Friday, June 28, 2013

Secrets of the Query Process


It’s something that’s near and dear to my heart. I’ve been through it twice. Both of my agents were awesome…but life happens and each of them left their positions. Yes, I was agent-orphaned twice. 

So now, I’m querying for the third time. Back in February I was mortified to admit it. I’d made it to “the next level.” I’d been agented. To use a Chutes & Ladders analogy, I’d climbed up a bit of the ladder, only to slide down the chute at the next turn. I kept my querying secret…but gradually, as time passed, I’ve been wanting to share my story more and more. And of course, through twitter contests when you’re pitching like crazy, it’s hard to keep it a secret (“why is she pitching? Doesn’t she have an agent?”)

So here’s what I’ve learned from the Query Process:

  1. It’s truly subjective. The agent may list your genre on her wishlist, but it’s still may not be the right fit. It’s not you.
  2. Or it could be you…the book may need more revision…or better pacing…or something hard to pinpoint. You can spend years analyzing a rejection. But don’t. Cry to your CPs, dust yourself off, and keep on keeping on.
  3. Agents are people, too. Sometimes they are busy. Or on vacation. Or dealing with their lives. In your communication with them be polite, be professional, and above all follow submission guidelines. And let the process work.
  4. It’s okay to send a thank you note for a Full or Partial request rejection.
  5. Trust your gut…if it doesn’t feel right, don’t force it. This might be the hardest lesson...because you want it to feel right sooooo badly.
  6. I’ve heard of authors arguing or pushing back rudely to agents who gave them a personal, helpful rejection. Don’t. Please don’t. Because you ruin it for all of us if they decide to stop giving personal feedback.
  7. I’m a scattershot queryer. That doesn’t mean I don’t do my research. But I don’t overthink it. If it looks like my book might be in someone’s wheelhouse, I query. But I’ve done a lot of querying, I trust my query letter and my ability to be professional. I’m not bragging, but my request rate is at 42% this morning. Okay, I’m bragging, I’m proud of that request rate, but all that really means is my rate of rejections on Full manuscripts is higher than someone with a lower request rate.
  8. Those can sting. But again, back to #1. It’s truly subjective.
The thing that surprised me most is the number of people I’ve met with similar stories. People who’d been agented before and were querying again for a variety of reasons. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to share my story…to tell someone out there who might be the same situation that it’s okay. You’re going to be okay. It’s not the end of the world.

I’ve seen the ups and downs of the query process. I’ve had “the call” twice. It’s an amazing feeling that I hope to have again. But you know what else I’ve learned? It’s not the end of the world. This is a business…you have to treat it that way. As long as you conduct yourself in a professional manner, and don’t burn bridges, you’ll be fine. 

On a really positive note…my first picture book is finally out. Published with small press 4RV Publishing, it’s been under contract since before I signed with either of my agents. I’m doing a Goodreads contest here:

So tell me about your querying process?


SA Larsenッ said...

Your #1 is, by far, the most important element to remember when entering the query round. It truly is subjective. Period. It's also timing, the market, and even people's moods. And gosh, I totally agree with you about humbly receiving suggestions from agents.

Heather Kelly said...

well, I think you know my querying story. I queried a little more than a handful of agents in December, had a decent request rate, a number of awesome personal rejections, and then I decided to revise before sending out my next band of queries. So, you know, a summer of revision. :) Oh, and there was a conference in there, which I did a little work for. :)

Thanks for sharing your story--it's hard to query. We should all hold hands and sing kum bah yah. :)

Anna Staniszewski said...

Querying is so challenging. I can't imagine having to go through it multiple times. But you are a rockstar, Kris, which I think shows in your awesome advice.