Or, There Are No Shortcuts
Let me tell you a story. You've probably all experienced something similar. Say you and your best friend are at Disneyland, both waiting in a monstrous, impossibly long line to get on Indiana Jones. You've both done the exact same things to get there--saved your money, endured the hassle and stress of air travel, balked at the cost of entrance, not to mention the world's most expensive popcorn (are the kernels made of pure gold? THEY JUST MIGHT BE). You've dodged through the crowds, you've done the research on which rides you most want to get on, and you're there.
You know that eventually you'll both get on the ride. As far away as it seems, it's going to happen. But at one point in the line it branches off--two sides of the same stairway. What's the difference? You can't see any. So your friend gets on one side of the branch, and you get on the other, high-fiving and laughing and looking forward to reaching your destination at exactly the same time.
For reasons completely unfathomable and (thanks to the twists and turns and hallways of the line) totally invisible to you, your line zips along at practically a jog, while your friend's line has patterned itself on the daytime activities of the three-toed sloth. Your friend? Is. Not. Moving.
You wave frantically, trying to get her to jump the line over to you, but the thing is once you're in your line, there's no jumping. It doesn't matter that your friend knows you, that you've been through all of this together, that you think your friend is the single coolest person on earth. Fact of the matter is, your line is moving, your friend's line isn't, and there's nothing either of you can do about it.
You get to the ride first. You ride the ride. Heck, maybe you even run back around and get back in line and somehow still manage to go on another time before your friend gets to the front.
It makes no sense. It's not any fun, especially for your friend. It just plain sucks. But such is the nature and mystery of lines.
I see a lot of people trying to figure out how to cut in line in the publishing industry. A lot of them seem to think if they can just make a connection with a published author somehow they'll be able to skip all of the steps, effectively cutting in line, and magically arrive at the front without ever having to wait in line, or even enter the theme park in the first place. They think there's some big trick to it all, some magic, secret underground tunnel that will deliver them at the very front of the line if they can just get someone to tell them where it is or walk them through it.
There are no cuts in these lines, friends. There are no secret tunnels. It doesn't matter who you know. Sometimes it doesn't even matter how good you are. So much of publishing is writing the right thing at the right time and getting it in the hands of the right people. You can't control that. What you do are the same things everyone else does: You write the best freaking book you possibly can, and then you query, and then you get an agent, and then you go on submission, and then you sell a book. Sometimes it happens in that order. Sometimes you have to jump back to a previous part of the line--say, writing a different book and querying again, or writing a new book but keeping your agent, or keeping your book but finding a new agent, so on and so forth. But the line is the line is the line, and unless you are Nicholas Cage at Disneyland* (which, hey Nick! Thanks for reading my blog. You're kind of weird, but that's okay), you wait in the line.
Your line might move fast.
It might move slow.
Regardless, the line is how you get to the ride. Holding hands with someone who's already waited in the line isn't going to let you bypass it. Trying to find a tunnel--or even dig one yourself--isn't going to let you bypass it. So quit looking for a way to cut and instead find a way to entertain yourself while you're waiting. I recommend writing another book, because these lines? They're fickle, unpredictable things. The ride at the end, though, is always worth it.
*True story: My sister-in-law almost knocked Nick down coming off of Indiana Jones. His bodyguard was not thrilled.**
**Nick has nothing to do with publishing. He just really likes Indiana Jones. And nearly getting knocked over by petite blondes. Like I said, weird guy.
Also I feel it's my duty to warn you that, while waiting in the publishing line, there are no humorous/threatening filmstrips narrated by Gimli from The Lord of the Rings. But you don't have to stand behind that strange woman with the invisible dog and the overwhelming perfume. So that's a bonus. Also you can avoid that person in those creepy toe-sock-running-shoes-things that make you shudder. And you can at least sit in a comfortable chair, too. And make your own popcorn from kernels that are merely made of silver and thus far more cost-effective. So many perks! Best line ever!