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The Terrifying Leap into Querying
Posted: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 12:52 AM
Joined: 3/7/2011
Posts: 10

One of the things I have to do before the end of the term is write a synopsis of my current novel, come up with a list of six agents I want to query, and write a query letter. I am so terrified of this process I feel paralysed. A few years ago I had some disappointing experiences with a novel contest and a well-targeted agent who didn't even bother to respond to a second query asking whether he'd received my first letter. I know this happens all the time and I have to thicken my skin -- I'm just curious as to how people actually do it. It feels like throwing messages in bottles into an expanding ocean so filled with bottles there's no way anybody will ever see my message.

Michael R Underwood
Posted: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 4:20 PM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 74

I had to admit to myself that I'd be putting myself out there very intensely, and very often. If finding an agent is like getting married, then it's reasonable to admit that most of the agents you query will not be a good match. To accomodate for that, I created a wide list of agents for submission, not knowing exactly who if any of them would be interested in repping my novel (as it's a genre-mash), and dilligently queried them one or two at a a time, for months on end. Of course, you're w
Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 11:59 PM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 216

Gwen, here's my advice, and you can take it or leave it:

Trust that you have a good product.

When I use this word "product," I refer to your novel, of course. If you've written something marketable, if you've written it well, and if it follows the formula for your specific genre right down to the letter, then it all boils down to one of two things:

1) Do you have a good query letter? As in, do you have a hit-it-out-of-the-ballpark query?


2) Is the agent you query interested in your particular book?

One thing that I dislike intensely about the querying process -- and one thing to keep in mind, always -- is that it is so very subjective. Agents make their selection based on personal preference. You can be an exemplary writer with a top-notch novel, but if an agent doesn't want to read a YA historical set during the Great Depression, fuhgetaboutit.
Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2011 5:40 AM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 46

I've been there, Gwen, and I'm sure many of your favorite authors have as well. So, take heart in that. You're not alone, and good things can come out of the process.

Focus on the book, and see the query and synopsis as an extension of the book.

You will have to teach yourself the mantra "it's a business", and that will make it a little less scary down the line. You can prepare for these six agents in such a way that the process can be a little less harsh. Check out www.querytracker.net and www.agentquery.com to get you started on your agent search. Both are free unless, I think, you want additional services. Query Tracker is especially good because you'll see a representation of the timelines and types of responses that individuals receive. Pick agents in your genre, then check out their agency or individual websites for their submission guidelines.

It sounds like you'll want to choose agents who always respond (that way, if you don't get a response you'll know it's a lost query not a brush off) for your first go-round. After that, maybe you'll be more comfortable with the process and be able to branch out.

Best of luck.
Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2011 9:58 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 24

I've never been published, but I have queried. Yes, it hurts when you get rejected...but then you have to remember: if you love your story, someone else will.
Like Lisa said, it's all about your work. But I guess I'm saying it's more in your personal connection with your book. If you love it and if you truly enjoyed writing it, then I know someone else out there will fall in love with your characters, your world, and your plot just as much as you did.
Never forget that your work is wonderful. And just have a little faith. I mean...it's scary, taking that leap. But imagine if all those fantastic authors refused to take the leap? How bleak would this world be without them on our shelves?

Joe Selby
Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 8:34 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 30

When it comes down to it, querying/rejection is just the first of a long series of bludgeonings you'll have to endure. Then there's the partial request. The full request. The rejections. The revisions. The offer. The solicitation. The rejection. More revisions. All that hard work. Then they pass on our ms at the pub board.

It comes down to a simple choice on your part, do you want to be published or do you want to be safe? Querying, rejection, and heartbreak are all part of it (and boy does it sting, I have the rejections to prove it), but if you endure, if you persevere, you get to be Mohammed Ali talking trash and not Sonny Liston laying on the mat.
Alders Green
Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2011 8:04 PM
Joined: 4/28/2011
Posts: 1

Too true, all of these comments. The thing to remember most is that you want an agent who really believes in your book the same way you do. If not, then you could be stuck in an exclusive deal where your book sits for months or years on end.

If it were easy, everyone would do it. Rather than focusing on all the lost bottles in the sea, just remember this: all it takes is one. And even though you will read everywhere that you should tailor all of your queries--it is more important to nail the synopsis. You may flatter them but not be what they're looking for, but if your book interests them they will read it regardless of whether you know that Joe Novelist is in the agent's stable. In fact, if you talk about Joe Novelist in your query, the agent may be fed up with Joe Novelist at the time, and dismiss the reference anyway.

Bottom Line: make the product good and get it to as many hands as you can. Don't worry about rejections. Think of it this way: for every book you write and query you send out, there are thousands of agents out there YOU didn't send anything to.
Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 5:25 PM
Joined: 4/6/2011
Posts: 31

Like running, the more you do it, the less it hurts. I am on the fourth iteration of my query, with 20-some rejections so far, and the "thank you for your interest in our agency, but...." emails no longer ruin my day. It takes a while to develop the psychic armor needed to write for any audience larger than oneself, but I find that knowing that there are others in the same boat helps. There's lots of supportive people out there!
Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2011 6:45 AM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 216

Well …

I put the querying on hold for the moment because I want to see if there are going to be substantive changes in publishing. I keep hearing scary figures thrown around, my least favorite being that by 2016, the publishing industry will only release 100 books, and these will only be celebrity books, picture books and the occasional high concept book. If that’s true, then querying my particular novel is a rather fruitless endeavor, and I’d be better off self-publishing or querying a small publisher directly.

Obviously when 9:10 books don’t earn their advances, there’s a problem with the system. Either the books are being priced too high per unit, advances are too large, or agents and publishing houses are not selecting the kind of reading material that appeals to readers. I think that the so-called “digital revolution” only underscores this.

Posted: Sunday, May 1, 2011 9:07 AM
Joined: 4/6/2011
Posts: 31

Of course there are going to be changes. I think it's going to take years to shake out to a new state of normal. I doubt the "old" model is going to wither away entirely, certainly not that fast. There's something like 300,000 books published every year just in the US.

Publishing has always been a gamble. The joke 'How do you make a small fortune in publishing?' 'Start with a large fortune' has been around for a long time. There has always been a low ratio of success to total effort in creative fields. (Which makes me wonder how we're going to define success in the new landscape.)

Query small presses and investigate self-pub if those seem like the best route for your book, but don't wait until things settle down. They're going to continue changing for a while, I expect.


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