The querying process is one of the hardest steps for a writer to face — even more so than the daunting editing process. A finished manuscript, after all, is our baby, and it’s hard to kick your baby out into the cold, cruel world. And trust me, it can be a cruel world.
I’ve been in the midst of querying since February, with a few breaks in between when I’ve been overly busy. And I have been met with rejection after rejection, in some cases where my name couldn’t even be copied and pasted — I have a new appreciation of “Dear John” letters, ha!
However, I keep plodding along in hopes that my book will eventually find the right agent who will click with it and be as passionate about the project as I am (which is extremely important in your agent). Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to keep going, especially when you continue to receive form letters without any feedback — no idea if your pitch is failing; if it’s something to do with your book or your writing; or if the market is just over-saturated in the genre.
Still, no matter how disheartening, a writer must press on if they are to have any hope of finding an agent or publisher. Here are some of the things that have kept me going during the process.
#1 BE REALISTIC
I had some previous experience with rejection, which helped develop a harder skin. My fantasy novel Passage had been rejected a few times before I decided to shelve it in favor of Heritage Lost, which I felt was the more marketable novel. It is okay to picture success and instant luck, an agent snared! That’s all fine and good, but you need to remain largely realistic; if you don’t, you will be crushed by the querying process and more likely to give up. When I set out querying, I entered the process with very realistic expectations: There would be rejections and plenty of them.
Along with that realistic expectation of rejection, writers need to expect and accept impersonal rejections. Agents receive hundreds of queries so enters the form letter. These little things give you nothing, just that it wasn’t the right fit for the agent and that you should not give up. You will get a collection of these things, which brings us to Part Two:
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#2 DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
It is okay to get upset; that’s only human. Vent to a friend, your cat or dog, your paperback journal/diary, a pillow, etc. However, whatever you do, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT take your frustrations online and single out an agent in a blog post or social media. [ ] There is no quicker way to get blacklisted than doing that. Additionally, once you have been rejected, do not angrily respond back to agent: That is not going to get you anywhere! Just move on.
The quickest way to spiral and stop the querying process — and develop a chip on your shoulder — is to take things too personally. Agents don’t know you; they just know that your book is not a good fit for them. Take a deep breath. Do you really want someone who is not passionate about your book representing it? The answer is no! So let rejection and the form letters slide off you and keep going until you find that agent. Additionally, I’ve found it helpful to have a bit of a sense of humor about rejection letters, but then again, I have a rather dark sense of humor.
#3 WORK ON OTHER THINGS
While querying and waiting, start working on other projects. Currently, I’ve been working on a few short stories and on Heritage Lost‘s sequel. Writing is a positive, productive distraction during the querying process. It also allows for further development of the craft — so don’t just stop and wait! If you just stop, you will feel like you are stuck in the mud, which makes for some dark thoughts when the rejection letters come in.
#4 HAVE A PLAN
Finally, like a cylon, I have a plan. I know that throughout 2016 I am to submit to agents because that is what my writing business plan dictates. Since I have the plan and I aim to stick with it, I keep dusting myself off and sending query letters. After 2016 wraps up, I will re-evaluate where I am and determine if I should extend my agent search or query publishers directly — as my business plan commands. Self-publishing is another option my business plan allows. As technology forces the publishing industry to change and evolve, self-publishing is losing its stigma and is emerging as a more viable option. I should be gaining more knowledge of the pros and cons after I attend a series of writing sessions at GenCon in Indy this coming weekend, but I digress.
So when you are launching your querying process, sit down and consider a writing business plan: Nail yourself to a strategy. How long will you query for? If you continue to receive rejections, what is your next step? Do you shake up your approach or do you look to new projects/manuscripts? Is self-publishing acceptable? And so on…
I hope this will be helpful to fellow writers who are also trudging through the querying/submission process. Good luck everyone!
Guest post contributed by Smwright. The creator of B&I is a staff writer and copy editor at The Papers Incorporated, where she works on a variety of publications from weekly newspapers to monthly and bi-monthly magazines. She was also named the editor for Michiana House & Home.