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Chrisnova10
07-19-2009, 10:26 AM
If I sold fresh fruit, I could sell from a stand or shop...if I had a good product then people would buy it, if not I'd go out of business

If I were a plumber I could offer my services for a price, if my services were good for the cost then I'd make money.

If I played baseball and could hit 300 or throw 90 MPH I would be all set, if I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn then I'd be cut.

If I was a tornado chaser and got good footage, through predictions and video technology, I'd make money on the videos, otherwise I would get nothing.

If I were in sales and moved a lot of product, I'd make a lot of money. My profit would be proportional to my sales skill.

If I had /any/ job, if I did it well I would be successful, if I couldn't do it then I'd be fired.

Now let's talk about writing...I may have written a great novel, I may have written scrap. But nobody will ever know. The system in place is very flawed compared to other careers. You follow every rule for query submission, send over 100 letters, and nobody is interested. After all, you have no writing resume, which as everybody knows means your book isn't good. Even when all people in your inner circle who have read your book love it...to the point of buying copies for /their/ friends and family. Doesn't matter.

JK Rowling couldn't break through forever, and some say she was lucky to have ever gotten a chance. That woman has sold more books than everybody but God. If she was 'lucky' to have gotten the chance then something is wrong with this system, yes?

Wow that feels /so/ much better. Thanks for listening...

Chris ^_^

scarletpeaches
07-19-2009, 03:44 PM
You make your own luck.

Rowling wrote a book. She edited it. She submitted it.

That's not luck - that's work.

Ken
07-19-2009, 04:13 PM
... can relate to the first part of your post, but not to the second. I occasionally think about how I might've got a lucrative job in the private industry, like my friends did, instead of pursuing writing. I'd have so many things I don't have now, if I'd followed that course. And though I am anything but a materialist it would be nice to have some of those things. Watcha gonna do though. I love writing and would be lost without it, and wouldn't trade this torturous and tormenting profession for any other one in the world.

Kenzie
07-19-2009, 04:56 PM
I guess the fact is that authoring books is a competitive market, more so because there is such a huge range of quality and genres and tastes and a lot of people think they can write a novel easily. There would be the same difficulty in any competitive market, and even more so when judgements are made in a subjective fashion, there is no quantitative measure of ability. So we're not really alone; actors, artists, musicians, dancers and a huge number of other (mostly creative) professions are exactly the same way. Personally for me the pleasure of creating art outweighs the frustration of the small chance that I will make a decent living out of it.

billyf027
07-19-2009, 05:36 PM
A Jane Austen fan wanted to see how the publishers would react to her work, whether they will publish it or not. He sent her works to 18 publishers and agents and all of them rejected or never responded back.

David Lassman a budding writer who having trouble publishing his own works tried a little experiment to see how the same publishers would react if a recognized author's works are sent instead. So he sent Jane Austen's work to the publishers and agents. He changed the name and title of Jane Austen's novels, "Northanger Abbey (http://cmadras.com/162/162g.html)", "Pride and Prejudice (http://cmadras.com/162/162f.html)" and "Persuasion (http://cmadras.com/162/162e.html)" and sent a few chapters from them to 18 publishers and literary agents with a Pseudonym of Alison Laydee. One would assume the literary agents and publishers would recognize the quality and accept the work, but all of them rejected for various reasons.

David Lassman, 43, left several hints in the manuscript so they can identify it as Jane Austen's works, such as he called Pride and Prejudice as "First Impressions" the original title of the book, and left a return address as Jane Austen Center in Bath, where he works as the director of the Jane Austen Festival.

Penguin, which currently publishes the book "Pride and Prejudice", responded to David and said that "First Impressions" seems to be an original and interesting read. But never asked David Lassman to send more chapters of the book simply didn't request any further response.

Other publishers Bloomsbury, Random House, Harper Collins and Hodder & Stoughton either rejected them or never responded.

Christopher Little, the literary agency representing JK Rowling responded with a statement, "not confident of placing the material with a publisher".

David Lassman was confounded and couldn't believe that the publishers and agents wouldn't recognize great literature.

"If the major publishers can't recognize great literature, who knows what might be slipping through the net?"

Only one of the 18 correctly recognized the true author of the works. Alex Bowler, assistant editor at Jonathan Cape publishers, who correctly recognized it as Jane Austen and sent a warning letter to David with the following:

"I suggest you reach for your copy of Pride and Prejudice, which I'd guess lives in close proximity to your typewriter and make sure that your opening pages don't too closely mimic the book's opening. After all, there is such a thing as plagiarism."

David Lassman said the above responses except Alex Bowler's highlights the flaws in the publishing industry.

"Getting a novel accepted is very difficult today unless you have an agent first, but I had no idea of the scale of rejection poor old Jane suffered."

It is awful that agents and publishers can't recognize Jane Austen's works. Who knows how many great works are out there rejected by such agents and publishers, with the internet they can get good exposure but unless recognized by one of the agents it is very hard for authors to make a living. Not everyone is able to become JK Rowling.

Parametric
07-19-2009, 05:43 PM
It is awful that agents and publishers can't recognize Jane Austen's works. Who knows how many great works are out there rejected by such agents and publishers, with the internet they can get good exposure but unless recognized by one of the agents it is very hard for authors to make a living. Not everyone is able to become JK Rowling.

The one and only thing this news story proves is sending out an obviously plagiarised piece of work gets you a bunch of form rejections. It says nothing about whether Jane Austen would have been published today. Nothing about whether publishing professionals recognise Jane Austen. Nothing about whether quality work is still being found in the slushpile and published.

Plagiarised work. Form rejections. Why is this a sign that the publishing industry is broken?

scarletpeaches
07-19-2009, 05:53 PM
This is an old, old, 'trick' and publishers are sick of it.

Who's to say they didn't recognise the PLAGIARISED writing and think, "Oh god, not this one again?"

Parametric
07-19-2009, 05:55 PM
This is an old, old, 'trick' and publishers are sick of it.

Who's to say they didn't recognise the PLAGIARISED writing and think, "Oh god, not this one again?"

I'm starting to froth at the mouth every time somebody brings it up.

scarletpeaches
07-19-2009, 06:06 PM
You and me both.

Let's just get drunk together and forget it ever happened.

Kathleen42
07-19-2009, 06:15 PM
Life isn't fair, highness. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

Kathleen42
07-19-2009, 06:19 PM
Become a plumber, then, and write in your in your spare time. It's incredibly hard to break through in any creative discipline. It's true of acting, writing, painting, photography, etc. etc. etc.

It is not possible to have a perfect system when you are dealing with the ever changing tastes of a fickle public.

Parametric
07-19-2009, 06:45 PM
You and me both.

Let's just get drunk together and forget it ever happened.

