Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Good Typist Epic Rant Edition: Query Letters, Parking Spaces, and the Stupid, Stupid Beatles

It’s been a long week, my nerves are shot, and I have no longer have any polite filter left. So enjoy my rant. If you need me, I’ll be hiding in the closet, curled into the fetal position.

Having to write a query letter is completely unfair and unspeakably horrible in every way. I am completely toxxed out on internet advice about the process. I am so sick of hearing about the STAKES, the freakin’ stakes, what are the stakes, what are they??? It’s fine if you’ve written some big, flashy, science-fictiony zombie novel about the end of the world, ohhhh, high stakes, but if you’ve written a character-driven novel in which the stakes are purely personal, you’re hosed. The world isn’t going to end if your character doesn’t get what she wants. Therefore, the book that you stupidly poured your soul and two years of your life into is worthless. Sorry I didn’t write a novel about the zombie apocalypse, a global nuclear war, or the extinction of all life on this planet. Next time, I’ll know better.

I don’t understand why I have to write a sales piece for my novel anyway. I wrote an entire novel, for God’s sake. I finished it and edited it and everything. But now, because I can’t seem to write a query letter, I’m going to be washed up. This effin’ query letter is going to be the end of me. And as much as I appreciate the feedback I’m getting from online forums, I can no longer stand it: More detail. No, less detail. More specifics. Fewer specifics. What are the stakes? Arrgh! The stakes are that I am going to commit hari-kari if I can’t get this stupid query letter finished. I swear to God, I would rather write three more entire novels than to have to write one single query letter. Who the hell created this process anyway? I’m putting the system on trial, people. There has to be a better way.

I usually go grocery shopping on Friday nights, when there is less traffic and fewer people, but I was too exhausted to go last night. So I decided to be clever and do a combined grocery/Christmas/husband-birthday shopping trip at Big Everything Store today instead. It turns out there were NO PARKING SPOTS anywhere, and it was pouring down rain and deathly dark outside and people were driving like idiots and I decided screw this, and I turned around to go to my normal grocery store, and again NO PARKING anywhere, and I got really mad and just came home and told Mr. Typist, forget it. No groceries this week. I can no longer submit to the indignity of circling parking lots for thirty minutes at a time in a monsoon, waiting for a spot to open up so I can fight the masses to buy a bunch of crap to shovel into my face in a never-ending cycle of consumption. I’m done. It’s Taco Time and instant coffee for the rest of the week.

To add insult to injury, I set up a new Pandora station to listen to while working on my latest writing project, and they tried to play a Beatles song, which enraged me. I’m furious with the Beatles because they completely ruined the water aerobics class at my local pool. Water aerobics instructors have no musical imagination, so it was just all Beatles music, all the time, and it threw me into a rage about how unbearably smug and self-satisfied baby boomers are, even though they single-handedly destroyed the American economy. My entire water aerobics class was spent mentally gnawing on my bitterness, because of the stupid relentless Beatles music. I know it’s trendy now to hate on the Beatles, but I hated them before it was popular. They have exactly three songs that I like. The rest of them I find incredibly grating and overrated. And I don’t think they’re the geniuses everyone makes them out to be. So I quit going, purely so that I didn’t have to listen to any more depressing Beatles music. Thanks, John Lennon.

God, I’m cranky. I think I need some vitamin D. Which I could purchase, if there were any open parking spots at the grocery store.  

--Kristen McHenry


Frank Moraes said...

That was a great rant! It's worse than that too. Publishers expect you to sell the book. How is that? Isn't that what their job is? If I were any good at sales, I would be rich and publish my own novel. I think it's amazing that as the publishing industry has abandoned basically any support for anyone but their A-list writers (who don't need it), they haven't reduced the percentage of gross profits that they get. How is that?!

I have a vague idea, though: have Harley write your query letter. At least you'll get your anger worked out.

I mostly agree with you about The Beatles. I still think Paul McCartney is one of the great pop songwriters of the 20th century. And the later stuff is often very pretentious.

But speaking of Pandora, I have a complaint. It is terrible regarding classical music. This is, of course, because most people who listen to classical music have no taste. If you enter, say, Claude Debussy, don't be surprised if you find yourself listening to Vivaldi. I'm sure they would say, "But they are both classical!" That's like putting in Public Enemy and having it play Elvis Presley. Well, they're both pop music! Ugh.

Good luck with your query letter and parking!

Kristen McHenry said...

Thanks, Frank! I don't know a lot about the publishing world, but the little I'm learning through this process is very demoralizing. I thought about writing the query letter in Harley's voice, but most of the advice I've read admonishes you not to be "gimmicky". It's the stakes thing that's killing me. There are stakes, but it's very hard to be splashy and get an agent's heart racing when the stakes are just personal to the character and don't involve international intrigue or interstellar destruction. I'm starting to feel like a failure as writer because I cannot seem to do this letter right.

Carolyn said...

Must be genetic. I also hate the Beatles. And shopping. And as far as your query letter goes, look, don't worry about SELLING your book as much as letting them see who you are as a person. Write your query letter about how you hate writing query letters. Colin has just sent out his children's book to a number of publishers that he PAINSTAKINGLY researched. He felt his work would be at home in their list. I think knowing your potential publishers is the most important part of the query letter a la "I feel my work compliments the works already on your list, such as Whosamadoozie's "Eat Shit and Die." I don't know how many agents he sent to, but a few wrote back enthusiastically with a request for his full manuscript. He's still waiting on an answer. Colin is not you, you are not Colin, but I thought you should know it's "definitely possible" to get a nibble due to the sheer quality of your work. Plus, you already have a publishing history, and I count myself as one in your loyal fan base.

Kristen McHenry said...

Hey, Cuz! Good to hear from you. I'm happy to hear the news about Colin--that's awesome for him! And it gives me some hope. Thanks for your query advice. I think I just need to calm down, get out of my own head a little bit, do some more research, and start afresh with the letter. My angst about the situation is keeping me from thinking clearly about what should be a fairly straight-forward process. I just need a few days to re-group, I think. But I am not going to be deterred, despite my little meltdown. :)

Frank Moraes said...

Don't let it kill you. Remember William Goldman's advice about Hollywood is just as good for publishing, "Nobody knows anything." Of course, they will tell you that they do.

I think the stakes are huge for Harley. As you know, I was freaking out at her behavior because she's risking her entire life. And then, everything does fall apart for her.

But you might highlight the stakes of getting into Hogwarts and Harley's parents getting killed by Lord Voldemort...