Serendipity On Query Road.
August 25, 2008

“There is nothing either good or bad

but thinking makes it so.”

Shakespeare

 Hamlet, II, 2, 253. 

Who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies? I highly recommend them, myself. Not only because they’re easy to eat while driving down Query Road, but because they’re a yummy example of serendipity.

Chocolate chip cookies, therefore, also remind me of the query process.

 As you chug down Query Road collecting tickets (Dear Author rejections), keep your eyes on the road and continue to follow the map — the map of your aspirations. As you pull out of the (insert your favorite writer here) Rest Stop, do bet on the fact that your oil tank will be full of serendipity.

Even better than oil, serendipity never runs low. It also works with your gas tank (full of hopes and dreams) quite exquisitely.    

Actually, chocolate chip cookies owe their very existence to serendipity: 

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

“When the Toll House Inn’s Ruth Wakefield ran out of baking chocolate one day in 1930, she smashed up a bar of semi-sweet chocolate and added the pieces to her dough. Upon their removal from the oven, the cookies weren’t uniformly infused with melted chocolate, but rather studded with little chunks throughout. The signature sweet put her Whitman, Massachusetts inn on the culinary map.”

(information courtesy of AOL)

Some more tips for navigating Query Road, and to avoid dinging your chances of agent representation? 

1) Don’t, don’t, DON’T gripe and complain about specific agents and their rejections on your blog.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk about the process and your experiences. By talking about it, you help other writers not as far along as you. It’s important that we keep helping each other.

I’m just saying that, just like us, (you know you do! : ), agents and people in the publishing industry google their names. The last thing you want to do is insult or anger agents (or their agent friends) who might have been considering representation until they read your blog.    

Just last week, through my own googling of agents as I prepared more queries, I came across many blogs (of irate, rejected writers) complaining about rejection letters, the type of rejection letters, how long it took to receive the rejection letter, the wording of the rejection letter, etc. and etc. 

Doing this (being a bad sport) is tantamount to racing down Query Road and aiming straight for a tree at one hundred miles an hour.

Talk about your experience, sure, but leave out the names. Plan on getting a mail bag full of rejections. The more realistic you are, the less the sting.

2) You’re not a serial killer (I hope not : ) but are you a serial comma user? Do you use too many adjectives? How about typos?

There is a wealth of information to be mined down Query Road. Learn something!

For example, before you query, check the agency’s website and their agents’ blogs — not just for submission guidelines, but for their personal preferences. Often you will come across a goldmine of information on grammar, how to prepare your query, how to improve your manuscript and other information that only works to make your work and your submission better.

3) For every rejection letter you receive, send out two more queries. Get filled with the excitement of new scenery instead of stalled out on Query Road, going nowhere.  

Using my past three rejection letters as an example, there are now six more query letters sailed off into the world. It only takes one yes — so keep those queries coming.

Query Road.
August 21, 2008

They say that I won’t last too long on Broadway

I’ll catch a Greyhound bus for home, they all say

But they’re dead wrong, I know they are

‘Cause I can play this here guitar

And I won’t quit till I’m a star on Broadway.

“On Broadway”

 Interestingly enough, I’ve been thinking lately about how the query process is much like a cross-country road trip. You start out all excited for new adventures and new scenery, with a “gas tank” overflowing with hopes and dreams, and a vehicle called the internet.

Like any other road trip, there will be stops (self-doubt) and starts (new agencies to query), wrong turns (form rejections), and wonderful sights (personalized rejections, requests for pages, partials and fulls).

Continuing on-course, the final destination (agent representation, your book sold, publication) is just around the bend. You may not see it from where you sit, pounding on the keys and obsessively checking email, but it’s out there waiting for your arrival, with cake and champagne and helium balloons and maybe, if you’re lucky, a small, grinning monkey that does cartwheels and handstands.

Of course, as you’re querying, there are things you can do to make the process more enjoyable.

1) Wear diamonds. Yes, I’m not kidding. As you watch your fingers readying the next email query, it’s a lot prettier when you’re wearing diamonds that catch the light and throw rainbows onto the walls. In this case, more IS better, with diamond anniversary bands throwing the most light to guide you down Query Road.

2) Query in your pajamas — heck, do it in a t-shirt and undies while sitting in bed. Thumb your nose at authority and professional protocol, but in a way that won’t impact your query letters or your chances.

3) Each time you hit send on a query letter, get up on your bed and jump up and down, like you did as a kid. Memorize how it feels to be launched into the air, and imagine your book doing the same. But a word of caution: remove all purring cats and snoring dogs, first.   

Of course, even on Query Road, your vehicle can overheat. Sometimes it’s one mile forward and two miles doubling back. At times the road will be closed, or you’ll encounter a dead end. That’s okay. It’ll make for great stories, later.

I keep all this wisdom in mind today, especially after the request for pages I wrote about last week turned into a form rejection this week, along with two more form rejections — one yesterday, and one this morning. 

I’m still standing tall, or, um, sitting. I’ve got my diamonds on, the gas tank remains full of dreams, and it’s full speed ahead.

If you find yourself rejected and dejected as you make your way down Query Road, pull over into the nearest Rest Stop (named after your favorite writer, of course) and give yourself permission to feel it; set a time limit, get a slurpee and a soft pretzel, kick the tire a few times, and then settle yourself back behind the wheel. 

Take a deep breath, and repeat after me: There are amazing and exciting things just around the bend. There are amazing and exciting things just around the bend. There are amazing and exciting things just around the bend … 

Because that’s what the published authors tell themselves.