Querying is like Whiteboarding.
For years engineers have been cursed with whiteboarding interviews. Essentially, you have a bright talented young engineer wanting to work at a fine new company. She comes in, ready to show off her prowness at writing the kind of code they need. Inevitably after a few get to know you questions and making sure that she really does, actually, want to change the world -- however the company she is applying to is changing the world (never was a tech company that wasn't) -- they ask her to prove her programming skills by drawing on a whiteboard with a marker, in front of a crowd of esteemed engineers deadset on proving they are smarter than her.
Sounds like fun right? I know you're probably thinking something like this "Wow, answering questions on a whiteboard seems lame, why wouldn't they just ask her to program for them, or with them, to prove she knows what shes doing?" Well, because that's not how they got their jobs.
I've never met a single engineer that thinks whiteboarding is a good idea, or enjoys it. But, I've never done a technical interview without it. It's sort of stunning.
I was reminded of this process as I've sent out queries to agents that I might want to partner with on my books. Authors hate querying. I've never met one that thinks querying is a fun or a good idea. And, I've seen countless quotes from people on the other side saying how it's a broken process, and how queries don't necessarily reflect the work of the novel they might actually publish.
But we do it anyway. And there are websites, and blogs, and critiques, and evaluations, all geared toward not making your novel better (the actual product), or even the marketing material (what sells your product), but to make your query better. The thing that the people receiving them don't actually even appreciate (from what I can tell, I make no effort to hide my ignorance).
Seems like a pretty broken system. But it's what we have.
And I suppose it works. Eventually, people that have written a home run novel, also figure out how to write a home run query, and their books finally get a full evaluation. Just like good engineers eventually get jobs, even if they stink at whiteboarding.
In more parallels for interest: engineers that don't actually know how to code but have a big twitter following get jobs, just like authors with big twitter followings get deals.
Anyways, this isn't a complaint or a claim that I've written a home run novel or that I'm a rock star engineer. I just think its fun to see how similar industries are. It feels like there should be a way to make both systems better . . .