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Waldell, aka Pricess WaWa, is a bitter black gay femme, or so he would like to have us believe. Queen Called Bitch is his story.

It is a story told to us by a most erudite and expansively loquacious narrator, delivered in elegant but not particularly linear style. Waldell often begins in the middle with an excursion into his attitudes and feelings about a character before looping back to describe his history with that person. This is not a narrative of consecutive events arranged along a plot line, but more akin to what you might hear if you found Waldell at the bar and plied him with a couple shots (no more, please, he's a lightweight) and bribed the bartender to cue up Reba on the sound system for atmosphere and encouraged him to unload his tale.

An identity that includes being both gay and femme tends to be complicated: our society prefers to subsume them into each other, equivocating between gender factors and sexual orientation. Waldell doesn't specifically write as a feminine person without reference to being gay -- indeed, I'm not sure any gay male who is feminine can easily untangle that knot -- but he snarks a bit about meeting people on Grindr, "guys who think I'm a woman or beg me to be more masculine. Guys who are interested in a part time 'tranny' for play. I am neither of those things" -- writing from a feminine but not trans vantage point. "I pee standing up", he confirms.

He was a pariah in school, surviving the typical harassment doled out to sissy gay guys, but found some supportive teachers and eventually a road to connection and acceptance via the theatrical department at nearby Longwood University. He'd long since gotten in the habit of finding validation and voltage in music, television soap operas, dramatic movies, and God.

An easy and confident spirituality without shame was his to hold onto. As soon as he became old enough to notice church-based condemnation of gay people, he relegated that, along with its moldy misogynistic ideas about women, to the discard pile. The God stuff was about the inner feeling, and he had no significant doubts about that.

Queen Called Bitch is billed on the frontispiece of the manuscript as a work of fiction, complete with disclaimers about the coincidental nature of any resemblance to real people -- a time-honored confabulation used by many writers who choose to write about themselves and their own lives. But of course my own source of information about the author /character is this book, so I can't really know that, can I? And yet, I can't help thinking I do, and because of that I also find myself projecting and psychologically assessing him, making of his story something other than what he asserts of it. I don't find the cynical darkness to which he aspires, but instead see bitterness embraced as a protection, an attempt to avoid setting himself up for disappointment and heartbreak.

He's not so alone in this world: a good portion of the story revolves around the foursome of friends, the beforementioned Carol (Cann), Karen, Waldell himself, and Derek Island, and the everyday soap operas of their lives and their connections with each other.

The centerpiece is the delicately vulnerable romance between Waldell and Derek. Waldell the author shares this tale of romantic misery and thwarted love and would have us believe it was unrequited, this being the core of his broken-hearted bitterness. But as reader, I kept perceiving Waldell the character as wanting but being unwilling to believe it could be had, and second-guessing his opportunities in favor of reconciling himself in sporadic bursts of self-protective hesitation. Hence, this kind of exchange on the cellphone screen:

Me: You know I have feelings for you

Derek: I have some for you, was that not clear?

Me: I can't believe you have feelings for me. I never would have guessed. Honestly.

Derek: I've told you

Derek Island is leaving town and Waldell plots and schemes about how he is going to take the risk -- now or never -- of collecting on his first and most-wanted kiss, but he gets cold feet and a non-kiss ensues.

He's more inclined to air his grievances to Derek about how Derek does not reciprocate his feelings, building the narrative between the two of them to the effect that Derek mistreats Waldell, that Waldell is the person with the feelings. But he finds the feelings easiest to express in a forlorn mode:

Derek: I miss you my friend

Me: I can't talk to you

It is one of the minor passing characters in the story, Latesha, who gets to voice what seems apparent to me about these star-crossed novice lovers: she, who, Waldell notes, had witnessed the Derek saga firsthand, predicts to him that "one day the stars will align for you and Derek".

Queen Called Bitch, a coming-of-age and coming-of-want tale from NineStar Press. Waldell Abraham Goode

(cc: GoodReads)


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ahunter3: (Default)
It's been almost exactly a year since I made that announcement the first time around after receiving a letter from Ellora's Cave informing me that they'd like to offer me a contract.

