The Queerness of Querying: Part 1

Much like the art of passing love notes in the third grade (when you suddenly realized that you didn’t have to tell Chaz Littlefoot that you liked him in person; that you could instead share your feelings via the written word), querying agents in writing is a strenuous process which has a lot of inherent pros and cons.

First, the “pro” column:

1. You don’t have to be the most suave person in the world to write a good letter. In fact, if you’re like me–ie prone to sudden lapses in judgment wherein you vocalize your weirdest innermost thoughts in the company of strangers–a letter is the perfect way to double-check yourself, before you wreck yourself.

2. You don’t have to see the look on their face if and when they reject you.

3. Worst case scenario, you can always deny the veracity of the text, and/or its intended recipient. “That’s weird, Chaz. The note was supposed to say ‘Do you lobby me?’ Woah, this writing stuff is super complicated!” Or, “Did I pass that note to you? Whoops, it was supposed to go to Chad Lilliput. He sits two desks over…”

Now, for the “cons”:

1. It’s really easy to misrepresent yourself in writing. Whether intentionally or otherwise, you could come off as too businesslike (aka stuffy), potentially losing the affection of an agent who would’ve otherwise found your quirkiness endearing. At the other end of the stick, you could also try presenting yourself as an agent’s most dedicated fan and end up channeling Glen Close in Fatal Attraction instead. Don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure a restraining order is a darker mark on your record than a form rejection.

2. You don’t always get to know “why” they rejected you. Or, more importantly, why they almost didn’t. A lot of agents post about how they’ll get these insane responses whenever they offer personal feedback, and it seems like a good argument for keeping it simple, stupid. But then, I’m the kind of person who would want to know if my MS was an “almost, but not quite” or a full-out “HELL no!” (At least, I think I am. I’ve yet to get a “hell no” letter, so we’ll see.)

3. Sometimes, you get no response at all. And that’s hard, because unlike Chaz Littlefoot, who you will eventually see again–either in tomorrow’s class, or in 20 years at your high school reunion, provided he hasn’t since died in a bizarre gardening accident–some agents might as well live in a different universe. For us authors, their ways can seem as magical and alien as the elusive Chupacabra. And if we don’t completely “get” their drift–that usually, no response means “no thanks”–it’s easy to hold onto the hope that maybe, just maybe, they’ve got our manuscript squirreled away on a desk somewhere…or they’re saving the “call” for another week, to heighten the anticipation.

It’s these times that I start to wonder… was it me? Or was the empty box on the love letter just not big enough?


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