There’s this metaphor that gets tossed around in industry discussions of querying and such. I know that some agents don’t like it, but I think the majority (i.e. the self-selecting sample of young, vocal agents on Twitter) do like it, because I see people referring to it ALL THE TIME.*
QUERYING = DATING
This comparison is usually used as a way of illustrating what NOT to do in the querying process. But JUST FOR ONCE, I wanted to use it to tell a different story.** A good story. An agent fairy tale, if you will.
Is your seatbelt fastened and your disbelief properly suspended?
Excellent! Let’s jump right in, then, shall we?
Query letter = first date
After a long day at the office, you’re burned out. Work is over, and you’ve spent your day scouring OK Cupid and Match.com and Craigslist missed connections. Heck, you even checked Jewdate (your mom’s Catholic, but as a kid you got Chanukah presents from your dad’s parents, so you figure it’s close enough). Skimming people’s profiles and reading the PMs they send you, it’s pretty easy to tell when you’ve got a dud: the person who can’t form coherent sentences; the ones who ramble on and on about their alma maters; the crazy lady who starts gushing about the four children you’re going to have together.
Oy vey. You’ve just about given up hope, when…
…a special someone strolls into your office. She’s sharp, confident, beautiful, put-together—but it’s more than that. There’s a spark, a chemistry that makes you sit up and take note and wonder, very privately, “Could this be the one?”
But you’re a literary agent, dammit. You’ve loved and lost many a time, and you’re not going to let someone break your heart that easily. So your cautiously optimistic head reserves judgment while your treacherous little heart is going pitter-patter. You ask her on a second date.
Partial request = second date
You’ve had disappointing experiences at this level too. People who seemed great until you got them talking and discovered they had the emotional depth of a five year old, or had a weird fetish involving tweezers and bell peppers, or were—the worst sin of all—just kind of boring. But this girl?
Her sentences teach the candles how to burn real bright…or whatever that quote is. You’re a little distracted, okay?
Full request = regular dates
There’s no denying it: you’re falling. The more time you spend with her, the more you can’t stop thinking about her.
You talk about her with your friends. You laugh at all her jokes, and tear up when she tells you the sad story about her childhood dog dying. She’s beautiful. She’s vibrant. She’s not perfect, but you love her anyways, and you want to see her as often as possible. Plus, you’ve got all these great ideas to help advance her career. Even some ideas about finding the perfect house.
And that thought you had way back at the beginning? About her being “the One”? You start thinking about it so much that one day you sneak off and quietly pick out a ring. You know. Just in case.
The Call = meet the parents/pop the question
You’re in love. But you’re an old-fashioned sort of person, and you’re not going to pop the question without meeting her family first. So one day, the two of you hop in the car and drive to her mother’s. Your beloved goes off to grab some fixings for dinner, leaving you alone with Mommy Dearest.
Your palms are sweating, but you start to talk. You’re both nervous—particularly her, though she’s obviously delighted to meet you. Okay, so maybe she’s a bit socially awkward. Maybe she spends a lot of time with a keyboard and/or pen.
In the dark.
With Neil Gaiman.
It’s okay. Actually, it’s great. You like this woman. You kind of love her too, as a matter of fact, once you both get comfortable and start talking about her daughter. This girl that you both adore—and gosh, there’s just SO much to talk about.
And you MAY OR MAY NOT have your stomach doing flip-flops as you say, “So, there’s something I’d like to ask you, about her…”
Prepare for stunned silence. Prepare for an astonished gasp. Or a scream. Prepare for your MIL-to-be to start laughing with pure delight, or crying, all the while uttering the phrase “Oh my God” over and over and over.
Does she give you her permission? OF COURSE SHE DOES.
Later that evening, you pop the question. Truth be told, you’re incredibly anxious, since you know there are definitely other people in her life who would love to marry her.
AND SHE SAYS “YES!”
The wedding itself is a small, private affair—signing the official papers and such, followed by a party—and you couldn’t be happier. The two of you immediately dive into searching for a house and find one that, although it’s kind of Random, seems perfect. Lo and behold, you get it (in a KILLER deal, no less) and live happily ever after!
AND THAT, my friends, is how to quer—
…I mean, how to date a literary agent.
* And by “people” I mean “agents I follow” and by “ALL THE TIME” I mean “those brief, infrequent moments when I am on Twitter.” (Seriously, those moments are brief. Super brief. Like, I only read a couple hundred tweets in a sitting.)
** Yes, I know all of that is a gross oversimplification and that not all agents like this metaphor and whatnot. But it amuses me, and I wanted to write this post. So there.
(Also, hi guys! Did you miss me? My apartment’s internet was dead on Thursday, so I couldn’t post, but I’ll be back to my regular schedule this week.)