Cool Hand Stew?

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is called what?

Insanity? Maybe.

In the movie Cool Hand Luke, Luke (Paul Newman) is boxing in the prison yard with a big bruiser of a guy, Dragline (George Kennedy) and is getting his butt kicked.

Dragline says, “Stay down. You’re beat.”   He wants him to stay down so he can stop pummeling him.

Luke replies,  “You’re gonna hafta kill me.”

Every time he gets knocked down, he gets back up again. Luke stands up and stands up and stands up.

So what’s it called if you do the same thing over and over again? Tenacity? Persistence? (in Luke’s case,  it might be pride and a death wish).

But if you’re a writer like me it’s called, “how to get published.”

Write, edit, polish. *repeat*

Query, query, query. *repeat*

Rewrite query, query, query. *repeat*

Agents and published authors alike tell us “wannabes” that the way to get published is to be persistent. To query widely. To re-evaluate and do it some more. Keep going and if it’s good, someone will want to represent it. Someone will want to publish it.

I have kept “doing it some more” for a long time. “…Ernest” has been queried to nearly 100 agents. The letter was all wrong for the first 40 or so agents. I got no nibbles at all.  I re-wrote it. I tried various letters for another 30 or so agents. I put it aside for a while. Something wasn’t clicking.

Then I figured the book needed something, so I did another re-write (my betas loved the rewrite).

Then I rewrote the letter to match the shiny new manuscript, and finally, bites. *Yay*

Three agents requested full reads and one requested a partial.

One of the three agents with the full sent me a rejection yesterday. It was a very pleasant rejection, but a rejection nevertheless.

I’ve not stopped querying, but you can only send a query to them for the same book once.  No do-overs. No mulligans in querying.  I sent 60 of them too soon.

So, my options are to

  • continue querying more agents with the letter that seemed to work,
  • start querying small publishers directly, or
  • put dear Ernest aside as “unpublishable” and finished the polish and query for “Yet It Will Come”.
  • hhmmm…or I guess I could query both books.

Yesterday I decided to start sending “… Ernest” to small publishers. I still have the tenacity and persistence, but maybe it’s time to lose the insanity. Maybe it’s just not a “big house” kind of book. That’s okay, though. I can live with that.

Yep. Just like Luke, I just keep standing up. A voice inside my head says, “stay down, Stew”. But I can’t.

Unlike Luke, I can’t win the game of publishing on a bluff.

Dragline: Nothin’. A handful of nothin’. You stupid mullet head. He beat you with nothin’. Just like today when he kept comin’ back at me – with nothin’.
Luke: Yeah, well, sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand.

But maybe, I’ll make a 50 egg bet and win.


3 responses to “Cool Hand Stew?

  1. Love it! Good call with the small presses. If you get burned out there – don’t put it aside as “unpublishable”. When you land an agent with something else – maybe it will time for Ernest to be re-introduced & have a home at last!

  2. A while back someone else suggested the same. Get an agent for the next book. Then maybe once I’ have representation, the agent can read Ernest and get him published for me. 🙂

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