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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Why the query process is a bit like "The Deadliest Catch"

My husband, Jamie, and I love to watch "The Deadliest Catch." Why? Neither one of us fish. Or venture to Dutch Harbour, Alaska. Or suck on cigarettes at 2 am while sliding across a slimy deck. But there's just something about it that pulls us in. It's an hour of watching young men get thrown around a sloshing ship deck. Hauling gear. Setting bait. Swearing, smoking, reeling lines. In the abstract, the idea is boring. We watch these guys stick stinking fish guts into fish carcasses, climb into steel crab pots, and string it up. We watch them laboriously haul these pots overboard, one after the other, in the middle of the night. An endless, dark sky above them. Freezing water rushing over the deck and soaking them. Yet they continue to dump the pots, sling out the buoys, and stuff fresh bait. Over and over and over again. Hoping something bites. Praying that when they return to their pots, there will be crab. They dump all their gear into a bottomless ocean, then tuck themselves into bed with a prayer on their lips that their work won't be in vain. Because you see, with Alaska crab fishing, if nothing bites, you don't get paid.
I'm sure the metaphor is obvious, but such is the query process. You research your fishing grounds, making sure that you narrow where you throw your pots (query letters) to the most fertile grounds--agents who represent the type of novel you write. Then you work tirelessly to stuff your bait (craft your query letter) and sweat into the wee hours throwing it into a dark, bottomless chasm (cyberspace) hoping that something (an agent) will bite. You work, you sweat, then you climb into bed and dream that when you wake, you'll have a bite. Because if you don't, your blood, sweat, and tears were meaningless. Which means that the book I've poured my heart, soul, and little free time into, sinks to the bottom of the ocean and comes up empty. Making all the icy spray (rejections) I've felt along the way in vain. Yet still I must fish.

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