Ian, Who Queried Agents, and Died in a Mudslide - A Cautionary Tale
Once upon a time there was a man who was partly mad, and so he became a writer.
Look at what fun he's having, children, with his pens and paper and all his ideas. Hooray for the writer! Hooray!
One day, not so long ago, the writer - who we can call Ian, if you like - decided it was time to write a Book. It was going to be a Very Good Book, and perhaps even a Great Book. He didn't write it just to make money, although if that happened, well then, he wasn't going to say no.
He might have been a little bit mad, but that's not the same as being silly.
So, Ian wrote a Book. It took a long time - forever and ever, it felt like to him. Sometimes his friends would come to his house.
'Come an play, Ian!' they said.
'No,' said Ian. 'I must write my Book, or the stories in my head will never let me sleep!'
'What a silly thing to say,' said Ian's friends, who were not really Book people, but were generally all right, nonetheless.
Sometimes Ian's family would try.
'Come here,' they said, or, 'Let's all do something.'
'No,' said Ian. 'I must write this Book.'
Ian got a bit of a Reputation, but to him, it didn't matter. He was a Writer. These things do happen.
Then, one day, Ian stopped writing. He had written, and waited, and edited, and written again, until all the coffee and the beer was gone - and he'd even kept writing after that, which earned him a certain admiration from other Writers.
'My Book is done,' said Ian. Isn't that good, children? Yay!
'Now I will find an agent,' said Ian.
Now, there are some good ways and some bad ways to do what Ian wanted to do, and as you grow up, my darlings, you will learn that even if you start out on a good path, it is sometimes very easy to slip, to put a foot wrong, and to find you have gone down a bad path.
It's like following a road at night that winds in and out of trees and pools. Sometimes you accidentally go splash.
Ian started out so well. 'I will Research!' he said. 'I will Query!'
And he did, and then he waited.
'Come and play,' said Ian's friends.
'No,' said Ian. 'I have to watch this agent's Twitter feed, in case she says something witty, and I can show her my own wit in reply.'
'Oh,' said his friends.
Oh, indeed. Poor Ian is getting a bit Odd.
Ian started to count days and months in a peculiar fashion. He started knowing a lot about numbers and What They Meant.
'This agent has had my book for 60 days,' he told a spider as he was cleaning. 'That is enough. And did you know that when you get a deal the average time to sale is 47.5 days?'
The spider didn't have much of a head for numbers, but this sounded very doubtful even to him.
'Oh, you're just a spider,' said Ian, and he squashed him.
'I need to know about royalty percentages!' said Ian to his family. 'And the time of day it's best to send a query!'
'The time of day?' they asked
'It matters,' said Ian.
'Oh,' they said, but they sounded very doubtful.
Ian couldn't squash them, though - people are much harder.
There was more to come. Oh, no! Ian started reading all about querying, instead of all about stories. He made spreadsheets and charts, and began to think rather a lot about the best time of year to contact agents, and how he might get past their 'silly assistants.'
'Please come outside,' said hie friends.
'No,' he said. 'I have to read this agent's blog. They might mention my book in code.'
'Please come outside,' said his family.
'No!' said Ian.'I need to know what percentage of books get a response in two weeks.'
'It's really quite important...' they say.
'Nothing is more important than figuring out the system!' said Ian.
'Okay,' they said.
So he was still inside his house when it got flattened by the mudslide.
Now, what did we learn, kids?
Be nice to spiders. Listen to mud-splattered friends. And mostly - querying and writing aren't exercises in statistics.
Don't be like Ian.
Don't die in a mudslide.