First round's on me. :)

dawinsor
07-19-2009, 06:57 PM
Along with plot construction and adverb-killing, a prospective writer has to learn how to manage frustration and rejection in order to survive. It's a skill like most others. If you can't, you decide there are happier ways to spend your time, and frankly, there's nothing wrong with that. It's just the way things are.

eqb
07-19-2009, 07:01 PM
Along with plot construction and adverb-killing, a prospective writer has to learn how to manage frustration and rejection in order to survive.

And the frustrations don't stop once you sell the novel. In fact, you get new ones to add to your existing collection.

Shadow_Ferret
07-19-2009, 07:08 PM
The problem is everyone and their dog think they can write a book and have and the agents and publishers have to slog through millions of submissions just to find your gem. It's the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Just write your best, try to write a query letter that stands out among millions, and hope for the best.

Chrisnova10
07-19-2009, 10:57 PM
I'll try to respond as best as I can. Sorry in advance for being such a newb, still trying to feel my way around here.

I don't think anyone understood my point. The clichés about making your own luck are silly, there really is no such thing. Luck, by definition is "To gain success or something desirable by chance". You can't control or make 'chance'. Of course, I know what you mean, letters, calls, hitting the pavement, burning the midnight oil, and doing whatever you can to get noticed. But the reality is, no field requires luck more than writing. Well, aside from gambling. Actually I take that back, because even in gambling I can research card counting and practice/perfect my art for 6 months...I don't need an agent to sit at a blackjack table. If I stink I will lose money, if I am good I will make money.

As I said in the original post, this is the only field of its kind...you can research, pen, and produce a book and sit in oblivion for years without knowing if it's any good or not. Please understand, I am not saying I have the solution to improving the writing field. I am simply venting about a pretty obvious difference from other fields.

I need to address the one who told me to become a plumber. I actually like your response because it's logical, but unfortunately it's wrong:

Acting requires auditions and most auditions don't require an agent. I have a friend who's an actor (commercials), and you can walk on and get evaluated (assuming that there are casting calls). There is an element of luck with making it big, but if you really want to know if you can act someone will tell you.

People read books more than buy paintings, so there simply isn't the same demand. But if you google 'buy paintings' you'll see many sites which link artists to customers. EBay has a huge paintings section, there are conventions, art shows, and many ways to get your work exposed. None of which requires you to beg for an agent for evaluation before using them.

A coworker of mine has a photography business on the side. He didn't need an agent. He gave it a shot and happens to be good, so he makes good money. If he wasn't good, he wouldn't make money.

"I'm drowning here and you're describing the water"
-Jack Nicholson, As Good as It Gets


Become a plumber, then, and write in your in your spare time. It's incredibly hard to break through in any creative discipline. It's true of acting, writing, painting, photography, etc. etc. etc.

It is not possible to have a perfect system when you are dealing with the ever changing tastes of a fickle public.

Red-Green
07-19-2009, 11:02 PM
Quick run down on the glaring differences between the careers you list and writing:

Fruit seller--customers only pay $3 a pound for tomatoes, so if they're no good, it's not too bad to throw them out. If they're good, customer only has to wash and eat to get his/her money's worth. Books are less of a sure thing and require the customer to put effort into them.

Plumber--most people have a clear idea of what a quality toilet installation involves. It flushes and it doesn't leak. Almost nobody agrees about what a quality book is.

Baseball player--comes the closest to being like writing. It takes tons of practice for which no one pays you. If you can get early successes, the industry moves you on to bigger and better things. If you burn out early, they cut you. If your first book sells big, you get better deals. If it doesn't, they cut you.

Tornado chaser--at the mercy of nature to provide tornadoes. Writers are on their own.

Sales--don't know if you've noticed, but professional writing is like a sales job. It's also a manufacturing job. You make the product and then you sell it. First to agents, then to editors, then to consumers.

The reason so many writers get bitter is that they think they've already got the job, because they've finished a book. They don't. Just because your "inner circle" will pay you to paint their house, doesn't make you a professional house painter. All this writing and querying, etc. is the application process. Just because no one has "hired" you yet doesn't make the hiring process flawed. Every job you ever applied for and didn't get, do you assume that hiring process was flawed? Maybe there were just that many applicants who had a better pitch, a better product, a better work ethic, or better connections.

eqb
07-19-2009, 11:21 PM
I don't think anyone understood my point.

I got your point just fine, thank you. However, that's a neat trick to discount what others said.


But the reality is, no field requires luck more than writing.

Not true.

But y'know, it's interesting that you use the phrase "beg for an agent." Why do you feel that writers must beg for an agent?

Toothpaste
07-19-2009, 11:50 PM
Acting requires auditions and most auditions don't require an agent. I have a friend who's an actor (commercials), and you can walk on and get evaluated (assuming that there are casting calls). There is an element of luck with making it big, but if you really want to know if you can act someone will tell you.



I know you are really trying to make writing the only profession out there with the degree of frustration you are talking about, but I am sorry you are dead wrong about the acting thing. Especially in your comparison. Just as you can get roles as an actor without an agent, you can get published without an agent, and the degree of success you can have with both without an agent is about the same. You could do technical writing, you could writing for magazines, you could publish with a small house, you could self publish. All of this is on par with acting. You can get commercial auditions, you can make student films, you can make small indy films, or be in fringe shows, you can produce your own production. However without an agent you don't get the big stuff, not with either (and I'm sorry, but anyone who tells you you don't need an agent to get the awesome auditions ie: Broadway, Hollywood etc, is just delusional - not only do they get you amazing auditions, but I know some friends who's agents have set up gatherings just for them, invited all the casting directors to meet them, that advantage is HUGE). And yet at the same time on the rarest of occasions, and the rarest of exceptions both the unagented author and writer will have an amazing bit of luck that will launch them into stardom - a self published book catching the eye of an editor at a major house, an acting extra catching the eye of the director.

Speaking as an actress, I can tell you when I started subbing to literary agents I was utterly thrilled at how much better the process was than subbing to acting agents. When you sub to acting agents/casting directors, they look at your picture and resume first. They judge you on your appearance and your history. They do not judge you on the acting, because they are looking at a piece of paper, you are not in the room. Even your friend going into the commercial auditions, unless every single audition he did was an open call (where again it is unbelievably superficial, you walk in, they look at you, they ask, "Next!"), even your friend still had to submit this picture and resume before he was "allowed" to demonstrate his talent, before he was called into an audition.

However, in applying for literary agents I sent out my package: My query letter, my synopsis, my first three chapters. Right from the off the agent was judging my talent, not my history, not my looks, my talents, because me words were right there in front of them. Even in the simple query letter I got the chance to demonstrate my skill. As an actor who so often doesn't even get the chance to demonstrate my skill because someone looks at my picture and thinks, "Not blonde enough" it was pure joy.