Ellora's Cave went out of business last fall , and I was back where I started from.

This time the offer letter comes from NineStar Press, a fairly new publisher that focuses on LGBTQIA titles. My book fits in better with their lineup than it did with Ellora's Cave's array of steamy erotic romances, and they don't appear to have any skeletons in their closet the way EC did with their public and rancorous dispute with their authors.

I'm relieved; I feel more or less the way I do after a really long hike when I finally stumble into the train station to catch the ride back home. I'm tired of pitching and querying. I wasn't close to giving up or anything but I am happy to stop. I just went to the Rainbow Book Fair at John Jay College last weekend, trundling along a box of 3-page handouts and business cards, hoping to meet some new LGBTQIA publishers, and did, but most of the tables were authors selling their books and most of the publishers were fiction-centric or poetry-centric or were otherwise not interested in a memoir. It's so hard not to become jaded and I worry that I broadcast it, that they'll be able to read between the lines and sense that I don't expect them to want to publish me, you know? So good riddance to that portion of the endeavor, it's nice to put it aside for now (and hopefully for a long while to come, at least until the next book).

Speaking of next book, NineStar included an inquiry about anything else I may have, so (assuming of course that this all pans out) I'll be giving them first crack at That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class when I finally get it ready for the light of day.

I also feel excited, of course, but it's a cautious excited. I've been in this position before and I have no published books sitting on my bookshelf to show for it. In addition to the prospect of NineStar going belly-up after the fashion of Ellora's Cave, unlikely as that may be, it might transpire that NineStar's editors and I reach some kind of irreconcilable impasse or that something in the contractual specifics turns out to be a dealbreaker for me. Or I get a follow-up letter "Oops, we had a board meeting and unfortunately we are rescinding our offer of a contract to all authors not born under water signs". None of this is at all likely but I am wary, twice-burned already (back in 1982 an interested 'publisher' turned out to be an opportunistic vanity press that had somehow learned I was querying), and uninclined to fully count my unhatched chickens.

What else? Impatience for sure. I'm craving the beginning of the editing process and getting all the preliminaries and learning when my book will be coming out. And then gearing up for the promotional activities and trying to obtain book reviews. I wanna get this show on the road.


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ahunter3: (Default)
I see another email in my inbox with subject "re: QUERY--From a Differently Gendered Closet: The Story of Q".

I double-click it to see who the rejection is from so I can dutifully record it in my database of queries.

It starts off:

I really like what I've read so far of your manuscript and would like to offer you a publishing contract if it's still available. We are a digital-first publisher, so first publication would be in ebook form. Our terms are quite generous.

Let me know if you're interested.

Pretty much everything in our contract is negotiable...

I blink a lot.

I have a weary and wary and cynical outlook at this point. I was querying publishers back in 1982 and got an offer to publish and only after reading the fine print realized it was what is called a "vanity press".

This publisher is not a vanity press, I know that much at least. But that doesn't mean this is a done deal and that there aren't any dealbreaker-type "gotchas". But I'm sipping tequila at the moment, oh yes I am.

If it should turn out that this really and truly is IT and I'm going to be published (in a way that counts, etc) then for the record I just crossed the 800-query mark:

Current Stats:

The Story of Q--Total Queries = 800
Rejections: 735
Outstanding: 65

As NonFiction--total queries = 579
Rejections: 516
Outstanding: 63

As Fiction--total queries = 221
Rejections: 219
Outstanding: 2

The query that landed this response was sent directly to publisher and billed it as fiction (LGBTQ-Feminist), specifically as a coming-out story, "a 97,000-word coming-of-age (and coming-out) story - set in the 1970s but aimed at today's gender-questioning world."

Further info will be forthcoming. I'll keep you informed.

In other news, I will be presenting my talk again at the EPIC lifestyle conference this weekend! I'll post about that too.


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ahunter3: (Default)
Hot damn! From one of my query letters to a nonfiction lit agent, query only, no additional materials, I just got a request for a proposal plus sample chapters!

