Wednesday, June 24, 2015

To Query or Not To Query - That Is The Question

potato eaters, van gogh, print
Van Gogh's "Potato Eaters" Print from NGA

Let's all take one moment to appreciate that high res images of some of the most awesome art collections in the world are available for free from the museums who own the artwork. Isn't that cool?

Now, back to writing. Lately I've been thinking about the quandary of when to query and when not to query. It's a very existential sort of question.

To Query

The thing is: if you're not querying, you aren't putting your book out there. If you aren't putting your book out there, there's no way you're going to get published. At first glance, it really feels that simple.

The only way you're going to find out for sure if your book is good enough and your query letter are good enough is to send out a few query-letter feelers.

Not to Query

The problem is that once you've queried your dream agent(s), and your dream agent(s) have rejected you, you're outa luck. And once you've queried your entire list of agents, you can either move on to less appropriate agents or you can give up on that book.

And if your query letter or first few pages aren't quite up to snuff (despite all your revisions and time and sweat and tears), you are going to be rejected. Over and over. And then you'll run out of options.

It is so incredibly easy to allow this back and forth thought process to stop you from querying altogether. Or to send you into a crippling spiral of doubt. Believe me, I know.

potato eaters, van gogh, painting
Van Gogh's "Potato Eaters" Painting from van Gogh Museum

My Sorta Solution - Five Queries at a Time

I've adopted the Five Query Rule. First I write. Then I revise. Then I write my query. Then I revise it. Then I go back and ask other people (my dear, patient critique partners, friends, and family) for input on all of the above. More revisions.

This takes forever. Now that I've spent forever, I obviously think I've got something good. 

So I send out five queries - to one or two of my most favorite agents and four or three I'd definitely like to work with. These agents represent my genre and age group and books that I think share some qualities with my book.

Then I sit back, try not to refresh my inbox five times every hour and wait to see what happens.

When I get zero requests, I halt the presses and go back. Maybe it's the query. I revise that and try five more.

That doesn't work? I take a breather and have another look at my manuscript and my query.

It Takes Forever

This process is frustrating because it takes forever. There are those few lucky souls who make it through in record time, but, so far as I understand, that's not most of us, and it's certainly not me.

So, right now, I'm writing a first draft of a book that I'm in love with. Then I'm going back and I'm revising my upper MG Fantasy, Dragon Lure, once again and I'm certainly taking another look at its query letter. And then I'm going to cross my fingers and hope. Because once you've done everything else, sometimes that's all you can do.

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