So sorry hon, you are painting too rosy a picture of the other art forms I am afraid (I won't go into the other art forms as I am not as familiar with them). The arts are tough, they are illogical, unfair, and depend a heck of a lot on luck and they have always been that way. That's why most people don't even bother trying to pursue a career in the arts. And if you are going to, then you are going to have to simply deal with it.

ETA: And if you think there aren't terrible actors out there who are great successes then you are even more delusional. When it comes to acting, especially on film, it often has very very little to do with talent, and I think many of us know that. Oh and one further thing, when you are an actor you depend on others to create your art. You can't just act by yourself. As an author you can create an entire finished product without the help of anyone else. Yes getting others to read it is very tricky, but the art exists. As an actor the art simply cannot exist without other people to help create it with you. So yeah, acting, not just a walk in the park my friend, and props to your buddy on his success without an agent, he's obviously the exception to the rule (though I will add that commercial acting, for most actors passionate about the art as you are about writing, is not exactly our ultimate goal, it's a way to pay the bills, not exactly fulfilling as an actor - not to put down your friend, but if he wants something more, he will not be able to do it without an agent, unless he is very very . . . awful word alert . . . lucky).

ETA again: And another thing (lol!)! It is far easier for a male actor out there than an female actor. It's simply a fact. There are more male roles available, and a wider range of appearance allowed. Think about commercials, how you always have the husband and wife, he's sort of average looking, she's a model. And while I do think there are definitely gender biases in publishing, there is so much more room for women than in the acting world. Another huge plus, which for you isn't really a factor, but means a lot to us girlies.

caromora
07-20-2009, 12:08 AM
I don't think anyone understood my point.

I think we all got the point. It's one that gets rehashed by frustrated writers ALL THE TIME.


The clichés about making your own luck are silly, there really is no such thing. Luck, by definition is "To gain success or something desirable by chance". You can't control or make 'chance'.Actually, I disagree. You can give yourself better chances. Write a good book that is salable. This requires working hard on your craft and acquainting yourself with the current market. Research agents. Know what they want. Learn how to write a good query and synopsis. Learn the things that turn agents off and avoid doing them.

If you have a good book that is salable and you act in a professional manner, you have infinitely higher chances of success than a person with a poorly written book that is unsalable, and who doesn't learn how the industry works.

Another key is being persistent. You've got to keep working toward it. There are many, many authors out there who didn't get discovered until their fourth, fifth, even seventh or eighth novels. If one book doesn't get an agent, write another one.

A persistent, determined author has considerably higher chances than an author who submits one novel a few times, then gives up because it's too hard.



As I said in the original post, this is the only field of its kind...you can research, pen, and produce a book and sit in oblivion for years without knowing if it's any good or not.Well, there's no reason for you to do that, either. Get a beta reader--a GOOD one, not a friend or family member. Post your work in SYW. Hire a professional editor for a critique. There are lots of good ones out there. I'm one, though I'm not taking on any new clients at the moment.

You need someone who not only understands craft issues, but who understands the industry itself. Those people are out there. There's no reason to "sit in oblivion" wondering.


Please understand, I am not saying I have the solution to improving the writing field. I am simply venting about a pretty obvious difference from other fields.It can definitely be frustrating, but different doesn't necessarily mean bad... Different careers have different requirements. I guess I just don't see the point in comparing it to other fields.


People read books more than buy paintings, so there simply isn't the same demand. But if you google 'buy paintings' you'll see many sites which link artists to customers. EBay has a huge paintings section, there are conventions, art shows, and many ways to get your work exposed. None of which requires you to beg for an agent for evaluation before using them.There are a lot of writers out there writing books--more than could ever possibly be published. So I think your analogy here is faulty. The problem is that people think writing a book is all it takes to have a book worthy of publishing.

But most artists won't paint a picture and think it makes them Picasso.

It's a hard business, writing is; I'm pretty sure everyone here knows that. And sure, there are things that could be improved. But it really doesn't help to rage against the things that are out of your control. Not in this case. Write a book. If it doesn't sell, write a better book.

Gray Rose
07-20-2009, 12:25 AM
Rejection sucks. That much we can all agree on.

However, I think you underestimate how much effort it really takes to be successful in these other jobs.

Every single job requires marketing skills. Let's take the fruit vendor for instance. Where does he get his product from? If he buys it from a supplier, then the quality of his product will depend on the kind of supplier he finds. Finding a good supplier is very hard, as every independent seller will tell you. Once you have established a relationship with the supplier, you need to maintain it, and hope that his price remains fair, and his plums won't be harmed by blight. Perhaps the fruit supplier is selling plums he grows himself - in this case, do you know how much effort goes into growing your own fruit?

And the payoff? The payoff is very modest, as no fruit seller in the universe can really hope to influence people with his product, or to become famous. For fruit selling to be really lucrative, this person will have to bust his ass.

(While I never sold fruit from a stall, I have experience in another corner of the organic food industry).

Writing, compared to many other professions, is easy. You do it in the comfort of your home; you do not sweat and break your back in the field, or in the factory; you do not stick your arms into sewers or risk your life fighting a fire. You can write while pursuing another career; most of us do, unless we have independent means.

No special education is necessary to become a writer (an MFA or a workshop may be helpful but not necessary). Compare this to the time and effort it takes to become a doctor or a lawyer, for instance.

No professional has it made. Most distinguished careers require prolonged effort, tears and frustrations, long apprenticeships, fruitless job searches, fear of unemployment.

Writing is hard - but so are other careers with a potentially big payoff.

Gray Rose
07-20-2009, 12:40 AM
Also Chris... you write,


all people in your inner circle who have read your book love it...

I looked at your website, and I would sincerely recommend you branch out. Find beta readers who are not part of your inner circle, post excerpts on SYW to get honest critiques, and listen to what they say.

Good luck with your writing!

ink wench
07-20-2009, 01:01 AM
Welcome to AW. A lot of other people have made good points already, so I thought I'd address this one....

As I said in the original post, this is the only field of its kind...you can research, pen, and produce a book and sit in oblivion for years without knowing if it's any good or not.Sure you do. You query the book. If an agent or editor snatches it up, it's good. If no one wants it, it's not. Pretty simple to me.

Kathleen42
07-20-2009, 01:06 AM
A coworker of mine has a photography business on the side. He didn't need an agent. He gave it a shot and happens to be good, so he makes good money. If he wasn't good, he wouldn't make money.

And I have talented friends with degrees in photography who have to supplement their income working retail.

My point is that there are far more people struggling to break into creative fields than there are lucrative spots available. That's why most people keep the reliable day job. This is true of actors who wait tables and writers who fix leaky faucets.

