I have spent a year of my life slaving away on a manuscript, giving my blood, sweat and tears (or at least every minute of my free time) to characters who now live and breathe in my head. I've gone over every word not once, not twice, but dozens of times until my head is spinning and my fingers feel permanently glued to the keyboard. Then the miraculous happened. I finished the dang thing. I did the dance of joy until I realize what came next- the query. Now I must take my perfected manuscript and set it aside and write a snippet that distills 100,000 words into 500. I must use voice (but not too much voice), make it stand out (but don’t go outside the standard format), sell myself (but don’t come off pompous) and dear sweet God don’t let me get the agent’s name wrong.
If all this sounds impossible, then you and I are in the same boat. And sorry folks, but I think we left the paddles on shore.
Querying is one of the most terrifying parts for the aspiring writer. I hate it. I’d rather scrub the grout around my toilet, clean the cling-ons off my dog's hind end, pretty much anything other than work on my query. It’s maddening. Where else do you work on something for literally years and are then told, no, that’s not how you will be evaluated? Consider this scenario below.
An art buyer sits down with a prospective artist client. Behind her sleek, lacquered desk she looks at the painter. “Here’s how I’ll decide if I want your work,” she says. “Create a painting that represents your masterpiece. But, please make it no bigger than a postage stamp.”
The exhausted, paint-speckled artist’s jaw drops. “I couldn’t possibly make something that small as beautiful as what I’ve already created. I’ve spent years on this painting. Couldn’t you just come see it?” the painter cries, frantically waiving to where his masterpiece rests just behind the door.
“No, no.” She waves dismissively. “Honestly, I just don’t have the time.”
I can whine and complain all I like, but querying is likely here to stay. The gatekeepers of the publishing world want queries. I want their representation. So I query and, like Private Pyle, keep my sobs quiet under my pillow.
If you’re in my boat, there are lots of great query sites like Query Shark and Writer’s Digest that offer suggestions on how to summarize with style and promote like a pro. For me, I’ll take my beatings and get back to staring at my query.