Monday, November 7, 2011

Officially querying

Hello gentle readers, and a "sorry it's Monday but Friday's only four days away" to you as well. While most of you are deep in the NaNo trenches, I am deep in the querying trenches. I officially started sending out query letters for my latest project last week, and have been busily updating my spreadsheet of agents as I receive responses back. It's taken me this long to determine whether or not I actually wanted to talk about querying, but it's not fight club, so Tyler Durden probably won't show up at my house in the middle of the night if I post this.

First, and most importantly, it's a hell of a lot harder than I thought it would be. I knew there would be rejection, gentle readers (a word I'm growing to hate). I had prepared myself. I knew it was an uphill battle, that I would have to fight for agents to read my query, and fight harder for them to request additional materials, and fight even harder to find the agent who would be crazy enough willing to champion my work to an editor. And I knew the difficulties didn't end there, either. I had mentally prepared myself for all of this, to receive those form rejections, to obsess over a comma in an email, to read and read and re-read my work until I couldn't remember how to spell "the" anymore.

What I didn't anticipate - and what's been kicking me in the butt for the last week and half - is how it would feel to be rejected by agents on my carefully cultivated list of submissions. It wasn't just that an agent was passing on my material, it was that I'd spent hours/days/weeks pulling together a list of agents I thought were best suited to represent my work. They were the agents that work in my genre, that rep other authors with titles similar to mine, and if anyone was going to get my weird little story they would be the ones. So getting a pass from someone like that is almost like being rejected by the genre itself. It makes me question myself and my work, which is what I was trying to avoid all along.

But before you cry for me, Argentina, you should know I'm a fairly resilient person. Acknowledging the problem is the first step on the road to recovery, and my focus going forward is to keep honing my craft and keep cultivating my list. For the most part I don't know why they pass on my work, so I can't psych myself out with imagined reasons why they don't want to represent me. All I can control is my own effort, which is much better spent improving my writing and not crying over pints of Ben and Jerry's (who should totally make a Chardonnay flavor. Two birds, one stone).

Where are you in the writing process? Are you also querying your work? How do you handle your query journey?


Tere Kirkland said...

The only thing that got me through the querying process was focusing on the things I can control, as you said, and throwing myself into a new book to distract myself.

Good luck with your querying! Maybe this is a good time of year for it since everyone is busy Nanoing. ;)

Laurel Garver said...

It's a notoriously subjective business which makes it all the more aggrivating. There is so much you can't control. I've done so many course corrections with the novel I've queried it's taking forever, so I don't especially recommend my method.

I think the key thing to remember is that YOU are not this project. This represents one effort in your lifetime. As long as you don't let setbacks now derail you, you will have continued projects to put out there.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Querying was a disheartening process. I don't know which type of rejection was hardest: a flat no, a request for a partial/full followed by a no, or a "I considered this for a long time, but ultimately decided it was too close to another client's project."

But resiliency is a good thing -- and DO keep that last kind of rejection in mind. Sometimes you might research agents that handle works TOO similar to your own. You can't compete with the clients they already have.

Try branching out to agents who handle a wide variety of genres.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm going to be querying soon. I'm trying to stall it as long as possible. For me, I'm scared of signing with the wrong agent. That almost happened to me with my last book. Fortunately I decided not to sign with the agent. Instead, I put the book on the backburner and will revisit it soon.

Querying is never fun. Knowing what to expect at least makes it slightly less painful.

Good luck, Jem.

Lola Sharp said...

First, as you know, I've never queried, so I can't pretend I know exactly how you are feeling. But I can empathize and offer hugs.
I can also tell you that EVERY published author has felt the sting of rejection (and eviscerating reviews)...even after they've been multi-published and/or best seller listed. This publishing business is a tough racket. I'm not sure we can ever fully be prepared.

Also, as you know, I've read your query letter and your first chapter and it's good (up to the point I read). Sincerely, it's good. The writing is clean, the voice feels authentic and I STILL remember it clearly. (and I often don't remember published books I read last week from best seller lists...they are not frequently memorable.)

I think yo have to keep at it (querying) and, most importantly, WRITE YOUR NEXT BOOK.
Because if this one you have out on query doesn't garner a huge 3-book deal, perhaps your next book will. And then you can hand your current novel over to your publisher and they'll love it.
I can't tell you how many authors I know of who've sold and then later sold a previous book they couldn't before.
Sometimes it's because of timing...what's hot and what isn't selling. Sometimes it's that a book straddles genre lines and they don't know how to market it for a brand new author with no sales/following. But, later, after they've built a fan base ('author brand', if you will) , the publishers will then happily take the risk.

(I hope that made sense)

Anyway, *hugs*, I'm glad you're resilient, because I won't let you give up!...and thank you for sharing your experience and honest feelings with us. <3



I have a stack of letters from agents and publishing companies in my desk drawer. I don't call them rejection letters. I call them "keep trying" letters, because in some cases, those are the actual words used.

So I keep trying.

When I need a break from querying, I take a break. After years of on-and-off querying, I'm a bit detached: If an agent/editor reads my work and wants to publish it, great! But if no one seems interested in any of my projects, and I'm happy with what I write, I'm O.K. with "no".

And I'll keep writing anyway.... Good luck!

JEM said...

Thanks to everyone for the encouraging words! I might be printing them out and posting them on the wall in my office for support...:)