The agent adds another level of complexity but no more so than the gallery manager who chooses to approve the application for a show.

Toothpaste
07-20-2009, 01:16 AM
I think also Chris is coming from a logical fallacy that if you are good at something you will earn success. He has excellent examples of it from his circle of friends, which bodes well for himself I suppose hanging out with the in crowd, but he doesn't exactly get that that isn't the norm. I know far too many actors who are brilliant at it and don't get decent work. I also know successful actors who will actually say aloud, "I have friends who are way better than me, I realise how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing." Same goes with authors. Grand that his buddies are doing so well off of their talents, but they are the exception to the rule, not the norm. And maybe that's where some of his frustration comes in. He's seen talent rewarded in other fields, and obviously his talent isn't being rewarded in this one. Thus writing must work in a far less logical fashion than the others he concludes. But he is wrong. He simply has some friends who are the exception to the rule, and if they are the only people you know, you start the consider that maybe they are the norm.

So, in a way, Chris, we're offering you a pep talk. What happened for your friends is unusual, very very unusual. In the acting world more often than not it is looks over talent, in the photography world, who you know and who you shoot. Ability rarely is the only predictor of success, but it is one of the few elements the artist can control. The fact that your friends are doing so well, honestly, has more to do with luck than anything. But also that they were prepared when the luck hit.

Luck opens the door, but you still have to make that grand entrance.

Cranky
07-20-2009, 01:19 AM
IMO, being stubborn, self-confident and savvy will, eventually, help you make your own luck to a certain extent. By that I mean you'll either create or recognize your opportunities.

It's like the circular "talent" argument. So, again, IMO, hard work and persistence will trump most factors that are outside your control, such as luck or talent.

Toothpaste
07-20-2009, 01:28 AM
Persistence is definitely the key, I agree. Even more so than one's abilities or luck. But I do think luck plays a greater role than some, especially here, would like to admit. Having had quite a stretch of bad luck, I speak from experience. Something as simple as the unfortunate luck of having a crappy cover can send your book into oblivion.

That being said, those with longevity have it not because of luck but because they never give up. They have it because despite setbacks, and even if they have had great luck in the past, they don't rest on their laurels, or mope about in despair. They pick themselves up and just keep going. As Dori says in Finding Nemo: Just keep swimming.

Cranky
07-20-2009, 01:33 AM
Oh, luck matters, I agree with that notion. But that's why I said what I did about savvy: if you just "keep swimming", sooner or later, an opportunity will present itself. It might not be an obvious lucky break, but a toehold where you didn't have one before can start a chain that leads somewhere, you know?

Chrisnova10
07-20-2009, 02:14 AM
Please be nice to my inner circle :) Yes they may be delusional, but they're all I've got.

I'll do my best to respond quickly but I'm cooking dinner for my wife tonight and I have to get started soon.

Toothpaste, if you submit unsolicited work to an agent they'll throw it out. If you act at an audition, they evaluate it. I hope that explains the difference.

(on a side note) Everything else you said about "looks", male/female discrimination, yada yada, in the acting field...you're prolly right.



But y'know, it's interesting that you use the phrase "beg for an agent." Why do you feel that writers must beg for an agent?

Because agents are inundated with so many wanabe writers, it's impossible for them to evaluate everyone's actual 'work'. Thus, you must submit queries, which is essentially "asking" them to "ask" you to evaluate your work.

It's like that commercial for "The Ladders", for anyone who's seen it. The guy is playing tennis and all of a sudden there are a thousand tennis balls and people invading his court. That's what agents have to deal with. It's a tough job. But make no mistake, we need them a lot more than they need us.


Just because your "inner circle" will pay you to paint their house, doesn't make you a professional house painter. All this writing and querying, etc. is the application process. Just because no one has "hired" you yet doesn't make the hiring process flawed.

RedZilla, I get that. I'm not saying the hiring process is flawed, the evaluation process is flawed. If I wanted to be a house painter, I would sink or swim based on the quality of my work. In writing it's a whole different ballgame. To use your analogy, I would have to describe my housepainting skills to a middleman and hopefully they would /ask/ to see examples of my work. Other fields just don't work that way.

>I think also Chris is coming from a logical fallacy that if you are good at something you will earn success

I think that was Toothpaste again. Yeah you're right. What can I say, I am an idealist :) I guess all I am saying is I want to /know/ if I'm good at something. In other fields it's a lot easier to figure out.

Shhhh...Don't tell the agents this but truth be told, if they said my work was no good I could live with that. It's that deafening silence that kills me. It's almost worse than being rejected...

Peace/love

Chris

OL
07-20-2009, 02:24 AM
I've been around the film/TV industry long enough to say that if you want to talk arbitrary, acting is much worse than writing. Like Toothpaste says, you often don't get evaluated on your talent at all. Just "your look." And there's no "prolly" in the truth of her statement about the problems women (and people of color) face compared to white men. And men don't have it much easier! It's a tough tough tough business.

There is a process in place to succeed in the writing biz (however you want to measure "success" - there are plenty of different definitions). Is it flawed? Subjective? At times arbitrary? Sure. But there isn't a creative field out there about which you couldn't say the same things. Too many writers, not enough agents, and no one absolute criteria for quality.

Red-Green
07-20-2009, 03:31 AM
You seem to have gotten the idea that a query letter isn't representative of your writing skills. It is. A good query letter shows an agent that you know the basic guidelines, and have a decent grasp of grammar and syntax. It should also demonstrate your ability to write two compelling paragraphs that convey the premise and tone of your book. If you can't manage two paragraphs, why would an agent want to read a whole book?

The last house painter I hired, I asked him to give me the addresses of the last few houses he'd painted. I drove by them to see what I thought. It was a bit like a query. I didn't just ask him to come paint my house and then decide if it was worth paying for, which in your analogy seems to be what you expect agents to do.

Please forgive me for falling back on LOLCat-speak, but if your query letter "describes your housepainting (writing) skills," you're doing it wrong. That's not what a query letter is for. It's a sample of your writing skills.



RedZilla, I get that. I'm not saying the hiring process is flawed, the evaluation process is flawed. If I wanted to be a house painter, I would sink or swim based on the quality of my work. In writing it's a whole different ballgame. To use your analogy, I would have to describe my housepainting skills to a middleman and hopefully they would /ask/ to see examples of my work. Other fields just don't work that way.

eqb
07-20-2009, 03:49 AM
Toothpaste, if you submit unsolicited work to an agent they'll throw it out.

Oy. Where the fark do you get your misinformation about publishing?

Let's pretend that you are actually trying to learn more about publishing. In that case, I would tell you that many agents accept the first five pages of your manuscript attached to your query letter.


