Hopping along the interwebs, I’ve seen a lot of agent query hooks—the one or two sentences that’re supposed to grab a literary agent’s attention. A few are good, some are horrible, but most are just okay (and being “just okay” generally won’t get you anywhere).
Keeping in mind that it’s in the nature of fiction to be subjective, I’ve noticed a lot of hooks deemed good by others aren’t particularly pleasing to me. If I were drinking my skinny caramel latte while reading these things, my computer would be in danger of being splattered with coffee, low-fat milk, and artificial flavoring. A lot of these so-called good hooks reek of cheesiness.
And, well, cheese seems to work.
Judging from the fiction I see traditionally published as a novel or produced as a film or television series, I can only conclude that a premise I’d call intriguing doesn’t often coincide with what agents, publishers, and producers think will sell. When I read or hear a premise for an upcoming book or movie, my most common reaction is a shoulder shrug (sadly, I’d bet this is the most common reaction agents have when reading my hooks).
If you find yourself so misaligned with the aesthetic tastes of these would-be kingmakers, indie publishing is probably a much more realistic route than traditional publishing. However, if you think you can be proficient at making high quality cheese, then give it a go. Just make sure your cheese is good, ’cause there’s a difference between good and bad cheese, and bad cheese will give agents gas and nausea.
I’m still editing my first novel (and only about a fifth done with the first draft of my second). After I finish this read-through, I’ll work on another batch of agent queries—see if I can make some good, stinky cheese. This may be my last attempt at cheese-making for this particular manuscript, as indie publishing is looking to be more pragmatic (and profitable) by the minute.
FYI, my first batches of cheese (queries) were rejected upon smell by most, though I did trick some agents into eating the whole thing before they threw it up.
In the words of Joss Whedon’s Twitter profile, “[O]ver and over and over till I get it right.“