Daniel’s Journal #14 – The Woes of Querying
You did it. You wrote a book. You didn’t just write a good book. You wrote a great book! You had it read by your friends, and they loved it. Your second draft was even better than the first. You had it edited, and the final version is perfection.
So what do you do next? You query literary agents, of course.
That’s the brick wall. There are hundreds of agents and publishers out there. They all want a query request, and they all want it done differently.
So you go to work, writing each one of them their own personal letter, giving each of them the first chunk of your book to mull over for three months. Then, you get tons of rejections if you get any reply at all.
Querying your book is the most soul-crushing part of writing. Nobody said writing and polishing a book would be easy. Anyone who does say that never sat down and tried. You’ll find that writing a hundred-thousand words or so was the easy part once you’ve reached out to a few agents and put your pride and work on the line, only to have your hopes swept away in a fury of polite words.
The process is flawed, like all processes. Most agents (or those publishers that don’t require them) are looking for the “safe” sell; the YA fantasy/dystopian with a hint of romance and a sucker punch to the feels.
But what if your chosen genre isn’t one deemed safe? Are there agents willing to take a chance and stray from the herd of literary sheep? Of course, but you’ll be hard up to find that particular gem.
I feel that readers want something different, but I’m no agent. All you can do is try, try, and try again until you find someone who wants to take a chance on you and your book. It’s a long process. I know writers who have gotten dozens of nos, but they’ve kept at it. I’m feeling a bit jaded by the process myself, which is what prompted this piece.
The sheer number of writers social media has brought out of their shells is staggering too. It’s the reason the query process is as painful as it is. There’s too many writers and too little publishing opportunities. And let’s face it, there are a ton of writers who think their books are much better than they really are. I wonder how many times an agent gets into queries just to find a mess of a story that looks like it should have been written in crayon.
There are those who choose self-publishing over this convoluted process. I wish them luck and give credit where it’s due. It’s a tough and overcrowded arena, and there are those who turn their noses up at self-publishing authors like they’re not real writers unless they’re in a publishing house. It is an option, though.
It can get hard. The prize is a long way off. From my vantage point as an author querying three books that don’t conform to the same old cookie-cutter bullshit: You need to have an in with an agent, write some great YA fantasy, or have a stroke of luck like you’ve never seen. Being a great writer doesn’t mean you’ll be able to go pro without a few hundred rejections and a billion tears. You need that luck. You need to force away the pain. You need to keep going until you find your place and the one who will lead you where you need to go. Or you can get the fuck out of the way.
It’s a long and painful road, and you’re not the only one shoving their way through. Be prepared to hurt.