It's that deafening silence that kills me. It's almost worse than being rejected...

If you get nothing but silence, I can only conclude that something is very wrong with your query letter. Perhaps it's badly written. Perhaps you are targeting all the wrong agents. Perhaps....perhaps your story isn't so great after all.

As others said, if you are truly serious about selling your work, and not just seeking justification for your unrecognized genius, try expanding your circle of readers. There's an SYW here. There are formal, in person workshops.

The choice, dear heart, is yours.

eveningstar
07-20-2009, 04:03 AM
I guess all I am saying is I want to /know/ if I'm good at something. In other fields it's a lot easier to figure out.

I'm sorry, I'm confused. Are you trying to say that you need outside validation to know you're good at something?

You're good at juggling if you don't drop your balls. Not because a juggling industry professional wanders by and tells you you're a good juggler.

If you're only getting rejections/silence I suggest working on your query letter. I didn't even know what a query letter was until about two years ago and I'm doing comparatively well so far (my query was SYW approved). And I knew I was good before I even started sending out queries because I worked on improving my writing for years and put my novel through multiple rounds of impartial beta readers.

I can't juggle to save my life, though.

Cranky
07-20-2009, 04:21 AM
I'm sorry, I'm confused. Are you trying to say that you need outside validation to know you're good at something?

You're good at juggling if you don't drop your balls. Not because a juggling industry professional wanders by and tells you you're a good juggler.

If you're only getting rejections/silence I suggest working on your query letter. I didn't even know what a query letter was until about two years ago and I'm doing comparatively well so far (my query was SYW approved). And I knew I was good before I even started sending out queries because I worked on improving my writing for years and put my novel through multiple rounds of impartial beta readers.

I can't juggle to save my life, though.

I don't know about the OP, but I sure do. Every time I think I've written something good, it wasn't. And other stuff was raved about. So...yeah, outside validation helps.

eveningstar
07-20-2009, 04:33 AM
I don't know about the OP, but I sure do. Every time I think I've written something good, it wasn't. And other stuff was raved about. So...yeah, outside validation helps.

Okay, I think that's fair. But it seems to me like the OP is specifically focusing on agent validation as the good-writing-o-meter, and discounting non-professional opinion.

Cranky
07-20-2009, 04:34 AM
Okay, I think that's fair. But it seems to me like the OP is specifically focusing on agent validation as the good-writing-o-meter, and discounting non-professional opinion.

Ah, but to be fair to the OP :D, agents are some of the gatekeepers to publication, so their opinions, rightly or wrongly, carry more weight than non-pros, in that sense.

Toothpaste
07-20-2009, 06:44 AM
Toothpaste, if you submit unsolicited work to an agent they'll throw it out. If you act at an audition, they evaluate it. I hope that explains the difference.

(on a side note) Everything else you said about "looks", male/female discrimination, yada yada, in the acting field...you're prolly right.



Apples and oranges my friend. You are comparing literary agents to casting directors, they are not the same thing. You need to compare literary agents to acting agents.

(just in case you don't know, a casting director has her own company and is in essence a gatekeeper for directors. They hold auditions for directors, decide who to allow onto the next round of auditions for the director herself to see. However in order to be seen by a casting director, one first has to have one's headshot and resume submitted to her. And that submission, especially depending on the reputation of the casting director, is more often than not, done by an agent. An agent represents her actors. A casting director represents her directors/producers. Just so you understand the difference)

And btw, to get an audition you have to pass the gatekeepers. So your AGENT sends the casting director's ASSISTANT your headshot and resume. That's it. The casting director's assistant goes through hundreds of headshots for one role, takes one look at you (a picture mind you, which is no demonstration of your talent whatsoever) and chooses whether or not you get the honour of auditioning for a casting director herself.

So you still go through the "throwing stuff out" part, only this time, they don't even get to see your acting. All they've seen is a picture and resume.

However a literary agent sees your writing right from the off, in the form of your query letter. Step one. You are already auditioning, and I think you are under the misapprehension that a query letter doesn't represent one's writing. I know it's tough, I know it's not what you want to write, but at least you get the chance to show off something of your abilities, even if it is just proof you can write a coherent sentence. With the headshot and resume in the acting world, you don't even get to walk in the room and demonstrate you can do that without falling over your feet.

Aside from that, getting an acting agent and getting a literary agent is almost identically the same process. In fact there are acting agencies that are also literary agencies, PFD in the UK for example.

Auditions aren't the same as sending stuff to agents. The equivalent of an audition is when your agent sends your full MS to an editor.

But again, you don't get that audition in the acting world without your agent sending your headshot and resume to the casting director. And again, which would you rather? An editor with your entire manuscript to peruse, or a casting director with only your headshot and resume?

You really seem to believe that in the acting world everyone is just happily showing up at auditions without having to go through any gatekeepers. That may be the case with some commercial auditions, even some indy films, fringe theatre and open calls for musicals, but the big stuff, the Christopher Nolans and Steven Spielbergs? You ain't getting through the door without an agent sweetheart. You won't even know auditions are taking place.

You also seem to think there is no equivalent to indy films, and fringe theatre in the writing world. There is. It's called small publishers, indy publishers, and self publishing. All three of those do not require agents. But like with the small stuff in the acting world, the small stuff in the writing world rarely gets you to the big time, and if it does, by some wonderful happenstance happen, then, by george, you'll be swift off to get yourself an agent to take care of your career.

You don't need to explain to me any difference, as you yourself don't seem to understand that in comparing casting directors to literary agents, you are comparing two totally different stages of each career. However I hope that I have sufficiently explained the difference to you.

As to "prolly right" about discrimination in the acting world. Ain't no "prolly" about it.


Okay. Now that I've been a bit hard edged, let me respond to the core of what the OP is dealing with, and that is his own insecurity. And this I can be way nicer about. We're all insecure. And it's tough to know if what we are doing is any good, especially with constant rejection. As an actress, trust me, I sometimes seriously wonder if I really am as good as I think I am considering how few jobs I book. But fortunately with the acting thing I at least get to blame the superficial stuff, "Stupid casting director didn't like me because I'm not some stick insect." It's a nice way to deflect the insecurity :). With writing, that's the biggest problem. You get rejected, and it can't be based on anything other than something you wrote. Be it simply your query letter or entire novel. Agents explain to us all the time that it isn't personal, that sometimes they even reject things they like but just don't think they are the right person for. But it still stings.