So once again my book is under consideration with two agents simultaneously! One full manuscript (still holding my breath on that one) and one formal proposal.

Current stats for The Story of Q:

Total queries: 640
Rejections: 573
Outstanding: 65
Under Consideration: 2

As NonFiction:

Total queries: 439
Rejectionsw: 388
Outstanding: 50
Under Consideration: 1

As Fiction:

Total queries: 201
Rejections: 185
Outstanding: 15
Under Consideration:


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Jun. 28th, 2015 06:39 pm
ahunter3: (Default)
Janet Reid — one of the literary agents who blog — was once asked whether it is ever OK to requery a literary agent who has already sent a rejection. She replied that you can, if it's after a major revision; but that you should inform the agent, and gave this mockup as an example:

> Dear Snookums,
> I've revamped my novel SharquesGoneWild from an adult to a YA
> thriller. It's a lot better now. I hope you'll want to take a second
> look.
> Obviously of course, not those exact words but you get the idea.

Thanks to Janet Reid, notes of this nature are noted in my database and in my head forevermore as "snookums" notes.

Yes, I do requery.

• If I sent a query letter to an agent and get no reply, I may requery a year later especially if my standard query letter is quite different by then.

• If I sent a query letter positioning my book in one way (memoir nonfiction) and it was rejected, I may requery at a later point pitching the book within a different category (YA fiction for example).

• If the lit agent was one of those who request a partial (first 10, 25, 30, 50 pgs, first two chapters, etc) and rejected or did not reply, and it has indeed been rewritten since they saw that material, I may requery with a 'snookums' note acknowledging that they've received a query on this book before, but that it's been substantially revised.

You should not take this as a stated opinion that requerying literary agents is a perfectly acceptable practice. It's a practice that probably does annoy some of them. I've thought about it and concluded that my situation is somewhat different from that of an author who expects to write several books over the course of the next dozen years. They need to get published periodically. I need to get this book published. Authors who tailor their work to the market in order to get a book (or another book) into print learn to recognize when it's time to put one in the trunk and move on, and can't afford to annoy literary agents who might otherwise represent one of their future offerings. Me, I'm pushier. I have one book to find a home for and less to lose if some lit agents blacklist me for requerying.

• I don't want to descend to the status of "spammer" though. If I've requeried and received a second rejection, I won't keep pestering them about it. At least for now. (Ask me in 3 years if I'm still unrepresented and unpublished. In fact, check the web for stories about a crazed author in prison for kidnapping agents and tying them to chairs and forcing them to listen to him read his book out loud... that's not in my plans either, but...)

Anyway, I've made some modifications to how my system collects stats. Requeries were not being counted in the totals. Now I can optionally include those to get a better sense of how many queries I've actually sent (as opposed to how many agents I've queried).

NOT COUNTING REQUERIES (hence comparable to prior stats reports):

The Story of Q, total queries: 572
Rejections: 537
Outstanding: 54
Under Consideration: 1

As Nonfiction, specifically: 383
Rejections: 354
Outstanding: 49

As Fiction: 189
Rejections: 183
Outstanding: 5
Under Consideration: 1



The Story of Q, total queries: 623
Rejections: 568
Outstanding: 54
Under Consideration: 1

As Nonfiction, specifically: 433
Rejections: 384
Outstanding: 49

As Fiction: 190
Rejections: 184
Outstanding: 5
Under Consideration: 1


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ahunter3: (Default)
Just sent out the very first queries positioning the book as "young adult" fiction. This batch also included a higher % of queries for the book as a nonfiction memoir, as I decided it was time to do a search on notes I'd made on various agents' pages, "See also So-and-so, same agency", and many of those date back to when I was mostly focused on hawking the book as a memoir. Which is, btw, something I haven't given up on.

I've made some minor modifications to the book based in part on the first little handful of reviews and in part on late personal insights from the process of revamping. Mostly cutting some unnecessarily wordy blabby abstract paragraphs and in some places replacing them with more dialog.

