I wrote this a long time ago to post on someone else’s blog, but couldn’t for some reason. I sent it to a couple of people and just stumbled across it. It’s a perfect thing to put here.
Yep, queries. I feel fairly certain that had I taken the time to learn about what happens after a novel is written, I never would have started in the first place. Unfortunately, I foolishly became obsessed with writing first, then learned about the Everest climb to achieve success afterwards.
Distilling 80K words into 100-150. Be unique, but also follow the conventions. Hook the reader, but don’t spoil the story. Be clever, but not too clever.
Then, even if you somehow manage to navigate this ridiculous maze, you have to have your query reach an agent when that agent is in a good mood, is looking for what you’re selling, isn’t already representing an author with something too close (or, if they’re part of a firm, that their firm isn’t representing such an author!).
And you got, maybe, 10 seconds. In that 10 seconds, you need to impress the agent enough to garner an additional 20-30 seconds to actually finish reading your query. That micro novel that took longer to write and edit the novel it represents (really!). That thing you labored over for so long, taking wildly contradictory input from dozens of people all sincerely trying to help. You got 10 seconds (this is on the good day, when the agent isn’t tired, cranky, hungry, pissed at their SO, just stubbed their toe, spilled coffee down their neck, etc., etc., etc.) to garner those additional few seconds. What are those seconds supposed to get you? A request for a manuscript. Only if you somehow survive this gauntlet do you finally get a chance to impress a gatekeeper with your prose.
If you can’t get an MS request, you can’t get representation. It’s that simple and that basic. The query’s only purpose is to convert that 10 seconds into 20-30 seconds into a request for the MS. All that work. For 10 seconds. Why the hell did we start writing again?