"Query, Query, Quite Contrary"
I’m so excited to be a part of Amanda’s very special week! Let me just start by saying Happy Blogoversary Amanda! What a very awesome time to be celebrating, what with Thanksgiving this week, and of course the biggest shopping holiday of the year, this anniversary falls in a very top notch week!
I met Amanda a few months back through our mutual love of all things Rachel Harris and Victoria Scott! We hit it off right away and I was beyond thrilled when Amanda reached out to me to help celebrate her big week! With all guest posts the questions become what to write about? What to really tell all the followers that will keep them interested? I debated for a few days before a light bulb went off in my head. And when I say light bulb, I really mean Amanda. :) She suggested I tell the tale of my query letters and how they are progressing. So, snuggle in my darling followers of Amanda. I’m about to take you on a magical journey, I like to call “Query, query, quite contrary.”
Once upon a time there sat a very nervous YA writer. For over a year she worked, sun up till sun down on a manuscript she was sure would kick major butt come the time. For months she revised, edited, revised and edited. Finally after large debates, she sent it out for beta testing. Nail biting as it was, she sat and waited patiently while readers read her work. It was only four days out when the first review came back. Holding her breath she read the report. Positive! Excitement bubbled up in the nervous writer as she held her breath for the next eleven to come in. After hearing a few good and a few bad, revisions and edits came next. The nervous writer decided now wasn’t the time to try for agents.
The manuscript needed work and some missing touches, but the nervous writer had a very supportive best friend who had published both by literary house and self and would not allow the nervous writer to back out of her dreams, just because of fear. The nervous writer was stalling, and the best friend knew that if it was ever to be done, now was the time. With her gentle nudge the best friend encouraged the nervous writer to stop stalling and go for it. A deadline was set. One month was all the best friend and the nervous writer would give herself. One month to finish edits, begin the letters and send, send, send. This deadline was set for November 1st, 2013. Would the nervous writer commit to her deadline, or drown in the pool of fear?
Well, this nervous writer is happy to report that the first letter went out a week before the deadline. October was a very busy month for me, what with cutting words, researching agents and publication houses, and the writing of the letter.
This may be the most important detail in the entire query process. It sets up your book, you and your characters. I wrote my first letter, probably eight different times, which I sent back and forth with my bff YA author Ryan Ringbloom. Ryan, bless her, would read every line and instantly email me back with what she liked, didn’t like and what needed just to be thrown out. Frustration began to set in. All I wanted to do was write the freaking letter. But, that quickly becoming the hardest part! How do you sum up 105,000 word manuscript into three very short but very descriptive paragraphs?
It seemed like a very impossible feat to me. I couldn’t even sum my own book up when someone would ask me what it was about. All I could say was, take the Salem witch craft trails, mix it with a dystopian world that is rebuilding after tragic wars, and add in a girl with dark secrets that whisper of death and shake in two very hot boys, who will stop at nothing to save her and that’s the book..well almost. There’s also deceit, deceptions, betrayal, lust, the building of an oncoming war, and sinister secrets...that basically sums up the book, but agents don’t want to read that. I wouldn’t either. No, I needed to come up with something that was catchy but also really grabbed everyone’s attention. So, how do you sum up a book with so many different aspects?
You break it down, one part at a time. You read the jackets and backs of every book you can get your hands on! After getting a general idea of what caught me to buy that book, I began to work out the key elements of the story that were going to kick the adrenaline of “I need to read this now!” into overdrive. Trust me when I tell you, this is harder than it sounds, but once you get it, you face palm your forehead because you realize it was there all along. You just didn’t see it.
After I had the breakdown of my book, it was time to put that with the letter. I had already generated a list of agents months before. I spent days reading their submission requests, and learning about themselves so that I would be able to include a few key things in each letter. I didn’t want to seem like a stalker, but if I’m honest, I stalked most of their blogs every day for months before I decided to actually send my letter to them. And some I’m still cyber stalking.
After days of working my letter and emailing back and forth with Ryan, the nervous feeling I had disappeared, instantly replaced with “just send it already” feeling. I actually became sick of my own letter, just like I had my manuscript. I didn’t want to read them any longer, so I woke up one morning and decided that I was going to send it.
I hit send, and didn’t look back. With the first letter out, I sat for a few days and digested the feeling of accomplishment and nerves, swallowed down with fear of rejection. Most agents will post on with their submissions guidelines that it may take up to a few weeks before they respond, but I had it in my head that if I didn’t hear within 48 hours, I totally sucked.
Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. At that point, I was actually beyond caring. This was my dream and I couldn’t just send one letter and that would be it. No. I wouldn’t go quietly. So I queried again. This time to a small publication house. And then again, to another small publication house. And again to two more agents. I found that after the first letter, the other were a breeze. What had I been so worked up for? By this point, I can’t really tell you. It’s funny because it was only the beginning of this month, and yet thinking about it as I write, I don’t know why I was so nervous. Maybe it was the unknown, or the idea of actually sending the book to someone who may love it or hate it. Or maybe it was because I was finally living out my dream. It could have even been the fear of rejection.
Which, oddly enough, the first agent I submitted to, I heard back from two weeks later. And yes, it was a rejection. Not that I can say I was surprised. I had a feeling, but I wasn’t completely defeated. Yes, I cried. For a few hours. I even went as far as questioning my work and if I was worth publishing, but then I read the email again. Why? To punish myself further? Maybe, but I needed to see the words one more time. Funny thing, the first time I read it, I swore it said, “Totally sucked. Better luck...never.” What it really said was that although she didn’t love it, she liked it. LIKED it. So it wasn’t loved. But it was liked. Could it have just been a nice way to say, “You suck.” Yes, but I don’t see it like that. I truly believe it was liked, but just not the cup of tea she was looking to sample.
When you think about it, as writers we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be well understood and liked. If our work isn’t liked or receives a bad review, instantly our lives are burning to the ground. When we get positive feedback or a great review, we don’t want to believe it for a second. We are so sure we are going to fail that all of the good goes out. We only believe the bad. Well, I can tell you from experience, that just because it wasn’t liked or received well by one doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there who isn’t going to think it’s the next best thing since sliced bread. We are all awesome in our own right. Don’t ever forget that.
And even though, I have spent the last three weeks working on getting more letters sent out and still haven’t heard a yes or a no, doesn’t mean I’m going to give up. As I said, I won’t go quietly. This won’t be the last you’ve heard from me. That’s a promise. :)
About Jennifer Weiser
I am a YA author searching for the right words to stain the pages of my first novel. When I'm not becoming lost in the pages of my favorite books or busy creating a world of my own, I am living out fairy tale dreams along side my beautiful daughter and husband, who not only inspire but allow inspiration to color our world together.
At The Cool Table Website: http://www.atthecooltable.com
At The Cool Table Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/At-The-Cool-Table/443492515761220
Thank you so much Jennifer! :)
<3 Amanda Leigh