This is an Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. Since I’m currently querying and fielding nothing but rejections, I’d like to share the pain. Odds are good that some of you are in the trenches with me.
The optional August question is: What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?
Querying. Avoid querying, if at all possible.
No, I don’t mean that. It’s just the bitterness talking. Really, what I mean is: don’t query before your manuscript is ready, like really ready, not what you think is ready. I did not do this, which is why I can offer the advice to you.
The process of querying is hard on the soul (lets not even go near my ego for a while, it’s crouched in the corner and I think I hear sobbing) so I blow off some steam by writing with humor about the process. Hopefully it will make you smile as you’re crouched to avoid the rejection bombs. This post is also a silly sort of thank you to the agents who spend hours wading through the slush pile with only a headache to show for it. I hope it gets them to smile, anyway. I’m indebted to Ulysses on this comment thread from Nathan Bransford’s blog for the idea for this post. A stiff drink for you, sir.
And on the 335th day, the manuscript was completed. Yea, even so, the words “The End” were typed with pride upon it.
And on the 336th day the Author, being yet full of blossoming hope and strong liquor, decided to Query Agents. Then learn-ed the Author that which had been obscure and hidden before, namely, that there be Ten Totally Made-Up Commandments to Querying.
And on a certain day thereafter the Commandments were written, thus:
1. Deliver unto this Author a copy of Strunk and White. For their grammar is displeasing to mine eyes and their use of the semicolon an affront to nature.
2. Also deliver unto them a copy of On Writing. For it is certain that they need it.
3. It shall be written in large, threatening letters across the forehead of all who do not take heed: READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.
4. If the manuscript be 200,000 words or of lengthier word count, then must the submission guidelines request that the Author deliver unto the Agent a full printed copy through the ancient art of the snail mail package. For surely it is known that such a query will be deleted instantly online, and thus the mailman receiveth his due of physical labor for the day, while the Agent receiveth much merriment knowing full well the price of postage. Let it be so.
5. Give unto the Author the Axe of Editing and request that they do use it upon their manuscript. For never were there words written of which 10% could not be cut.
6. Yea, and even though the Agent does not represent memoirs or women’s fiction, they will receive multiple works thereof. For it would require much labor to read the full submission guidelines and this the Author will not do.
7. And the true, pure response of the heart which cannot be questioned, upon reading the Query and the Writing Sample, can be described in all ways by using the sacred Word of the Agent: Meh.
8. Let all Agents learn of the Nagging Headache which is summoned whenever they open up a Query to find fonts of color in diverse styles together with multiple attachments and links that require much clicking. For surely they have nothing better to do than decipher such while traveling in quest of the information they requested in their submission guidelines.
9. Let all Authors learn of the sacred Phrase of Rejection, and know they that it is used by Agents in place of sending the sacred Word, Meh. And the sacred Phrase is: publishing is a very subjective business and we wish you the best in placing your manuscript elsewhere.
10. Finally, let it be inscribed in blackest ink, flown on the brightest banner, placed on large signs in clearly visible places, written on sticky notes and then taped upon the nose of the offending Author for them to decipher with eyes crossed: READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.
Photo courtesy stocksnap.io and Bonnie Kittle