Submitting Your Story: 7 Tips to Survive the Query Trenches
It is easy to let your enthusiasm for your new work in progress and your desire to get published jump in the drive seat but there is no need to rush. Ever try to rush when you are running late? It feels like a universal law that the faster you try and do anything the longer it will take. So, slow down.
Take the time to write a well crafted query letter. Get feedback on your pitch and your bio. Revise it, set it aside, then revise it again. Although you can query the same agent with a new project, you only get one chance at making a first impression.
No one has ever regretted taking their time to submit but writers often do regret submitting before they were ready.
Do Your Research
Save yourself the heartache of an unnecessary rejection. Rejections come with the query process and unfortunately there is no way around them but if you query an agent that doesn’t represent your genre you are guaranteeing yourself an avoidable rejection.
Rejections are a sign the agent or editor are not a great fit for your work. They are not a reflection of your work. You don’t want just any agent/editor and each rejection gets you closer to the agent/editor that is the perfect match for you. The perfect agent will understand your vision, have experience in your genre, and have connections to editors who are seeking stories like yours. Signing with an agent who isn’t a good fit can hinder and delay your writing career. This reinforces tip number one to slow down.
Another thing you want to research when querying agents or editors is the reputation of the agency or publishing house. You want to make sure they treat writers fairly and follow best practices. For example, an agent or editor will never ask you for money up front. If they do ask for a ‘reading fee’, it’s a sign that they are not who they appear to be.
When researching an agent/editor, go beyond the agency’s website. See if they are active on social media. Their feed can often give a deeper understanding of the kinds of stories they are looking for. A lack of social media presence is not a bad thing. It’s just a bit hard to get access to information about them.
Check for any blog or podcast interviews or any upcoming webinars/events available. This will give you more insight on their personality and if they would be a great fit to be a partner in your writing career.
Celebrate the Little Wins
Yes, finding an agent/editor is the end goal of querying but it shouldn’t be your only goal. There is so much to celebrate while in the trenches. There is positive feedback. Sometimes an agent/editor has something very similar to your story on their list or they might not have the publishing connections to get your book in front of the right editors but they loved it. So, they leave an encouraging note about how much they like it.
Woohoo! That’s worth celebrating. Someone in the industry is giving you that much needed boost to your confidence. You’re a fantastic writer and your story is great. They’re just not the right champion for it. Keep going!
There are edit notes. An agent/editor sees the potential in your story so they give you the chance to revise and resubmit. It’s not quite where it needs to be but they have invested time to give you some notes to try and help you get it here. Woohoo! They believe in you and your story enough that they took time out of their busy schedule to type up notes to help you.
Each little win gets you closer to the big win and that is definitely worth celebrating.
If you feel anxious every time you check your email, it may be a good time to take a break from querying. There is only so many times you can hear no before it starts to feel heavy, even to the strongest of writers. There are natural pauses in publishing that make it easier to take breaks. Most agents/editors take a break over the summer and at the end of December.
Taking a break allows them to catch up on their inboxes and come back refreshed and ready to read your work. The same goes for you. Taking time away from querying allows you to focus your energy on other things like craft or life experiences. This makes you a stronger writer, refreshed and ready to dive back into queries.
Write Something New
One of the things you can do during your query break is write something new. This is a guaranteed way to stay productive while on a query break. (Although resting while on a break is productive too)
This is especially helpful for picture book and chapter book writers. Agents often want to see more than one picture book when considering representation. So when an agent asks to see more of your work, you want to have more to show them.
Trends can change pretty quickly in publishing and often we don’t know what stories are being acquired until months after a publisher buys them. If your story is about a vampire and the market is pretty saturated with vampires an agent/editor will most least likely avoid representing/buying vampire stories for a while. It’s always helpful to have something else written for when trends change.
In addition to the productiveness benefit, creating stories reignites your passion. This will help drive you to make it through the trenches and get your stories in the hands of readers.
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