Queries: Just how many is the right number?

This is a solid question. When you set out into the land of submissions, you’re happiness level is high. Just as is the level of hope you hold in your heart and soul.

–and you know it’s coming–

–rejection will sneak into your psyche like a rat into your toilet–

Maybe in the beginning you got a bite, but now… nothing.

So what is the magic number? When do you stop?

Back in 2014 there was a Writer’s Digest posted an article titled, “Don’t Give Up Until You’ve Queries 80 Agents or More.” (that link will take you right to it)

But honestly, if you read the article, it doesn’t explain why 80+ is the way to go. Yes, it does go into a succession of analogies on what it takes to deal with queries and rejections–but not why the number is so magical that it’s plopped in the middle of the title.

My guess as to why they didn’t touch on the why is because there is no magic number. All there is, is perseverance and the knowledge that if we (as writers) keep writing and working to improve ourselves and our crafts–if we don’t chuck our MS into the nearest trash can and say, “time to give up on that dream.”–we increase our chances of actually finding an agent and succeeding.

I set out to find a magic number because I have made a list of potential agents on QueryTracker.com. (This is the site I use. If you know of a better one, please share a link.)

On QueryTracker.com I created a list of 33 agents. I’ve sent queries to 28. Of those 28 I’ve received 17 rejections–one no reply that stated after a month it was an auto-rejection–and I have 10 letters sitting out there in the land of digital inboxes. 5 other names sit on my list. Some have been there for months. Most days I stare at them.

So this is my real issue. My novel–The Trials of Imogen Grace–is speculative science fiction. I supposed in the great scheme of things that yes, there are 80+ agents out there looking for science fiction–but where? At 33 I feel like I’ve exhausted my resources. Those 5 I stare at are because they’re so boarder line when it comes to accepting Science Fiction I’m already 98% they’re rejections and I haven’t even typed out, “Dear Agent,” on a saved draft in my gmail.

Now querying has gone from a necessary step along this path of getting my books published and has been twisted into a middle school math word problem.

A trail leaves Los Angeles with you, your computer, and a query on board. It is bound for an Agent in London. Your research shows they accept science fiction. You’ve done you’re homework and are plainly excited–this may be a good fit. BUT…they like to meet in person, and  that’s when you realize A TRAIN CAN’T GO TO LONDON! You forgot the Atlantic ocean!

But you’ll figure it out. You get out your trusty pencil and write out the equation: 80 – reality = ???

DON’T GET ON THE TRAIN!

In conclusion I’ve come up with my own hypothesis on how many queries is the right amount. As many as you choose to send.

I’m not crazy. (for the most part). I get how this all works and I’m trying to look for the signs, or whatever was stated in the above mention article–but at the end of the day I also learned something more: self belief.

I like my book. I really, really do. I’ve read it about 500 times and I’m sure I’ll read it even more as I edit it one…more…time.

Yes, I feel like I’ve been at this a long time–ten years is a long time. Not on this novel, but in general. But instead of my need and will slipping away, I’ve found in those ten years I’ve worked harder, learned more, been more open to improvements.

Sadly, there is no magic number–just faith in yourself and your manuscript. If you love it and believe in it, than yes–you’ll get past that 80 mark. You probably bypass 100 as well–because you, like me, want what you’ve written out there.

Now all I can do is keep trying and hope someone will believe in it as much as I do.

Never give up! Never surrender. Happy writing! xxoo-A

 

When it feels like an impossible situation…

rejected-logo

I’ve gotten to the point where I’d love to start a query like this:

Dear Jane/John Doe,

I’m emailing you today because I think you’re photo is rad.

–or–

I’m sending you this query, because why the hell not? I mean, seriously, you seem like a nice lady/fells. You tweet. You facebook. What do you think? Let’s do this!

Obviously, I won’t–but it makes me giggle when I think about doing it. It also helps  to have these obscure thoughts when I’m feeling hopeless. You know, remove the pedestal and all that.

No matter how many times I go out and query, it never seems to get any easier…

 

Never give up! Never surrender… but maybe nap and have a cookie.

xxoo-A

Twitter writing contest–#pg70pit

Hello All!

