It’s my belief that if I do good, honest work, that someday an audience will find me. But in order to do good, honest work, I have to admit things to myself, about myself, that I don’t really want to highlight: fears, mistakes, moments when I acted selfishly.
It’s worth it to have books I’m proud of. And it’s cathartic. As you know if you’ve read my bio, I started writing seriously to help me cope with loss.
I don’t want to be doing anything besides writing, but it would be nice to feel like this train was going somewhere. Toot toot!
Once a book of mine is written, it goes to an editor who toils to make my work as readable as it can be. That costs money, but worse than the money is the necessary use of Microsoft Word.
Next, I rely on artists to help design covers that will make my work attractive to readers. I don’t expect these people to work for free. I want to support them. But speaking purely fiscally, I may never recoup those costs.
Lastly, I take all the many hours of work, all the emotions and struggles, the changes, improvements, necessary cuts, package them up and send the package to literary agents. Usually they don’t even respond. Silence, they say, is the new “no.”
Flip the Script
Recently, I had some meetings with agents. I left those meetings feeling dissatisfied and ineffectual, so I did what I usually do when I’m feeling bad: I tried to make those crap feelings into something interesting.
I asked literary agents to query me. Submission guidelines here.
Submission guidelines are written in a voice that makes it 100% clear who is more important than whom, so I wrote mine in a similar clinical dont-waste-my-time tone. Then I went to the Association of Author’s Representatives web site which — perhaps foolishly — lists literary agents contact information.
I searched for agents who claim to represent humor, and who are open to unsolicited emails from authors. Then I sent them a variation on the below email, edited to make it obvious, should any agents I contacted compare notes, that I hadn’t just copy/pasted the whole thing.
Good morning, [person or agency et. al.]. I obtained your email from your AAR listing, which includes Comedy, Humor [sic].
I’m emailing to let you know that I am accepting queries to be my literary agent.
My submission guidelines are here: http://www.jimhodgson.com/literary-agent-submission-guidelines/
Please ensure they are followed to the letter should you choose to submit.
Thank you and good day.
I sent about fifteen of those, including one by paper mail which I typed.
So far I have received three responses. I will protect identities as a matter of courtesy.
Response Number One
Within just a few minutes I heard back from an agent I’ll call Speedy. Her message was a single line.
Might be a good idea to describe your book
Speedy was engaged enough to respond, but she’s not really playing along. There’s not a book. I’m not querying you.
I thought for a few minutes about my reply, then sent it.
With respect, that would be me querying you.
I hoped that might elicit a response along the lines of “Oh, haha, okay well [playing along],” but no. She responded quickly again.
Querying me about what?
I let the conversation drop there. It was obvious Speedy didn’t want to join in any reindeer games.
Response Number Two
My second response, from an agent I’ll call Fussy, made me laugh.
We don’t query authors
Sent from my iPhone
I think it makes me laugh because I sense that Fussy desperately wanted to add the words “you IDIOT” to his message, but didn’t, probably because he’s a gentleman. Or because he got tired of typing on his iPhone.
A few days later, I got yet a third response from someone I’ll call Kindly. It read like this:
OK, you got me. This is the BEST query letter/pitch we’ve received.
Tell me what you’re pitching. And, thanks for the laugh!
All best wishes,
Now we’re talking. Perhaps there is a literary agent out there who is interested in the art of writing more than finding yet another dystopian YA to sell. After chatting with Kindly over a few emails, she asked for my full manuscript.
There’s just one problem with sending her my full manuscript. I don’t have a full manuscript. I’m not querying!
A Social Faux Partial
Querying agents as a fiction author when you only have a partial novel is a no-no. There are a lot of unpublished novels as there are out there, but there are certainly exponential numbers thereof of unfinished novels. What if the agent likes your pitch, then you never finish your book? Then they’ve wasted their time, and there’s nothing agents hate more, apparently, than wasted time.
I don’t get the marriage between books and pitching agents. Seems to me we’re not really talking about a specific book. We’re talking about a partnership. It makes sense in a world where a person expects to write one book their whole lives then live off the royalties thereof, but I want to write books until I do a potato sack tumble out of my chair. Ah, well.
I came clean with Kindly.
Haha! Holy moly. This is just the best. I never in a million years thought I’d get a request for full from this.
I wrote my submission guidelines as a joke for myself and my writer friends. Figured I’d send it out to some agents, write a blog post, have a few laughs. I was trying to make myself feel better after some fairly disastrous query critiques.
I have four chapters of my current work in progress. I’ve been focusing on my serial project Ten Thousand Gods.
Anyway, I’m full time and I can have it done by the first of the year, but attached are the first four.
If nothing else, I can’t tell you how pleased I am that someone isn’t telling me I’m insane to even think of writing something like this.
I haven’t heard a word since. Probably, either Kindly is mad at me for sending her a partial, or she read my partial and it bored her into a coma.
Anyway, it’s back to the writing board for me. Trying to do good, honest work. Waiting for an audience to find me. How will I know I’ve succeeded? Easy.
Agents will come knocking.