Thursday, July 7, 2011

Querying for an Agent: Part Deux

            Well I’ve been gone for awhile.  I took the first of three summer vacations.  Just a quick visit with the parents; long enough to drive me nuts anyway.  Now that I’m back and have six weeks before I take my son on his two-week-long college tour through California, I thought I’d write a quick update on my querying.  This is a subject I’ve written about a lot.  I know many of you fellow writers are going through the same process and have similar thoughts and frustrations as I’ve complained about since last December when I first prepared to send out query letters.
            What a difference six months has made.  I was such a newbie back then.  So excited and full of optimism.  I only queried for about two months then suspended my search while I waited to hear back from the last few agents who had requested partials.  Those rejections hit me like a fifty-pound sack of flour right to the face.  I suppose it would have made me feel better to have some feedback, but I didn’t get enough concrete criticism to make a difference.
I did, however, keep working on revisions to my manuscript, as well as my query.  To date, I have fourteen different query drafts.  I think I have used maybe eight of those.  I just wrote another one this morning after reading Dystel & Goderich agent Stephanie DeVita’s post regarding the summer slump in good queries.  She said “In most of the queries that I read, the writer isn’t giving me the most thrilling aspect of their book, the crucial element that should make me desperate to ask for more pages.  In other cases, it’s unclear if that pivotal element is even there.   
            This got me thinking that I should cut out all the backstory crap I put into the first paragraph of my query and just get into the nitty gritty angst of the story right up front.  So that’s what I did.  Just as I’ve done for the last two weeks, I sent out this revised query to five agents.  What’s funny and different about this round of querying is my attitude.  It’s not that I’m not excited to be querying again, it’s just that I don’t really think about it any more.  I’m not obsessed with it. 
            I used to be tethered to my email after sending out a round of queries.  This is because after sending out one of my very first queries, I received an immediate request for a full.  Yeah, to a superstar agent, no less, and within ninety minutes of sending it, too.  Pretty exciting, as you can imagine.  That was my second request for a full.  Two months later, the rejection nearly crippled me.  (That was the day I had my first-ever shot of tequila.  Boy, did I need it.)  After that, I received two more requests, both for partials, and both were rejected after a few weeks with little comment.  That kind of took the wind out of my sails. 
            Now, I’m all business about the whole thing.  I don’t send out large batches of queries, choosing instead to send out two to five once a week, at most.  I have researched and compiled a long list of agents who rep my genre of adult thrillers, and I am slowly nibbling away at the top of that list, but when I send the query, I just more or less forget about it.  I look ahead to the next small set I will send out the following week and while I will always remain optimistic, I am also a realist.  I can’t put all my hopes and dreams into this process.  I can’t get too excited about it any more because it’s just too painful when the inevitable happens, and it will happen. 
            I’m taking my good friend, Lisa Regan’s advice.  I will keep knocking on those doors.  There are hundreds of them lined up down a long hallway in front of me.  Somewhere in there is the one door with the one agent behind it who will be a match for me.  I just have to be patient enough to keep looking. 
So…this is me looking.  Any agents out there who like a good revenge thriller with a twist?  I’m here searching for you.  I hope you answer the door when I knock.  In the mean time, I jotted down something I heard from one the participants of this season’s So You Think You Can Dance.  He said push hard, stay focused and keep your eye on the prize.                  


Bethany Elizabeth said...

Great post! I've been querying for a little while, and it sure gets discouraging fast, doesn't it? But we have to keep our heads up!

L.G.Smith said...

Ha! I sat down at the computer to send a query out and got sidetracked reading blogs.

This is the second novel I've queried, and most of the beginner's angst has already been bled out of my system. I go slow, keeping three to five queries out there at a time. I'm in no rush, though I wish someone would read my novel and feel like they must call me ASAP. Wouldn't that be nice. :)

Rejection still sucks, though. That part never gets better. :(

Laila Knight said...

Welcome back. A trip to see the parents? I need to do that. Fourteen query drafts? I'm slacking. Query Shark always says to star with the action, so does Jessica Faust. I need to work on that too. It's really good when you reach the point when you're not obsessed with it. You will find someone to rep your fabulous novel. "push hard, stay focused and keep your eye on the prize." Those are words to live by, Nancy. Stay strong. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey, girl! Welcome back. I hope you had a great, what was that word you used again? Vacation? You'll have to tell me what that is sometime.

I LOVED your analogy to the hallway in this post. It's good that you know it takes time. And yes, the door will open. When you least expect it. I can't wait to read that post.

Lisa L. Regan said...

Great post! Believe me it will happen for you. I have absolute conviction in that. I went through the same thing you have gone through and are going through--the initial nailbiting phase and then the calmer, more business-like phase. It's better to be where you are now. I used to do five a week. I think that is manageable and not overwhelming. You'll get there! Your agent is out there somewhere, you'll connect with him/her!

Tara Tyler said...

it's like kissing the right frog...
only more work involved, and w/a frog, there is an immediate response
poof! or not =)

Angie Cothran said...

Thanks for the informative post! Best of luck! Take it easy on the tequila you want to me sober when an agent does call :)

Mike Koch - Protect The Risen said...

I admit this post makes me a bit sad, but hopeful for you and all the others submitting queries. It can be sobering to face those realities you mention, and it's good to see you have your chin up about it all. I wish you luck in this journey.