Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Not to sound like a cult leader here, because I once sold Mary Kay, and let me tell you, sometimes the 'power of positive thinking' deserves a busted lip. There is only so 'happy happy joy joy' you can go before I start rolling my eyes. However... there is only so much negativity you need in your life, especially in your writing life. I'm not saying put your head in the sand and ignore anything bad about the publishing industry.

I'm saying, acknowledge the crappy stuff, but don't allow it to stop you. If this truly is who you are, you won't let it stop you. After all, what kind of lame-ass adventure are you really on, if it isn't 'impossible'? I'm a big fan of underdogs and watching them succeed against the odds. How completely lame is it if what you want in life isn't even a challenge?

I say find the biggest challenge, the most impossible thing...and go for it.

One of the most common bits of negativity repeated over and over to new and old writers alike is the incredibly bad odds in this business. "You'll never make it," though cloaked in nicer words like: "the odds are daunting," is bandied about like "You'll shoot your eye out." Just give the kid his Red Ryder beebee gun for God's sake.

I was on an online writing group where I heard about how insurmountable the odds were (not for the first time.) One individual stated that the odds for just ONE particular agent were 8/20,800. The agent received 20,800 queries (I'm not sure if the exact time frame was specified) and out of that, the agent requested 54 manuscripts only, and out of THAT the agent signed 8 new writers. (I still haven't been informed of the dismal numbers of those who got a decent book contract.)

Are you cheery yet? :)

Well, hold on...I'm getting there. In the first place, just hypothetically speaking of this particular agent, your odds are NOT 8/20,800. If this was a LOTTERY those would be your odds. But it isn't. As far as I know, agents have not yet become so disillusioned as to start pulling query letters randomly out of a hat. When they start doing that, THEN and only then will those be YOUR PERSONAL odds.

If you want to get a look at what you're up against, go here: Going on right now, is Miss Snark's Crap-o-meter. This is where writing hopefuls send in their queries to Miss Snark, and she snarkily tells them what's wrong with them. I wasn't ready in time for the crap-o-meter this time, or else I'd be getting snarked too. ;)

Now most of these are REALLY bad, IMO. Keep in mind these aren't your average querying writers out of this mythically large number you're up against. THESE are the savvy ones. The ones savvy enough and well read/well researched enough to even know about Miss Snark in the first place. This is the best and the brightest, people. And still, most of it is BAD.

So, read these and know there really is hope. I'm not saying it'll be easy. And I definitely think you need several people willing to rip your query apart so you can increase your odds, but it is doable. And yeah, even if you write the perfect query, you might not get a bite from this agent or that one. Just keep working at it. Find what isn't catching interest and fix it and move on to the next batch. But know, this isn't the lottery.

Do you have some fierce competition? Absolutely. But most of these people aren't it. In all likelihood, You aren't up against 20,800 people better than you. I mean you've got going into the circular bin right from the start all the people who sent to an agent who didn't represent their type of book, or wrote their query on pink scented paper. Then unless it's a really forgiving agent, all mispelled names are going in the crap bin too.

And I really don't believe this is a matter of vanity. In the grand scheme of things if a writer can't bother to find out the proper spelling of an agent's name, how likely is it that they will be knowledgable enough about the industry to not need hand holding every single step of the way? There is only so thin an agent can spread him/herself, especially on a new author.

Then of course the crappy queries take up a huge chunk of it. Yours could very well be in this category. See that it isn't. Then your odds become much much better.

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