the virtues of querying

Montjuic 20

Playing the gatekeeper at Mont Juic, Barcelona

Week One Cumulative Tally (agents only):

  • 10 submissions
  • 1 rejection
  • 0 partial requests
  • 0 full requests

Yes, it’s true: I have, once again, embarked on the ego-debilitating task of querying.

There are few activities more onerous for a writer than querying. What better reward for the hard labor of finishing a novel than to spend hours assembling query packages, only to be bombarded by rejections?

At times, I’ve taken to calling queries “rejection requests,” just to feel like I’m succeeding!

In this age of self-publishing, when authors have the option to bypass gatekeepers altogether, it’s tempting not to bother querying at all. But querying continues to serve many important purposes – not the least of which is that, whether we like or not, we need gatekeepers standing between our precious manuscripts and the stormy sea of publishing.

Of course, there is more than one way to secure a gate keeper. Self-published authors – if they’re serious about their craft – build their own crew of gate-keepers by hiring quality editors and relying on honest, thorough critique partners. This is not quite the same as scaling the precarious walls that protect the hallowed halls of traditional publishing, but no matter how you define gatekeeper, the need for them is not in any way diminished by the advent of self-publishing.

From my perspective, however, gatekeeping is not the most important function of querying. The most important function of query process is that it forces us to wait. 

Patience is a virtue, they say – one that is increasingly abandoned in the modern world. Back when I started getting serious about writing and publishing (which wasn’t that long ago) I was often told that after finishing a manuscript, an author should set it aside for six months and then come back to it again for a fresh round of edits.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard anyone say that. Indeed, if someone were to suggest such a thing at a workshop panel, I suspect they would get booed off the stage with rotten tomatoes.

Six months?? Who’s going to wait six months, only to come back and do more revisions?

In six months, I can have my precious manuscript uploaded to the ebook market, where I will instantly dazzle my readers with the brilliance of my imagination!

In six months, I can write two more novels, because as anyone in the know will tell you, it’s impossible to make a career as writer unless you churn out at least 4 books a year!

In six months, no one will want this novel anyway, because the market changes so quickly, my whole premise will be obsolete!

In six months, the world could end – without anyone having read my novel!!

Yes, yes, I know: Waiting could be disastrous.

But it could also be the best thing that happens to your novel.

Here’s why: Our creative juices depend on giving our brains a rest. Sitting on a manuscript allows your imagination to tinker behind the scenes. Random passages will come back to mind, begging for a little reworking. You’ll remember particular spots where the wording is off or the reader needs more (or less) information. You’ll get new and brilliant ideas to reorganize the story, or you’ll discover something important about one of the characters that wasn’t clear before.

If your novel is part of a series, you might dig into one of the companion novels while you give the first one a break. As you work on that next sequence of events, you’ll realize some things aren’t set up quite as well as you thought in book one – and you’ll be grateful you still have a chance to fix that.

In my experience, sitting on a manuscript transforms it, often for the better. Short of the rare self-discipline to let something simmer – yes, for six whole months – one of the few things that still allows us to simply set a manuscript aside and wait is querying.

Despite these virtues, querying continues to be the ugly underbelly of the writer’s journey. I don’t think it should be that way, despite the inherent challenges imposed by the process.

In light of this, I’ve decided to share more about my own querying experience in the weeks and months (and maybe years!) to come.  The good, the bad, the ugly: all of it will be discussed here. Avoiding names whenever possible, of course – we must protect the innocent!

Whether you’re querying yourself, preparing to query, or feeling put off by the whole idea, I invite you to follow this journey and share your own thoughts and experiences. Who knows? Maybe we’ll all learn something together.

Next week, I’ll have a new tally and a new reflection. Thank you for stopping by!

8 thoughts on “the virtues of querying

  1. “In six months, I can write two more novels, because as anyone in the know will tell you, it’s impossible to make a career as writer unless you churn out at least 4 books a year!”

    Oh, my; oh, my! You nearly made me spit ice water all over my keyboard. It’s a sad, sorry state of affairs that way too many authors not only believe this, but do so with a vehemence that would singe your eyebrows.

    I’ll be watching your progress and sending sparkles. XX

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Sparkles are always welcome! To be fair, some authors in some genres can put out good books at lightening speed, but I suspect more often than not, a muse dies somewhere whenever an aspiring author accepts the 4-books-a-year mantra.

      Like

      • This was a timely read for me. Life’s events have forced me away from just about every aspect of publishing since January. Patience is truly a virtue in this case. I’ve been circling a new story for months looking for a way in, sitting on one pending novel and musing about changes to the concluding volume. Thanks for the needed reminder!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Karin,

    By the way in case you didn’t know you direct submit to Tor, Daw Baen, and I think one other major publisher, and those submissions aren’t read by the same person as the one who reads it if you submitted to an agent. That when you get 2 bites at the same apple. And if you get accepted then you can go pitch to an agent with a deal already in hand. I believe that is how Cherie Priest got started.

    Lyle

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I absolutely agree on setting a manuscript aside for a while. I’m more of a six weeks kind of gal instead of six months, though. It’s amazing how your perspective changes when you don’t look at a specific piece of work for an extended length of time. I find I am far more objective and can make necessary changes without agonizing over them. Bad sentences jump out at me, even though they seemed perfectly fine the first dozen times I read the story. I’m guessing it’s because I’ve moved on to something else so I am not as emotionally attached. I’ll still love my Prince Charming of a story, but I can see the warts left over from its froggy days.

    Good luck with your queries!!

    Liked by 1 person

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