4 Steps to Surviving the Querying Trenches

So you think you have what it takes to withstand upwards of one hundred bamboo shoots under the fingernails, deafening silence, and personal attacks on your self-worth? Well great, let’s get to querying your completed manuscript!

I know what you are thinking “Save the drama, for your Mama!” or something like that but probably less embarassing, unless you have actually been in the trenches in which case you are thinking “Hmm… yes. Perfect description.”

Admit it, querying is hard. It’s taxing. It can sometimes be debilitating. If by any chance you are the 1 in 5 Americans who struggle with mental health each year, it can quite literally be detrimental to your health. (Quick fact: Did you know that creatives and artists actually have HIGHER rates of depression or personality disorder than those who don’t identify as such?) So how do you persist in a way that doesn’t crush your soul and kill your passions? Here are four tips that I have learned the hard way.

  1. Query in batches; no really, I’m serious.
    Most importantly, absolutely do not send your first un-critiqued query letter to your big five agents. It is possible, no it’s likely, that you will find your first few inexperienced and un-critiqued letters to be flops. You will learn along the way and you will hone your letter to perfection, especially if you are ✨blessed✨ enough to receive agent feedback. Also, if you are a part of a writing community such as the one I so love on Twitter, ask for critique and feedback on your first page and letter. Lots of lovely souls have helped me in this area.
  2. Have a damn good first line
    The first line of your manuscript should be THE hook for an agent to want to keep reading. The trenches are crowded, painfully so, and if your first line is just so-so agents may not have the time to continue reading. I’m still working on this myself but a quick google of great first lines brought me to a really cool BuzzFeed article by Hannah Loewentheil with memorable first lines. Model yourself after some of these greats but of course don’t rip them off. Use the tone and vibe of your favorites to provide inspiration! “Here Is A Small Fact: You Are Going To Die”: 28 Of The Most Captivating First Sentences From Books That Will Reel You In Instantly
  3. Use the Unsubscribe button!
    I can tell you that when you are receiving silence for weeks on end while simultaneously refreshing your email inbox multiple times a day with your breath held, that loading bar and jolt of adreneline caused by a new email will be all the more soul crushing when it happens multiple times per day only to yield promotional emails from Hot Topic. Not to mention those $15 off coupon codes and broody Twilight tee shirts begin to look mighty tempting when you are in the throes of an ice cream eating, query induced depression.
  4. For the love of all that is holy, TAKE BREAKS!
    I cannot stress the importance of this last point enough. I personally did not follow this rule until it was almost too late. Last week, I went from unfazed by my rejections to barely able to breathe in the space of one day. I had taken no breaks from querying for close to 6 months and in consequence had been receiving rejection after rejection for weeks on end, or worse yet complete silence. I hadn’t realized the emotional toll this was taking on me until Friday on my lunch break I sat in my office chair at my desk in the dark of an empty classroom and felt the gut wrenching sensation of a full on anxiety attack. I felt the entire weight of each individual form rejection and closed no response melt over my head and settle into the pit of my stomach. My fingers tingled and breath came fast. It was at that moment I knew, I pushed myself too far; I needed to take a break. Since that moment I am just breathing, writing new stories, and will only send queries when divine providence places an agent that I really connect with in my path. Eventually, when I am not so raw I may start cold querying again, but not without taking necessary breaks from my phone, my email, and the crushed dreams query tracker.

Querying is like asking 30, 40, or 50 partners at your first middle school dance to slow dance and being told no with no explanation yet being persistent enough to keep asking until one says yes. Take care of yourself, drink lots of water, have a margarita now and then, and breathe. Most of all don’t give up your passion for writing, if querying gets in the way of your passion, stop. Publishing options are aplenty and will be there tomorrow or in a year or in ten.

Good luck to all my writing friends who are in the trenches. You are strong, brave, and worthy!

Published by ALNovelist

A mom, wife, educator, and fledgling author all rolled into one.

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