Should writers send out queries? The answer used to be an obvious and resounding yes. How else would you be “published?” But after sending out 1.2 billion queries over my lifetime, I am beginning to question their present-day worth. Obviously, not all of my queries have fallen short. And we should expect to have a high ratio of rejections to acceptance.
While I haven’t given up on them yet, I’m close to skipping the queries and the dozens of not for me responses, the nonexistent marketing, or the publisher going out of business after acceptance. Nor will I try to explain that my blogged excerpts should not disqualify me from being “previously unpublished.” Why waste all that dwindling time – a year or two, or ten – hoping for an agent or publisher when technology has taken much of the stigma out of “self-publishing?” Besides, my target audience may not last that long. With current and readily available technology, you can write, format, and publish a book at no cost except your blood and sweat – writers should be used to sweating blood. Even the so-called legitimate publishers now require you to market.
Before abandoning the query altogether, however, why not use the same technology that allows for low, or no cost POD? Given that everything unfortunately is on some social network, why not try social network querying? (Can’t be as bad as those colonoscopy pictures.) Is there a publisher or an agent surfing around on Facebook and Twitter? Who knows? Posting here feels roughly the same as researching agents and publishers and sending out queries. Sort of like throwing rocks into the Mississippi hoping to hit a catfish.
So I’m offering this abbreviated nonfiction query. Mainly so I can tell myself I’ve explored the possibilities and can move on, guilt free, knowing that I have given my all. And when this query method does not work, I will be free to blog, chapter-by-chapter, while I format for publication. “Not for me.” I agree. Not for you.
Dear Ms. Nofome:
Eight Billion Steps: My Impossible Quest For Cancer Comedy is a 74,800 word narrative with photos about (as may seem obvious) finding humor in cancer. After I was diagnosed with an extremely large and rare salivary gland tumor on the back of my tongue, throat and jaw, my wife and I began our fun-filled search for treatment. Eight Billion Steps is my odyssey, a life-affirming story told with honesty and humor, interspersed with moments of terror.
“This book was going to be Two Hundred Steps, My Fight Against Cancer, but the title seemed too generic for what was percolating in my sometimes painfully clear mind. So I changed it from the typical to the absurd, and I have been struggling with my quest ever since.”
I have won several short fiction awards and my work has appeared in the US, UK, and Canada. My narrative nonfiction story “The Wells Creek Route” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and my novel Where the River Splits was praised in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Please contact me at 314-496-2204 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Jeffrey Penn May