Query me this, Batman

May 31, 2010 | The Publishing Industry

So yeah. Queries. The bane of my existence.

As I get to the end of the second draft of the Novel, I realise I have to start thinking about queries. At some point I’ll have to get an agent interested in selling it if I’m ever going to see it in print. So it follows that I must start practicing my query-writing, and try to put together a decent one in order to pitch my book.

It’s like trying to think of a title all over again. Ever wonder why I call it ‘the Novel’ and not by its actual name? It’s because it hasn’t got one at all; anything I’ve ever thought of has sounded daft or just plain inappropriate. May the gods help me when the time comes to get it into dead tree form, because I’ll need someone else around to help me come up with a good title.

The irony of having a vast imagination, full of story ideas and scenes and characters, but being completely unable to think of one good name for a book is not lost on me.

Queries are much the same. I have to step away for a minute, and try to see the Novel from the outside. What makes it interesting? What makes it gripping? What would make an agent leap off their chair and scream for the manuscript? I spend so much time inside it, so many hours with my characters and plot, that it’s a lot more difficult that you’d think. They live because I give them life, and a world to play in; my creations, my joy, my pain, my soul. Authors hold on so tightly to their own threads that letting them go, even for an instant, is almost unthinkable. It’s as if we’re afraid that the woven tale will unravel the moment someone else holds it, and all our work will be undone.

I suppose the greatest test of a book is whether it survives in someone else’s grasp. If the story falls apart under another gaze, then it’s a sign that the author hasn’t really done a very good job. But riddle me this, Batman – what can the author do when their story is torn apart by an outsider, such as an editor? How do you feel when your creation lies broken before you?

I’m getting a bit too metaphorical. Blame it on my lower-than-normal tea consumption today.

People were asking me a while ago what the Novel is about. I realised that I really couldn’t answer that question at the time. There was so much in it, so many things I was too close to. Nowadays I can describe it a little; it’s about danger, and excitement, and daring feats of courage, and the power of desperate friendships and alliances made under fire. And other things. And maybe ninjas. And there’s a scene with a pirate ship.

Not much of a query letter, no? Let me get to the end of the draft, and then we’ll see if I can step away long enough to write a query that makes sense.