As of the first week of September I have officially started querying my first YA novel! I’ve been working on it for about 2 years and it’s a project I’m very proud of. I’m hoping it will eventually make a life for itself beyond my laptop.
Now for the most agonizing part: querying.
For those of you who haven’t queried yet, it’s a lot of “hurry up and wait.” You spend months and years working on a book, then a query, then a synopsis, finally send it out, and then nothing. For days/weeks/months you wait to get a response from an agent. Some agents don’t even respond unless they’re interested, so then it’s a painfully slow wait to see if maybe they will be interested at that 30 day mark or if it’s the dreaded and annoying no-reponse-means-no. Even a form rejection letter is better than nothing, but still, sometimes you have to sit on your hands and watch your email box for weeks before you can do anything.
So why not just keep querying you ask? Well, it’s best to query in small batches. Yes, it sucks to wait, but it’s worth it. Depending on the feedback you get actually says a lot about your query letter.
If you get asked for more material, or even a very personalized rejection letter, you’re doing something right. The query’s job is to grab the attention of the agent, so if you’ve got them hooked enough to read more of your story then you know you’re on the right track. (Not everyone who asks for material ends up wanting to represent you though, but again, it’s a start!) A personalized rejection letter also means you got their attention, but that they don’t think it will fit their list. It’s the best kind of rejection, even if it hurts a little at first.
But let’s say you send out 6 query letters and get no responses or only form rejection letters. At this time I’d suggest overhauling the query letter. It’s annoying, but it’s necessary. Think of it like a back of the book summary, it needs to get people’s attention. Test your out on your family, co-workers, and critique partners. If you’re a member of Sub it Club or SCBWI, then you can have other writers give you help as well. Read successful query letters and hooks. The hook is that one sentence that grabs you from the get-go, and for me it’s the hardest thing about a query letter! Writing is hard, and writing query letters is no exception. Do your homework, don’t be afraid to scrap your initial idea, and find writers and people you trust to support you in the process.
Remember, writing is art. Some people are going to love it, some will be indifferent, and some will never read it in a million years. That’s life, and that’s the industry. Rejections are not necessarily a reflection on your writing, remember that! Don’t give up after a few rejections, all of us have them, and if you’re lucky to get a personalized letter, keep it and read it once and a while. They keep you going. Trust me.
Querying a “new” book is such a mixed bag. It’s exciting and terrifying. I tell people I’m querying and they act like I’m getting published tomorrow, when in reality it’s starting a long process of hard work, rejection, and small victories. I’ve already gotten one rejection letter that I’m happy to say was personalized and kind. It’s still a rejection, but there’s going to be many more where that came from, and all I can say is I’m crossing my fingers that this journey will be worth it in the long run.