Thursday, May 25, 2017

0 Writing 101: Surviving the Query Trenches

**This post is part of the Writing 101: From Concept to Query (and Beyond!) series. For an overview of planned posts, take a look at the series introduction. Previous posts have explored the drafting processnovel revisions, why you may or may not want to query literary agentshow to write a query letter, and how to spot a shmagent**

We’ve come a long way from first drafts. You’ve diligently revised, done your research on agents, and you’re ready to query.

Stop. Take a breath. You wrote a book, and you’re amazing.

Alright. Let’s talk querying.

There are two keys to keeping your querying experience as simple as stress-free as possible. They are



In order to keep track of your queries, you’ll need work out an organizational system, otherwise you’ll end up getting muddled and querying the same agents over again (which is a definite querying no-no). Your system can be as simple or as complex as you like. Some people love spreadsheets, I personally don’t, and just used a Word doc with color-coded text to keep myself organized. Here are some of the things you may want to note down when querying.

Agent and agency’s names
The date your query was sent
Expected response time (or when you can assume you won’t be hearing back)

Many agents have a “no response means no” policy, to reduce their workload. Noting the expected time frame before you can assume a rejection from them will streamline your querying process, particularly if they belong to an agency where you can query multiple agents consecutively (NOTE: agencies tend not to allow overlapping queries—meaning you can’t query more than one agent at a time. Some do, however, let you query another agent within the agency after receiving a rejection. Others only allow one query for the entire agency, though, so choose your agents wisely and keep track of this sort of information).

Once you start receiving rejections (which I’m sorry to say you’re very likely to) keep track of those as well, particularly if they include feedback. If several agents give you the same piece of feedback, it’s a good idea to revise your manuscript or query accordingly before sending new queries.

When you receive a request for additional pages, first REJOICE! Secondly, make note of any pertinent information. Was it a partial or a full request? Did the agent indicate how long it might be before you can expect a response?

If an agent reads your full manuscript and wants to see changes made which they provide notes on, but they haven’t yet offered representation, congratulations! You’ve received a revise & resubmit, or an R&R. An R&R means an agent sees great potential in your work and is seriously considering making you an offer, but also needs to see a few major changes made to your book before they’re comfortable offering. Whether you carry out an R&R is up to you—if you’re excited about the direction it would take your book in, then go for it! If you hate the suggestions, you’re under no obligation to carry out the R&R, but do think carefully about it before rejecting it out of hand. Either way, let the agent know how you plan to proceed.


All this organizing and querying will come along with a steaming pile of rejection. It’s never fun, and it’s a difficult part of the writing journey. Comfort yourself with the fact that all readers respond differently to a book, and that the rejections you’re receiving are based on very subjective tastes. And surround yourself with sympathetic friends, who’ve either been there before, or who are in the trenches right along with you. If you’ve already found CPs, as recommended when we talked about revision, they may provide literary shoulders to cry on. Non-writer friends may also be willing to provide a listening ear. Whoever you add to your querying trenches support network, make sure you keep your querying woes between you and your trench buddies. It’s considered unprofessional to spend too much time bemoaning the fate of the querying author on public social media profiles, and may serve as a red flag to agents who might consider making you an offer of representation.

Next week, we’ll talk about the light at the end of the querying tunnel: receiving an offer of representation!

About the Author

Laura Weymouth is AYAP's contest coordinator, working to create opportunities for you to get samples of your work in front of agents right here on Adventures in YA Publishing.

Laura lives on the edge of the woods in western New York, along with her husband, two wild-hearted daughters, a spoiled cat, and an indeterminate number of chickens. Her YA fantasy debut, THE WEIGHT OF WORLDS, is forthcoming from HarperTeen in the fall of 2018.

You can follow Laura on Twitter and add her book on Goodreads.

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