Thanks to Twitter, I’ve been able to connect with a lot of fellow authors, among other literary experts. We have a wonderfully supportive community of writers who lift each other up, offer advice, and share experiences. There are authors at all stages of writing/publishing who interact with each other for the same reason – to learn about writing and do the best we can with our stories, no matter what kind of writing we do. I opened my professional Twitter account, as well as Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and my website because I wanted to build an audience for my novels – and I was pleasantly surprised by the kind and welcoming reception I got from like-minded authors. I’ve learned a lot from them and have shared my own experiences as well, and this gives me joy.
If you plan on becoming a published author, you can do one of two things: either do it yourself, which is becoming increasingly popular these days, or you can go the traditional route, which normally requires landing an agent to represent you and your book. This is NOT. Easy.
I have decided to go the traditional publishing route. It’s the way I’ve always seen myself being published, ever since I was a little girl. Many, many, (many!) moons later, here I am with a completed manuscript that I’m stoked to share with the world. I’ve poured my creativity into it, edited it, revised it, sent it to a few beta readers, revised and edited again based on feedback, edited it some more, and then some more… and now I have a polished manuscript ready to be published. Right?
After getting to the point where you’re DONE with your manuscript (and by DONE, I mean you can’t look at it anymore and have done all the edits you can possibly think of to do at this point – which, by the way, is a great reason to celebrate with a glass of wine!) – if you’re going the traditionally published route, you need to find a literary agent to represent you and your work. This agent will help you edit and revise it even further to make it 100% perfect and saleable, and then shoulder the burden of getting a book cover designed, finding a publisher, negotiating contracts, helping to market your book, making submissions for literary nominations for awards, etc.
Now that I’m in the querying stage, this is where things get interesting. I began on January 1 because I just couldn’t wait any longer – excitement took over. And that’s ok – I had researched the agents and agencies that I thought would be interested in my manuscript, so I had a list set up and knew which ones would be open for submissions right away. I have been watching my inbox like a hawk every single day since, eager anticipating that first request for a full submission (or even a partial – hey, it’s a start!). Alas, the rejections have started flowing in.
BUT! Even though I have just begun this part of the journey, I am not discouraged. I know that my manuscript won’t appeal to every single agent I query. Each agent has their own interests, their own #MSWL (manuscript wish list), and genres/categories that they aren’t interested in representing. It is your job as a writer to determine which agents are best suited to your work – and that will help you narrow down who to send queries to. It can save time for yourself and the agent – because let’s face it, they have hundreds of queries to read over in any given month. If we are sending general queries with no thought as to who may or may not be interested in our work, we are wasting everyone’s time. (Tip: Use QueryTracker.net to help keep track of agents you have queried and ones you’d like to query – a super useful tool!)
“It is your job as a writer to determine which agents are best suited to your work”
I don’t know about you, but when I’ve come across an agent who’s wish list mentions the genre/categories that my book falls into, especially when they make further remarks about what they truly love to read, I get a thrill of excitement, and I prepare my query for them right away. I check it to make sure it contains everything they’ve asked for in their submission guidelines, there are no errors, and I’ve put the correct name, date, and specific reasons why I’m targeting that agent for my work.
I don’t limit myself to just the *perfect* agent though. While I don’t send out random queries to random agents and hope for the best, I do query an agent who sounds like they may be interested in my work. If there is a hint that they may like something akin to what I write, I will probably include them in my queries because you never know. Agents adjust their wish lists all the time, depending on their interests and what’s in the current market. What’s hot and what’s not can change on a dime. A good agent will be up-to-date on that and will adjust their lists accordingly. If they have even a slight interest in your genre/category, your hook is what will get them more interested.
If nothing else, sending queries to “maybe agents” can give you practise – and it just may land you an unexpected request for a full submission. Above all else, follow your instincts. I can’t stress this enough. If you’re reading about an agent and you get a gut feeling that they won’t be interested, then trust your gut and don’t send it. If your instincts tell you that it could be a good fit, then send it.
That being said, you need to prepare yourself for the rejections. They will come in, and you’ll get a lot more of them than requests for full submissions. That’s ok! And not only is it ok, it’s normal. It doesn’t mean that your work is terrible. It means that agent is not seeking exactly what you’re selling (and that’s essentially what you’re doing). It means that you keep trying with other agents. Get right into your research. Google search. Search on manuscriptwishlist.com. Search #MSWL on Twitter. Search on QueryTracker using filters that apply to you and your work. Go to the agency’s website and look at the other agents. Keep in mind that many authors are represented internationally, so don’t let the borders of your own country stop you from seeking representation elsewhere. Literacy knows no bounds, and you could find someone across the ocean who might really love the concept and your style of writing.
If you have something that you’re truly passionate about, and you KNOW it’s great idea, keep trying. If you’ve gone a year with nothing but rejections, you might need to re-evaluate your hook, your synopsis, your opening, your blurb, or your query letter. You can do this at any point in time and continue to query. If you aren’t 100% confident in it, an agent won’t be, either. You have to have a strong hook. There’s no harm in researching this aspect, either. Look for examples online of great hooks, blurbs, synopses, etc. You can learn a lot from other people’s experiences and apply that knowledge to your own work. Sometimes you might have a fantastic manuscript, but your pitch just isn’t seeking it to an agent. Rework the pitch!
At the end of the day, if you’re truly ready to begin querying agents for your completed, polished manuscripts, then you’ll also be ready to accept the rejections. Perhaps a bit of a strange analogy, but with each of my pregnancies, I prepared myself for the births with as much knowledge as I could, and very importantly, the acceptance that there would be pain. Mentally accepting it will help reduce your fears and anxieties about it, and the same goes for becoming knowledgeable about it. And I have to say that with each of my five births, it became easier and less painful. It was one of the greatest examples of mind over matter I’d ever experienced. I never used drugs or any type of medical pain management, and I believe that mind over matter can really make a difference. Knowledge brings confidence. Confidence brings acceptance of the things that might try to discourage you, so that you don’t actually let those things deter you from achieving your goal.
“Each rejection is an opportunity to learn and grow.”
It’s the same with anything in life – acquire the knowledge, and you’ll have more confidence. Mentally prepare for the obstacles to your goal, and you will feel more positive about how to overcome them. Accepting the rejections will help you use them in a positive way to improve subsequent queries. Don’t be afraid to google examples of queries, either – there are some great ones out there. Pay attention to what each agent’s preferences are, as well as what their submission guidelines are. And don’t give up. Each rejection is an opportunity to learn and grow – so use that to motivate you to reach your querying goals!
Good luck, and happy querying!