Sunday, April 4, 2010

Life After Querying

So, you've taken the plunge. You've condensed your 90k novel of fabulosity into a three paragraph query letter. (Probably with the aid of a pint of Ben & Jerry's, a stack of pancakes, a few bags of Cheetos, and a shot or five of vodka, but whatever.) You did your homework, researched agents, followed all of their slightly different submission guidelines, and hit send.

Now, your queries, synopsises, and first chapters are out there in the ether, taking up space in inboxes across the country and you have a choice.

What do you do next?

A. Obsessively check your inbox five times every three minutes because even though the average response time is somewhere between five weeks and never*, you're probably going to be the exception.

B. Finish off the Cheetos, the vodka, and the pancakes while writing a lengthy list of additional flavor ideas to your buddies Ben and Jerry.

C. Stalk your chosen agents across Twitter, asking them how their slush pile reading is going and offering them your firstborn if they'll put your query at the top.

D. Write the next project.

If you answered A, B, or C, you're going to drive yourself and everyone around you stark raving mad long before your local supermarket runs out of Cheetos. You think waiting to hear on a query is bad? It's just the beginning. Next you get to wait on a revision letter from your agent. Then, after you slave over those revisions, you get to wait for your agent to find time to re-read your newly polished manuscript. Then you go on submission and guess what? You WAIT. A lot. Unless you're a certain friend of mine, but whatever. ;) You wait. Weeks. Months. You send out more submissions and wait weeks. Months. When your manuscript sells, you wait months for the contract. Months for the revision letter. Months before your book goes through all the steps it takes to finally hold its glossy cover in your eager little hands.

If you've been doing A, B, or C that entire time, you'll be dead by then because some kind person in your life will finally see the light and put you out of your misery. If they don't, call me. I work for cheap.

BUT, if you've been doing D, you're not only in the game, you're ahead of it. Because writing the next project is the only smart thing to do. Why?

1. Because Vodka really isn't your friend in the long run.

2. Because there's a chance the project you're querying isn't the ONE yet.

3. Because you'll be flat-out shocked how much better you are at this little thing we call writing the next time around. And the next. And the next.

4. Because if you want to be an author, you have to be able to write more than one book.

5. Because you'll learn so much about craft and execution the next time around, you might want to pull your first book off the querying/submission market and take another swing at it.

6. Because pancakes, while delicious, really do go to your hips.

7. Because a writer who comes to the table with some killer ideas and a killer work ethic to back it up is a much better bet than a precocious little genius who wants to slave over each manuscript for nine years.

8. Because it will keep you sane. Better than sane. It will keep you excited about writing.

9. Because you need something better to focus on than bugging Ben and Jerry. Trust me.

10. Because having another marketable manuscript means another opportunity to reach your goals.

11. Because I told you to. Okay, that may only work on my kids. But really, I'm right. You might not know it yet, but I am.

12. Because if/when the rejections come, you'll be able to handle them much better if you already know you're rocking the house with a story SO AMAZING you're going to make them eat their words when they get a look at it.

So, what should you do while you wait, and wait, and WAIT?

Put your butt in your chair, your hands on your keyboard, and write.

*Please note that many, many agents work hard to respond in a timely fashion to queries. So "never" is usually a case of spam filter, email gone wonky, or Zombie Goat invasion. Yeah. It happens.


  1. Consume enough of the vodka, and you'll start thinking Cheetos Pancakes topped with Ben & Jerrys are a viable option. Awesome post, thank you!

  2. Um, can I do B AND D? Because, well.. Cheetos, pancakes, ice cream, and vodka minus the cheetos, pancakes, and ice cream are some of my favorite things!

  3. So true - gotta think of our hips and just get writing :)

  4. Ok so Vodka might not be my friend...but do I still have a chance with Tequila????

    Great advice! I'm already on top of it :)

  5. I'll admit I'm not a fan of publishing companies. Probably because I can't fathom the idea of having someone else advise me about my story. I take a class in animation, and I absolutely refused to follow the teachers advice about voiceovers, effects, et cetera, because it was mine, and that was the way I wanted it.

  6. VODKA!!! VODKA?! All this time it was vodka? I thought it was gin :D

    My sons keep stealing my cheetos and who is Ben and Jerry? You've got 2 guys getting you ice cream? Man all I have is some Dreyer guy.

    Too late on the pancakes. I took "hip to be square" way too serious in highschool.

    Wait, wait, wait, I hate waiting. Is there nothing I can do to make you trust me?

    Nothing comes to mind?

    I swear on my father Inigo Montoya, you will reach the top alive.

    Throw me the rope...

    Writer: Inconceivable!
    Agent: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.


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