If you’re a writer, and have ever planned or even thought about publishing, you’ve likely heard the infamous Q word.
Now, deep breaths and swallow that tang of panic and dread in the back of your throat and stay with me.
When I first started, querying was terrifying. Then I did some research, practiced, and with the help and encouragement of an author friend, I sent out my first wave of queries. After writing my whole life, and two years working on Ember, I was finally doing something! I was finally pursuing my dream.
Now that I look back, I wish I hadn’t sent those queries.
I’m glad I took action and started the publishing process myself, but I wish I had waited a while longer, and really practiced before I sent those first queries. Honestly, they’re embarrassing. Even though I did my research and had some help, I can clearly see why they were passed over. Not to mention, my story wasn’t nearly at the place it needed to be, which I kind of knew at the time, but was overeager that my author friend believed in me, and here was my chance!
I regret sending them without more time, practice, and revision, because now those are opportunities I’ve wasted. I didn’t understand at the time that once an agent has passed, you can’t query them with that manuscript again, no matter how drastic the changes. And most agencies, you can’t query more than one agent within that agency.
I learned quickly that there aren’t infinite agents out there, just waiting to fight over my book.
Now most of you writers are familiar with the roller-coaster ride of querying. Sometimes it feels less like a roller coaster, and more like an endless, rotating paper shredder (ouch).
This week has been one of those. I had been corresponding with an agent for two months, and was very hopeful that things would work out, but unfortunately, they didn’t. After going through that, facing the query process all over again feels a little like standing at the bottom of Mt. Everest. Naked. With no climbing gear.
Not to mention I’m still not great at queries, and hate the thought of my not-so-great query being written off before agents can ever get to read my writing. That aspect of queries has taken a lot of getting used to–how much sheer chance and luck it requires, and how very subjective it is.
I think that is also the most frustrating part of the process–how little I can control, and how little of it actually has to do with my writing. Maybe the agent doesn’t like how the query reads, or they just signed a YA fantasy the day before. Maybe they woke up and their car wouldn’t start, and they were late, and spilled coffee on their favorite shirt. Maybe your writing is really good, but dystopian/science fiction/vampire slayer memoir just isn’t selling right now.
Sometimes, it feels a little like carrying my heart around, asking someone, anyone, to love it like I do. But I have to remember, that this isn’t personal. For me, my book is my heart. For them, it’s business.
This is the hardest part about being in any creative industry–not letting the industry affect you. It’s okay for rejections to hurt, but remember that everything is subjective, and there are a dozen other factors that go into that rejection, some of which have nothing to do with your writing at all. Someone said that they love rejections, because each one is like a big sign, saying “Not here. Maybe over there,” pointing you that much closer.
It’s hard not to let it affect me, because I want it so bad. This is my life, my dream, and the possibility that this might not ever happen terrifies me sometimes.
But then, little things like a comment on my post saying, “I totally need to read this book” or my author friend telling me that there are big things ahead for me, or a fellow writer my age who is just as new to this as I am, getting signed by an agent.
It does happen–it will happen.
In the mean time, I’ll keep writing these stories for me, because I love them–and hope that one day, I’ll get to share them, and you can love them as much as I do.
20 thoughts on “The Q Word”
I’m in the query trenches with you, Victoria. If you haven’t checked out QueryShark, you should. The best place for querying advice on the internet (IMO). And it’s author, Janet Reid, also posts lots of helpful advice and encouragement on her blog. Again, if you’ve never visited, please do:
Janet Reid: http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/
All the very best to you! 🙂
We just have to keep pressing on! Thank you! Those are both good resources. 🙂
oh, man – I so understand what you’re saying! it’s stressful, demeaning & just heart-wrenching. I, too, sent things out too early, but i don’t know that was absolutely a bad thing because every time I’d get the same old, “your book isn’t for me, but art is subjective… ” letter (too depressing to even count how many) & after i got over licking my wounds, I’d say to myself, well – my book obviously isn’t ready, & I’d go back to the revision process & the manuscript was always better for it!
i guess i was lucky, because after beating my head against the agent wall, i was lucky enough to be accepted by a publisher & was able to forego any stinky old agent’s 10%…
writing is a tough business! 🙂
Yes! Absolutely. It is true that querying (and rejections) have improved my manuscript so much, but it’s hard not to let it get to you. Haha, that’s great though 🙂 Yes it is! Thanks for reading!
I’m kinda the same way, all of the queries in the past I’ve sent, I now regret because my query letter still needed a ton of work. And while I’m going like crazy on my new story, when I sit down to work on my query for my other novel right now, my mind just goes…blank. It is so frustrating.
By the by, if you’re interested and haven’t found them yet, the forums at agentqueryconnect.com are really awesome for getting peer feedback on your query 🙂
Sometimes it helps to take a break. I’ve taken a break on this manuscript for the two months while I was talking with the agent, and now I’m starting to get back into it, though it’s nowhere near as easy as it is on my current WIP. Thank you! I will have to check it out, though I am wary of query critiques as in my experience, they more often lead to me just overanalyzing. Sometimes, too much help and advice can be a bad thing 🙂 Thank you!
