Why I won’t query my next book

Nowadays, if you don’t leap into every “opportunity” with over-the-top enthusiasm, you are accused of having defeatist behaviour. Common sense, logic, deduction – all of these things get discarded and labelled “old-fashioned”. “Take chances”, “believe the impossible”, “what if” are new slogans you have to chant if you want to be seen as progressive and successful.

It had always puzzled me when during development talks – and the same scenario repeated at every job – my superiors said that process doesn’t matter. The concept seems so alien to me that I still dwell on it from time to time, but in the context of my writing journey.

When two new staff members joined our department in the ministry, I helped them to get into the swing of things. It wasn’t in my job description, but I did it anyway simply because I could. And also, because it’s a part of me to help people if I can do something to make their life easier. During the development talks that year, my direct boss asked me that nonsensical question about what I’ve done that I can present as my achievements. I said that I helped two colleagues become a part of the team. She said it wasn’t an achievement. Achievement, according to her, was getting a Cabinet of Ministers Regulation adopted by the government. It seems it didn’t bother her in the least that what I offered as my achievement was something I could fully control. Assistance, not the new colleagues work results. Anyway, they both did great at the job and are still working in the ministry. In its turn, if a legislative act goes through the bureaucratic grinder is out of a regular ministry worker’s league. It is pure logic based on experience. You can’t imagine what absolutely straightforward documents got stuck on their way to approval and for what illogical reasons.

During my writing journey, I often feel the same way as I had felt during development talks. It seems only countable results matter. It is rather funny, for, at the same time, we are urged to respect women’s work they do at home and for kids, even though it remains “unpaid”.

I’ve already mentioned it in my previous posts and on social media, but still, I don’t see any harm in repeating it. Whenever the topic of my writing surface in conversations with friends, extended family, former colleagues, or acquaintances, the only question that people ask is how much I earn from my books. After I confess my income from writing can’t be compared to what I used to earn at my regular jobs, they lose interest. Only a few people – my closest friends and, surprisingly, some of my husband’s friends, people who don’t know me well at all – said that it’s fantastic that I’ve found my calling in life and had the courage to pursue it.

The question I ask myself is: do people really believe that following your calling is justified only if it pays your bills?

I know better than many people of my acquaintance what it means when paying bills is your main focus. After I got my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Marketing, I worked as an office assistant. Human resources specialists in recruitment agencies kept telling me I should wait until I land a higher position. But the harsh reality was I couldn’t wait. I had to start earning money right away. I had to help my mom, who’d been a true champion struggling to keep our family afloat for too long. Many of my friends from university waited until they got their Master’s degrees to start working full-time. I couldn’t afford to do that.

So now, when someone drops dismissively that “you are lucky you don’t have to think about paying your bills”, I don’t answer. The “lucky” part would be offensive if I weren’t rather secretive even with my friends about my troubles. But you can believe me when I say that life has done almost everything to turn “Eve” and “lucky” into antonyms. Of course, there is always a possibility for improvement. Still, I prefer to keep the remnants of optimism, at least in the fields that haven’t been scarred by the harsh reality.

I got a few chances to improve my life and I hadn’t declined a single one. Still, even in the situation when I could have been accused of being lucky, I had to put tremendous effort to use it to my advantage. Let’s just say, I know how it feels when your choice is between paying your utility bills and stocking your fridge for the last week before payday.

What does it have to do with querying, you might ask after skimming through this ramble about my past. It’s a legit question. I’ve put it as bait in the title after all.

As you know, I queried “Finding Your Way”. I’ll use this opportunity to remind you what the book is about.

“Finding Your Way” is a contemporary young adult novel set in Latvia in 2008. There is a slight touch of magical realism in the book that conveys a deep connection many Latvians still have with ancient pagan roots and traditions. The book is available for pre-order on Amazon. Release date is November 22.

I shared my thoughts about querying in my post In the querying trenches. Expectations VS reality. I said that I don’t plan to stay in the querying trenches for too long. And I stick to that plan. Since April I’ve sent 78 queries and received 34 rejections. Many of the agencies I haven’t received even a form reply from, declare in the policy that if they don’t reply within a specific period of time (usually 4-12 weeks), it means no. Taking into account that considerably longer than that has passed since I sent my last query, I think I can safely assume it’s time to concentrate on self-publishing that book.

I can’t say that the second round of querying has been a disappointment. I wrote about the first one, which I did for “Neglected Merge”, in the article In the querying trenches. Expectations VS reality too. I didn’t expect anything. I did it to put a tick in the box “I tried”.

I won’t do that for the book I’ve just finished writing. I won’t even attempt to find a literary agent for it.

No matter what modern positive thinking gurus say, it’s not defeatist behaviour – it’s being realistic. And this is the best lesson life has taught me: staying real saves you from many unpleasant things.

Like “Finding Your Way”, my next book is set in Latvia. Yes, it might seem that the whole world embraces diversity and everyone is seeking something unique. In truth, while individually people can from time to time try something new, those who make money from selling certain groups of products, discard diversity as the highest-level risk. What I’m trying to say is that while certain regions occasionally come into the mainstream focus – for example, I’ve recently picked up a book set in former Rhodesia – present Zimbabwe – Latvia is still to experience such a boost of interest.

Moreover, this new book is between genres. Again. I know, I am being unreasonable. First, I had to write within the chosen genre limits, make a name for myself, and only then I was allowed to experiment. But… What can I say in my defense? Only that lame thing people with more sense cringe upon hearing. I don’t write to make money or become famous. I write because the stories I feel like telling, ignite the fire inside me I cannot and I don’t want to suppress. The words from the book I’ve recently had the pleasure to read, come to my mind: “When I lost my forever, my light withered and ebbed,” says Amelia in “Metamorphosis” by Ivy Logan. That’s how I feel. I feel that when my light, my fire had withered and ebbed, getting back to writing was what saved me from becoming a shell of a person.

Well, back to my manuscript. Querying takes a lot of time. And some – well, let’s be open, most of it is spent not pleasantly, doing things you wouldn’t choose to be doing. So, it is logical to submit yourself to something like this if you have at least a tiny hope you can succeed.

My new book’s mix of genres is an even bigger crime against mainstream sellers’ policies than that of the Neglected Merge trilogy. Fantasy saga without magic… hmmm, since there are elements that don’t exist in real life, where else you can place it, fantasy is the only option.

But the police procedural according to literary world specialists is perhaps one of the most formulaic of the genres. It means that a writer has absolutely no right to step outside the rules. Otherwise, genre lovers will be disappointed with their reading experience. So, this is an advance warning: if you are a true lover of police procedurals, don’t pick up my new book when it’s published.

First, it’s not centered around one case investigation. And although it starts with a question and ends with an answer to it, it’s not “and the killer is…”. Second, I doubt the story keeps up the same pace from start to finish. But, in case you become interested in what the police everyday life was like for some Latvian policemen at the end of the 90s – believe me, it was the craziest time – at least I can assure you there are two other obligatory elements of the police procedural in this book. You’ll meet recurring characters, and some of them are rather quirky and interesting. And the research done is extremely thorough. Although all characters and events are pure fiction, the story is based on former policemen’s memories.

The last factor that deters me from jumping straight back into querying trenches is that I don’t want to publish a dark-themed book in the summer. That would be the time frame if I decided to query it first with a backup plan to self-publish it later. And to keep it in a drawer until the next Halloween is also not something that makes sense.

Thank you for reading my too-long ranting. A writer’s blog shouldn’t be focused solely on book reviews and self-promotion, right?

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