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.