Hey, You Never Know

Dollar and a dream, dollar and a delusion?

Dollar and a dream, dollar and a delusion?

A couple of weeks ago I was having a conversation with a writing friend about the query process. Surprising, it isn’t like I’m obsessed or anything.  Sigh. And by conversation, I mean I said something like, “It’s never going to happen, I have a better chance of winning the lottery, blahblahsuckageblah.  And my friend said something lovely and supportive like, “Oh, Mrs Fringe. Don’t say that. It can happen for you, it will happen for both of us, you have to have faith.”

I don’t play the lottery on a regular basis, maybe I’ve purchased five tickets over the course of my life.  I wasn’t disappointed when I checked the numbers for the same reason I don’t play regularly–I don’t expect to win.  I’m no math whiz, but I can look at the odds and know this is not a sensible way to spend a dollar.

I was saying there’s a specific aspect to querying that’s completely illogical, no different than playing the lottery, and yet here I am–hoping to “win,” even sometimes believing I have a shot.  My guess (I’m not looking up the numbers and doing math) is that my odds are even worse than if I bought a lottery ticket for every query I send.  If you pick the “right” numbers, you win your money, less the government’s share.  Fair enough.  But if a wannabe claws their way through the slush pile with sharp words and a clear, enticing plot to receive an offer of representation from a reputable agent, that’s just the first step.  Because the jackpot (for a wannabe who wants to be traditionally published) isn’t receiving an offer of rep, it’s seeing your book in print, in a bookstore.  So step two is the agent querying editors, in hopes of a publishing offer.  Only a percentage of agented debut writers/manuscripts actually see a publishing contract. Step three is (hopefully) revisions with an editor and an advance, and then if nothing goes awry–step four, publication. That’s the winning ticket.  Golden ticket is if the book actually takes off and you see good sales numbers.

There’s a disconnect, and even a wacky old gal like myself can see it.  Too practical to buy lottery tickets, but oh yeah, I’ll query.    And I’m lucky.  Lucky to be receiving requests from agents to see the full.  I wonder if full requests are like winning $2 on a scratch-off ticket, just enough to entice me to keep trying.  Each request is a step, but quite far from an offer of rep–not to mention the neuron marbles lost with every ping of my email as I check to see if it’s an agent response.  Patience, Mrs Fringe.  Patience and faith.

Because I don’t play, I don’t know–do people have systems for playing the lottery, formulas and equations, the way people sit with the racing form at the track?  I admit, I used to enjoy going to the track, where I had an elegant formula for which horse to bet on, using the names I liked the best.

My query formula

My query formula

Above is my system.  Sure I use the laptop to write and edit, but it’s a basic composition book for notes on the manuscript, and keeping track of queries.  With, of course, my lucky pencil.  Yes, it’s true, it’s that one specific type of pencil, exclusive to a Staples near you (maybe, they could be in other office supply stores also).

I had pushed this line of thinking out of my mind, but this morning on Twitter, I saw a tweet from an agent I follow. I think he’s an agent, he tweets anonymously as Agent Vader. For all I know he’s another wannabe, or a she, or the real Darth Vader, or the most powerful literary agent in existence.  I don’t care, as long as he doesn’t send me to Jabba the Hutt in metal underwear. He’s often funny, and offers many great one liners about this whole business.  Today he tweeted, “Writing is art. Art is subject to perception. This is a lottery. Most people don’t win the lottery.”

Yes.  Yes, yes, yes. But I’ve got this little pile of winning scratch-off tickets that say please send me the full. And I’ve got beta readers and family and friends and Fringelings who say keep going.  I’m even fortunate enough to have a couple of experienced, knowledgable-about-writing-and-the-publishing-industry friends who have read my work and tell me to keep going.  But I’ll be honest, seeing and hearing the realities of this business, the long, long odds that involve the magical combination of writing that’s good enough, story that’s good enough, landing on the right desk at the right time, making the right numbers on a projected Profit and Loss statement in a publishing house, these are equally important.  I’m wacky enough to believe I have a real shot, but need to keep my eyes on the sanity of facts and odds at the same time.

(I’ve posted this song/video before, but can’t think of anything more appropriate)

 

29 comments

  1. As opposed to randomly picking 6 or 7 numbers, all of which are “equally weighted,” you already know that there’s a bit of making your own luck in the querying process by writing well. You’ve already beaten so many odds just by getting requests. Nothing wrong with a little reality check mixed into the batter once in a while, as long as you maintain faith in yourself.

