Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Why Query?

In the world, in JRW, and in our own little group, the Sarcastic Broads, there are writers of different stripes and taking different roads.  Leila and Kristy are most interested in self-pubbing (see Leila’s work here), but I’m lazily/stubbornly/traditionalistically on the old-fashioned query-agent-hopefully-sell-to-a-traditional-publisher path.  At the Conference this year, I let myself ask why I don’t consider the e-route, why I don’t learn from Leila and get Ax out there.

I won’t pretend the tinge of fear has nothing to do with my methods.  There is a certain liberty in being unpublished.  Everything is potential, even when you’re fielding rejections – because there’s still that magical agent out there, somewhere, just waiting (who’ll get the Big Sale too).  But I want Ax to make it into the world.  It deserves it.  Clovis deserves that.

I do.  I have worked my ass off on that book.

The choice of method probably owes a good deal to my own sense of inadequacy in the face of innovation.  Tech doesn’t scare me outright, but I’m not a forefront surfer, and what Leila has done impresses me to death, and though she’s done it with as much on her plate as I have on mine, the added vertigo of being on the hunt for a job on top of everything means I’m weak in the face of committing to more learning.  There’s going to be a lot of adapting and learning to do if I make a change at work; that’ll be enough, thank you.

The real crux of it, though, is that I’m a traditionalist.  The red clay of Virginia is in my blood and bones, and we’re a people who don’t love change.

How many Virginians does it take to change a light bulb?
Five:  One to do the actual job.  Two more to stand off to one side discussing how much better the old light bulb was.  And two more to write the history of the original bulb, with maps and civil war citations.

Perhaps no point of pride, to admit as an author that I’m this kind of a wuss.  But, ask any Virginian, and they’ll swear there’s an integrity to being a reactionary.  I’m not up to snuff in that area in any number of my social ideas, but at the bottom of my being I resist the world’s obsession with eternal growth, with planned obsolescence, with new ways to do old things.  Anyone who’s read more than a post or two here knows – one of my great fascinations is with the depth into the past that human ingenuity really reaches.  The ancient methods and structures which remain with us through centuries, even millennia.  Just yesterday I was reading about the Indus Valley civilization, and how in some areas the basic architectural plans of home building remain the same.

As much innovation and gee-whiz as there is in the world, some things we do, and have done for a long time – we’re not doing WRONG.  It’s no more wrong to go the old-fashioned querying route than it is to self-publish (though I know people who STILL act apologetic and shamefaced about that option, which is long since an obsolete attitude in itself).  And ...

I like a gatekeeper.

I like the sense of breaking through something, getting by someone, to gain admittance.  It’s not about an Old Boys’ Club, and it’s not about exclusivity, but about the INclusive end, the fraternity of old school publishing.  It appeals to me, and – this post notwithstanding – it really doesn’t matter why.  Leila has the strength and the motivation to put Hot Flashes out into the world ON HER OWN and I find that breathtaking.  But I’ll find it perfectly gleeful (even though the process has been, admittedly, a pretty slow one) when I’m agented ... and sold.

One of the more remarkable agents I’ve had the privilege of communicating with commented to me once that the guys like Conn Iggulden and so on are dinosaurs (and he is in traditional publishing himself).  I’ve got about three years on that particular dinosaur ... and, as with being a secretary, I stopped apologizing for not being a wunderkind author quite a long time ago.  The book is the point – the books to come.  And, so far, I’ve got good stuff to get in the world.

The final polish is still going well, though as always not as fast as I would like.  Reading it does always remind me how much I love the work – it’s good, and only getting better fine point by fine point.

Just you wait ...

I sure do ...


Leila said...

You, my darling, are awesome! Every path is different. I can't wait to celebrate the day when I can brag to the world that Diane Major's book is out in print.

Jeff said...

Are you at liberty to say any more about what the agent meant when he or she called Conn Iggulden a "dinosaur"? He's prolific and he appears to sell well, so I'm confused by the agent associating him with old ways of doing things.

DLM said...

Oh, he was just saying Iggulden is not a youngster, not that his style or methods were outdated. I remember it because I'm older than he is, so it was one of those passing "I'm so old, what am I doing trying to become a DEBUT novelist?" moments.

Jeff said...

Aha! Understood. Just bear in mind that writers who debut with a hit in their twenties are often stale or forgotten by their forties. :)

DLM said...

:) I usually learn how to stop apologizing for most of the ways in which I fail to conform to other expectations at exactly the moment I remember how little I care about other people's expectations. :)

Fortunately, I think it really does come down to the writing. And mine is good!