So how do you know if you are any good? You fix a sink, you know you've fixed a sink. You sell some fruit, you know you've sold some fruit. How do we, in the arts, know we are any good if no one tells us we are? Answer is, I don't know. Other answer, and this might be bad, but if I can compare my work to others and feel like I am surrounded by my peers (and a few geniuses) then I think I'm at a professional level. Both happened with my acting and my writing. Almost overnight. Suddenly I would watch actors and think, "Yeah I can do that" or read something and think "I can write that". Stephen King talks about the brilliant moment when you first read something and realise you can do better. I have a link to it on my blog, check it out, it's awesome:

http://ididntchoosethis.blogspot.com/2008/09/stephen-king-on-writing.html

We do need validation. And it looks like you get it from your friends. What you need to do now is go outside your social circle and meet with people who have no vested interest in making you happy. AW is actually a pretty good place for that, the Share Your Work section is pretty honest (sometimes brutally). But what matters most is even if everyone says you suck, that you keep moving forward, that you keep on working on improving your writing. And what even matters more is that if everyone says you rock, that you keep moving forward, that you keep on working on improving your writing.

Never rest on your laurels, never mope over your failures. Just keep swimming (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmyUkm2qlhA). And then, one day, you'll know. You really will. Despite all the insecurity and self doubt, deep down you will know:

I know I'm a good writer.

I know I'm a good actor.

I don't know when or how that realisation came about but it did.

And it doesn't make a difference. I just keep swimming.

Chrisnova10
07-20-2009, 07:42 AM
You seem to have gotten the idea that a query letter isn't representative of your writing skills. It is. A good query letter shows an agent that you know the basic guidelines, and have a decent grasp of grammar and syntax. It should also demonstrate your ability to write two compelling paragraphs that convey the premise and tone of your book. If you can't manage two paragraphs, why would an agent want to read a whole book? .

Maybe the issue is a poorly written query letter. Maybe the query is good but the book plot is no good. Maybe both are decent but the query letter is just not written intelligently. Maybe the agent doesn't want to take new authors at this time. There are a lot of reasons for not getting the call, but none of them involve the agent reading the book in question and giving it an evaluation.



The last house painter I hired, I asked him to give me the addresses of the last few houses he'd painted. I drove by them to see what I thought. It was a bit like a query. I didn't just ask him to come paint my house and then decide if it was worth paying for, which in your analogy seems to be what you expect agents to do.

No, a query letter would be like seeing one section of one wall painted, in a different color, and deciding if you want that painter to do your whole house. Your painting example is more like reading the last few books of a writer and deciding if you want him or her to write another one.


Oy. Where the fark do you get your misinformation about publishing?

Let's pretend that you are actually trying to learn more about publishing. In that case, I would tell you that many agents accept the first five pages of your manuscript attached to your query letter.


I know about the 5 pages. Everyone must be much smarter than I am. Can you tell if a movie is good after 5 minutes? Yeah well, now that I think about it...I guess I should have walked out of HP6 once Harry asked out the coffee shop girl.


If you get nothing but silence, I can only conclude that something is very wrong with your query letter. Perhaps it's badly written. Perhaps you are targeting all the wrong agents. Perhaps....perhaps your story isn't so great after all.

You might be right.


I'm sorry, I'm confused. Are you trying to say that you need outside validation to know you're good at something?

No, I'm saying if I want to get anywhere in this field I need an agent to read my book.



You're good at juggling if you don't drop your balls. Not because a juggling industry professional wanders by and tells you you're a good juggler.

But imagine if the juggling professional wouldn't look at you when he wandered by because there was something wrong with the way you asked him to look at you.



And there's no "prolly" in the truth of her statement about the problems women (and people of color) face compared to white men.

So it's wrong for society to judge people on their gender and skin color but it's right to judge a book by its query letter? You've got to be kidding me.



I want to offer a quick apology. I am new here and didn't mean to spark a debate on the pros and cons of the writing world. I incorrectly assumed that most peeps here were on board with the frustration and injustice of rookie writers trying to break through. You are all probably better writers than I am and found the process much easier.

I'll continue to respond to the opposing points (because I still believe my OP is right), but understand...I complain because I love the writing world not because I hate it.

Chris

Toothpaste
07-20-2009, 07:48 AM
I want to offer a quick apology. I am new here and didn't mean to spark a debate on the pros and cons of the writing world. I incorrectly assumed that most peeps here were on board with the frustration and injustice of rookie writers trying to break through. You are all probably better writers than I am and found the process much easier.

I'll continue to respond to the opposing points (because I still believe my OP is right), but understand...I complain because I love the writing world not because I hate it.

Chris


You are a man fond of jumping to false conclusions it seems :) .

None of us find the process any easier, and there is no way of knowing if we are better writers than you. In fact insinuating that's it's all been easy peasy for us is not all that nice. We've worked just as hard as you have thank you very much, and those of us who have had some success are proud of that accomplishment because of all our efforts.

It is possible however that we have been at this longer than you, understand the true nature of the business, do not see it as some evil out to destroy our good, and appreciate that the only way to cope in this business is to understand how it works, get over the injustices, and focus on the one thing we can do about everything. And that's write.

ETA: Btw, what makes this site awesome is that it isn't just a place for rookie writers to come and vent. It's also a place where seasoned published writers give advice, agents and editors answer questions, where recently published authors share the good news, and unpublished authors post query letters and before our eyes go from no requests, to multiple requests, to representation. This place is awesome because it isn't all about whining, it's about doing. And that's why you are going to get the response you are going to get.

But it also is a place to vent :) .

OL
07-20-2009, 07:51 AM
So it's wrong for society to judge people on their gender and skin color but it's right to judge a book by its query letter? You've got to be kidding me.


Chris, I don't mean to get into an argument here, but you are so wrong about this comparison that my jaw is on the ground. Seriously, are you kidding me? A query letter is a demonstration of your skill as a writer and the strength of your story. It is not a perfect system by any means, but it's far more indicative of your talents as a writer than appearance/ethnicity/gender is of an actor's talents -- and look, I am also not saying that those factors aren't at times absolutely relevant to the casting process -- but a query letter is a helluva lot better demonstration of skill than a head-shot. That is just reality, not my opinion. It is a statement of fact. If you don't understand that, honestly, you need to educate yourself about the publishing process. A lot.

Toothpaste
07-20-2009, 07:54 AM
So it's wrong for society to judge people on their gender and skin color but it's right to judge a book by its query letter? You've got to be kidding me.




Someone once explained this to me in a really great way. They compared it to going to a bookstore and buying a book by an author you've never heard of.

So what is the process typically? Well typically I go into a store and find a cover that intrigues me. I pick it up, I flip it over and read the back blurb. If I like what the blurb is telling me, I open the book, read a few pages. If I still like it, I go and buy it.

Now at any one of these stages there is a chance I won't like what I see, and put the book back on the shelf. I know what I like.

Well the back cover of a book is like a query letter to an agent. Only agents are far more savvy than even book buyers. Not only can they tell if the subject matter is something that interests them, but they can tell if the author has done research into the world of publishing, heck, if they can even construct a coherent sentence.

