February 3, 2012

Are you a new author just starting to query?

Because I have something to say to you, if you are. And if you're not, well...congratulations. Your self-esteem must be in fantastic shape because you're not being told "No" every. Single. Day. Just imagine opening your email and receiving a form letter that says something like, "No. Your story's been told, I don't like your characters, and your hair looks really terrible today."

So anyway. Here's what happens when you query...

You create a query letter. The query letter is supposed to entice the agent to read your book. It's your first shot at getting the agent's attention. You know the quick summary that's inside the flap on books? That's what you're shooting for. That summary makes the reader want to buy your book. Same idea. You want the agent to want to read more. Trying to condense your own 60,000+ word novel into a 250 word summary is pure hell. I know it. I'm sorry. But those are the rules. Don't be one of those people who thinks they're too cool for rules. This is not the place for it, I promise. Hey, I'm all for rule-breaking in the right circumstances, but NOT HERE. (If you don't follow the rules, you might end up on here, and I will giggle at it. People amaze me.)

Anyway. You send your query letter in individual, personalized emails to literary agents that you'd like to work with. (But RESEARCH each agent first. Make sure the agent your querying represents the genre your book falls into. Don't waste your time, or the agent's, by sending your awesome young adult fantasy novel to an agent who only represents nonfiction. You'll look dumb, and the agent will roll her eyes at you and call you names through her computer screen.)

Then, the rejections start rolling in. Because that's what agents do. They live to say, "No." (I am TOTALLY kidding. I get the impression that rejections wear on agents after a while too.)

But every now and then, you get one that says yes. It sounds like this....

"Great sample pages, Megan! I'd really love to read the rest." Actual response. My very first positive response from an agent, which sent me into my very first "Oh crap an agent actually wants to read my book!" panic attack.

For anyone who doesn't know, here's how it generally works:
  1. You send a query letter.
  2. If the agent likes the query, she'll ask to read a partial...which might be the first three chapters, or the first 50 pages, or the first 2500 words...it varies.
  3. If she likes the partial, she'll ask to read the full manuscript. 
  4. And THEN, if she likes all that- she'll offer representation...meaning she'll take the book to the publishing houses. (If it makes you feel better, agents have to go through their own querying process when they submit books to editors. So they get told "No" a lot, too.)
But anyway- my whole point in writing this- when you start receiving rejections, you're going to have a moment where you think, "My book sucks. I'm a terrible writer. I should quit."

DON'T DO THAT. They're not even reading your book, silly! They're reading your query. So, well, yeah...it is possible that your query sucks. But I think it's a lot easier to face the job of rewriting your query than it is to deal with rewriting your book. (And- if you're unsure of your query- there are all kinds of sites where you can post your query letter for others to critique. Querytracker.net, verlakay.com, ladieswhocritique.com, agentqueryconnect.com, absolutewrite.com, just to name a few.

For my young adult fantasy novel, there are roughly 300 agents I can query (according to querytracker.net) for representation. Three hundred! And I only need one agent. So if I give up and stop querying too early, I might miss out on that one perfect agent who loves my book as much as I do. So yes, querying is hard, but do it anyway. It'll be worth it, I promise.

1 comment:

  1. AGREE, AGREE, AGREE! I'm in the query trenches as well. You have a fantastic attitude! Keep it up!

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