I think I’m over-thinking this querying for a literary agent

I found a penny on the ground this morning.  A “heads up” penny, actually.  That’s the lucky kind, right?  At 38 years old (39 in 11 days), you’d think I might be immune to that kind—or really, any kind—of school-yard superstition.  Turns out I’m not.  Which makes me wonder, what’s next?  Hoarding horseshoes or stalking four-leaf clovers?  Making wishes and blowing away daffodils?  Wait…maybe it’s dandelions?  Daisies?  Dingleberries?  Who the hell knows.

The point is, it might appear that I’ve lost my mind.  But I haven’t, not entirely.  It’s just that I submitted my first actual query to a literary agent last night, and as I posted to twitter and facebook, I’m kind of terrified. Just, you know, in a good way. More like the first time you jumped of a high dive rather than that time you were stalked by Shelob in a dark,  webby cavern while attempting to simply walk into Mordor.

Hmm…come to think of it, I believe I just broke the first rule of Query Club: Don’t talk about Query Club.  It’s actually a good rule because:

  1. Publicizing a list of one’s interactions—including both rejections and possible successes—with potential representation is a Bad Idea (yes, with a capital B and I).
  2. A play-by-play of my (mis)adventures in novel querying isn’t likely to make anyone’s list of Most Entertaining Blog Topics in 2012.  In fact, this is my 2nd query-related post (remember this one?) in the last four.  You don’t come here to read about the emails I sent yesterday, you come here (one can only assume) to see me make fun of myself and reference Oompa Loompas.

So, why mention it?  Well, because I realized yesterday I had a kind of conundrum, and was curious if anyone had advice for me.  The thing is, when querying potential agents, it seems to me that first and foremost, the writer in question should be looking for the right person to represent them.  After all, the agent works for the writer.

The process actually seems to have a lot in common with interviewing for job, to some degree.  Personally, I believe too many people fail to realize that it’s a two-way interview.  While they’re vetting you to determine if you’re right for the job, you should be vetting them (when the situation allows, of course). The point is, not every position is right for every candidate.  Likewise, not every agent is not a good match for every author.

Specifically, I’m looking for an agent that represents fantasy and science fiction, appreciates character-driven stories, even in speculative genres, and isn’t going to bat an eye if I want to write one book about mummies, the next about dragons, and a third about the Xenotang, Brain-eating parasites from Aurora 13 that resemble Chicken McNuggets.

I’m pretty sure that last one’s non-fiction.  It would explain A LOT about McNugget sales.

Ironically, the one agent I’ve queried so far isn’t on my preferred list.  In fact, she doesn’t even represent the genre my novel falls into.  But I’ve see her post online that she loves reading queries and doesn’t mind if she gets out-of-genre submissions.  The worst thing that can happen is she’ll send you a form-letter rejection.

Which is exactly what I’m expecting.

I figured I’d go ahead and get a rejection out of the way.  Because if nothing else, I can guarantee that the first query won’t be one that hits the mark.  Ask the Puddinette and she’ll tell you, I can accomplish just about anything I put my mind to, but I’m going to fail doing it the first time, at least.  Hanging pictures, replacing plumbing, and being a good husband are all things I wasn’t so awesome at at first, but just needed experience.  Nowadays, I can flip grilled cheese without a flipper and toss sautéing veggies around with the flick of my wrist, just like Bobby Flay.  But I cleaned an awful lot of diced mirepoix up off the floor before I got here.

The point is, there are few agents that I believe (based on a considerable amount of research online—meaning more than just a simple Google search) would be an excellent fit for me.  They’re the ones I want.  But I have to sell myself and my novel to one of them, make them see that they want me too.

At the moment, my query, um, skills, or lack thereof, are much too amateur to effectively manage that.  If I submitted anything now, they’d likely give me the proverbial pat me on the head and a dismissive, “aw, that’s cute”.  Like when a three year-old spells out “K-A-T” with letter blocks.  It’d be like Luke facing Vader before he was ready, and we all know how that turned out.  I need my hands intact, thank you very much.

No, I’ll have to do it wrong a few times before I begin to figure out how to do it right.

The question is, how long will it take until I know what I’m doing?  How long should I wait until I submit to the agents on my Christmas list?

Because in this, as in so many other things in life, timing is everything.

Well, that and maybe a lucky penny or two.


4 thoughts on “I think I’m over-thinking this querying for a literary agent

  1. Have you researched literary agent Noah Lukeman? Not for representation, but for his free ebook on writing query letters. He tells you things like what would cause an agent to immediately stop reading, what makes you look like an amateur, you know the things you’re going to want to know.

    There’s also YA author Elana Johnson who also gives a free ebook on writing queries. Hers is different because it shows you how to build one using her own queries as examples. I highly recommend that you check both of them out, and hey they’re completely free (in .PDF format). If you can’t find the links let me know and I’ll reply with the links on your blog.

    Good luck with the querying!


    1. Those are both awesome suggestions, I’ll look them up today. Thanks for the information and good luck with your own efforts!


  2. There is loads of information about queries and how to write them. But it still comes down to you and your skill.

    Believe me, queries = hell-on-earth, LOL.

    Good luck.


    1. Yes, thank goodness for the interwebs, eh? It’s astounding how much research I feel like I’ve already done considering I’m still am not sure I have a good handle on the whole thing. I do feel pretty good about my current query letter, but that’s easy to say as I haven’t gotten any feedback yet. Who’s got two thumbs and is a complete n00b? This guy! 😀

      Thanks for the tip and, even more, the commiseration. Good luck!


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