Though Milton and I are in disagreement on which rings are filled with whom, and he never once mentions bad drivers—MotoTards, as I learned from my friend FooDaddy (a term that has made me popular among my daughter's friends), AND because at work we descended yesterday into GRANT hell (if there really is a hell, this is what they would make me do there—a fate to be avoided at all cost) I thought I would post for your perusal and entertainment, the rings of QUERY HELL.
These people have just finished their first manuscript and are SURE it is fabulous (their mother thought so!). They have done a proofread, but think terms like 'rewrite' are for people without their natural talent. They are about to receive the taunting of their lives.
Ring 2: The Timid
This person drafts a query letter, follows the rules, picks their favorite agent... and waits. When the rejection comes (if the agent sends them) they then choose another, and send. They are destined to do this for forty-five years. It is its own punishment.
Ring 3: The Enthusiast
These people download a list of all four hundred agents who represent their genre, put them in a listserve and send the query to ALL of them (at once, headed 'Dear Agent'.) This approach gets them put on a black list and they are forced to take on a pen name, or never work in the industry again.
These people have received a ton of form rejections and are thinking they suck and they ought to just hang it up now. They've decided that though their manuscript was PERFECT six months ago, now it should line a ferret cage and they don't deserve the title 'writer'. This wallowing in self-pity ring is one everyone is required to pass through, usually several times.
Ring 5: The Rapid Responder
These people are making edits left and right, jumping to address every single thing they hear from every single person, not even realizing that the form query rejections are just printed from a central file and not personalized in the least. Like querying, editing is its own punishment.
These people are convinced that they KNOW somebody who can give them a break, so they are WORKING IT (and I have placed them this deep in query hell because I am jealous, having neither the connections, nor the personality to pull this off). Though it would also be damn depressing to know you had an in and you STILL couldn't get published. After a few months of this, their connected friends run when they see them coming... connections come, connections go.
Ring 7: The Denier
This person says cheerful things like 'it's all part of the process. At least I'm learning a ton.' They are slowly going insane. (I am usually here, though at the moment I've been sent back to Ring 4).
Ring 8: The Expert
This person has NOT been published, but is handing out advice left and right on how to GET published, because they believe an agent may notice how smart they are and take them on, or it makes them feel better to AT LEAST not be making all the newbie mistakes about it. They will helpfully read query, first chapter, and manuscript of all comers, telling them everything they need to do to get it accepted. This can be a happy stage for a year or so, until they realize their advice hasn't worked for them, then they get dumped back into the 4th ring.
Ring 9: The Self Publisher
This ring has accepted that the industry is stacked against them, but instead of continuing to work it and try and get in, they take the matters into their own hands. The problem, is 90% of these folks are doing this before their book is READY—it has not had enough eyes, enough rewrites, and a proper editing, so even those who ARE READY are destined to sit in poor company for all eternity, selling fairly few copies and wearing a stigma.
[keep in mind ALL of us who are 'pre-published' are in here at the moment and I meant no offense. I figure we're in it together and was only trying to amuse.]