Friday, February 07, 2020

Let’s pretend my query isn’t the problem

I’ve been sloshing around the query trenches for awhile now, picking up my rejections as I march through the mud and revising as I go. I started thinking. Have I made it harder for myself without even knowing it? The hamster wheel is heating up and ready to spin off its frame.

Let’s pretend my query isn’t the problem. When potential agents see that my book is dual POV written in the first person, how much will that deter the average agent from reading on, if at all? I know that a lot of people prefer third person. I’m wondering if it’s harder to sell books written in the first person especially one written in multiple POV? Do I have to accept that it may be harder to find an agent, or does it mostly come down to the writing and story and POV doesn't matter much?
Let's pretend agents have a checklist.
Dual POV?

Dual POV in first person?

In other words for every single thing you think might be a deal breaker I can name an exception in 30 seconds. And these are just the books I know well.

You do NOT KNOW what goes on at the receiving end of  incoming queries.

So, it just might be your query. But let's pretend it's not.

It might be that your story is something I've seen one gazillion times, and you haven't added anything fresh and new to the mix. PASS

It might be that you're starting the story in the wrong place and the pages you include with your query are not compelling. PASS

It might be that you're writing dinoporn and no one is looking for dinoporn these days. PASS

You have NO way of knowing, sitting there at your desk, fretting.

You can find out if you get some eyeballs on your query, or you have a consult with an agent at a conference.

Let's all remember those VERY difficult conversations I had last year at T/fest with authors writing in categories that weren't really big sellers any more.

Until you know otherwise, don't assume it's anything structural about the book.
That's not even a factor until I read the pages and see if this is something I want to consider further.


Timothy Lowe said...

You can do anything if you do it well. Easy to say, very difficult to do. Keep writing new stuff, and keep querying the stuff you do have. Growth is the most fun part of trying, and you only need one person to love your work (at this stage, anyway).

Colin Smith said...

What Timothy said. Just write your story. Write it as best you can. If it's not what the market wants right now, write another one. There are many variables in publishing, most of which you have no control over--market taste being one of them. The most important thing you can control is your writing. So do it well. And all the best to you! :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

OP, get someone else to look at both query and pages. Do you have beta readers, a writer's group? If you can't get to a conference, there are plenty of ways to get objective eyes on your query and pages and give you some honest feedback.

But you never know really. If it's something like an agent thinking they can't sell anything in your category/genre, not much to be done about that. Good luck and good job getting a book written and out into the query trenches. That is a big accomplishment.

Aphra Pell said...

Hang on, dinoporn is out? You mean I've wasted (i)years(/i) on my tale of Patrick the Parasaurolophus and his enormous trombone*?


More seriously, some of my favourite books have multiple pov, and they are all trad published so people in the industry loved them too. It's not something I'd worry about in the query trenches. Karen Maitland's Comapny of Liars and the Owl Killers have so many pov I can't even list them, but by the giant holy wombat, they work.

*ok, parasaurolophus - aka the bestest dinosaur ever - has, ahem, an enormous horn... on their head, which made trombone noises. Genuinely. We can reconstruct the noise from the bone anatomy, which means you can go on youtube and listen to the noise made by an 80 million year old dinosaur.

LynnRodz said...

OP, I'm reading a novel right now that has a dual POV in the first person. As Janet said, it's a lot more than that for an agent to pass. My MS has multiple POVs, I won't say how many, but I'm sure if I don't hear from agents, I'll begin to wonder if it's too many. We can't help but get on that hamster wheel, but at least you've jumped into the query pool. Good luck.

Aphra Pell, who knew? The things we learn here at the reef.

Laura Stegman said...

Louise Penny's wonderful -- and best-selling -- Gamache series has POVs that switch from character to character from moment to moment, so go figure. There is probably no writing "rule" that can't be broken if it's done well.

JanR said...

I’ve just finished The Left Hand of Darkness, a classic I had never got to. I’m very glad I did! Coincidentally, it includes two first person POVs… Each of these characters is from a different planet and so it’s not only their personalities and agendas that are different. It’s also their entire worldviews.

