Wednesday, July 13, 2011

query, the peacock

Never the one to take random occurrences as being signs from the universe, I easily shrugged off the arrival of a large male peacock on my roof yesterday evening.

I was home alone, writing a new book (yes... another one), when it happened.

The house was quiet until the peacock showed up. He landed directly over my head, where I sat in my office.

At first, I thought it was a Flamenco dancer with a vuvuzela up there.

That happens to me all the time.

But not a peacock.

He scared the dogs. They refused to come down from the lower deck.

The horses were terrified of him. They ran around in circles, snorting and kicking up dust clouds.

This is what he looked like:

So I said, "You! I am trying to write! What do you think you are doing up there?"

The peacock looked down at me and said, "If you squeeze me gently, a query letter and some gumballs will come out of my ass."

It all made perfect sense.

I was supposed to write a post today about query letters, and the peacock, definitely not anything in the manner of a universal beacon, was there to help me wrap my head around the idea.

"What flavor gumballs?" I asked.

About this query letter thing:

My friend, Matthew, runs a very interesting blog for emergent authors called The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment (A clumsy attempt at making some sense of the sinister submission process). I frequently pop over there and take a look at what's going on.

It's smart and entertaining.

Sometimes I'll offer a comment, too. Not that I know the first thing about crafting a query letter, and I've made that clear.

Because, honestly, query letters really are like peacocks on the roof.



Nice to look at.

Dispensation of gumballs from their ass when you squeeze them.

But they don't really tell you anything about the contents of the house they're sitting on.

And my opinion (and this is only mine) is that too many emergent writers spend inordinate quantities of  time and energy perfecting a 250-word (I'm guessing) query letter, when they never spent nearly the equivalent amount of thought or energy on any one 250-word passage of the house their gumball cannons are sitting on.

I say this, as I admitted to Matthew, because my first (and... ahem... only) query letter was total crap. No gumballs there. It was everything you're NOT supposed to do in a query (except there were no spelling errors, that is).

Among other things, it was 550 words in length, and ran its scattered drivel over two pages.

Structurally, it ignored the prevailing hook-blurb-closer architecture of the modern gospel of querydom.

Definitely not a peacock.

I wonder if agents out there are willing to 'fess up that they really can see through the gumballs and plumage and noise, and that (again, this is only my opinion) the most important things are that you FOLLOW THEIR GUIDELINES for querying, sit patiently, and have a nice house under your peacock.

Look, if you wrote a really great book, it doesn't matter if you send over a herpetic albatross (but don't), somebody will be dying to get their hands on it.

Why do I find myself wanting a gumball suddenly?

You can find The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment here.