” Sharpening pencils” by BWJones is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
About a week before my nonfiction debut went to auction, I received two solicits from writers who is projected to bid if I did what the fuck is asked. The first writer wanted me to take my 4,000 -word writing sample and rewrite it in a purely comedic vein. The second requested a rewrite, very, only he wanted me to clear the book ultra-serious. No jokes.
It was 2019. I was infertile, but I did have a demanding full-time job I couldn’t shirk, so I got up at 5 a.m. every morning and slammed out brand-new sketches before wreak. In the evenings, my friend Lizzie hunkered down beside me while, over beers and takeout, I trod her though the new textile. Then we swiped it up, or slathered on the sad. The adrenaline surge of all this was real, and likewise very far from pleasant. I felt like the comedy-tragedy mask come to unshowered, greasy live. If I didn’t satisfy both briefs, my diary might not sell.
A dozen years prior, when I’d first started trying to get a book published, I wouldn’t have been up to the task. Fortunately, by the time all this went down, I’d once depleted 12 years in the query trenches. I’d too devoted a year in L.A. pitching movie ideas to producers in late V-necks who absolutely loved the idea, wow, beautiful, splendid, merely convert the entire thing, okay?
It’d been like a fitness boot camp for my ego: cruel and deep wrong, probably in violation of multiple health-department codes. In the end, though, I was glad to have lived, and the conflicting askings met me in shape. I’d once acquired pretty much every stupid, humbling misstep you are eligible to perform. Perhaps without all those years of unanswered emails, organize abandonments, close calls and ghostings, I would’ve been dared to be like but but but! How dare you question my Art!
Instead, my feeling was: Thank you for such suggestions. Hand me that brief. Lemme realise what I can do for you.
This kind of compromise isn’t for everyone, I recognize. Depending on your ambitions, your age, where you are in your writing career and/ or the delight of your childhood, you may be on a different direction. My goal was get my book’s big idea out into the world, whatever sort it took, whether comic or distressing. And for me, in “the worlds largest” literal way, feeling prevailed over depression. Running Press, a subsidiary of Hachette, proposal on the funny account and won.
I want to say I learned a great deal in my years of querying and perhaps most especially in those last few crazed epoches before auction–as Nabokov wrote, “The last long lap is the hardest.” But I also know it’s all too easy to recast the fight as edifying and educational when you find yourself, for nonetheless brief a few moments, filched out of it. Who’s to say the self-congratulation phase is not, in its behavior, just as blind as what came before?
Putting it mildly, the world demands different dues from various beings. We don’t all have the same access, reserves or, for that are important, masochistic blotch, pitch-dark sense of humour, what have you. I do, nonetheless, feel comfy presume that your experience of querying has been cruel and painful, more. Disheartening. A mashup of Cinderella and The Road.
You may take heart in hearing that you are almost certainly savvier than I was when I transmitted my first queries in 2006, when I was 24, and it turned out no one craved the bildungsroman I’d written hoping to sway an indifferent ex. I queried two more fictions off and on over the next 10 times before starting work on a nonfiction overture in late 2016. It was 2018 when I signed off by an agent.
Here’s what I came to see in my dozen years of disappointment. Maybe this hard-won knowledge can help you, more, wherever you are in your–the word is hard to dodge–journey.
Lottery truisms apply. You can’t prevail if you don’t query, yet the odds are grim.
It can be better to think of querying as a process rather than a matter of sending an email, or even a entire season of casting emails. Finding the right negotiator may take years and times even if you’re 99.8% less naive and fooled than I was when I started out.
Literary workers aren’t therapists or fairy godmother. They’re more like realtors searching for developed belongings who, several hundred times a year, find themselves the target of strangers’ bizarre psychological entreaties. Parties target agents, in short, with some very weird stuff. This is what illustrates their periodic caginess, overall reticence and long response times.
The major obstacle standing between many( perhaps most) writers and a bible deal isn’t a polished manuscript or overture. It’s a sense of the publishing countryside as it really is. It’s market information, sell know-how: a considered opinion of where potential opportunities lie, of how to slope and grocery successfully.
Writing and marketing are definite skills and abilities. Busting out of the polouse pen tends to require that you develop both and then wrestle them into overlap.
Yes, yes, I know: Some people will see the word “marketing” and equate it to hypocrisy. But some of history’s greatest and most accepted novelists too expended years studying and adapting to the market, adjusting their original visions so that they more closely resembled favourite literature and what was in demand. Edgar Allan Poe, by way of example, shifted his noble-minded and high-minded vision greatly downward to crank out such papa touches as “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee.” Now those are the works we all retain. Dickens and Shakespeare wrote expressly for their markets, too.
Of course , nonfiction and fiction may be marketed and sold very differently. With nonfiction, it can be easier to make an objective case for who will buy a work, while fiction–you will hear again and again–is more subjective. As a novel-querying friend of mine said, after I informed her I was writing this piece, “When your No. 1 response is’ This industry is very subjective, ’ you’re not guiding an industry. You’re running a sorority.” And she’s right. It’s distressing how often it’s the bag in notebook publishing, as in so many other areas of life, that cultural asset, cache and opportunities merely impede accruing to those who can already boast of a boatload.
Still, this is our task in trying to sell our wreak , no matter what that work is. We have to try to make the subjectivity out of it to the greatest possible extent, which makes attending our own market slots as clearly as we are able to, and trying to situated amounts and data to our business instances in the form of platform, market research, and comps–in addition to developing a unique premise and an appealing presentation of your connection to your cloth, et cetera. It may mean playing on feedback, too, if that’s something you’re open to.
With querying, it’s almost as though you’re working a long, sometimes-awful, unpaid internship. You’re discovering how to think like a salesperson, learning to address dissents, assembling a fascinating commercial perception in real season as you rack up the rejections. In short, you’re preparing to move to the next statu and face the final boss, so what would be the point of deploring?( I represent beyond the amazing #amquerying gallows humor on Twitter .)
The truth is that no one is ever going to care about your book as much as you do, which is the major reason you’re qualified to do not just the writing but the selling. Then there’s the fact that we’re all simply protrude with the exercise, regardless, so may as well get cracking. Who knows? You may scoop up, in the end, some valuable skills–in fact, the exact sciences you’ll need to sell your diary or next big assignment. The stamina, more. I can’t think it’s really a coincidence. Life itself is a tragicomic grind full of high-flowns and lows, hard-bitten instructions and slow-boil jokes. And of the #amwriting, #amquerying life-time, that’s exclusively more true.
Read more: janefriedman.com