First let me start by saying that I am in no way slamming literary agencies with this post. Seeing as I am desperately seeking representation from an agent, that would be like biting the hand that may someday (hopefully, pretty pretty please) feed me.
I have to backtrack a little and say that I am so glad I only sent out a handful of queries this time around. None of them rendered the response I was looking for, and this tells me my letter still needs work. Having said that, my frustration is two part:
1) Have you ever read a book and found yourself enjoying it so little, you wondered how it was published in the first place? The process is supposed to occur as follows, correct?
- agent's interest is piqued by query letter
- agent requests more material
- material decidedly does NOT suck, so agent begins pitching it to publishing houses
- publishing house concurs material is worth investing in, publishes the book
- We read it and agree or disagree
Granted, everyone's tastes are different, but I have read some books where the material definitely DOES suck. Trite plotting, cliche dialogue, completely unrealistic scenarios... it almost makes me angry. But here's the catch - there was SOME reason that agent, publisher, and finally me as the reader were drawn to the book in the first place. Someone, most likely the author, found some way to cleverly present the premise. Agent and publisher expanded on it. They drew us all in, and while agent and publisher cash their checks, do they care that I don't stand behind my investment in their product? And did they take it on because THEY genuinely believed in the product, or were they merely confident they'd found a way to spin it into best sellerdom?
So my main frustration is this: Even if my novel DOESN'T suck (and I do realize my opinion doesn't count in this respect), an agent would never know it if they're throwing away my sample pages based on the query alone. Even if I've written the novel competently, I'm not SELLING it effectively. So while my query is deleted, another query is moving on to the next round. Will it become a novel some of us wish we'd never read? Who knows. But they made someone believe in their product. EVERYTHING rides on that letter. Which leads to my second frustration:
2) Many (some, not all) web sites and/or agencies make it sound like your query stands a chance so long as it is free of the glaring no-no's all agents despise. For example, addressing it to the wrong person, bragging about yourself, not including the word count/genre, making spelling/punctuation errors, etc.
Don't be fooled. They are just being kind. Your query can be grammatical perfection, with an ideal word count and a clearly identified genre, but guess what? You still can and will be rejected. It's not enough to do everything correctly. You have to do it exceptionally.
So, Stephenie Meyer, despite what you would like us all to believe, your query obviously didn't suck. But mine is clearly not at the exceptional level yet, so back to tweaking I go. And when I do get to the next round, I sincerely hope no one regrets buying my novel!
If anyone stops by and has ever been driven to distraction wondering how a book they found intolerable made it to publication, I'd love to know about it. Happy Saturday!