Happy end of June to you. I’ve spent the last few weeks combing over what is coming my way in the world of writing contests, and I thought I’d share.

Last week we had SFFpit. Next up would be #pg70pit. I wanted to share a link to spread the joy, because if there is one thing I’ve learned about the lonely road of writing is–if you surround yourself with good people (including other writers) it’s a much better ride.

If you are unfamiliar with #pg70pit, simply follow the link above to get all the details. BE SURE to read over the ‘How To Submit‘ section, because different groups are represented on different days (meaning if you have an Adult title, you shouldn’t submit on July 1st, because that is the day for Middle Grade, etc.)

If you’re on the West Coast, like me, the contest is 12 hours long–so don’t set your alarm for 4am. You can sleep and still enter. (Which I’m beyond grateful for. I don’t function well at 4am.)

Happy Writing! Good luck with your queries and submission! And remember–while rejection letters suck, it’s better to get one of them than it would ever be to quit writing.

-A

The continuous road of writing…

I’ve now been sending queries for 25 days. I know this because one agent I emailed sent an auto-reply telling me after 30 days–it wasn’t me, it’s him or her.

Why is sending queries like getting dumped? Besides the obvious rejection. But seriously, that is what all auto-rejections feel like. And here I am–in my teens again, getting the, ‘It’s not you. It’s me,’ speech from some catholic school boy whose name I can’t remember.

The only difference is I’m not sixteen any more and I’ve matured enough to believe that the sender is correct. You can’t please everyone now can you? And why would you want to for that matter?

As the query wheels roll I’ve taken the time to look at what else I have in my writing armory. There is full history fiction novel, a half novel that still has potential not to suck a ton, and then the long queue of new ideas burning holes in my brain.

[They keep me up at night. Does this happen to you?]

Most ideas I let sit for a while. If they vanish I know I was right to wait. How great of a concept could it have been I can’t even remember it existed? Then there are the others… Over a dozen random characters in my head poking my frontal lobe just to see if I’m paying attention.

My brain needs a receptionist.

On top of that I have one other problem: two of these stories are promises–one is a first draft (a very, extremely, oh god help me! first draft,) that was a promise to a friend and the other is for my son.

I came here to write about it because seeing the problem on the computer screen helps me make decisions. I suppose that is another cure of being a writer–the transition from brain to page. My hazel green eyes need to rest firmly on the blackness of the text in order for my brain to calm down and make a decision. It also allows me to distract myself–because while I’m busying myself filling out beat sheets, typing up character breakdowns, and deciding where to put a big chunk of my energy for the next four weeks, I’m able to hold onto the notion that I won’t be sad on June 16th when I don’t hear from that agent…

Querying is such a roller coaster! (which is an amazing place to pick up emotional traits for the characters I write about. Damn it. Writing is like the song that never ends. It just keeps going and going and going and going…)

 

The bumps along the way

 

 

My earliest memory of writing I have is, I’m 7 years old lying in my bed (the top bunch) and writing a poem with a red crayola marker, but the oldest manuscript I have is from 7 years later. I was 14, and in the story I made the lead character 16 because it seemed like such a glamorous age.

Over the years I’ve written a lot of things, poems, manuscripts, movie scripts, songs and thousands of blog posts, and – for me – every step has been a learning process. At times I feel overwhelmed, thinking that everyone must have it easier than me. Other times I feel like I hit the nail on the head and life is perfect in the realm of writing, but it changes from moment to moment. What keeps me going on those bad days are what I have learned so far.

My biggest lesson learned is patience.

So you wrote a book and now you think you should have an agent and be published and go on book tour, get your movie deal, buy a Porsche, move to NYC, London or L.A. (maybe have a place in all 3?) and be down with it. You’ve book yourself on Letterman, and Conan, and lets not forget all the local shows, morning shows, radio shows – you’re in the big leagues now – you think as you hit save on your manuscript and bounce downstairs to tell your spouse s/he can quit their job. For now,  you are rich.

This is where patience comes into play – and honesty.

Now its time to take a week off. Pamper yourself with long walks, conversation with friends who thought your computer ate you, and go on a date with someone you love.  THEN, you get to start your first edit.

