Monday, May 7, 2012

The Work of Writing

Most writers are familiar with the lesson that writing the first draft is only the beginning of the real work. And it's true. The editing process has been long and daunting. Since I'm waiting on Beta feedback I can see all that work from a distance and appreciate the outcome a bit more. So, once I put together the best possible piece of work I could accomplish on my own, I thought the hard part was over. I was wrong.

No one told me how hard the query process is. I guess that's not quite right, it's not as hard as it is daunting. First I had to do my research and figure out which agents I want to query. Then I put them in ranking order (because sending out 50 queries at a time is asking for a mental breakdown). After that, I searched through websites and blogs to figure out exactly what every agent wants as part of the submission.

I thought I was doing well, since I have a query and synopsis (both of which I'm getting feedback on now). Unfortunately, not everyone wants the same thing. Some agents don't specify a synopsis length, some want 1-2 pages, some want 1 page only, I have one agent that wants a 3-5 paragraph synopsis. What? Then you have agents who want a separate bio and one who wants a marketing plan. Come again?
I don't want to write another synopsis!

I spend hours combing agents sites and come away feeling numb...dead inside. I just want someone to read my book! And the worst part is that all this craziness is sapping my creative energy when I'm supposed to be working on my next book.

So what's your strategy? Do you only query agents who don't ask for additional materials? Do you have a folder on your computer with eighteen versions of your synopsis in varying lengths? Did you write a bio that says "I'm a literary nobody, but can you read my book anyway?"

Please tell me I'm not the only one who might need a vacation* by the time I actually start sending queries!

To be clear, I am a poor writer. When I say vacation I really mean a pedicure and a fudge bar.

14 comments:

  1. Queries are a madhouse. I do query agents who request additional material. (Although, when they ask for a separate bio they get the "about me"from my blog). I'm not sure I would query an agent who wanted an up front marketing plan. I think that's one of the things the should help with.But as for sending 50 queries at a time, I actually prefer to get all over with at once. But at this point, I don't think I will query 50 agents. After my last round of queries and attending some conferences, I have a pretty good idea of who I would like to work with.

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    1. Beth, I thought the marketing plan request was a little odd as well. Great tip on using the blog bio as a the separate bio!

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  2. Sarah...I know the feeling. I had to step away from the query process for a few months just to get perspective (and sanity). I needed the break, and I think it was the exact right decision for me, because now I've tweaked my query, synopsis, hook sentence, first chapters, & entire ms (see I know what you mean) and I'm ready to hit the next batch of agents. Fingers crossed (for both of us) :)

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    1. I am still in the tweaking stage (for my query and synopsis) so I'm not quite ready to go yet. I'm hoping to send out my first batch in June. I'm sending all kinds of good luck waves your way.

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  3. I usually write three synopses:
    1. a super-short elevator pitch, which is only three lines.
    2. a two paragraph one that fits nicely in a one-page query letter.
    3. A two-page one that can be shown to an editor or whomever, wanting a more thorough insight into where your story is headed.

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    1. Good plan, I need to get my two pages down and then trim around it. I think :/

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  4. I don't miss my querying days, but believe me, you'll get through them. Yes, just about everyone wants something different with your query, so it take a lot of research on your part. But it's all worth it when you get that call.

    Good luck!

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    1. I just have to keep reminding myself that all this hard work is something I need to get through to get to the prize at the end.

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  5. I think the marketing plan is only for those writing non-fiction, so I don't think you need to worry about that.

    I'm with Kelly--I really don't miss the querying days. :) It's a full time job managing all your submissions and absorbing the feedback. It's also stressful and exhausting because it puts you smack in the middle of an emotional roller coaster, and you don't know when it's going to be over. :)

    When I queried, I had something similar to what Catherine has. An elevator pitch that was only a sentence or two, a single paragraph summary, and a one-page-single-spaced synopsis. I did have to write a longer synopsis once, but only once. For all other submissions, these three items sufficed.

    Good luck!!

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    1. You would think so, but it was actually for fiction. They wanted to know proposed target market and ideas for getting the word out. I'm pretty sure I won't be sending them a query.

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    2. Huh, that is weird.

      You might be able to give them enough by saying fans of certain books or authors will also like your book (if this isn't what they're looking for, then I'm stumped). For example, 'I think my book will appeal to fans of Laini Taylor, Jeff Sampson, and Janice Hardy.'

      It's okay to include a bestseller or award winner, but you should also include a lesser known author or title. Actually, that's good info to include in all your queries. It paints a vivid picture as to what kind of book yours is and can pique interest. It also shows that you read widely and are interested in the industry.

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  6. Yes, querying is a lot of work! I'm going through that process now. The difference is I'm submitting picture book manuscripts so most pubs require me sending the full ms as oppose to a synopsis. I keep a file and save the different types of submission requirements. If it were me, I'd have several items saved: 1page synopsis, 2 page synopsis...so yes, I probably would have numerous files with various page lengths of synopsis. Sounds like a lot but it becomes easier when the agents ask for specifics. I agree with you. It's enough to make be go crazy!

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    1. I can't imagine writing a picture book, but I may have to look into it if it means no synopsis. :)

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  7. I'm preparing for this process too so I'm glad I'm not the only one being driven to the brink of insanity. I also have to keep in mind that it's all for the good! And I need to get to work on that "literary nobody" bio.

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