What I mean is, the second POV therefore really works in the service of the story, both expanding the worldbuilding and giving the reader more plot clues. If your story NEEDS two POVs, then it seems that to change it would hurt rather than harm your book.

Aphra Pell, you’re as amazing as that dinosaur.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

All (most?) of Jodi Picoult's books are multi POV in the first person (with a font change and everything, so you're REALLY CLEAR) and she is exceedingly popular.

Of interest (mostly amusement) to my fellow Reiders, I found a Query Generator that is sure to solve all of our problems (no not really). But it's also not as hilariously bad as I expected it to be, so... Query Generator Because, for me, the query is CERTAINLY a problem. And the synopsis. And wow is my main character unlikable...

Brittany said...

The thing about multiple POV is that it's really, really hard to do it well. A lot of newbie authors struggle to establish a single distinctive voice, and you have to ensure that each POV not only has a voice, but that they sound different to each other.

Most of the things us woodland creatures have decided are auto-passes fall under such a header: appealing techniques that are really easy to bungle. It's possible to do even the most maligned element really well. (The Hunger Games opens with Katniss waking up and it works beautifully.) It's more that if you take on such an element, you're choosing to play the game on hard mode.

But the game is always winnable, even on Super Ultra Insane Hard Mode, if you've got the skills.

(Also, maybe this is a genre thing? I'm not sure how you could do something like epic fantasy *without* multiple POV.

Craig F said...

I am pretty sure that the best queries are writerly don expositions of the story arc, with questions of how it ends, not questions of the query itself. I am only pretty sure because mine hasn't exactly gotten traction among Literary Agents. It has a good following on Query Tracker, though.

The thing about multi POV is that every good book has that. All books have a Protagonist and Antagonist, so two POVS.

Good books should also make you laugh in a few places and cry in a couple more.

Hope y'all have great weekends. After cleaning up a few things here, big storm, I am going to do the same.

That means that all of the tricky schnitzel has been seen by every agent and they have been let down by books that don't quite live up to the advertising.

Get some other eyes on everything you write before thinking it is good. Even with that, it probably has a few shortcomings in it.

MA Hudson said...

I was recently told by an agent in Australia that they don't take on fantasy by unpublished writers. Hmmm. That's the only genre I write in and can only ever imagine writing in, so I don't know where that leaves me.
I guess if it's our genre that's on the nose, the only thing we can do is just keep at it until our writing has so much Kapow! that it can't be ignored.

Aphra Pell said...

So, I tried that query generator thing (hat-tip to Jennifer). This is what came out...

Dear Your sharkly majesty Reid,

Giant horn or hunky tank - a battle for Jurassic love...

[Age]-year-old has an enormous trombone Patrick the Parasaurolophus just wants to be recognised as having the biggest trombone in the world., but when Priscilla the pachycephalosaurus arrives, Pat toots his horn loudly. Now, Pat wants to show Priscilla his trombone.

As Pat Travels across the grasslands, tooting, They discovers that Andy the ankylosaur is showing off his chonky armour. Pat is put to the test when Priscilla butts her giant bony head on Andy's hunky scales, and when Andy challenges Pat to a fight, They has to find a way to triumph with only a huge but fragile trombone or be pounded to a pulp by the dino-tank and never know Priscilla's bone-headed love.

Complete at 513000 words, TOOT MY TROMBONE is a Adult Dino-porn set in The verdant plains and forests of the Jurassic world. It will appeal to readers of Jurassic Park and Romeo and Juliet. TOOT MY TROMBONE has potential for a sequel following Pat's story as They continues to meet Stella the stegosaurus. But can an enormous trombone overcome her prickly plates!.

I am submitting TOOT MY TROMBONE to you because you are famous for representing many dino-porn writers including Jeff Somers, and I undrstand you will fulfil my dream of a one-way ticket to Carkoon .

A qualified palaeontologist, I published my 400 page narrative poem fiction novel "Cuddling with tiny arms - a T-rex romantic tragedy" last year. [Personal Detail 1].

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Gigantica Horn

MA Hudson said...

Aphra Pell - 'Cuddling with tiny arms' Bwahaha! Love it!