 

See – these are my (new) rules:

  1. Write novel
  2. Edit novel
  3. Find Beta Readers to Read Novel (with questions for them to answer to help you understand what they really think about your work)
  4. Re-edit novel
  5. Write synopsis (1-2 pages)
  6. Write query (1 page)
  7. Go over manuscript one more time to be sure you don’t have any silly errors like “on” instead of “one” (optional)
  8. Begin your query process
  9. Buy pint of ice cream, eat in one sitting. Buy more. (optional)
  10. Lock self in office with phone, email and any other way potential agents can contact you (optional)
  11. Never sleep (optional)
  12. Meditate to stop the paranoid voices clamoring on in your brain (optional)

My old rules went like this:

  1. Write novel
  2. Have friend read it (for 6 months and never give them questions to answer, if they finish it that is.)
  3. Edit.
  4. Edit.
  5. Edit.
  6. Blindly submit
  7. Freak because you don’t have synopsis
  8. Tweet about how you’re freaking
  9. Blog about you you’re freaking
  10. Facebook about how you’re freaking
  11. Edit.
  12. Edit.
  13. Edit.
  14. Send out more submissions
  15. Start new WIP
  16. Give up
  17. Renew Hope
  18. Give up again

So you can plainly see why I decided to make these changes.

If you are worried about a Beta Reader ripping your WIP apart, don’t be – that’s what you want them to do so you can get better, to become a stronger writer. We get attached to our WIP’s and to our lovely characters. We want to spend hours and hours with them so we put in scenes the story doesn’t need, and suddenly we’re stalking the (fake) people we love, while dumbing down our work in the process.

My biggest lesson learn is the Beta Reader.

If you don’t have one, ask around on FB or Twitter – or ask me. If I have time I’ll be sure to help, BUT make sure you have questions, because “Well, what do you think?” won’t cut it. What do you want your readers to get out of your novel? Once you figure that out, go from there. And if you’re still not sure – go here to find a template of questions you can ask.

Do all of this BEFORE you try to find an agent, and do this even if you want to self publish. Beta readers will help you target the audience you’re looking to find, so that, maybe, one day you WILL be on Conan talking yourself up.

But then remember… patience. All things worth having takes time – just like your writing and submitting. So be patient with yourself and remind yourself why you write – why you love it – why it’s the air in your lung. And smile 🙂

It’s not karma, it’s just a process.

Everyone likes to remind me that J.K. Rowling received 12 rejections prior to finding an agent to represent her and (the now juggernaut) Harry Potter series. It has become one of those things I smile and nod through. I know the intentions are good, the people are being supportive and encouraging, which is sweet and wonderful. But the longer I write and querying, the less I  speak of my rejections. This silence make life easier, plus its a wonderful excuse to make brownies at 10 o’clock at night on a Tuesday.

But that doesn’t mean the rejection still don’t still. They do.

Above is an image of a rejection letter addressed to Andy Warhol, infamous artist and socialite. It is a letter like many others I have seen, read, and used to encourage myself on low days and my friends and family are right – one day I will find success. While the sane side of my brain understands and comprehends that it’s a lot of work, the emotional and artistic side is thrown into a tizzy of “woe is me” and “can’t they see my genius?” all of which morph into something I like to call the Karma Effect.

Obviously I’m being punished for some past indiscretion. Yes, that’s it. Blame the universe!

I’ve heard it all before: From “I must have done something wrong.” to “They don’t know what they’re talking about.” Massively bi-polar reactions to the same event, but I know it’s not karma and know they do know what they’re talking about. Maybe I’ll get more than 12 rejections (which is very, very, very, very common) and maybe I’ll have to write more than one book (which is also very, very, very common) but blaming the gods won’t get me any closer to the prize I want – only writing will.

In the end it is a process, like anything else, and you’re going to have to be willing to work REALLY hard to make it work. But the funny thing about passion and doing something you love, is that it never feels like work – it feels like love. That’s what it is, isn’t it?

It’s the process of expressing our love of writing. What are a few pesky rejection letters? They are the paving stones to the fabulous writing life you’ve wanted, allow them to lead the way – not block it.

Now… I have to go write.