Ah yes, querying. The process by which a writer crafts a few hundred words to describe their work in the hope of catching the eye of a Literary Agent. The electronic age has been a boon for this activity. Find an agent online, paste your query letter into an email, press send. Then you wait. We all do it, and we all hate it.
I can’t imagine the days when authors were forced to use a typewriter to generate a 300-page novel, box it up, and then ship it off to publishing houses through the postal service. Hand-wringing over sending emails seems juvenile in comparison. The downside, of course, is that now, because it’s so much easier to send a query, agents receive mountains of them. Not bothering to send a response is common, and shortcut keys generate the rejection letters with a single stroke. I guess it is what it is.
If you spend any time searching for Literary Agents, you’ll find that their list of wants often run the whole gamut from Young Adult Fantasy to Cookbooks, and everything in between. If they want to catch a whale, the agents must cast a wide net. But the agent’s website often doesn’t tell you what they are looking for *right now*
Along comes Twitter. I must check it 30 or 40 times a day, from my morning coffee to the swig of water at bedtime and in between; Twitter is my companion. The hashtag #MSWL — shorthand for Manuscript Wishlist — is a great thing. I wish all Agents used it. But it’s not enough.
Look, I’m all for inventing new ways to connect writers and agents. I understand the intention, and admire the gumption to set the whole thing up — but this #PitMad thing has just gone too far. Now we are supposed to reduce our work in 140 characters? It is less than that when you factor in the hashtags. And did I mention that this whole exercise happens in a 12-hour window?
I think we live in a world where technology can act as a great tool to break down old barriers. Disintermediation they call it. It seems that this whole process cries out for it. The one element of #PitMad that seems the most valuable is the response mechanism available to agents. See an interesting tweet, click favorite, submission process begins. But it’s more targeted; agents get what they want *right now* and authors submit to those who have expressed an interest, instead of blindly blasting out a scattershot email blast.
Imagine a system where authors upload their query letter and manuscript. Searchable, secure, reliable, flexible. Agent thinks, “I’d like to find a book about werewolves and vampires, set in Transylvania in the Dark Ages. Oh, and with a strong female protagonist.” Search, click, viola!
Sure, there will still be rejections. But maybe, just maybe, the avalanche of emails can be replaced with something that gives authors and agents a fighting chance to find each other.