Querying And Online Dating
For any of us who have taken part in the process, it should come as no surprise that querying is a lot like online dating. You’re single and lonely, but it’s hard to meet people with whom you have something in common.
This has been a recent revelation for me. Not because I’ve never queried, I spent over a year pitching The Esau Continnum (at the time only The Esau Emergence) but I’m back at this harrowing juncture again, and I didn’t put two and two together the last time.
Pre-Tinder and the Left Swipe Dating Online Seemed Taboo.
I met The Beard online. Oh sure, he tells people we met in the drunk tank, but I’m not shy about using an online dating service to find him. I was a single mother with three small offspring at university for the second time. The only dating pool I had access to was twenty-five and under (and I’m generous with that twenty-five). If a man asked me out, I would ask two things, “Are you old enough to drink?” and “Do you know how old I am?”
I won’t deny some benefits to dating a much younger man while I was thirty, but that shit wasn’t going to fly for the long term.
By the time I was ready to date in serious mode, online dating seemed like a decent option. I discovered the pitfalls to the online scene quickly. Photos were sadly outdated. Biographies and “What I’m Looking For” were often a dichotomy to who the person was and what they wanted from a partner. And yes, many men were looking for a quick hook-up.
In my search, I found a few of my former MARRIED co-workers with false biographies on a couple of websites. No lie. Oh, the shitstorms I could have caused. Who says I’m not a nice person?
The thing about online dating is it’s just a plethora of blind dates. And we know how much fun blind dates are. Over time, I developed a system.
No long courtships. No protracted emails or phone calls. If I learned anything from my Literature degree, I knew people could fall in love with someone they’d only met briefly or never met through the written word.
John Keats and Fanny Brawne. Franz Kafka to Milena Jesenska. Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas. Benjamin Franklin to Madame Brillion. The trick is not to take rejections personally and avoiding the emotional investment in each meeting.
Writers well know the power in the written word.
Being me, I crafted a mercilessly honest profile to weed out men who might not enjoy a savage Aztec Apache with zero tolerance for bullshit, and a make no bones credo of how my next relationship would manifest. I’d arrange to meet for coffee or lunch, and if things didn’t click right away, I’d cut bait firmly and as gracefully as I could. I steeled myself to be brutal because nine times out of ten there was such a chasm between the online profile and the person sitting across from me, it was astounding.
Wouldn’t you know The Beard won me over with words? We met for breakfast the weekend before I headed out of town for a two-week rural teaching immersion. He didn’t wow me. There wasn’t lightning or the song of angels, but I thought huh, I could see this guy again. I took off, and he spent the next two weeks making me laugh with his unique perspective of growing up in a small town via emails and Barenaked Ladies lyrics.
And is still working so far. We’ve been together for almost sixteen years which is significantly longer than both of our previous marriages.
I hear from a lot of writers about the agonizing torture of querying and I try to talk them off of the ledge. Just like the online dating process, agents create these biographies, profiles, reading lists, and descriptions of what they are looking for in a manuscript. Reading these sketches, I’ve shouted, “Eureka! This is THE ONE!” Okay, I haven’t shouted, but I’ve declared to the dogs with conviction.
And yet, these seemingly perfect fit agents have passed on my project. It’s all good. Sometimes what we think we want and the reality of what we receive is stark. Dare I also add the M word? Yes, marketability.
Marketability isn’t a concrete idea. It is dependent on the contacts an agent has in the publishing industry. Another factor is who they already represent and what projects they may have sold recently. Publishing is a subjective industry.
I’ve received notes from agents who do not contact authors unless they want the full manuscript. They have been gracious and encouraging when it’s their SOP not to respond to writers. They loved the concept but didn’t think they had the resources to sell it. Two wanted me to know how much they enjoyed my writing and asked me to submit again if I had a different project. Another agent offered a couple of names to query and tried to bolster my confidence.
Agents are people too.
It’s easy to become discouraged even when professionals are telling you not to be. We have to remember that agents get rejected on a proportionately larger scale than we do. They represent more than one author and their process is almost exactly the same as ours.
It’s not quite as random as meeting your future spouse in the drunk tank, but it can be as fortuitous.