaters at the time. It gave a very rich background in which he worked and struggled to have his work read, performed and most importantly for us, written down and saved! The long and short of it was it was a freakish set of circumstances that his stuff survived. According to the author, if he had been born ten years later or ten years earlier, he would never have been known.
    It seems to me if you want to get published, you have to write either porn or romance and stick to the formula the publisher gives you. Or start your own publishing company. It seems also, if what you really want is to write you own stories you have to be INSANE.
    Now that I am over 60 I have come to terms with being INSANE and working on a book that if, before I die, is the best I can write I will be happy.
    At least when people think you are a mostly harmless crazy old lady they give you a seat on the bus.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kathy Boles-Turner

    First, when I’m officially an old lady I will still be driving my Mustang 😉 Secondly, writing the book was totally the easiest part! If I could hire someone to teach me how to do a synopsis I totally would … two years of writing classes and it never even came up. But the professor did quite often mention the odds were against any of us ever getting in print simply by percentages alone. It was all the most overt discouragement I’ve ever experienced in my life. Until reading agent demands for query letters, anyway.

    What you say about porn might be true, in some cases but look at the sheer number of nonfiction and socially “aware” fiction out there that applies to the very narrowest of groups (not that I’m putting down the writing or the found fame) … and I’m sure most think the easiest to publish is scifi or trashy horror.

    If I survive all this and come out with an agent, still jazzed about writing, I’m totally going to share my experience in detail for the sake of other writers!

    By the way, I’m fairly certain an excerpt from that book you mentioned was shared by one of my professors! I’ll look around for it and let you know if I find it still in print 🙂


  3. Rio

    I look forward to your account of hooking the big one! I have faith. You will land the agent and return with a heroic tale to warm us on our lonely nights adrift at sea!

    Liked by 1 person

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