I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you’re right, too much can be detrimental…
Why not self-publish?
This -> / “how little I can control, and how little of it actually has to do with my writing.” \ <- has everything to do with the difficulty of an Industry.
It's even harder to know what it's like to be around some of those already within the Industry… to see them in the background, just being themselves (like you express through what kind of day they have affecting who they sign) – but it becomes startling obvious that these Creative Industries have very little to do with actual talent, skill, passion, anything that makes art, /art/ to a creative mind.
Instead, this particular group (the "industry", especially the american market) focus most of their energy on creating justifications for resources and $$$ consolidation. On creating stop-gaps and fences around audiences, on maintaining some kind of industry status-quo, but at the same time generating so much random crap created only to convince as many people as possible that they are NEEDED, WANTED, and deserve the control, deserve the power to decide because they understand the MARKET and the WAY THINGS ARE (readers digest, etc.).
It's something I think about, when I try and work on Queries, researching and what-not. I haven't actually sent one out ever. I don't want to. Part of it is that I'm not ready, another part is that I don't want to~
It might be different when I actually have a novel, complete and wrapped up with a neat sparkly bow… but then I'll ask myself (at that time), why not self-publish?
If it's about making $$$$, can I not do that with self-publishing? I mean, the answer might be yes. I don't know where I'll be. And who knows, maybe I'll send out some Queries. I really dislike the platforms available currently for self-pub, so I'll probably wait that out. Luckily, there's plenty of places to share PDFs, documents, etc. If a novel is about being read because it wants to be shared, then shouldn't it be made available – free – when it is ready?
Great post, it's interesting to hear the perspective of someone who has already sent out queries. 🙂
I have considered self-publishing before, but don’t think it is a good fit for me as of now. Like you said, I am not really a fan of the options that are available right now. So for now, though it can be incredibly frustrating, I am still pursuing traditional publishing. Thank you for reading 🙂
Understandable, best of luck to your path on trad. publishing! Sometimes, the most frustrating things are the most rewarding. 😉
You’re definitely a good writer, and you have so many wonderful stories to share 🙂 There is an element of luck in it. I think in some respects it’s like acting or modeling. It also helps if you know someone. If you were Stephen King’s son I bet you would have an easier time, lol. I think at least one of his kids is a writer. We all have to learn somehow, and thank you for sharing your experience so others can learn from it. Try to keep your head up. When you succeed it will just make it that much more amazing 😀
Thank you so much! Yes, I agree. Haha, I wish! Yes, it will be, and that’s what I keep trying to tell myself. Thanks!
You are an amazing writer, and I’m sorry the deal didn’t work out 😦 But you’re an amazing writer, and you will get signed someday soon for sure—and then all those agents who rejected you will be very, very sorry they did not sign with you! Best of luck querying!
Thank you so much! That’s very sweet of you 🙂 I am trying to keep telling myself that. Thanks!
I know there are lost opportunities when you query too early or you query isn’t good enough etc, but I also think those failed queries are learning experiences. Do you think you would’ve gone through your MS again to edit without those initial query attempts? I also don’t think anybody’s first queries are as good as they could be no matter how much we work on them. And, just remember, if you can’t get this first MS published, you can always move on to another. With that second you’ll have all that info you learned from the first. Then when you have published a bit, you can go back to Ember and try again. With your publications, more doors will be open to you than right now. At least, that’s what I’ve been told. Sorry if others have already said this, I didn’t have time to read the above comments. 🙂
Yes, absolutely!! Thanks so much for this, it sheds a new light on things. I have also felt that maybe the timing of Ember is off, but I am convinced that it will be published one day. Maybe Nightfire will be the one that starts my career, and Ember will come later. Thank you 🙂
Most “first” novels that are published are often the writers seventh from their bulging draw. Don’t be disheartened and never take it personally, as you said there are many reason for their decisions. An editor may fall head over heels in love with you book, but the business department makes the final decision.
Very true! Thank you 🙂
Sounds like you’ve got a pretty good perspective on how the system works – which sometimes is only marginally.
But as I read your post, it made me realize that what we’re doing in sending queries is pretty much the same as when we have books on the store shelves out there and are hoping readers will pick them up and take them home. You never really know why something appeals to one of them and not the other – or why it might in the morning but not in the afternoon.
So all we really can do is make it as difficult to put down as possible. Yeah: Make.
The word I like to keep in mind – the same as at the start of a story – is: compelling.
If we make them compelling, if we make them impossible to stop reading … well, then we have a better chance. And, unfortunately, that’s all. And that’s as long as the cat on the other side of the room doesn’t knock over a flower pot or something, of course.
Haha 🙂 I like the word compelling. I know what I have to do, I just don’t know exactly how to do that. I’ll still keep plugging away, and hope that one day I’ll find the one that works 🙂 Thanks for commenting!