Back in the day, I used to online date. I tried several of them: eHarmony, Match, Chemistry. (No, this is not how I met The Man – that’s an involved story wherein we were besties and I knew we were meant to be together and he knew it too but dragged his feet.) But before all that, I experimented with online dating. There are two things to note at this point:
- I am very oblivious when it comes to flirting and spent most of my high school and college years scowling at boys who smiled at me and wondering what the hell it was they wanted.
- Kansas City, where I live, is one of the worst cities when it comes to dating. No, seriously – it’s been documented.
So while I wasn’t necessarily super-serious about settling down ASAP, it seemed like a decent way to meet people outside of work without having to wade into the bar scene or rely on my subpar prowling skills. Plus, since it’s all online, that mitigates the toughness of rejection, right?
Actually, no, not really.
See, there are thousands of profiles out there. Some of them are immediately discounted because you guys don’t see eye-to-eye on key points: children, religion, what you want in the future, etc. Still, even taking those out of consideration, there are hundreds that meet your basic criteria. You’d read dozens of profiles, and most sites sent you top matches every day. (Very overwhelming, fyi.) And a lot of times, the profiles were full of noise or you saw red flags in there that made you go, “Probably not.” But sometimes you read one that might as well have had little stars decorating the edges.
It would be the way they talked about themselves or how they described who they were looking for or maybe it was their lists of likes and dislikes (“Oh my god – he also thinks the best fantasy movies were from the ’80s!”). Something about what they wrote and put together for that one page of relationship information would strike a chord, and you’d figure that here was someone who would get you. Because that’s what we’re all looking for, right? Someone who gets us.
So you’d look over your own profile again to make sure you’re most alluring and interesting personality traits came through. Then you took a deep breath and clicked whatever button you needed to contact them. A wink or a poke or something that indicated initial interest. “Check me out,” you’d say. “I’m interesting and different, and you want to go have a drink and a chat.”
You would wait. Check your account. Wait some more. And check their profile to see how long it had been since they logged in. Wait a little longer.
Then one of two things would happen: a) They’d finally nut up and hit some kind of “no thanks” button that removed them from your list; b) You’d recognize that no response means no and remove them yourself.
The thing is, this didn’t remove the sting of rejection just because it wasn’t in person. You still had the same ego fallout, the same questions. What happened? Was it something I said? Why didn’t they like me? What’s wrong with me?
It occurred to me yesterday that the querying process is very much like this.
There are a lot of agents out there. Some of them are immediately out the window because they don’t represent your genre or age group. You’re adult high fantasy, they’re middle grade sci-fi. No hard feelings. But there are still dozens upon dozens that do want books in your genre, and the only real way to sort through them is to look up their “profiles.” The agency website, Query Tracker and Publisher’s Marketplace, any interviews they’ve done – you read their actual words and get a strong sense of what attracts them.
And some of them are saying everything you’ve ever been thinking about books and your genre and readers, and you take that glitter pen out of your bag and put stars all around your name. “This,” you think, “is the one. We’re perfect together. They are going to LOVE me.”
You take one last glance over your query letter – maybe even revise it and repolish your first few pages – and then you send it out. And one of two things would happen…
I think you see where I’m going with this.
The truth is, it’s not alway one of those two things. Sometimes the person on the online dating site would contact you back. Sometimes the agent asks for the full. But the dating metaphor continues because even after you’ve moved past that initial communication, you still want that spark. You want that first dialogue to crackle and not sink into awkward silence. You want there to be that base where you both are on the same page and aiming for the same target.
It’s the first date. It’s The Call. Whatever the label, it’s what we dream of – in love and in writing. However the relationship develops after that, that first stepping stone is crucial.
So here’s my overall message – the What I’ve Learned Today.
It’s rough out there. Dating, querying…you’re unfortunately going to face rejection. You’re going to “meet” quite a few that you’re going to go “YES” and they’re going to go, “No…” And even those rejections suck and it seems like you’ve just missed the only boat that ever existed EVER, it’s important to remember that it’s about building a relationship, and the biggest thing you need in a relationship is mutual enthusiasm. You don’t want to date someone who doesn’t really want to be there, and you don’t want an agent who’s not amped about your manuscript. It’s not healthy, and neither of you will get anything out of it.
Remember this when the “no thanks” responses come in. Don’t settle. You deserve to be loved for exactly who you are and so does your manuscript.