Querying and Stars and Strollers

Recently, KRH and I went to go see Wonder Woman. I’d heard great things and all my friends managed to go see it without me (a not unusual occurrence these days). Even my wife took KRH and went about a month ago.

There’s a great thing at our local theatre called Stars and Strollers. They have an early afternoon showing with the lights brighter and the sound turned down. There’s room to park strollers and the ticket is cheaper. I love this, and my wife saw a fair number of movies with KRH. So, I ought to be able to do the same, huh?

Well, it didn’t go great. I planned things so that we’d arrive right around nap time, hoping KRH would sleep, as he often does in his car seat. He had no interest in doing that. There was too much going on, and then he got overtired. That led to him switching between fussing and crying for the first hour of the movie. He was by far the loudest baby there, so I gave up and left so other people could enjoy the film.

It was a disappointing end to a day, not only because I’d been enjoying what parts of the movie I could pay attention to, but because I’d hoped to go to Stars and Strollers a lot and it didn’t work well. Also, no matter what I did, I couldn’t get KRH calmed down to do what he needed to (nap), and he disrupted other people’s enjoyment of something. I felt like a bad parent. It wasn’t a great experience.

I have been querying, that toil of searching for an agent, for a couple of years now. I’ve had some success in getting positive responses, but not so far getting a full manuscript request. Believe it or not, I think querying and going to see the movie are an example of the same thing; not setting myself up for success.

Here’s why I think this. My wife reported that KRH didn’t like the sounds when she saw Wonder Woman, and he had a hard time staying still. To counter this, I brought his baby earmuffs to block the sound, but he objected to wearing them and would take them off, even though he didn’t like the sound when he did. Also, I went with him being tired. I know he doesn’t often nap in his car seat unless he’s in the backseat and the car is in motion. But that’s what I expected him to do.

At the same time, when it comes to my queries, I spent some time researching how authors I like had gotten their agents. I researched the agents. I spent time rewriting and rereading my queries, and I had other people look at them for feedback. In short, I felt like I knew how to write a query.

Writing a good query is as much an art as it is a science. Agents get thousands of queries. Naturally, they skim and send a lot of form rejections. And form rejections was mostly what I’ve been getting. That means the problem was probably with my query. And it turns out, there’s a great resource (Queryshark) for looking at an agent’s feedback on the form of a query, with hundreds of examples. I’d looked at some of them, but I hadn’t really read through the archives.

That’s a task I’ve been working on over the last few weeks. And I learned a lot about what a good query needs to accomplish, as well as a lot about sentence structure and clarity. In other words, there was a resource, and I wasn’t using it.

In both cases, I wasn’t setting myself up for success. I’m sure I’ll do that again, but this feels like a good example

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