I posted notices on the availability of the book on the GenderQueer Facebook group I'm in, and also on a Facebook group dedidated to folks who grew up in Los Alamos. Interestingly, two of the first three reviews came from the Los Alamos crowd. (I wanted a sense of whether the book would be boring to anyone who wasn't immersed in LGBTQ stuff). So far I've been told that my character development is good and consistent and that the story arc is good entertainment. One person said my own confusion about how I was different from others mirrored her own as reader, and it wasn't until the end that she got a sense of who I am. I don't know if that's a weakness of the writing or an artifact of the fact that I'm writing from a sexual/sexual-orientation identity vantage point for which there isn't any conventional name yet. I'm hoping that reviewer writes back with more comments.

Stats at the moment:

Total Queries = 498
Rejections: 407
Outstanding: 90

As NonFiction, total Queries: 340
Rejections: 329
Outstanding: 10

As Fiction, total Queries: 158
Rejections: 78
Outstanding: 80


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ahunter3: (Default)
Revision project is successfully completed!

This thing was written, originally, as a nonfiction memoir, but since I'm currently hawking it mainly as a work of fiction, and because I've gotten enough feedback over the last couple years that the writing is a little "disappointing", it made sense to me to go back in and translate generic descriptions of how things were into individual representative scenes, complete with dialog and action and so forth.

That tends to create much longer, wordier blocks of text. One doesn't need to lay down a lot of words in order to say something like "I had tapered off and then quit spending time with the flagpole folks who sang the religious songs. I'd attended some evening sessions in various folks' houses and one day was riding back to White Rock with one of the guys when his VW bus ran out of gas coming down the hill. He cheerfully 'put it in the hands of the Lord' and managed to coast to the traffic light then creep through a left turn and then pick up speed down the next hill and into the service station, and he praised Jesus for making sure we got where we were going without any fuel. I became aware that I simply did not believe what they believed and even though they were not at all confrontational about it I felt less and less comfortable, as if I were faking it just to be singing the songs, so I dropped out of that scene."

But if you were going to do that like a screenplay, well, let's see, let's have me arrive and greet some people, come up with some names, specify 3-4 characters standing around the piano, try to recapture the feel of their friendly but treacly way of interacting, put some private thoughts in my head, a line or two of a song, some more dialog, get into the VW bus, some dialog taking place in the van before it runs out of gas, hmm better describe how we're going down this steep hill, NOW run out of gas, now have the driver comment on putting it in the hands of the lord... OK now describe coasting through the traffic light and slowly making the corner then picking up speed down the hill, and the guys in the van doing the Praise Jesus thing, and more internal dialog, then me getting out of the van, some more contemplation, elaborating on me not feeling comfy with those folks any more, then a wrapup sentence or two indicating that this event among others led to me tapering off and dropping out of the folk-religious singers group.

Guess what, we've sprawled out into several pages to cover a scene that used to be described in a paragraph!

So alongside of that, I streamlined and trimmed and hacked off subplots, condensed some characters into one character, and ended up with a narrative that sticks a lot tighter to the central story line, and that seems like a good thing too.

Overall, the manuscript has gained weight, but not too badly.

Old: 302 pages, 95,900 words
New: 318 pages, 96,800 words

With the revision finished, I've gone back to querying. Another 17 went out via email or are queued up for delivery to the post office for snailmailing.


Total Queries: 470
Rejections: 380
Outstanding: 90

As NonFiction: total queries = 332
Rejections: 320
Outstanding: 12

As Fiction: total queries = 138
Rejections: 60
Outstanding: 78

Since it's a new edition, I'm again interested in beta readers. If you'd like to stick your nose into this tome, email me backchannel: ahunter3@earthlink.net


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ahunter3: (Default)
Not too terribly long ago, on a message board just the usual internet-distance far far away (the Absolute Write Water Cooler, to be precise), I bravely asserted that all this is just the first year, and that I was going to keep plugging away at this for at least 10 years before before calling it quits.

One of the board regulars replied:

> you say '10 years,' as if you're just going to query for 10 years,
> come hell or high water, but won't you run out of agents long before
> then? I mean they do keep making more, but still. How're you not close
> to that already?

