Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Rise in Queries

I read your recent blog post about the economy being responsible for the increase in queries that most agents have experienced lately, and while your reasoning is logical, I’m not convinced the economy has much of an impact. I’d like you to consider the possibility that the Internet is responsible for the rash of queries.

I recently joined a forum, Absolute Write Water Cooler, that has many interesting sub-fora that are great resources for writers, both those who want to learn the business and those who want to learn to write—and there, I think, is the problem. Every day I read posts by people who ask questions that no real writer, by which I mean a skilled and talented master of the craft (or even master in the making), has any business asking. Yet these people—people who seem not to know the difference between first and third person, how to fill holes in their stories that shouldn’t be there in the first place, how to control pace or how to motivate their characters to get them where they need them—are submitting queries to agents. Let me rephrase that . . . people whose posts indicate they have no business writing at all except for their own amusement and that of their friends and family (if they are good enough to get that much) are filling the inboxes of agents, and they are actually encouraged to do so by other members of the forum!

This particular forum is not alone, there are many others. Do you think it is possible that the growth of the Internet, along with the enforced politeness and tolerance that it fosters, could be responsible for people that have no business writing suddenly getting the idea that they are special too and that they should search for an agent?

Well, actually, the Internet has been responsible for an increase in queries for years. To agents and editors this reasoning is nothing new and certainly it’s something we talk about all the time on our blogs, at conferences, and with each other over lunch. There is no doubt that in the past 20 or so years the number of people writing books has exploded. It’s easier. Almost everyone has a computer now and the ability to, with word processing programs, write a book. It’s easy through forums and online agent listings to find the names of agents and even easier to submit when you don’t even have to buy a stamp, all you have to do is toss out an email. In fact, it’s funny when authors complain so loudly about agents who require them to pay to submit by actually using the U.S. Postal Service. In some respects maybe we should all go back to the old-fashioned way of submitting just to weed out those who don’t want to make the effort.

I’m glad you’re expressing your frustration at those writers you’re meeting on forums who you feel have no business writing, let alone submitting to agents. Now you can imagine my frustration, because I’m getting queries from those people as well as the many others who haven’t even been able to take the time to look for forums or other groups to learn from. At least the people asking questions on the Absolute Write Forums and other writers forums are taking the time to learn about the business and ask questions.

I agree that the Internet has certainly added to the number of submissions we all see, but the Internet didn’t just “open” in January 2009. We’re not just seeing an overall increase, we’re all seeing a massive jump as of January of this year, and the jump is much greater than we’ve ever seen in previous years. As far as I’m concerned that’s not the Internet, but the economy.