Query Quagmire

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There’s something for everyone. And sometimes that something is terrible.

 eternalrulerofthesunrise said: How do things like 50Shades managed to get published in the first place? I’ve read a lot of shitty literature but that one really takes the cake…And no one takes my cake damn it.

It’s very simple, actually. 

As I’ve said on this blog many, many times: there’s something for everyone. 

Don’t like “Fifty Shades of Grey”? That’s ok. You don’t have to. Somebody else does. About 65 million somebodies.

Don’t like “Twilight”? That is also just dandy. But there are people out there who literally love it enough to get Twilight-themed tattoos, and there must be a reason.

Can’t stand “Eat, Pray, Love”? Me neither. But millions of books sold and Julia Roberts in a goofy hat can’t be wrong.

What I’m saying is that humanity as a vast and terrible force does not have unified taste. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and all that jazz. And editors try to keep that variegated taste in mind when acquiring books. It’s like feeding a very fickle Hydra. Every head likes to eat a different thing and you have to keep all of the heads happy if you hope to survive. If you think you’ll make your life easier by starving one head of the Hydra, it’ll just come back… only now it’ll be two heads, neither of which has the same taste as the others, and both of which are mad at you for starving it.

Absurd analogy over. In other words: if people can’t find books they like to read, then they won’t read at all. So we have to keep publishing books across a variety of subjects in order to keep people reading and buying books. Because if people don’t read and buy books, then I don’t have a job and no one, regardless of their taste in books, has new books to read.

And so we placate the Snooki fans of the world by following up “A Shore Thing” with another two-book contract, despite nearly everyone in the world going “What kind of brainless lunatic gives two shits about what an overly made-up basketball has to say?”

Now, to what many aspiring writers see as the real problem. And it’s a big one, one that I hear a lot as an Evil Publishing Overlord:

If X can get published, why will no one publish MY book?

I’ve explained why terrible books get published, but this explanation probably leaves most aspiring authors unsatisfied. Because if there’s something for everyone, up to and including the point where “Fifty Shades of Grey” becomes an international literary phenomenon, then it naturally follows that there simply must be an audience for your book, right?


Because your book isn’t ready yet. Or you haven’t found the right editor yet. Or you approached the right editor at the wrong time. Or maybe your query letter sucks. Or maybe there are too many books like yours out there just now and you need to wait a little while before there will be a place in the market for yours. Maybe your title sucks. Maybe the intern misfiled your query. Maybe the structural integrity of your plot has been compromised by the appearance of rogue space mermaids who took your finely-crafted historical fiction at the eleventh hour and transformed it into a sci-fi epic and you didn’t bother re-working the first 9/10ths of the story before shopping the manuscript around. Take your pick.

There are hundreds of reasons why your manuscript is not yet under contract, most of which lie squarely with you, the author. Almost none of them has anything to do with the frightening existence of awful and/or offensive erotica. Editors are not publishing the likes of “Fifty Shades of Grey” INSTEAD of a debut novelist’s heartbreaking work of staggering genius. They are publishing “Fifty Shades of Grey” IN ADDITION TO the first-time novelist’s undoubtedly brilliant work. But you’ve never heard of “The Submission,” have you?

Don’t be discouraged because other people (people who make no earthly sense to you or I) actually liked “Fifty Shades of Grey.” That’s their thing. It’s not yours. Instead remember that other people liked “Harry Potter” and “House of Leaves” and made “The Hunger Games” a huge fucking deal. Remember that good books get published all the time, books that are good in your estimation, and which coexist quite peacefully with the purple prose of teen paranormal romances.

You are not competing with “Fifty Shades of Grey,” so don’t act like you are. The editor who acquired “Fifty Shades of Grey” (is currently taking their $5,000 bonus on a vacation to Maui, but that’s beside the point) has no interest in your book and never will (unless of course you’re writing wildly problematic BDSM fiction). But another editor does.

Keep working. Keep trying to reach that editor. And don’t fucking quit just because you’re discouraged that we live in a world where “Fifty Shades” is a book club top pick right after “The Poisonwood Bible.”

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  8. queryquagmire reblogged this from franksandstein and added:
    Don’t worry about it. Seriously. :) You’re not the first person to say something along the lines of “If [insert terrible...
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  11. franksandstein reblogged this from queryquagmire and added:
    Excuse me for a moment as I reblog my shame Saying that I made this comment at 4am isn’t a very good excuse, especially...
  12. franksandstein said: oh god. my delirious 4am comment came back to bite me on the ass. I’M SO EMBARRASSED.
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  14. dudeinpublishing reblogged this from davya23 and added:
    Fucking truth.
  15. la-belle-laide reblogged this from queryquagmire and added:
    It is discouraging to see such problematic stuff out there, but I personally really have hope that my stuff will be out...
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  17. davya23 reblogged this from queryquagmire and added:
    everyone who is constantly running their bitch mouths about things getting published that they don’t like, QQ brings the...
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  19. femmebotnoir reblogged this from queryquagmire and added:
    For you aspiring writers out there…