As it turns out, that was a rather prescient observation. In the first week of October, I continued my ongoing agentquery.com search for agents who do memoirs, picking up where I left off, and at the bottom of the page, where there's usually a "next page" button, there wasn't one. I'd gone through the entire supply of author's agents who do memoirs.

That's not quite as FINAL as it may sound. I mean, the first search I did, way back when I first got started, was for agents who marketed nonfiction books about gay and lesbian subjects. I ran to the end of that within a couple weeks. But the pool of agents doing memoirs was OCEAN-sized and yes, it was unsettling to hit that wall.

I've been focusing since then on sending out queries positioning the book as fiction, of the "Literary Fiction" ilk. I have to admit, though, it's all been a bit discouraging.

Which made it particularly nice when I opened another in a small daily stack of self-addressed stamped envelopes, recording the rejections in my database, and realized after a moment that what I was staring at wasn't a rejection.

> I'm writing to you about your book FROM A QUEERLY DIFFERENT CLOSET.
> We would like to consider it. Please send the first 50 pages, a
> detailed outline or synopsis no more than 10 pages, double-spaced, and
> mail them to my attention. Please claerly mark "REQUESTED MATERIAL"
> on the front of the envelope and enclose a self-addressed, stamped
> envelope. We'll review your work at the first possible opportunity.
> If it seems like something we can represent, we'll contact you soon.

That still doesn't shift the odds for me with that particular agency to "more likely than not", but it's at least a move in a favorable direction. It's so good when someone's sufficiently interested that they ask to see more instead of just sending a form-letter rejection notice.

Current Stats:

The Story of Q--total queries = 420
Rejections: 310
Outstanding: 109
Under Consideration: 1

As NonFiction--total queries = 331
Rejections: 286
Outstanding: 45

As Fiction--total queries = 89
Rejections: 24
Outstanding: 64
Under Consideration: 1

That Guy in Our Women's Studies Classroom--total queries = 22
Rejections: 21
Outstanding: 1


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ahunter3: (Default)
Here's the query letter (aka pitch letter) I'm using for agents who handle literary fiction:


Derek is a girl. He wasn't one of the boys as a kid; he admired, befriended, and socialized with the girls and always knew he was one of them, despite being male. That wasn't always accepted or understood, but he didn't care: he knew who he was.

Now he's a teenager and boys and girls are flirting and dating and his identity has become a lot more complicated: he's attracted to the girls. The OTHER girls. The female ones.

FROM A QUEERLY DIFFERENT CLOSET: THE STORY OF Q is a 95,000-word literary fiction tale set in the 1970s but aimed at today's gender-questioning world.

Junior high to college, the stage on which Derek's adolescence and early adulthood takes place, is mostly hostile to gay people; transgender isn't a word in common use yet; and against this backdrop, Derek seeks friends and companions and someone to love in a world that has no name or concept for who he is. Years of painful questioning, vulnerability and confusion are interspersed with fragile optimism and hope and a willful determination to survive.

In 1980, 20 years before the word "genderqueer" would roll off anyone's tongues, Derek attempts to come out. He's confident, excited about the social and political implications of this gender identity, and eager to find out if these ideas are as powerful to other people as they are to him. The result is incarceration in a psychiatric hospital.

Undaunted, he starts a mental patients' liberation movement within the locked ward and gets kicked out for disrupting the facility. He goes on to fall in love, to succeed in college as a women's studies major, and gets his controversial gender ideas into print as feminist theory.

This story will appeal to fans of Alex Sánchez's RAINBOW BOYS and Julie Anne Peters' LUNA, as well as to readers of nonfiction works such as Daphne Scholinski's THE LAST TIME I WORE A DRESS and Jennifer Boylan's SHE'S NOT THERE; like these titles, my book will be a resource for anyone exploring questions of identity and questioning their own sexuality.


Authors' agents often ask NONFICTION authors to submit a formal proposal, which presents the premise of the book in a longer wordier version than the query letter, explains why the author is the best person to write it and why these ideas or concepts will work well as a published book; provides a list of similar titles and how this book is different; and how the book might best be marketed and publicized.

