I posted this as a comment over at Nathan Bransford's blog post about the query process. Since I was plenty long-winded, I thought I would re-post it on my own blog. Of course, I need to preface this with I've only just begun the query process myself. Sure, I've slaved endlessly over the thing, but I'm just barely in the submission phase, and I'm sure I'm going to get a huge number of rejections. I'm thinking about wallpapering with them. That said, what follows is what I put up on Nathan's blog. (And it's not really cheating, it's recycling. Going green with blogposts. It's a new trend, or it should be. I might start a thing with it.)
The process is imperfect, certainly, but what are the alternatives? It's easy to say that the process prevents good writers from making it, but that's really not what the process is about. It's about getting rid of those who are not ready for publishing while giving those who are a chance to have their work examined.
Yes, it's hard, and it's horrible, and I want to tear my hair out at the number of drafts I've written. But I'm fine with it. I'm fine with it because I teach college, and I've hung around online and these people should not be published, nor should they be taking time from agents with their lengthy material when others are more deserving.
We all look at the query process with dread, but what would the world be like without it? I shudder to think of the fanfics, un-proofread forum-posted stories, and more that would be churned up because of the internet's ability to convince people that they both know how to write and deserve to be published.
Furthermore, the system did not evolve arbitrarily. Nathan's unearthed 110 year-old query response is proof of that. I have no doubt that in the early days, the query process involved more than just a synopsis or 5 pages, but I know that it always involved some kind of letter very much like the modern day query.
It's important to remember that authors who query are asking for a job. The query actually is more akin to a cover letter than any other type of writing. The manuscript itself is the job interview, but the resume and cover letter need to shine before even getting to that point. Like the query, the cover letter system evolved because it works, and it has been around for a long, long time. Just ask Leonardo Da Vinci.
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