Shooting your esteem in the foot…for nothing.

I was drifting around in the internet the other day and decided to visit some of my favorite authors’ websites.

Of course, I got sucked into reading some blog posts. One post about querying led me to another web site that focused strictly on, you guessed it, querying. Ummm, I said to myself, this is putting the cart before the horse, but let’s check it out anyway.

So, I got stuck there for a few hours reading query submissions and reading the agent’s comments on why they didn’t work, then reading the revisions, and then reading the revised agent’s comments and so on.  (And by the way, I did find this information very helpful.)

Now I’m invested in comparing what I think I would write to what I’m reading by these hopeful authors. Sometimes I’d cringe because I’d be like: Yeah, I’d say that. Other times I’d be like: What? This makes no sense. Sometimes I thought the agents comments were a little too blunt. (But hey, they’re spelling out exactly what they don’t want so that’s a good thing, right?)

At this point, I’m starting to pick up on some distress from the authors. “What is it exactly you do want?” “What makes a good query?”  And the main answer falls into that subjective and intangible category, “strong voice”, quickly followed up by “grab my interest”.

To be fair, its hard to put you finger on why one writer’s words are more compelling than another’s. Of the many books I’ve read, there have been some that I’ve put down. (Just couldn’t get into it, you know what I mean.)

Finally, I stumble across this perfect query. The agents are singing its praises. A full manuscript is requested. And inside me, just a little bit, I deflate. C’mon a first shot query and a request for MS. I skim through the posts and find where it was announced that this author was picked up by an agent.

After checking the dates on the posts, I go to Amazon to see if the book actually got published. I search by the author’s name and bam, it comes up.

At this point I’ve been on a mental see-saw with an internal monologue that goes something like this:

  • I betcha it’s great.
  • See, if you work hard it can happen.
  • All you have to do is focus.

to:

  • What the hell is wrong with me?
  • Why can’t I finish my book?
  • She’s so lucky.
  • Why does everyone else catch a break?

Throw in a bit of jealousy and the esteem is in the toilet. Voila!

The first thing I notice is that the book’s blurb is the query, word for word. Hmmm, is that how this works, I think? I continue to scroll down until I reach the reviews.

Now, I know Amazon reviews are iffy. A one star review that says “This book sucks,” has no real value to the reader or the writer for that matter. But what I found astounded me.

The book did not receive favorable reviews. Huh? I mean it had a fairly balanced rating and that in and of itself was confusing. Almost equal 1,2,3,4,5 star ratings. Hold on. This book had the perfect query and strong voice and grab-the-reader interest. Agents said, it was good. What the heck happened?

At this point my faith in the system was shook. Who can I trust, if I can’t trust the experts?

It was time to “look inside” and read the excerpt. It was the only way to know what exactly was going on.

Let me just say, this writer is a good strong writer. That being said, the excerpt consisted of 66 pages. Some skipped. Uh, that’s a lot of pages. I think most excerpts are the first two chapters, right? (After looking into this, I discovered the “Look inside” feature is buggy. It previews a few pages when viewed on your computer, and a whopping 66 pages on the Ipad)

Believe it or not, I started skimming through pages early on. A lot of detail that I felt bogged down the story. (Not a good sign for me)

“Lots of characters introduced too quickly” and “too hard to keep track of” were major complaints. I have to agree. Also, incidents were happening but they weren’t ratcheting up the tension. Supposedly there was a murder, but fifty pages in and we hadn’t come to it yet.

Pacing was off, character development was off. Where were the editors? Isn’t someone supposed to be helping this first time author? If someone manages to polish up their writing skills enough to get noticed shouldn’t the professionals help you bring your novel to a brilliant shine?

(I have to question how much effort was actually put into this novel by the publishing company? Use the query as the book blurb, check for spelling errors and send it on through?)

So now I don’t know how I feel about the whole dang thing. Getting an agent or publishing deal does not guarantee success. (Not that it ever really did.) But getting an agent is supposed to be that first step in validating all your effort.  It means you worked hard to bring your writing up to a professional standard.  And it really stinks when readers don’t love your book. It also stinks when they say they won’t read the next book in the series. Yikes!

So I went from feeling bad for me, (letting my insecurities run rampant is never a good time) to feeling sympathy for the author and coming to the realization that as much as writers depend on others to tell them if their work is good, the whole crazy thing is subjective from agents to the readers.

Might as well just settle in and write my damn book.

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