On Writing: Navigating the Query Trenches

Disclaimer: As an aspiring author, it’s important to understand that you have several options in today’s publishing world. Self-publishing has become a front-runner, especially if done right (check out Abbie Emmons and Bethany Atazadeh for a few of my favorite self-published authors!). Smaller traditional publishers accept unsolicited submissions in search of their next bestseller. Then, there’s the world of traditional publishing with the help of a literary agent.

Originally, I had the intention of self-publishing my novel, Because of India. If you want to ask me exactly what changed my mind, that’s a conversation for another day. Nonetheless, on December 30, 2019, I entered the query trenches for the first time since 2016.

Another disclaimer: there will always be rejection. Rejection is inevitable in anything you do. I’m not saying that to encourage you NOT to query. Instead, I’m being honest.

When I first started querying in 2014 with my first novel, Seven Things, I received countless rejection letters. I’m sure I could count them, but my mom deleted them all from her email, unfortunately.

My first novel was a train wreck. I realize that now, but to fourteen-year-old Brandi, that novel was GOLD. The circumstances were the same with the second novel I queried, Scavenger.

I’ve been writing for nearly ten years as we enter this new decade. Which means that I’ve spent almost an entire decade slaving over a blank page, shedding tears over those rejections, and (most importantly) growing in my craft.

Every rejection has brought me closer to my dream of being a published author. I’ve received many form rejections, but I’ve also received some very kind rejections with feedback! Most notably, here’s one rejection in particular that fourteen-year-old Brandi taped on her bedroom wall next to her desk as a reminder through the years.

There are many things that can take years to master in the art of writing. Some things I have mastered, such as breaking up paragraphs instead of having one that lasts for an entire page. Some things I’m continuing to grow in.

I’m not certain that I’ll ever completely master my craft. I’ve accepted this feeling and have adopted the mindset of taking risks anyway. Tim Ferriss once said, “Someday is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you.”

Be brave, friends. When you’re ready, prepare to face rejection but do it anyway. After all, one YES can make all those little no’s seem worth it.

1. Finish Your Novel (But Don’t)

One of my biggest downfalls as a young querier was that I would finish my first draft and call it good. First of all, DON’T FOLLOW IN MY FOOTSTEPS.

You’ll reach a point where you’ve written the sixth, seventh, or twentieth draft and it still won’t feel good enough to query. By taking a step back and assessing your novel, with the help of a friend, critiquer, or editor, you’ll be able to see whether or not your novel is still in its developmental stages or if you can sit there for three hours deciding whether or not to keep that comma.

As writers, we may never feel that our novel is fully and completely finished. This is where we need the advice of others to let us know when we’ve neared completion. And eventually, you’ll need to say to yourself that enough is enough and muster up the courage to hit send on those queries.

2. Do Your Research!

When researching agents, make sure you’re compiling a list of agents that:

  1. Represent your genre – you’ll only be wasting their time and your own if you query an agent that doesn’t represent YA or adult horror, or whatever genre you write.

  2. Would like your novel – many agents are very public about what they’re interested in. This could be through MSWL, Twitter, their agencies website, Goodreads, etc.

  3. Have a track record – whether they personally have a great sales record or their agency does, be sure to research this.

  4. You would like to work with – it’s difficult to tell from just their bio whether or not you’ll be a good fit. It’s helpful to do a bit of stalking in this situation. Scroll through their Twitter, Instagram, personal website, etc. However, you may not be able to tell until they reach out to you and you start a conversation.

3. Mention Your Platform

In today’s publishing world, it’s difficult for agents and publishers to do all of the marketing on their own. Often times, if the author has an established platform, it’s helpful for the agent or publisher to visualize how you could potentially help them sell your book!

4. Stay Organized!

It’s helpful to keep track of which agents you’ve queried, follow-up dates, responses, etc. It’s easy to get lost in the query trenches, wondering which agencies you’ve already queried. You want to avoid querying multiple agents at one agency, so keep track!

Check out my personal Agent Tracker for an easy start 🙂 Once you’re subscribed, follow this LINK for more writing resources or find it on my Writing Resources page!

Let me know in the comments below where you are with your novel, no matter what stage, and happy querying! 🙂

#querying #blogger #newpost #onwriting #blog

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