Friday, December 19, 2008

Query No. 2 Hits the Mean Streets

Since sending out multiple queries is acceptable to literary agents (unlike most magazines, which get all P.O.'d about your reluctance to leave your brilliant work in their queue alone for eight months), I launched Query No. 2 today.

I haven't talked at all about my strategy yet, which (if it actually turns out to work) might be helpful. I'm following a similar method with agents, that worked with my first published poems, and that is: ignore advice.

You see, I was told that it was a waste of effort and SASE's to send out a query letter to a magazine you have not studied (studied as in, purchased and reviewed at least 3 back issues). Right. Well, that would be super if my local Borders or B&N stocked the good lit magazines, so I could do my research for the cost of an Italian cherry soda, but no. They don't.

So I said, screw it. I flipped through my Writer's Digest (which is the most absolutely key book for an aspiring writer), I picked out some good matches for material I wanted to launch, I took a quick browse through the magazine's or publisher's websites, and I wrote up ten queries. I launched a couple short stories, a query for a novel (The Wheaties Year, which is up for a re-write before I mail it out again), and half-a-dozen poems. And I got back two acceptance letters for my poems. A 20% success ratio... in this biz, I don't think that's half bad.

And so I'm trying pretty much the same thing with agents, although I am mildly daunted by the fact that many reputable agents receive hundreds of queries a week. I am using a great site:
(It's free, which is a requirement in my book to be a "great site")
On Agent Query, you can look up agents by who represents particular authors, or by genre. I then look for an agent who appeals to me, and who represents some writers I know of and respect.

And then I follow their submissions requirements to build a package to suit them, which is a big PITA itself. I hope like hell they get to my sample pages -- I feel much more confident in allowing my first few chapters to speak for themselves, than in my abilities to write a query letter.

Then I wait.

Hey, I know I'm not playing the game perfectly yet - I have a lot to learn - but at least I'm showing up. I'm even moderately sure my sneakers are on the right feet.

P.S. I recently finished re-reading Jane Austen's 'Emma' for the first time in a few years, and it is positively brilliant. Just perfect. And while Mrs. Elliot is supposed to be just one big PITA, I know, I have the hugest temptation to start using her dyslexic Italian phrase, "cara sposo", to describe my significant other.

That PS had nothing to do with the writing, but I had to get it out of my system. I am a little obsessed with Jane Austen right now.

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