Monday, October 10, 2011

Dear Publisher. Buy my Manuscript - Make Me Famous

"How would you cope with a stalker who controlled your work computer?" Nah, too bland. Answers itself - turn the sumbitch off, that's how.

I've written a second novel - polished, honed, endured countless forms of criticism ("I think you completely missed your own point!" Add arched eyebrow for emphasis.), and came up with something worthy of....

The dreaded query letter.

"A young mother juggles police work, a demanding husband and a focused stalker." Better, although demanding husband may be redundant.

Before a writer can ever aspire to greatness, or even a sort of obscure notoriety, there are several hurdles to overcome. The first, of course, is the actual act of writing, what one author called "sitting in front of blank sheets of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." We introverts are lucky - the skill to internally engage a story line is already there. All we have to carve of our lives is the time to turn our thoughts into keystrokes.

"A young woman police sergeant juggles...." And all the guys substitute jiggles, and it ain't that kind of book.

Once something approaching a finished product exists (no editor ever calls it finished, but that's a different blog) the time has come to put on the big boy pants, toss the old out sized ego into the food processor and, like, press the shred button.  Submitting to publishers (sorry, Marci), unless one is either well connected or frightfully talented, is daunting, and humbling. There are millions of mere mortals vying for the few choice slots not reserved for writers with last names of Clinton, Brown (any of them) or Rowling. To say the biz is competitive is to understate mortal danger. After all, "It isn't showfriends..."

"What would a young officer do if her police car computer started singing 'Daisy' and called her Dave?" Way too obscure - the submissions editor would send my letter back with WTF stamped all over it.

Every publisher has a web site, and every web site has a section called "Submission Guidelines" or something similar. All of the books and classes on getting somewhere in writing caution that these are immutable, commandment-like directives. Read carefully, do what you are told, or face the wrath of...what, rejection? Like you're going to buy this manuscript, you miserable....

"What would a young mother risk when an insane computer geek offers her an unacceptable deal?" Over the top, but the unacceptable deal thing has possibilities.

All of them ask for a query letter. So I took a class, and found out that the first couple of sentences are key to grabbing the readers attention. Oh, really? People reading four hundred of these a day don't just skip to the part where you promise them the next GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL? So, toil I must to set just the right tone, dangle just enough plot line to snag the poor lad and get them interested in Amy Painter, or Karen Sorenson. My main characters. Never heard of them? Well, for six bucks.... Sorry.

"A young police unacceptable deal at gunpoint. All she has to give up is the family she loves." Oh, yeah. Receives is a little weak, though.

The rest of the letter flows better after I get that first sentence or two mostly done. Then I get a chance to brag - not about me, not about my stellar, crisp, leaps-off-the-page writing (I wish) but about my characters. I've put them into impossible situations and they come through, reaffirming their underlying principles. They endure, owing to the devotion of their friends, strength of their character and because I have a huge, vicarious crush on them.

Thanks for your help. Now, can I have your names, please, for the acknowledgement page?


  1. Man, I hate sending query letters. What I've learned over the last few years is that whether you're talking about the query letter or the first chapter of your book, the first couple of lines have to grab the agent/reader...or else you're dead in the water. I've thought to myself a million times, "If they'd just read the first couple of chapters, they'd like my book". NOT! It doesn't work that way with the agents I've queried - and I'm talking hundreds of them! Thank goodness for Musa Publishing who believe in giving debut authors a chance.

  2. Sorry, I meant to say, "Thank goodness for Wild Child Publishing", but I was thinking you were an author with Musa. Forgive my faux pas.

  3. You are so right, Patti. I started this manuscript with "Amy Painter stood at the corner of the house - naked" and STILL had it rejected by a friend of a friend agent. Did I need to include "early morning dew dripping off her...." I did activate the adult content thing, didn't I? And thank goodness for publishers like Wild Child, who give aspirings like me a chance to learn, to grow and to see our work in print.

  4. Well-put, Jim. The bonus is the spirit in which you wrote this post. You showcased our "suffering" through humor and slight bitterness LOL
    And even though I didn't get to deal with Marci, I know how fair and efficient she is.
    Good luck with your book.

    Now, for that acknowledgment page,my name is Su Halfwerk

  5. Thanks, Su, for your encouragement and the proper spelling of your name. :) This biz ain't for the faint of heart.

  6. Thanks so much for posting this blog. Although new to this new life as an author, I have already encountered much of what you stated in this blog. Learned something though. I may be more introvert than extrovert. :)

  7. Thanks, Cassandra. I used to think all of us were competing with each other. but, the more we stick together, share information and support each other, the better off all of us are. So - I hope you sell a million!