Over the past month, I have been sending out query letters to agents for my middle grade science fiction manuscript. Writing the query letter took much longer than I had imagined, even after gathering information at conference workshops and extensive internet research on how to write one. It is amazing that after 60,000 words, the 300 needed for the query are the most difficult.
Three websites really helped me along the way as I was writing my query. Query Shark: You can’t get more candid advice about what a query letter should look like. Be ready to set aside at least
an hour a day to read through all of the comments on what to do and especially what not to do. Agent Query: Query letter basics, with some solid examples of hooks that work. And Jane Friedman‘s: Complete Guide to Query Letters that get manuscript requests.
My First “No.”
Not three days after I sent out the first wave of queries, I got my first rejection letter. Here’s the thing. I wasn’t sad, or discouraged, or even disappointed. I was going to wear that rejection letter like a badge of honor. I was so nervous about the whole process, finally sending out a query and getting a response (albeit a “no”) was a bit of a relief.
You probably think I’m out of my mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jumping for joy, but I am a glass half full kind of person, and try to see everything in a positive light.
Five reasons getting a rejection letter isn’t the end of the world.
One. I’m submitting.
If I’m getting rejection letters, it means that I’m submitting my manuscript! This is exciting. The MG I’m submitting is the third novel that I’ve written, and the first that I decided to send out. This, in and of itself is an accomplishment.
Two. I now have time to work on a few other projects.
While waiting patiently for responses, I am writing two new stories, a chapter book and another MG that I am really excited about. I’m going to keep writing, and when those are done, I’ll send them out too. I love being able to focus my energy on new work while having something that I am really proud of in the querysphere.
Three. Experience is key.
I am learning so much about agents, their preferences, what the market looks like, what is new, what is missing. It’s like learning how to be a teacher. After hours in the classroom as a student, you really learn how to be a teacher in the classroom with twenty-six sets of eyes on you, waiting for something to happen. The experience of writing and querying, being there in the trenches, is invaluable.
Four. The query letter demystified.
I discovered that the query is a fluid letter. Each agent / editor has different requirements for what they want to see in this letter. After two months of painstakingly writing, rewriting, peer editing, professional editing, it’s still not ever done! While one agent gives props for being able to make them laugh, another wants you to keep it cut and dry. There are many sites that share interviews and info about what agents and editors want to see in their inbox. I found Literary Rambles, Spotlighting Children’s Book Authors, Agents and Publishing, very helpful. This website has Agent Spotlights that site quotes from interviews, info about their agency, web presence, what they are looking for and what they are not looking for.
Five. Keeping the faith.
Most rejection letters offer some kind of encouragement.
Best of luck with your writing in the future…
Just because I wasn’t quite drawn in, doesn’t mean there isn’t another agent out there who will love it…
Keep after it…
If you are looking for more inspiration to persevere through the whole query process, check out Lit Rejections.com. Lit Rejections has a whole page dedicated to Best-Sellers who were initially rejected. That list includes C.S. Lewis, Agatha Christie and Dr. Seuss!
I remain hopeful, and will keep sending out my manuscript. If I never send anything out, then it’s definitely a no. But if I give it a go, well, you never know.
How do you keep inspired during the whole query process? Feel free to share!