When you begin the query process, it’s so exciting. You have written a book, fine tuned every page, researched agents, you have your query and synopsis perfect…in other words, you are ready to go! So you prepare the email and click send.
Then you wait.
This is where we all part ways and take our own journey. Some of us get full requests in our first handful of tries – I’ve even read a tale of a writer who signed with an agent and sold the book all within forty-eight hours. The rest of us though, myself included, are not so fortunate. Our query road is long and hard paved, tiring our ankles and feet with jagged rocks and mountainous terrain. There are a lot of quiet rejections, there’s a lot of self doubt, and there are a lot of revisions to be had.
Don’t let this discourage you. You are not any less valuable, and you definitely should not give up. You are not alone. I stopped reading my query number on the excel spreadsheet once I passed a hundred. This particular manuscript has been through the ringer. So what keeps me going? Pure blind faith that one day it will get picked up. Here’s why.
Looking for an agent is tricky business. It’s like trying to align your horoscope with the perfect partner. You are not only looking for someone who can sell your book, you are looking for someone to represent you as an author…someone who can’t stop reading your book once they start because they love it so much; someone who has room on their schedule for everything you need, whether it be editorial guidance or a contract negotiated; someone who has a contact inside a publishing house that is looking for your type of story; someone who isn’t already working to sell a piece that is similar to yours…the list goes on. A lot of the magic things you are looking for can’t be researched . You have to find the best looking fit(s), and go for it.
I have queried an agent that felt like the perfect fit, only to find another two months later that also felt like the perfect fit. What do you do then? Send to them all…tactfully. Here’s what I mean.
Submitting to one agent at a time would be a lengthy process. Most agents say they will respond if interested within four to six weeks (this is a broad generalization, always check your agent’s preferences). This would only leave room to submit to, at best, a couple dozen agents per year. However, sending to every agent simultaneously wouldn’t be the best approach either. You leave no room for feedback that may improve your query or story. So what’s the recommended approach?
Query a small handful at a time, somewhere between six and ten is what I stick to. My initial query was horrible, my first chapter slow, my action started late, my synopsis was too long – these are all things I was told (in other words) via rejections with feedback that have ultimately made my submission package the powerhouse it is today. My book is represented so much better in my query, and I’ve cut over two and a half chapters from the opening, which left me room to introduce a whole new point of view character. If I sent to everyone on my wish list early on, I would have no one to send to now, and no chance of getting this book on the market.
If you’re a query veteran, keep on trucking, and if you’re new to the realm, welcome – you are supported, and we encourage you. Give it everything you can. This writer’s life isn’t the easiest, but it is rewarding. One day you’ll look back on all the times you almost gave up and be happy you didn’t.
It’s important to remember that your path is your own. The presence of success in another’s life doesn’t mean you are late, or you failed…it just means you aren’t there yet. But one day…