K is for K (Strikeout)
We owe the "K" for representing a strikeout in baseball to an early sportswriter named Henry Chadwick. In fact, Chadwick and another writer named M.J. Kelly are largely responsible for the scoring system used today. But whence the K? Chadwick already had "S" slated for "sacrifice." So a strikeout became a "K", after the last letter of the word "struck." The reason a strikeout isn't a "T" is because "struck" was the preferred term of the day. By the way, a backwards K means the batter struck out without swinging (looking).
What do you think it is in the writing world that correlates to the term strikeout? Yep, you got it, the rejection letter. The dreaded reply you receive after you queried an agent or publisher whose meaning can be summed up in four words…thanks, but no thanks. The first one you receive is like a badge of honor because everybody…and I mean everybody…receives one at some time or another. It’s when those rejections start to pile up that it begins to sting, ultimately reaching a point where the affect becomes cumulative. But just like a major league hitter, there are ways to help minimize the number of K’s you experience…just by studying the pitcher.
First rule when you step up to bat…don’t query an agent who doesn’t represent what you write. Instant K! Read the agencies website first to make sure somebody there is actively seeking your genre.
Second rule, follow the agencies submission guidelines to the letter – which means possibly modifying or customizing your letter. If you send the same exact letter to every agent you query, along with the first three chapters (solicited or not)…more K’s. Agents (or more importantly, their minions) have little patience for a writer who doesn’t follow the rules.
Third rule, and this one goes for all agents, instant K if your novel is 100,000 words or more. That number is not firm, with some agencies fluctuating on either side, but the point is most publishers are unwilling to take a risk on unproven talent and won’t commit the resources for a large book.
Final rule, do not “carpet-bomb” a large number of agents at one time. A bunch of K’s might result if you do. Are you really that confident in your query letter? What if an agent responds with some really helpful advice about your book which will require time to revise? The best approach is to pick out 5-6 agents at a time and when you’ve heard back from them, pick out another batch.
My favorite MLB team is the Atlanta Braves. What about you? Did you realize that I’m holding a contest during the Challenge? No? You can read all about it HERE.