Don't forget, most of what agents receive is terrible. Truly terrible. As in can't even string two words together terrible. Or how about putting pubic hair into the envelope terrible (that actually happened)? Agents need the query stage to simply get rid of those idiots. A few rotten apples ruining it for the rest of us to be sure, but still . . . that's the biz.

To understand how terrible some writing is you really ought to read Slushkiller (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html).

At any rate, consider the query the back cover copy of a book, like when you go into a book store. That might help. Or it might not. You seem to enjoy being bitter. But dude, you are only hurting yourself by feeling that way.

Gray Rose
07-20-2009, 08:54 AM
I know about the 5 pages. Everyone must be much smarter than I am. Can you tell if a movie is good after 5 minutes? Yeah well, now that I think about it...I guess I should have walked out of HP6 once Harry asked out the coffee shop girl.
Five pages is enough for an agent (or anyone with experience) to notice if, say, a writer is overusing adverbs, action is repetitive or boring, author is infodumping, etc. Five pages is also enough for an agent (or anyone else) to get hooked by a great voice, an interesting story, etc. And sadly, five pages is more than enough for an agent to go, the writing is great, but eep, what is this giant squid?!

That's why your analogy with the HP movie completely fails. Let's say you've been soliciting movies, and you open up a file that begins with an amateurish, blurry sequence. Or maybe it is an ok quality but has 5 minutes of nothing but some guys sitting by the pool doing nothing and saying nothing of interest. Or maybe it is an extremely beautiful and eerie production of human tongues wriggling in brine.

I bet you a million dollars that this agent knows straight away these videos won't morph into Harry Potter (perhaps the tongues... but I digress).

My point here being, you need to know the technical aspects of your craft are up to speed. You don't know this. You need to know why you've been rejected. I strongly recommend you workshop your query and your 5 pages on the SYW forums.




So it's wrong for society to judge people on their gender and skin color but it's right to judge a book by its query letter? You've got to be kidding me.

:Jaw:
You've got to be kidding me. Have you ever been discriminated against on the basis of skin color or gender? "Prolly" not, or else you would know the difference right away.



I want to offer a quick apology. I am new here and didn't mean to spark a debate on the pros and cons of the writing world. I incorrectly assumed that most peeps here were on board with the frustration and injustice of rookie writers trying to break through. You are all probably better writers than I am and found the process much easier.

Look, I finished my book and started querying it some time ago and had no success, even though many unbiased beta readers raved about my book, and I even have publications, some even nominated for awards, etc. So no, I wouldn't say I found the process "easier". I might be frustrated, but I am not raving at the "injustice" of the publishing industry. I am still trying to figure out what I am doing wrong, and looking for ways to improve my writing. If this book doesn't make it, the next one might. And if not the next one, then the one after. I have a full time demanding job and a disabled child, so my second book will take a while to materialize. I can tell you this though, I have seen many people give up because of real or perceived injustices and hardships. Those who win are those who get up and try again. And again. And again.

And if you have to complain while you're down and mustering your strength to get up and try again, that's perfectly fine - and we will commiserate with you. But if you're just hoping to hear that yes, the industry is "unfair" and there's nothing to do, well, many people are not going to respond patiently to that, since there are so many people on these boards who came with nothing and learned and now they are published authors.

It is hard, but it is doable.

Good luck to you.

scully931
07-20-2009, 09:23 AM
I'll try to respond as best as I can. Sorry in advance for being such a newb, still trying to feel my way around here.

Everyone was a newb once. Doesn't mean you don't have good thoughts.


I don't think anyone understood my point. The clichés about making your own luck are silly, there really is no such thing. Luck, by definition is "To gain success or something desirable by chance". You can't control or make 'chance'.

Agreed. JKR's manuscript got read. It could just have easily have been a bad day for whoever picked it up. They could have spilled coffee on it. They might have had a headache and didn't care what they read and just wanted to be home. But that's not what happened. So I definately see your point on luck.


Acting requires auditions and most auditions don't require an agent. I have a friend who's an actor (commercials), and you can walk on and get evaluated (assuming that there are casting calls).

Have to disagree with you here. I don't know what your friend's situation is exactly, but I'm an actor and an acting coach. That is my job. A professional actor uses an agent. Yes, they are difficult to get. I do have to admit that with my time querying and reading these boards a literary agent is much harder to snare. Why? Probably because you can be anywhere and write. You don't have to be close to where auditions are being held and you don't personally stand in front of someone when they tell you you stink.



If he wasn't good, he wouldn't make money.


There are PLENTY of well paid actors who aren't good. :e2shrug:

Toothpaste
07-20-2009, 09:30 AM
Okay I wanted to add something to this thread, basically yet more unsolicited advice.

I decided to actually do my research and check up on some of Chris's other posts here and I am starting to get a better picture. Basically, from what I understand Chris, you wrote a book, tried to get an agent, sent out 100 queries, was rejected, and so self published. So you actually do know such routes are available to you. Which is cool, and I apologise if I therefore sounded condescending.

However I read a little bit more into your hello post here, and noted you added the point that the reason you were rejected probably had something to do with being unconnected.

And considering the bitterness in this thread, the way you tend to jump to false conclusions, I think I am starting to understand your POV.

Once more I shall attempt another pep talk.

Getting published has nothing to do with connections.

Yes. If you are a famous Hollywood celeb getting published has everything to do with who you are and your connections. But they are only a fraction of the authors who get agents and published every year. We just tend to hear more about them because, you know, they is famous and all that.

However most authors are nobodys. Not to put us down, but that's the truth. And yet every single author I know got an agent not through their connections, but through the good old fashioned slush pile. I swear to you.

I, for example, had no publication credits to my name. I was (and sadly still am) an actress for crying out loud. I went to university for acting, I avoided English classes at all costs (my small rebellion I suppose against my english teacher parents :) ). I got an agent through submitting just like everyone else. It was my first book. Heck it wasn't even finished (don't do that, btw, highly stressful finishing a book in three days when an agent requests a full the day after you mail them your query). Every single other agent I queried said no. My work was too old fashioned. Wouldn't sell. But one agent said yes. Oh, and btw, my book did sell.

I have a good friend who tried to sell her MS for ten years to an agent, no bites. So she finally wrote another book. And that was the one that landed her an agent. Even that book her agent couldn't sell to an editor, so she wrote another one. That one sold. That one not only sold but has now been optioned for a television series.

You do not need connections to get published. Most authors do not have connections to get published. Repeat that to yourself over and over.

Now. From also reading between the lines, I have a funny feeling you were rejected most often based on your query letter alone. I get this impression because you talk about how unfair it is that agents don't even read any pages before rejecting you.