    I love the idea of buying a lottery ticket for every query I send. I think I’ll try it. If nothing else, a $2 winner might assuage my angst for an hour. 😀

    Like

    1. LOL, yes there are certainly factors beyond luck, but I definitely believe it isn’t in our best interest to deny that luck and sheer numbers play a part. 🙂

      Hah, it could be an interesting experiment, gather 100 queriers to purchase a lottery ticket for every query sent, and compare requests to winning tickets. 😛 We may need SL to work up a spreadsheet 😉

      Like

  2. I love the analogy! I laughed aloud about the $2 winning ticket being the same as a request for a full, and that the function of both is to keep you trying for the big one. That’s exactly how it feels! You nailed it, girl. All we can do is keep trying. At least subbing doesn’t cost as much as buying lottery tickets – all it costs is time and emotional wear-and-tear.

    Like

  3. Ahh, Mrs Fringe. Whatever it takes, girl. Funny, your analogy relative to dreaming big works for lottery tickets as well as queries, even though you’re buying the former, and selling the latter. Trying to, anyway. At least with queries you can increase your chances some by drafting a kick-ass query, and sending it out to agents who may be looking for that special thing you’ve written.

    I’m glad you’re wacky enough to keep sending out your stuff, because it’s damn good. I know that for a fact. As for keeping yourself grounded, today I’d say screw that, Mrs Fringe. Reach for the sky and don’t look down. There will always be folks like Vader trying to pull you back to earth, keeping it “real;” not to mention your own private reality checks. Today, I say, dream a little bit. We writers need to do that sometimes, if for no other reason than to feel good about ourselves.

    And our chances, slim though they may be.

    ❤ kk

    Like

    1. Aww, thanks kk ❤

      It's funny, for as much as I think we "get" each other's writing, the reality checks make me feel better. Looking at the stars, or for me, looking at/feeling the vastness of the ocean is wonderful, but without the ground under my feet it makes me too nervous. 😉

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      1. I understand that, Mrs Fringe. Truth be told, sometimes I feel the same way. But I need to look up because when I peek down at my feet all I see is a great yawning chasm of despairing nothingness waiting to swallow me whole.

        Wait, did I just say that out loud?

        😉

        kk

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      1. all it takes is a dollar and a dream, we can all dream!! Don’t dreams make the world go round? Love the analogy!! If you win big either way, can you remember us little guys? 😀 ahem ferrari? hahaha, NOT asking a lot am I?

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  4. The difference between winning the lottery and your writing is that you have to write, it is who you are. You are a writer. Keep going, though the odds be against you, you don’t have a choice. It is a certainty that you won’t be published if you don’t try. Your chances to be published increase when you try. HUGS
    Diana xo

    Like

  5. Dude, I’m going to buy a lotto ticket for novel subs. Or maybe 1 per 10 agents. Something.

    I didn’t for my Angry Robot sub, as that’s just kind of a “test shot”, if you will. Once I hear back, I’ll go from there, either polishing my letter in QLH or…maybe…celebrating?

    I think it’s in humanity’s nature to take risks, of varying levels of riskiness. Betting on an agent? That’s a risk. Leaving your house? That’s one too 😉

    Like

    1. I’m telling you, we should get a study together. Official like, publish the results on Twitter at the end. 😉

      Right now, I’m voting for celebrating. <<<positive, see?

      But I'll admit, right now I'm thinking of the many days I thought, "I should never have left the house today." 😛

      Like

  6. Love this post and the comparison between the odds to win the lottery and the access to publication. I’ve stopped sending queries for the last few months. I feel less anxious, more creative. I will soon seek ways to publish, but taking a break from the race has worked for me.
    But I never bought lottery ticket in my entire life, so maybe I’m really atypical.
    Good luck to you and your writing,

    Like

    1. Heh, we’re in opposite places, I’m taking a break from writing. 🙂

      Subbing/querying is definitely an anxious space to be in.

      Thanks for your thoughts and your good wishes! 🙂 Are you looking into alternate ways to publish or traditional agent>>pub?

      Like

  7. Great post. Although you don’t mention casting spells…
    What, you haven’t tried that?
    Actually, neither have I but one might become desperate.

    Alternatively, try self-pubbing. From what I hear from established writers, it’s the way to go. But then…they became established by having an agent…DOH!!!

    Good luck with it all Mrs Fringe. Ask the Universe and keep the faith.

    Like

    1. Welcome to Mrs Fringe, Rosie–thanks for commenting, and the good thoughts! 🙂

      At this point in my life, I don’t think self pubbing is for me, too much I don’t know about, too much $ for the budget, in order to do it well. 🙂

      Wishing you the best–maybe we should both burn some sage 😉

      Like

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