Hello and welcome to the Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment.
My name is Matthew MacNish. I am a novice writer who has completed his first novel and decided to share my querying experience with other amateur novelists so that we can share a little of the pain together and then perhaps some green but talented wordsmith in the misty future will learn something from my experiences - even if I never end up getting published.
I realize that the name of this blog is silly, possibly even irritating; but I find a certain parallel between it and the tormenting, hair-pullingly maddening process of writing polished professional query letters to strangers that are supposed to "pitch" what is essentially my heart and soul to them in a page or less. I spent a year writing the thing and after 475,000 words in the first draft (yes that word count is correct) I felt somehow drained and ecstatic at the same time. As of this post still not one agent has read my full manuscript. It wasn't until my first personalized rejection that I realized writing the story is the easy part.
It is hateful, tedious, spirit-rending work that I considered either beneath me or beyond me for a long time. I'm a writer, for god's sake, an artist even, hopefully ... not a secretary, an attorney or a salesmen (successful query writing seems to require a bit of each profession's skill set). On the other hand I have found that with a lot of research and feedback, prior to clicking send if possible, the whole process can be much simpler and more effective, though still painful at times - kind of like getting a booster shot rather than having a wart removed.
The way that this is going to work is that I plan to send 100 queries to 100 separate agents by the end of this year. I realize and admit it's a bit of a rip off of Julie and Julia (except for writers not foodies) but my hope is that this might somehow help others avoid the mistakes I've made and therefore hopefully be more meaningful, though probably far less entertaining. Agent's personal info will be redacted from posts. If you do happen to figure out who an agent is that rejected me, form or otherwise, please do not go after them on my behalf (you will have enough fire for vengeance burning in your belly over your own submission processes, trust me).
Then, while we all wait breathlessly for responses I hope that this will be a forum for suggestions, questions, rants, and other general sharing by writers. I intend the blog to be mainly a meeting place for amateur, unpublished authors, but if a published writer or - god forbid - an agent wishes to grace us with their presence, all the better. Please let's work together to make this a knowledge base that furthers all our efforts toward becoming professional writers and achieving our dreams and not sink to disparaging anyone in the publishing world - though a certain degree of expression of anguish is to be expected.
This blog is about the query process - not my novel. If anyone absolutely has to read it please let me know and I will consider it. Of course any agents who by some miracle find this clumsy journal are welcome to express interest. If I do manage to somehow obtain representation by year's end I will certainly keep the blog going; albeit based more more closely on the specifics of success than the woes of submission/query purgatory.
I will make a few brief points about the book because querying is clearly specific - not only to the genre but even to the project.
- I consider my book to be upper YA - but I'm a novice so what do I know. The protagonist is a 15 year old boy at the beginning but some of the themes are pretty mature so I'm not sure what that will mean in the long run. I hope boys 14-17 will love it, but the thing that matters is whether they will buy it.
- 475,000 words is about three times too long for a debut novel these days it seems. Apparently about four times too long for YA. The fact that it incorporates fantasy seems to give me a little room, but not this much.
- After learning about these word count restrictions (suggestions) through some of the positive agent feedback I have gotten, I have managed to cut it to 350,000 and it still makes sense! I am still editing for length and have a ways to go but have come to accept that it may require a split into two novels before anyone will publish it.
- Speaking of word count this really frustrates me because the books I love are all nearly as long as my first draft or even longer. By the way I use the exact MS word word count not the convoluted 250 words per page formula. You may have to use the formula when communicating with professionals but to me the REAL length (as far as ability to draw the reader in and maintain their focus without fatigue) is far more important than the cost of manufacturing the actual pages. To publishing professionals the opposite will be true - mostly - so be prepared. Still, the restriction on debut novel length does make some sense, however frustrating. Why would the publisher want to spend any more than necessary to produce a product before they have some indication of how successful it will be?
So welcome to The QQQE. Hopefully we can all find some level of catharsis together.