Queries & Submissions Part 1: Just You Wait!
If you’re a working writer—and by working I mean you sit at the keyboard and pound stuff out on a regular basis whether you’re being paid to do it or not—then you are either gearing up to query/submit or you’ve been down that road and know the joys and heartaches associated with it. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here and put out a how-to (but I have included relevant links at the end of this post). What I am going to do is offer the Naked Truth about the process from the point of view of yours truly, who has endured it and lived to tell the tale. I’ve learned a lot about what can happen and why we authors need to keep our heads in the game and our fingers on the keyboard.
Naked Truth #1
Querying requires patience, and lots of it.
So you’ve finished your manuscript and it’s time to send it out into the Universe. You slave over your query letter, force members of your critique group to read and re-read it until it is perfect, then you research agents and/or editors until your eyes cross, because heaven forbid you should send your query to someone who used to specialize in romance but now accepts only horror because his wife just divorced him and anything romance-related gives him gastritis and makes his ulcers bleed.
After your research is complete and you’ve sent the queries out, then the hard part begins: waiting. You will wait, and wait, and wait. And wait. And while a short, professional follow-up letter is not grounds for immediate expulsion from the Query Club, it isn’t exactly appreciated either. Many agents, in fact, have a notice on their websites telling authors, “Hey, we receive a million queries a day. Don’t call us, we’ll call you. When Hell freezes over. And maybe not even then.” They’re busy, I get that. I truly do. I even feel kind of sorry for them, never seeing the bottom of their in-basket. But even a form letter saying, “Thanks, but no thanks,” is less disheartening than being ignored. The problem is, you don’t know if you’re being ignored or if something happened and your query/submission never arrived. (Did this happen to me? Oh, yes, it did!) Of course you don’t know this early on because you’ve been—say it with me—waiting, and waiting, and waiting.
Naked Truth #2
Submitting one’s work is exhilarating and moves . . .
at . . . a . . .snail’s . . . pace.
Those query letters have gone out, and after weeks and months of waiting, of biting your nails and checking your email every ten minutes “just in case,” you see that a response has arrived from someone. At last! Advice: Brace for the rejections. Some will be form rejections (still better than never receiving a response at all), and some will be thoughtful letters written by kindhearted agents and editors who have taken the extra time out of their crazy busy worlds to encourage and uplift, even when the bottom line is still a “no.” But those rejections are great because they’re coming from people who have nothing to lose by telling you the truth. So when they have good things to say, rejoice. Those rejections are positive. Remember, they didn’t have to say anything at all.
So what about those times when the editor or agent has pushed past the query and asked to review your work? They want chapters, or even the entire manuscript! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! You chortle in your joy. (My apologies to Lewis Carroll). You celebrate! You bask in the glow of a well-written query letter. You send your work for their review. And then guess what you do next? You wait. And wait. And wait.
And *sigh* wait.
Naked Truth #3
Waiting around? Whatcha gonna show for it?
The one good thing about all that waiting around is that you have plenty of time to keep on writing. Send that little darling of yours out into the Universe, wave goodbye and let her go. Be proud that she grew wings. Then sit down at your keyboard and get back to work, because this scenario can only play out like this: Your work will find a home, or it won’t.
Yep. That’s it, Buttercup. After all that work and crying and gnashing of teeth, the results aren’t complicated. But consider: If your work does find a home, that’s awesome. Do a happy dance. AND, if it finds a home and you’ve been hard at work on something else, maybe that something else will find a home in the same place. Only you didn’t have to work so hard on placing the second one, or even the third one, because they rode on the strength of the first. Cool, right?
But what about the other scenario? What if it doesn’t find a home? Well, if it doesn’t, you still have the new work—you know, the one you wrote while the first one was winging around looking for a place to land. Even though you’re staring down the query/submission process again, it won’t be so tough this time around. You’ve already done it once and survived. You know the ropes now, and they’ll be easier to handle because you’ve developed a few calluses that made you stronger.
Naked Truth #4
The only things that can stop you are self-doubt and a blank page.
This one is important. Really, really, REALLY important. Agents and editors are not your enemies. They are hardworking professionals just like you, and just as an agent will decline representation of an author whose work she doesn’t have a place for, and an editor will decline acquisition of work that doesn’t move her, neither does an author want to place her work with someone who doesn’t believe in it. So trust that the right person will come along when the time is right and don’t despair if it doesn’t happen on your preferred timetable. Instead, go through the steps. Be patient. Wait. Keep learning. Keep writing. The only things that can stop you are self-doubt and a blank page, and you control both. You can do it. You’ve got this.
So get outta here and get back to work. (Uhm, well, after you put yourself in the Buff. Please leave a comment first. Then get back to work!) 🙂
Have you jumped into the process of querying and submitting your work for review? How does it make you feel? Exhilarated? Nervous? What are you working on now and what are your goals for that work? Do you have a plan?
As promised, here are some great links to sites that can walk you through the how-to’s of querying:
Thanks for hanging out with me. See you next week for more of the naked truth about . . . Queries & Submissions Part 2: The Good, the Bad, & the Lost in Space.
Enjoy your week –