Thursday, June 28, 2007

On Rain and Querying

A word about all the rain in Dallas. This time of year, drought is usually the problem--not flooding. Usually when I see the Trinity River in the spring, the water is so low, you could cross the riverbed without getting your feet wet.

Today the Trinity was at 38.64 feet, closing in on the 39-foot flood level.

Average annual rainfall in Dallas is about 34 inches. It is not even the end of June, and we've already surpassed that figure. In fact, we are only 3/4 of an inch from the wettest June on record for Dallas.

On tonight's news, they showed a homeowner whose backyard is so saturated with water that his in-ground swimming pool is being forced upward and outward from the ground.

Every day, Dallas County Public Works trucks are in my neighborhood to cart off the trees that are toppling over because they've become so top heavy.

And the forecast is for more rain for the next few days. Pray for us.

I received an email from a newbie writer last night. The manuscript for his novel is complete; he's ready to start querying agents. He's been reading advice on writing a good query letter, and complained because of the conflicting information he's getting.

His question to me: "How important is it that I include marketing info with my letter?"

Before I start, let me include the usual disclaimer. What follows is my opinion and worth what you've paid for it ;)

I believe the confusion on the issue of "marketing" is attributable to the difference between fiction queries and non-fiction queries.

When you check a literary agent's website, you'll generally find a list of the genres that agent represents. Agents KNOW the fiction markets they represent. It's not likely that you'll be able to tell them anything new about those markets. I always figured I'd be embarrassing myself by trying to tell the agents I was querying about their business.

On the flip side, non-fiction books are generally written by experts in specific fields. A psychologist writes a self-help book on self-esteem. A retired army major writes about military strategy. A chef writes a book of recipes. A real estate salesman writes about the top tricks of the trade for selling a house.

It's unlikely that any one agent will know the details of all those markets. For this reason, books on preparing a non-fiction proposal usually suggest that the writer include information on the potential market for the book. That means data on the size of the market as well as on the number of competing books available.

While I'm on the subject, there are other differences between fiction and non-fiction queries.

A first-time author should have finished his/her novel before querying it. However, non-fiction books are often sold on the basis of a proposal that includes a couple of sample chapters and the outline for the rest.

Happy Querying.


Laura Vivanco said...

There's been some very bad flooding in parts of the UK due to extreme amounts of rainfall over the past few days. Thousands of people have had to leave their homes, there's a worry about a damn that was showing signs of cracking under the strain and 4 people have drowned with many others injured.

Maya Reynolds said...

Laura: I'm so sorry to hear of your flooding issues. It sounds very similar to what we're going through. Three thousand homes were evacuated last night in the Marble Falls area. And they're predicting heavy storms for today.

I'll say a prayer for the UK.

Sherrill Quinn said...

Why is it that so many areas are flooding while others (like where I live) are in severe drought? We're praying for our monsoons to start because we're soooo dry. Keep your head above water and be careful, hon.

Laura Vivanco said...

Sherrill, I've read that climate change could mean that 'Wet areas are likely to become wetter, with more frequent episodes of flooding, whilst dry areas may become drier, with longer periods of drought leading to an increased threat of desertification' (from here).

Some years ago we had some fairly minor flooding near where we live and even that was worrying to watch. These current floods are quite a bit further south, so no threat to us, but they're much more severe and from the photos and reports I've seen the damage is huge and there's more rain forecast.

I'm just hoping people can stay safe, and I'll be thinking about you and your area, Maya.

David Roth said...

I spoke with a friend who lives 10 minutes southwest of Tulsa, OK last night. She says that the groud where she is, while not flood yet, squishes when you walk on it, it is so saturated. As in your area, Maya, she says this time of year it's usually drought that they're having to deal with.

We has storms yesterday here in Pittsburgh, but nothing like what you are all having to deal with.

I have friends in Texas, Oklahoma, England and Holland dealing with flooding right now. Makes me wonder if its me?

Stephen Parrish said...

Hope y'all don't mind if I lighten things up a bit. A friend sent me this picture of Irishmen panicking as flood waters rise.

Viewer discretion advised.

David Roth said...

Yup - that would be panicking Irishmen. Great picture.

Maya Reynolds said...

Thanks, Laura, Sherrill, David and Stephen.

News says that 11 people have died in Texas so far from the flooding. I had to pull off the road this morning en route to the University because it was coming down so hard I didn't want to continue driving.

Stephen: Great photo.

David: That's right. It's all your fault :)

Marie Tuhart said...


Stay safe. I have a co-worker in San Antonio and today the river near the building is almost over its banks. If it goes, they'll have to close the building.

Here in California we're also dealing with dry weather, and the fire danger is really high. The Lake Tahoe fire is an example of what CA is expecting all summer.

Hope this weather strightens out soon for everyone.