The Joy of Querying

Posted: December 16, 2015 in Writing
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“Whaaaat?!” I hear you cry.  “But the querying process is so angst-inducing.  So demoralizing.  So fraught with soul-crushing rejection.”

Maybe.  But if you’re using “fraught” in a sentence, perhaps there’s your problem.

Rejection doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  It’s like wine-tasting.  You aren’t required to love every sip of wine you sample.  Maybe you won’t like any.  It doesn’t make you — or the wine — defective.  It means you aren’t a good match.  And if you can identify some clue as to why you aren’t a good match, then you’ve learned something and you’ll be able to make a more informed choice the next time.

Most agents have been doing this for years, and can make very informed choices.  They can tell just from from the color or the bouquet or the oiliness or the legs of a glass of wine if it’s likely to please them, and they will pass up far more glasses than they will actually drink.

(My dearest agents, lest you think I’m comparing you to winos, be assured I am not.  I know if you reject my manuscript, it is not because my book is poorly written or badly plotted.  It is because I use words like “lest.”  And because you have an educated palate.)

What I’m driving at is that you, as a querying author, can also develop an educated palate.  For choosing the right agent for you.  And for crafting your query.  Look for those little hints agents often include in their rejections: “I did not connect with the main character,” “The story didn’t draw me in,” “I was not as invested in the outcome as I would have liked.”  Not to say you have to retool your manuscript to “fix” it every time you get one of these comments.  But perhaps you can detect a pattern.

You may — hopefully — reach a point where you get more positive responses from your queries, on average, than you did when you first started.  You will realize you are on the right track; you are doing something right.  Either you’ve hit on the killer pitch, or your agent vetting has gotten better, or your opening pages are hitting all the right notes.  Whatever it is, you’ve discovered the Joy of Querying.

I’m finally at that point with my daughter’s and my manuscript, THE LAST PRINCESS.  I’m actually smiling as I hit send on those blind queries, now.  Because I can feel the tiny little potential in each one, that this might be the one that leads to our book-mate, our manuscript-match.  Our agent and advocate.

Rejections are inevitable.  If I wasn’t prepared to handle rejection, I should never have tried to write a book in the first place.  We just got rejected by our dream agent after tremendous encouragement and a substantial rewrite to her specifications.  I got rejection nailed.  But success … now that is something I am beginning to smell.

It has the bouquet of a fine wine.


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