They don't ask that of FICTION authors, apparently; instead, what is most requested (aside from the ubiquitous query letter) is a synopsis, explaining the plot trajectory on a chapter by chapter basis. I never posted my nonfiction proposal here (too long and stultifying) but I like the way the synopsis came out so without further ado...

=== SYNOPSIS ===

(page numbers based on double spaced Times New Roman 12 pt)

1) PROLOGUE starts page 1

A short 3-page teaser in which the main character Derek is beaten up at a party on very little provocation, prompting him to ponder his differences, his now-questionable sense of being accepted, and how things had led to this.

2) CHILDHOOD starts page 4

Derek in first/second grade in Los Alamos New Mexico begins to compete with the girls, aspires to do well in school in deportment as well as subject areas. Makes one close male friend. Family moves to Georgia. Polarization increases: hostility from other boys, close friends with other girls, epithets including "queer" from other children, hostility from some adults for not being a normal boy. As he gets older, girls cease to be friend with him, he is increasingly isolated and lonely. Awareness of sexual attraction towards girls takes place before he knows what it means. Derek looks forward optimistically to adolescence, thinking he will again have girls as friends and as romantic girlfriends.


The family moves back to Los Alamos. Day to day life over the five years from 8th grade to high school graduation, beginning with Derek being ostracized not just for being the new kid but for being a "faggot", subjected to extensive harassment and horrified as he discovers that sexuality is not going to bring him closer to the girls, who link up with masculine boys. Derek makes a significant effort to discard his own prim judgmental standoffishness, make friends and fit in: he joins Boy Scouts, plays in the band and sings in the choir, re-establishes contact with his boyhood friend and somewhat belatedly rebels against adult authority like the other kids. His hopes of falling in love and having a girlfriend don't quite pan out but he hopes getting out of the fairly small town and into a college environment will let his life truly begin.

4) THE LIMBO YEARS starts page 131

Derek hates the conservative southern Mississippi college and daydreams about joining the hippies and flower children he's read about, not fully realizing the people and ideas described in the library books are not culturally ascendant any more by 1977. He drops out of school and seeks to become economically self-sufficient as soon as possible by taking vocational school courses in auto mechanics. The all-male environment isolates him, dating or even meeting girls seems impossible, and he wonders if maybe people who've called him gay knew him better than he knows himself; he tries gay sex, first with the boy he's been friends with since 1st grade; then, when that wasn't very pleasant, he decides maybe it was too much like incest but gay sex with a kind and friendly stranger is even worse. Still horribly lonely, Derek is becoming increasingly confident and self-reliant until he narrowly escapes being raped and then later is assaulted at a party (the incident in the PROLOGUE). He'd had one good connection with a girl who seemed to want him as a girlfriend in all this time but he'd met her while her family was on vacation and she lives across the country in Boston. But now he's desperate for something to work out with girls so he goes to visit her there. It doesn't go well: she's amenable to making out in the basement but is not interested in him personally, and he's devastated.

5) BACK TO UNIVERSITY starts page 206

Unable to make a go of it as an auto mechanic, Derek lets his family talk him into trying college again, this time in Albuquerque at a far less conservative institution. The University of New Mexico's student body is indeed far more socially liberal and tolerant than anywhere else he's been: people who think he is gay go out of their way to let him know it's cool with them, instead of being hostile and violent. Derek tries to focus on just having a good time and maybe losing his virginity, and putting his bad experience with the girl from Boston behind him. But casual sex and flirting and dating are impersonal and the assumptions roles and attitudes are very sex-specific and don't fit him at all. He finally acknowledges to himself that he's always thought of himself as one of the girls and now realizes that this may make him incompatibly different from what's expected of males in heterosexuality. He reads about transsexualism and it resonates but he realizes he doesn't think his body is wrong... just what people think it means to have that body. Other college students keep urging him to come out and accept himself. Finally something clicks: he sees the parallel between what he's going through and what feminists have said about sexism and sex roles. He begins writing manifestos about his gender identity and sexual orientation and circulating them to other students and to his professors and to others on campus. People worry about him: they don't understand what he's driving at and he disturbs them by being so excited about it. He is asked if he'll talk to a psychiatrist and he agrees, not realizing that the "permission slip" they have him sign will result in being locked up on a locked psychiatric ward and not allowed to leave. Derek, however, is for the first time certain that there ISN'T something wrong with him, and he talks and listens to the other patients and organizes a patients' rights movement that disrupts the facility, which discharges him abruptly.