This hon, is actually awesome news. It means your query letter sucks.

Okay okay, let me explain . . . the reason it is good news is you are right. You are not being judged on your book. It means that you are just a terrible query letter writer and that you are being judged on that. But what that also means is all you have to do is fix up your query letter and the people here, well they are awesome for that. Seriously, I have seen people who haven't had a single request go from multiple requests to representation with the help of people here. And all for free, which is awesome!

The even better news is that because you were rejected by query letter alone this means no one read your work which means they probably forgot about your project the second they rejected you. No seriously, this is awesome. It means you can re-query all those agents with your new and improved kick ass query letter, and they won't think to themselves, "But I already rejected this, what nerve!"

Please do yourself a favour and post your query letter in the Share Your Work section here.

From everything you have said so far on this site you are still wet behind the ears when it comes to publishing. You probably queried a bit too soon to be honest. Didn't really learn the ropes, and I bet that showed in your letter. Agents have authors querying them who want to be published badly enough that they put in all the research ahead of time, go to conventions, learn about the business, are prepared when they finally send out that letter. They don't have time for people with good intentions. Publishing first and foremost is a business whether you like it or not. You wouldn't go to an interview in your housecoat and you don't email an agent without properly understanding the industry.

It's about professionalism.

Like I said, oddly all of this is excellent news. It means you don't have to do any major re-write of the novel itself. Just learn how to write a good query letter. Unless of course you don't think your writing is worth putting in that effort. But I think you do.

So in conclusion:

You absolutely do not need connections to get published.

And now's the time to get your query letter writing skills up to par!


Unless of course you'd rather keep moping . . . but, like I said, in the end, that hurts no one but yourself. In the end, if you don't take our advice we might be mildly disappointed but we have our own writing careers to take care of.

Toothpaste
07-20-2009, 09:35 AM
There are PLENTY of well paid actors who aren't good. :e2shrug:

And even more fantastic actors who are unemployed.

Kathleen42
07-20-2009, 03:15 PM
I swore I was going to leave this thread alone but I'm curious: Do y'all not have cover letters (that one page letter that entices an employer to read your resume and which can be the difference between it ending up in the recycle bin or you getting a call to come in for an interview) in the States? Because, in basic purpose and spirit, a query letter is not all that different than a cover letter.

Also, would like to address this:


I incorrectly assumed that most peeps here were on board with the frustration and injustice of rookie writers trying to break through. You are all probably better writers than I am and found the process much easier.

I could not get an agent for my first book. I am now working on my second book while working full time. I have no connections (unless you count the lovely peeps at AW). I do not have an MFA. I went to art school instead of university.

Do I know the odds are stacked against me? Yup. Do I wish it were easier? Of course. Is it easy? No.

But that's the system. You work within it or you self-publish. You keep the day job. You try not to loose hope. It's not an unjust system, it's just a difficult one.

eqb
07-20-2009, 07:03 PM
I know about the 5 pages. Everyone must be much smarter than I am. Can you tell if a movie is good after 5 minutes? Yeah well, now that I think about it...I guess I should have walked out of HP6 once Harry asked out the coffee shop girl.

Leaving your sarcasm aside, yes, an agent or editor can tell a great deal about your writing ability and your novel from the first five pages and the synopsis. From there, they know whether or not they want to ask for a partial or the whole thing. That's your audition, right there.

And now that you've vented, why not post your query letter or an excerpt from your novel on SYW?

MsJudy
07-20-2009, 07:32 PM
OP, listen to these people. They know what they are talking about.

Sure, it's frustrating. I'm on book #3, and I have no idea if I'll be any more successful with this one than with the first two. What I do know, however, is that this book is better than those two were, so my chances are improving. I also know that I've mostly enjoyed my life as a writer so far, and I wouldn't want to quit even if I could. Which I can't, because if I don't write at least a few days a week I get all psycho-killer crazy.

I think one of the reasons writers get so frustrated in the query stage is because we don't see our competition. If we were dancers, we would go to auditions, and the other dancers would be there at the same time. We would go up in groups of twenty or fifty at a time, we would all try to learn something new in a hurry, and we would all hope to somehow do it better than anyone else in the room. If I can do a double pirouette but the girl next to me does a triple or more, it might motivate me to work a little harder next time.

But writers, unless we get out there to conferences or SYW sites or blogs, we don't see the competition. We can delude ourselves into believing that our query letter is the best thing since chocolate martinis, and have no idea what incredibly great stuff we're actually up against.

Chrisnova10
07-20-2009, 10:18 PM
OP, listen to these people. They know what they are talking about.
I am, and you're right. I know good advice when I hear it, which is why I am still here.

I do have a couple leads...I am not completely dead in the water. So between that and some of the good tips in this thread we'll see what happens. I've also had some supportive private messages by some fantastic people here.

Thanks everyone

Chris

mario_c
07-21-2009, 08:36 AM
This has been a great thread, filled with very good advice about querying. And no one got upset or hostile! Very unusual, and appreciated. :)
I didn't want to jump in because I've been busy querying :D But I've been digging around for advice on queries myself - I write scripts and the rules are a little different, I admit. I subscribe to a listing of producers and agencies, and for my primary script have sent over 125 eMails. This has resulted in a whopping one request for submissions, and I'm barely halfway through the listing. And as I pass the halfway mark, I'll be starting over with script #2 and so on and so on. I've also done snail mail queries for agencies (they love their paper), and am getting most returned to sender unopened.
Sounds fun?
Yes, it's hopeless. Yes, it's probably a waste of time. But we do it because we have to, at least I do - I could never live with myself if I didn't at least try, every damned opportunity there is. ETA And that goes for any career you would be unlucky enough to be choosing at this time.

OL
07-21-2009, 12:13 PM
And I gotta chime in...

I blind queried the person who is now my agent (http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/07/anatomy-of-good-query-letter-iii.html) - and who sold my book. I thought I sucked at writing queries but eventually came up with one that really worked. I only used it once, in fact.

I had no connections. I did not personally know this agent. I just wrote a query that somehow captured the book I wrote and that got his attention, and then I had the book to back it up (I also pasted the first page of the novel into the query, so he had an actual sample of my writing).

I had been writing for a very long time, and though I'd had some small successes, I'd never quite managed to break through. I may not end up with the big success after this, but I feel like I at least have something to build a career from now.

JenWriter
07-21-2009, 08:23 PM
Hm, the thing is, for most careers, you must sent a cover letter and resume before you can go in for an interview. Personally, I don't think a cover letter, resume or even an interview are great demonstrations of job performance. However, a query letter is a demonstration of writing skill, and if that sparks interest, a full manuscript is exactly what you're selling. So, in that regard, I actually do think it's a lot more straightforward.