This post is a self-reflection. A realization:
Art is a (product of) human activity, made with the intention of stimulating the human senses as well as the human mind by transmitting emotions and/or ideas.
The all important first draft (and maybe 2nd and 3rd drafts, too) is for myself and myself only, and then I want to share, I want to ‘transmit’ it to others. For right now, I believe the best way to accomplish that goal is to seek representation with a literary agent and sell my novel(s) to a publisher.
If you’d told me five years ago that I would be attempting to perfect the be-all-end-all sales letter (also known as query letter), I would have raised an eyebrow, thanked you for the information, and proceeded to wipe such an idea from my brain.
Now I know better.
The querying process seems so mountainous, so finicky, I want to shake my fist high in the air, laugh, and shout, “This will drive you MAAAAD!!”
When I am tempted into this fist shaking shout, I envision the Narcoleptic Argentinean in the movie Moulin Rouge! with his throaty MAAAAD! during the song El Tango De Roxanne (a remake of Roxanne by The Police).
I did not begin writing fiction with the idea in mind that I would need to be a saleswoman. In fact, I went into fiction with the idea that it would take me deeper into art and farther away from sales.
I don’t need to query a literary agent, I don’t need to sell my books to a publisher, but I would like to — and for money please. Not a lot of money, but enough money to someday make real the dream to write full-time without feeling guilty for making my family sacrifice things like, oh, electricity, hot water, fresh produce from the farmer’s market.
So I must put on my saleswoman’s hat and become skilled at writing pitch letters, because if not me, than who?
ALERT: Extended Simile
Querying a novel, or trying to sell any creative work is essentially selling your mind. A couple lines from El Tango De Roxanne:
You don’t have to wear that dress tonight
You don’t have to sell your body to the night
The Narcoleptic Argentinean begs Roxanne not to give in, but to hold herself to some higher ideal of love and chastity while going hungry and probably sleeping on the street. Art for art’s sake is a grand and noble idea, but it does not pay the bills or put food in my pound puppy’s bowl. Luckily, I do have a day job and do not count on my writing to bring in any income.
Reality Bites, Now Move On
I do not hold my querying agony against literary agents, or even the publishing industry. I regularly lurk on many different agent blogs (and am very thankful for all the knowledge they’ve shared that has helped me be more savvy about the entire publishing industry).
I understand the reasons for form letter rejections, the passionate hatred some agents have of opening a query letter with a rhetorical question, how you can still land a great agent even with a rhetorical question in your query, why agents are looking for any reason to reject…
I understand this is how the game works. If I want to play the game I have to play by the rules.
How about you? How do you handle it? Comparisons encouraged. I’m always looking for new favorite lines to yell out when I become frustrated.
In my quest to write the best query letter possible I’ve found some great resources off and online. I’ll share them with you soon. In the meantime, check out my previous post where I talked about The Query as String Theory.