1. To find a date or an agent to query, you have to sort through a lot of bullshit profiles.
If you have ever, as my friend Courtney would say, shopped for someone to date online, searching thru websites to find agents to query might seem familiar and downright scary. Like the profiles of most of your potential dates, agent information is often vague and reveals little about what they are actually looking for.
Remember how George, Joe,and Tom all wanted to date someone who is pretty, smart and funny, oh and of course low drama… Well when you start to read an agent’s profile, you will likely see that they are interested in representing every genre, provided it’s well written and commercially viable. Like your dating prospects, they are always looking for new talent.
So how do you narrow it down and find someone who really might see you for the gem you are? Disclaimer, I don’t actually know because I have secured neither a boyfriend nor an agent yet, but failure is fine teacher, if not the best. If my heartaches can be any lesson to you, I say try to find out as much about them as possible from sources other than their profile.
2. Getting ready pretty much always sucks…
You know how when you are about to go on that first date all of your clothes look like shit, and so you go shopping and you buy a new outfit but it still doesn’t look right? You convince your best friend to come over and have a look at you because you truly are hideous. Well so goes the process of trying to ready that query letter with your perfect pitch. Except in this case, you email a copy of it to everyone you know who is literate, which if you are lucky isn’t that many people, and ask “do I sound like a complete moron?”
Or as my friend Nancy asked me last week after we poured over this process together, “am I a hack?”
Here’s my advice for these days of preparation. You know even when your friend tells you a hundred times that your ass doesn’t look fat in those jeans or that if she were an agent she’d totally rep your book after reading your letter which she actually mistook for a Shakespearean sonnet, you are still not going to believe her. You’ll probably end up taking the jeans off and rewriting the first part of your pitch. The best thing to do really is to stop asking and simply be yourself. I mean be your best self of course, don’t go out with food in your teeth or send your query letter out with a million misspelled words in it, but I don’t have to tell you that because you already know it. See what I’m sayin… You don’t really need to ask others because you already have the answer inside of yourself.
3. Sometimes people are going to misjudge you and/or your work
Not so awful long ago I went out with this gentleman who told me, shortly after he suggested we get to know each other really well during our first date, to which I responded “I don’t think so”, that I was a lot smarter than he thought. And double bonus, I actually looked like my picture which caused me to ponder the question, does he think I look dumb in my picture?
Around the same time I received a response about a query I sent which said my memoir about women finding sex and sometimes romantic love through technology has been done. Only that’s not what my book is about. Did my query make me sound like some ditzy chick writing The next Fifty Shades? and by the way what is the name of that memoir?
I agonized over both of these situations. Well, tbh, I laughed over the dating one and was kind of glad he thought I looked dumb, although it did make me rethink my photo choices. I was way more upset about the agent response, especially because it came from someone I admire and respect and not from some random listing. I reread it and had others read it. Of course. In the end, I decided to keep it as it is because I don’t think that’s what it conveys so be maybe he simply read it wrong.
Not every person you date will get you nor will every agent you query. I try to keep learning from each miss in hopes that when I meet the one, I’ll make a good impression.
4. Sometimes dating and querying just suck
You get rejected in dating. You get rejected as a writer. And like it’s worse for a singleton to get rejected, it’s worse for a writer without an agent to get rejected because while you are in the process of finding the one who is going to love and support you and tell you to get back out there, you have only yourself to do those things and you have only so much to give…
This is why there are things like: chocolate and wine, and cats and dogs,and kids and parks, and funny movies and popcorn. Sometimes you have to take a break. It’s ok. Just not for too long
5. There is a lot of uncertainty
This guy who literally drove me crazy for about five years while we dated on and off used to say to me, “who knows what the future holds babe?”
I hated it then and I’m not a big fan of it now. But truth be told, in this one extremely isolated, like Antarctica isolated, instance, he is, sigh, right. I could remain unsigned in both areas of my life for the rest of my life. Dating and querying are not like a church egg hunt. Some kind lady does not count out boyfriends and agents to make sure everyone gets one. And a Father is not going to put the kid who knocks you over in the heat of the hunt on the church steps to think about what he has done. It’s dog eat dog my friends, except that along the way you’ll meet some nice dogs, and you might find some companions to go out walking with from time to time.
The question I ask myself is how badly do I want it? Honestly with regard to dating, this answer changes for me pretty frequently. I mean I am pretty awesome and I love spending time with myself. I’m not so sure I want to share me…
But for the agent part, for this book that I have been carrying in my head and heart for years now, the answer is I want it like I wanted the Barbie dream house every year, for about six years, for Christmas. I never got that- my mother thought it was a plastic piece of junk- but it was my dream, just like this is. So I never stopped asking until I didn’t want it anymore.
And even with that, you never know. Maybe if this doesn’t pan out, I’ll begin again to long for a mansion for perfect-looking, plastic people.
Fortunately, Toys r us is right down the street.