I’m Sending Queries (or Why My Local Grocer is Out of Wine)
“I’m sending queries.”
Look at that simple phrase. It’s kind of cute, isn’t it? Three little words just sitting on the page looking all optimistic and accomplished. But just like Cher’s get-up at the 1986 Academy Awards, it takes a lot of man hours to make it happen.
As if battling the fear of rejection isn’t already a feat, aspiring authors must also grab hold of the reality that every agent and editor has a different set of submission requirements.
Please consider: Of the four agents I’ve opted to query so far (don’t fret, Buttercup, I know I’ll send out 100 times that number before I’m through—these initial four are just to whet my appetite for torture) not one of them wants the same thing. Oh, sure, a killer query letter goes without saying, but aside from that, variances abound. Agent #1 wants a two paragraph synopsis and the first 50 pages of the ms; agent #2 wants a 4-5 page synopsis and the first two chapters of the ms; agent #3 wants a chapter-by-chapter synopsis and no ms pages at all; and agent #4 wants a full synopsis (no specification offered) and any two chapters, author’s choice (yes, agent #4 is my hands-down favorite). Four different agents, four different sets of requirements for submission. Is it any wonder so many authors curl up in the fetal position when their manuscript is complete and it’s time to query?
My husband asks me every day, “Are you sending queries yet? Why are you still puttering around with edits?” And every day he gets the same answer: “Just kill me now.”
See, sending queries isn’t as easy as writing a template, plugging in email addresses, and hitting “send.” First of all, each query letter requires personalization and thought. I have no problem with that, not at all. The agents and editors who take the time to read my query deserve the respect of my prior consideration. Why should they waste their time reviewing my submission if I haven’t done my homework to ensure that what I’m offering is within their wheelhouse? So as far as the letter goes, no complaint here. It’s the other stuff that makes me nuts.
Writing a great synopsis is tough, y’all. No matter its length, two paragraphs or twenty, it must offer a solid preview of character, plot, theme and voice while hitting all the high points of the storyline. And it has to do it while screaming, “Pick me! Pick me!” I am here to tell you that even with the encouragement of multiple hits of dark chocolate and Sutter Home Sweet Red, writing a compelling synopsis, one that does not sound like a recitation of events at a court hearing, is a challenge. Add to that the need to lengthen it, shorten it, punch it up, tone it down, and/or every other darn thing possible in order to respect the individual submission requirements of the agent/editor to whom it is going, and you have an inkling of why that cute little phrase, “I’m sending queries” also means “I need a vacation,” and/or “Whaddaya mean we’re out of wine?”
My theory is that the submission process, with all its hoops to jump and lines to cross, ensures that we as authors must be serious about our work. If writing novels and query letters and synopses were easy, everyone would do it. And while it may seem at times as though everyone is, the truth is that many will give up before their query is ever written or their synopsis ever completed. Believe in your work. Don’t give up.
And when the going gets tough—chocolate and wine. That’s all I’m sayin’.
Have a story to tell about writing a query or synopsis? About submitting your work? Be in the Buff and leave a comment (your name will go in the hat for the random drawing to win Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls.) 🙂
See you next week for more of the naked truth. Have a great week!