POSTLOGUE starts page 288

Derek goes to California seeking the hippies and flower children he read about, and actually finds a commune, lives there for awhile, and loses his virginity without having to take on the unwanted male sexual-initiator / sexual-aggressor role. Later, in the library, he reads about a women's studies department at a college and realizes that if he were a student there, the kinds of things he wants to talk about would be typical subject matter in the classrooms. His parents are understandably relucant to send him to college a third time so he hitches to New York and endures a period of homelessness before establishing himself and getting into the school, at which point he gets solid A grades and an enthusiastic reception by his feminist professors. He goes on to graduate school and publishes his theories about gender and sexual orientation in a peer-reviewed academic journal. Over the years that follow he gets into relationships with women, learning from each, culminating in solid yet nontraditional relationships in which he is accepted and understood as a male girl.

Total Pages: 301

Word Count: 95,993

{optional bit if writing sample is requested:}


Your contact information at YOURLITERARYAGENCY.com/submissions indicated that I should include the first 5 pages / 10 pages / 20 pages / one chapter / two chapters / whatever, as a writing sample. Pasted inline below this line:


{appropriate writing sample goes here, if requested}


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ahunter3: (Default)
On August 25, I got yet another one of those "your platform isn't good enough" responses to a query letter:

> Thank you for the opportunity to review your project. While I
> appreciate that you thought of me for your work of nonfiction, I'm not
> sure that your author platform is quite at the level necessary to
> launch a book. I suggest that you continue to establish and grow your
> platform so that you will be in a stronger position to pursue a book
> deal.
> Thank you again, and best of luck with your work.

So after a few melodramatic fantasies of creating a platform by kidnapping an array of author's agents and thus getting myself covered in the news cycle, I decided it was time to question one of the earliest decisions that I faced when it came to trying to get this book into print: fiction or nonfiction?

The first batch of query letters actually didn't specifically position the work one way or the other: "The names have been changed and it could be treated and marketed as either fiction or nonfiction". But that's not how the agent-querying business works. And when I decided last year to attend the NY Writer's Pitch Conference, I had to pick nonfiction or fiction; autobiographies and memoirs are definitely listed as nonfiction (whereas no subcategory of fiction sounded quite right) and at the conference itself I was told "Yes, definitely you should market it as nonfiction, you've got a memoir, that's powerful, authentic, comes from real experience" and so on, so that's what I've been doing.

But in the back of my mind, I kept remembering that Rita Mae Brown's RUBYFRUIT JUNGLE was technically marketed as fiction (fooling no one), as was Marilyn French's THE WOMEN'S ROOM (I think most of us figured that Mira was either entirely or mostly Marilyn French), and so was the far more blatant WHO WAS THAT MASKED WOMAN? by Noretta Koertge, in which the supposedly fictional Tretona Getroek's adventures are told.

So I sat down and wrote a new query letter, describing my book as a work of fiction. (Oh yeah, the same issue of no obvious subcategory of fiction again presented itself. It turns out that it would apparently be "literary fiction", which is everything that isn't "genre fiction", the latter of which comprising your basic mysteries, romances, sci fi, thriller action-adventure stories, vampire gothics, and so on).

And, because fiction queries are sent off with a synopsis, not a proposal as nonfiction is, I wrote up a synopsis.

Early end result: in the first week of querying it as a fiction book, I got a request to see a 30 page sample of the manuscript. For comparision, I have exactly two agents who have requested additional material after receiving the nonfiction query and that's after a year of querying.

I'm going to continue querying it as nonfiction but will definitely send at least 50 % of each week's queries as fiction queries.

I will post my fiction query letter and synopsis in subsequent blogposts.


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