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Querying: What I've Learned so Far . . . Part One

Like many eager writers, I probably started querying too soon. Hit send on a batch of query letters where my word count was too high, the agents were maybe not the best fit, and while I contend my pages were solid, the final draft wasn't the best it could be. "You'll just get rejected." I told myself, but secretly hoping that writing--finding an agent--would be easy. That my talent and drive would be instantly recognizable and I'd be snapped up quickly, my book on a Target endcap by the end of the year.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha....that's not what happened, obviously. It's amazing, actually, that someone as old as me can still believe in that kind of fairytale. What a privileged life I've led, right?

Querying is grueling, and success requires a bit of lightening in a bottle. For most writers, I'd venture, it's a winding road with no guarantee of success. You have to have the right book, presented in the right way, to the right person at the right moment. It's a lot to line up. Below is my advice for anyone starting this process

Adjust Expectations

I hope this one is irrelevant for you, I really do. But keep in mind, a lot has to go right for your query to be successful, and rejections are not an indication of your talent as a writer, but more an indication of what that agent is looking for. You have to believe that, in your soul, deep in your being, understand that--not just intellectually, but emotionally. Expect rejection. Reframe it, embrace it as a necessary and instructive step in the process. Develop a way to celebrate it.

On this note, don't expect anyone to accept excuses for your book. They probably won't. Unless you're a fairly well-known celebrity or a politician whose campaign will purchase your title in bulk to get that "NYT Bestseller" designation therefore guaranteeing sales, in which case I doubt very much you are reading this.

Do the Work

Make sure your book is as polished as can be. Run it through beta readers, be brutal in your self-assessment. Eliminate the reasons agents might reject the book on sight--if it's too long, cut the words until you're in the neighborhood for your genre. If the action takes too long to start, get to it quicker. The wishful thinking of "If they just read the whole thing, they'll see" or "If they just gave it a chance" will not get you very far.

A note on betas, CPs, etc., they are so important, and hard to find. I stumbled into an amazing group and I am grateful for it everyday. I don't have a lot of good advice on how to find your people because I found mine by sheer, dumb luck, but do what you can.

Send the Query, then step away

Send they query, make it as polished as you can, and then realize you have no control, and let it go. It's hard, but haunting your inbox for a response is not productive. It drove me mad.

One thing I didn't do but maybe should've is set up a special query inbox, separate from your standard email. That way the notifications for Petsmart coupons and Old Navy sales don't have you running to your phone (NO MADEWELL I AM NOT INTERESTED IN YOUR FALL COLLECTION!) and you aren't surprised by a rejection while standing in line at the grocery store or whatever. You can check the email in controlled fashion, and thus minimize some of the angst.

Some basic thoughts. I'll share more later!

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