Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Writer's Maze: What to Expect When You’re Expecting Responses to Your Query

Querying feels a lot like labor, the pain comes and goes, makes us narcissistic as we wait hopefully for good news about our baby. Though unlike labor – whose pain is so quickly forgotten once our beautiful baby lands in our loving arms – querying often leaves us empty-handed, exhausted and scared with nothing to show for our effort but a wounded ego and the inevitable question, “Why am I doing this?” And crying out to whoever will listen, “I don’t suck, right? I mean you would tell me if I totally suck, right?” To which, everyone replies, “No you don’t suck. Those agents just have really bad taste,” (Note: I do not believe this, but I appreciate the sentiment). 

If I sound like I know what I’m talking about, it’s because I do. A couple years ago, after working on my first novel for two years, I queried the $#8! out of it, and while I did get a surprising number of requests (for someone who had no idea what they were doing), my submissions resulted in the dreaded “You write well, but…” letters. Now from one agent that might seem like no big deal, but from five agents, I took that to mean I wasn’t quite ready.  

Well, it’s time to start querying again, but I come armed with a better idea of what will happen this time. Here’s what I’ve learned…

1.      Read every single blog, website and twitter (if they have one) of every single agent you’re going to query. Make a note of whether they’re responders or if they’re the “No response means no” type.

2.      Keep a calendar of which agent you queried and when. Mark on the calendar when you should hear back from each agent. If you haven’t heard back by that date, refer to your notes in case that agent is a responder, you may need to follow up (I hate to nudge!). It is not uncommon for queries to get eaten by spam filters. 

3.      Keep track of agents that respond with any type of personal note. Whether it’s a request or a rejection, or a revise and resubmit, agents are busy people and if they took the time to respond personally, that’s a connection (and a HUGE compliment). Remember them.

4.      Don’t send out a herd of queries in one day, querying is slow and time consuming. Be prepared to take your time, know who you want to query and why, and include why you chose that agent in your query. Agents like to know that you’ve done your homework.

5.      Don’t send to all of your top picks at once. Test the water with one or two agents and see how they respond and adjust your pitch, tactics, etc. if needed.

6.      Read blogs. Author blogs, trying-to-be-authors blogs, agent blogs, publishers blogs, success story blogs and anything else you can get your hands on to encourage yourself and keep your spirits high…

…because this is the hardest part. Way harder than writing the awesome novel, harder than eighteen hours of labor – this is your baby, and if you give up and don’t see this querying thing through to the end, then none of us will get to hold your baby in our arms and smell that sweet book smell or feel its crisp pages between our fingers, and none of us will get to hear the story you so desperately want to tell us.

And that is a real tragedy.  

Happy querying and please let me know when I can say “Congratulations on your new baby!”

 Check out the fabulous Ms. Heather Webb’s Blog, Between the Sheets, for more writing = birthing correlations. 

As always, I love comments and followers! 


  1. GREAT post, my friend.. And so, SO true. It is one of the most painful times ever. You and I are in exactly the same boat. I did the same thing you did a year ago-- in a state of complete naivety. I, too, got quite a few surprising requests. Then...the same. Love ur voice. Not quite ready. etc and so on..
    I love that you're going for it again. And I think we've both learned SO much since last year. We can hold each other's hands through this ordeal- along with our amazing SFWG--who constantly lift us up! :) We'll get there!

  2. Yay! I'm so, so , sooooooo ready to BE THERE!!!!! Ha ha ha. And you're right, awesome writer friends make all the difference.

  3. Yes, that's exactly the way it feels. LOL. Well said. And hang in there. We're there to hold you hand and pick you up, and then to celebrate with you. I've got the champagne ready.


  4. Such a great post! I'm about to stop a new round of queries, and this is great advice!

    1. D'Bella, You're such an amazing writer, you'll get snapped up in a flash. Let me know when to celebrate!

  5. Wonderful advice. Guess we'll be checking in with each other to see how the "testing the waters" went! xoxoxo Good luck. Your book freakin' rocks! An agent will surely love it. :)

  6. OMG! Thanks Heather. *blushing* That is such a HUGE compliment coming from you. Yours will be snapped up before your big toe even gets wet! LOL

  7. Great post! I may have to print this out and keep it by my computer to keep me sane in the next few months!

  8. Do it, Dawn! I want to see those books of yours in black & white and in my grubby little paws. And SOON! It is time.