I’m usually in a cranky mood when I’m querying agents, and when that coincides with the collapse of our civilization, like these days, you can imagine the mood I’m in as I search for someone to represent my new baseball novel. It’s hard to be optimistic. Yet, the only way a writer can query agents is from a basic stance of hopefulness.
I thought I had a nice angle to try when I heard about a writer with a new baseball novel out and said to myself, Say, why not query her agent?
I grabbed the ebook from the local library and scanned for the usual acknowledgments page, where agents are often mentioned. What I found there astonished me.
This author—and I won’t name her because I don’t want to cast public aspersions—had penned an acknowledgments “page” that actually wound up running about ten pages. At least it felt like that as I skimmed over the dozens and dozens of names. She even, in the last part, appeared to thank her dog.
I think it’s perfectly great to thank the people who help you get through the grueling process of writing a book. It’s not an easy thing to do. You need not just technical advice and editorial suggestions but also moral support. But frankly, and maybe this is my own problem, I don’t even know as many people in my life as this woman thanked for one damn novel! I’d have to go through the phone book and pick random names to fill ten pages with gratitude.
But the larger question to me is why did this writer need so many people to complete her novel? She thanks everyone she knew at grad school, everyone she works with, everyone on her Twitter feed (it seemed to me), including scores of readers who read early drafts of the book. That’s drafts, plural. Meaning some of these readers must have read multiple drafts. Just for her.
Isn’t a book that’s exposed to too much opinion during the writing going to feel like it was forged by a committee? Aren’t you confident enough in your own skills that you can get by with a few betas to see if you’ve left some gaps in your story or logic? Or are you addicted to the approval of others and ship out copies of your drafts as if from a confetti cannon just to hear I loved it! again and again? Sad.
For me, writing a novel is a solitary thing. I share the early stuff with my wife, who happens to be a terrific reader/editor, and she always knows what I’m trying to do in a piece. I’m afraid that if I solicited thankable input from a dozen-dozen people I’d get paralyzed and would never find a way to incorporate all their ideas.
Here’s another thing: Do we really think readers read the acknowledgements? No. It’s more like a greeting card to your crew that says, Thanks for putting up with me while I wrote this damn thing.
By the way, this writer’s agent, as it turns out, doesn’t accept unsolicited queries. So it goes.
What about you (if you’re a writer): How long is your longest acknowledgments list?