Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Friday, December 23, 2011

Do the hard thing as if it were easy

...and the easy thing as if it were hard.  I belive Musashi said that first, in his classic Book of Five Rings.  The advice came to mind as I put my helmet on and set to work on my query.

At some point in my years in the desert, querying became the part of writing that I dreaded most.  For a midlist writer, I believed, the hurdles were simply too high.  What name was I to use?  How did I explain my 'down time'?  How did I handle the career change to mystery?

By luck, I thought to take the time to flip through some of my past queries.  Oh, I had my share of rejections.  But I'd forgotten how often I'd gotten requests for the opening pages of past books.  And some of these requests had come from established agencies.  I still had a letter from Amtrak, awarding me an all-expenses paid cross-country train trip to research my third novel.  But the industry has changed as much as I have as a person and a writer.  What I needed to do was adapt my query style to the new work I bring to the table and the new publishing scene.  So...

Do the hard thing as if it were easy.  I didn't spend months or a year on the query, though I had thought about it for months.  I wrote the query in a morning without a thought in my head about seducing or psyching out agents.  I began with a hook far different from any other I've used:  positioning my novel by referencing the juggernaut/rival that arrives in January--and telling why, imo, that project is miles off course.  A brief summary of my plotline and thumbnail skectch of my lead character.   Why the book is my great passion and how I came to write it.   How I learned of the agent and why I am approaching him/her.  All this in well under a page.  Plus: the opening 5-plus pages imbedded in the e-mail, as requested.

Plan:  to approach agents open to e-mail queries first.  And to send these in limited batches instead of a massive blitz, since I need to stay open to feedback.

Will keep you all posted.  Happy holidays!

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