Querying: A Necessary Evil

I totally understand the necessity of the querying process. It’s rough, but think about what would happen if we could just call up our top-choice agent and say:

“Hey, I write fantasy YA. Want to represent me?”

“Sure, sounds great. Send me your book. I’ll get it to the publishers and it’ll hit shelves next week!”

Barnes and Noble would be flooded with crappy, awful books that we would all have to avoid, and awesome books would get lost in the shuffle. Agents simply don’t have the time to give full attention to the hundreds of thousands of writers that want to be published. We have to prove ourselves, somehow. That being said, I hate, hate, hate querying.

I started querying two weeks ago. So far, I’ve sent query letters to 18 people. I’ve gotten 5 rejections, and 1 partial request. I’m still waiting to hear back from everyone else. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t realize that the over-thinking, the constantly checking my email, and the relentless waiting would get to me as much as it has. Staying positive is so hard. I’ve always been kind of a Negative Nancy, and, starting with the querying process, I’ve been determined to turn it around. I have a mantra that I’ve begun to repeat to myself in between prayers. “My work has value. Someone will love it. Good things will happen.”

This has been my querying journey (and let me tell you, I’m just beginning):

July-December 2014– Agent research. I hunted down a large group of agents that take fantasy YA and put them together in a long list of website links. I threw around query ideas, and had a long document with about six rough queries in a row. I also spent these six months editing BLS until I thought my brains would fall out! Revisions and more revisions, my friend. It really helps!

January 2015Finished edits for my book and started to play around with getting together a really solid query letter. After writing one that I thought was decent and informative, yet short enough, I sent it to about 5 beta readers to have a look. Unfortunately, none of them had queried before, but they all gave me useful advice. I edited it until I was really happy with it.

First Week of February 2015– I smiled at my polished query, said a little prayer, and sent out 5 letters over Monday and Tuesday. Within 24 hours, I had two rejections. Both were kind, saying that my work looked interesting/promising but it wasn’t right for their list right now. I was happy to see that they didn’t say “your letter had typos and your writing needs more work!” but I didn’t want to be too stubborn to see what was happening. Such quick rejections signaled, to me, that perhaps my letter wasn’t sharp enough. I studied my letter and decided that, while it was a good length and well written, it wasn’t catchy. It needed to be memorable, even if I had to take out important story elements to accomplish that.

Second Week of February 2015– After spending 5 days reimagining my query, and having it scoured by a few more beta readers, I felt confident in sending out a lot more letters. Between Monday and Friday, I sent out 14 queries, and along with three rejections, I GOT MY FIRST PARTIAL REQUEST!!!!!! I danced all around the office, and my boss, who was on the phone, got super weirded out, but that’s okay. Because AN ACTUAL AGENT actually wanted to read 5 CHAPTERS OF MY BOOK! I was thrilled and sent it out immediately. (No word yet, but that was Thursday and it’s only Monday- and a holiday at that- so I should give it some time).

Here’s my plan for the rest of the month:

Third and Fourth Week of February 2015– Send out another 6 queries to agents this week and perfect my 2 page synopsis, so that I can send out more queries to people who require those (I have 10 agents I really like picked out). With any luck, I’ll hear back from the agent who requested a partial, and she’ll want to read more! And hopefully, more agents will start requesting partials. I just started the process two weeks ago, and I know most agents say 4-6 weeks, so now is when I have to start being a patient person. (I just snort-laughed into my coffee as I wrote that. Patience is for suckers -or healthy, well-adjusted people, if you want to look at it that way. Punching bags, pizza and headaches are for people like me.)

I hope other querying writers agree with me when I say that there is majorly conflicting information on the internet with regards to queries. Some people say that if you don’t get 50% of the agents requesting more material than there’s something wrong with your letter/chapters. Others say that, because everything is so subjective, that anyone requesting material is a good sign. I’m going a bit out of my mind with all of this. Seriously. Everyone says querying is hard, but I didn’t think it would affect me at a base, cellular level. Fair warning to soon-to-be queryers. Better write some positive, inspiring messages to yourself on your bathroom mirror. I have. Here’s some good ones to get you started:

goodthings fallingapart plottwist

The last one is my favorite. It cheers me up every time! All the best to those who are querying like me. I always find it inspiring to look back at now successfully published writers’ blogs and see how they handled the querying process. They all had rejections as well. I enjoy Sarah J. Maas’s blog a lot. She has a few posts from her time querying. Take a look. 

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