Monday, January 10, 2011

The Query Game

So, I've decided to jump back into the query game.

I took a very long break to gather my emotions and reconsider my manuscript. I also took the time to work on several new projects. I love the new novel I'm writing and I'm in a wonderful position where I don't have to worry whether anyone else does.

Not so when it comes to my novel Spared. It turns out that as soon as you decide to seek publication, you will be in a constant state of worry as to whether or not someone will love your work, whether you're looking for an agent, a publisher, or your book has hit the shelf. Which, I've learned, can be very stressful to your mental health.

I debated for a while whether to post about my query process. It seems like a very big secret I shouldn't share. Several people who are much smarter and well-respected than I am have said it's not wise to share the terrible secrets of the long journey of rejection, since it can deter agents from wanting to represent you. I cowered in fear, believing that if I revealed that I had indeed been rejected by an agent, I would never be able to find an agent. But, let's be serious... Is there any one of you out there who believes I have never once been rejected? Come on.

So, I'll just say it: I've been rejected.

Shocking, I know. (And because I have my pride and I'm still petrified to admit that, I'll follow it by saying: BUT! BUT! I've also received requests and opportunities to resubmit. So, it's not all one big terrible losing fest.)

Phew, now, that's out of the way, I can tell you that I queried a small number of agents last May and took the entire summer to edit my manuscript based on that feedback. Then, I queried a small number of agents in September and took another month to make small edits (flesh out a B storyline that had fallen flat and revised the beginning to create a stronger hook.) I put the book aside and have not queried since then. To be honest, I was impatient, tired, and scared s***less to jump back in.

Not to mention that my manuscript is still out with agents who requested it during both of those rounds. Yes, my friends, that means people have had it since frickin' May. And that is why I no longer refer to that month in 2010 as May. It's known as frickin' May.

The process so far has been long because I query a small number of agents at a time. And I query a small number of agents at a time because worrying about whether or not someone loves my work is exhausting.

As it turns out, my process so far has been excruciatingly slow and is really just stringing along the emotional exhaustion over a longer period of time. So, I'm jumping back in the game with a little less trepidation than in the past. You probably don't particularly care, but I thought I should tell you.

So, how do you decide when to submit and when to hold back? Do you cast a wide net and see what bites? Or, are you like me? A scared little snail? This here's a place where you can share them fears, so let 'em loose friends...


  1. Oh, I'm a scared little snail, too. I think I have to feel that my project is ready. I've put off querying my last novel, but my next is about ready to query, and I feel tons better about it. So *big breath*, here's to jumping in!

  2. I think I did batches of 30, mostly because that was all I had the patience for, since everyone wants something different.

    I found the more I sent out, the less individual rejections bothered me, because I knew there were more fish in the sea!

    Best of luck - the right one is out there somewhere!

  3. I care! Also, I find this endlessly fascinating. :)

  4. I've also done small batches of queries, because the number of agents repping my genre isn't huge. It IS slower, but think of it this way--you haven't burned briges with this project by querying everywhere only to discover you needed more revisions. Small batches means you have room for "course corrections."

    I think the trick is to decide how many "irons in the fire" you want at any one time. For me, it's five. Each time I get a rejection, I query someone else. As long as you are getting a mix of requests in there, you should keep trying, is my feeling.

  5. Good luck hopping back in!! Interested to know how it goes from here! Keep us posted!

  6. We care a lot cause we are going through it too! I queried a ton in the fall--rejections!! So started a new book and will take my time before rushing to query. But I always share the stuff--makes others feel not so alone.

  7. Thanks for sharing this. You've captured so many of my emotions about the query thing. I think it's smart that you do it in small batches. My best feedback came from an agent who gave me a page of notes w/her rejection. If I'd queried in big batches, I'd have blown the opportunity to revise, but, er, now it sits revised, and I've no plans to jump back in w/it just yet. Snail. Snail. Snail. But also, I wanted to focus on getting the next one done.

    Best wishes for Spared!

  8. I'm sorry that your book has been rejected. It takes guts to even send the manuscripts out in the first place. I'm scared to send my work out and I haven't even finished the first draft of my short story yet.

    Keep going!

  9. I always want to rush, but I have to remind myself to take my time and make sure that what I have is as perfect as I can get it before I start querying again.

    Getting rejected sucks. I was rejected loads in my inital round (part of the reason might have been the age of my characters and the voice, which I've since changed). But, like you said, you survive and learn and move on.

    Also, I wonder if you want to nudge the agents who still have had your MS since May?

  10. I like working small batches - that way, I can tweak things as needed.

    And I agree with Lisa above - I'd probably send a nudge.

    Good luck :)

  11. Frickin' May, SWEET! ;)

    This is how Beth did it and I am doing it this way too, sorta. Five to ten every Monday.

    And about that May thing. Nudge, definitely. Dang it girlfriend, that's been eight months.

  12. WTG on putting your work out there, Melissa! I'm proud of you!!! I need someone to poke me with a hot stick to get me to query anyone...Maybe I should put that on my to do list for hot stick and find friend to poke me with it. :)

    I think I would send a SQ to the agents that have had your ms since May.


  13. Rejection is the intial stage of the game, I'm afraid, for us 'scared little snails' (how aptly described). Although I have written my way through my life, I have not, until now, achieved writing a book. I sent it to agents and publishers and the rejection slips piled up. Each hope dashed as the post arrived.

    Imagine my delight when my book was accepted .... not the end of the story. The crisis loomed and the publisher released those books chosen (not out there but back to the writers) having decided to concentrate on 'big names' that would bring in money.

    By this time, I had prepared a web site (as suggeted); a web site but no book. My wonderful web designer put it on as an ebook and then we resorted to making the books by hand - great fun. I thought that it had been good enough to be accepted, so let's go for it.

    I have since been to schools and libraries, doing workshops and talks and this I love. I do this free and sometimes sell a book or two. What is important to me is the feedback and that has been wonderful and from children unknown to me - or whom I have briefly met.

    I have now put it on and have begun to send it out to publishers again, and agents are to be targeted, too. I have had one new rejection and, I suppose that I am waiting for more.

    This post of yours is so honest and enlightening as we are all in it togehter. If you were already famous ... a different story, I think.

    When your book is taken up I am sure that we will all crack open the champers ... and become scared drunken snails??? I know that I still wonder if my book is truly fit to be out there.

    My hopes are with you for this year and thank you so much for your post.