The query process, or, as I like to call it, the Devil's fetish scenario, is a grueling experience for us writers. It's where our book is done, edited, and polished, and now, we need an agent who can help us get published. So, we send our baby out into the world, asking for someone, anyone to represent it... and instead get our guts handed back to us. Usually in the form of a polite but somehow soulcrushing email. Yeah, the query process is brutal at best, downright traumatizing at worst.
But there is one good thing about suffering: it's great fodder for columns.
Here are the fifteen things you'll definitely do while querying.
1. Get a headache from how many options there are.
There are thousands of literary agents to choose from. Literally. Thousands.
There's no shortcut here. Just settle in and prepare to read a thousand different websites use a thousand different ways to say... basically the exact same thing.
But God help you if you get two different agencies' requirements mixed up.
2. Realize you really suck at getting to the point.
A large part of the query process is summing up your 50,000+ word novel into a short paragraph; possibly a few short paragraphs if the agent wants a synopsis.
You will suddenly realize that you ramble. A lot. Your one-page synopsis has somehow turned into five, and now, you have to figure out what to cut. But how can you possibly explain your masterpiece in only one page? Doesn't this agent know that great literature cannot be crammed into such a small space? Do they not care about every imperative detail of your magnum opus?
(Spoiler alert: no.)
3. Question EVERYTHING you thought you knew about your own book.
You can explain every detail about every character in your novel with no notice. You know the plot inside and out. You know every page, every word by heart.
And then you have to write your query letter.
Suddenly, you don't know what genre your book is. Or what age group you'd market it towards. Or who'd even buy it. Or why you want to be represented by this particular agent. And what is fiction, really?
4. Realize you don't actually know as much about the publishing industry as you thought you did.
During a single hour of querying, you will learn six new words, one of which you'll learn from context clues because even Google was stumped. And everything you learned about publishing back in 2010 is now totally irrelevant, and you have to start over. Since when did agents want you to tell you what social media you're on? Why does this agent use an online form, while this agent wants direct emails? And what the hell is a boutique agency?
(Seriously, does anyone know? I've seen the term pop up a few times, and I'm stumped. I tried Googling it. Didn't help.)
5. Wonder how much past writing experience you can claim before it becomes flat-out lying.
Anything can qualify as writing experience if you're desperate.
6. Accidentally hit "send" on at least one email before you're done.
We've all done it. If you're feeling ballsy, you can send them your real query with an apology note, explaining what happened, and hope they understand that you're only human and mistakes happen, and give you a fair shot anyway.
If you're me, you go through the five stages of grief in about ten seconds, before accepting that you've burned that bridge, and devour yourself inwards as you spiral into a vortex of shame.
7. Query two agents from the same agency at the same time without realizing it.
If you're lucky, you'll catch it before you hit "send" and stop yourself from committing this major querying faux-pas. (Unless, of course, the agency in question explicitly says they're okay with it.)
If you're not... yeah, you can scratch that agency off your list. RIP, you.
8. Obsessively check, double-check, and triple-check to make sure you didn't upload the wrong file.
More like centuple-check, if you're a paranoid wreck like me. Yes, I know I definitely uploaded the right file, because I checked it a thousand times already... BUT WHAT IF I DIDN'T?
9. Have about sixteen heart attacks before you can bring yourself to send that requested manuscript...
What if they DO?
10. Suddenly doubt that you even know how to write. Like, at all.
And once you start doubting, you will begin to spiral rapidly. An average look into a spiral-session:
Does my book even qualify for this genre? Does it meet the standards for this genre? Does it meet the standards of any genre? What makes me think this book is truly the best it can be? What makes me think I'm even qualified to write this book? Does this story even warrant telling? Do I actually have a grain of talent in my body, or have I only deluded myself? I deluded myself, haven't I? I totally deluded myself. I managed to trick myself into believing I can write, and now I've inflicted this monstrosity upon some poor, unsuspecting agent. OH GOD, I'M A HACK.
11. Get rejected.
The email they sent didn't actually say, "Fuck you and the horse you came in on," but it sure feels like it did. Yes, unless you are the luckiest bitch alive, you are going to get rejected by a few (dozen) agents. Probably more. Usually, they'll send a form email, but sometimes, they'll detail all the reasons why they rejected you.
Pros to that: it lets you know what went wrong, and what your weak spots are in your manuscript, and sometimes, the agent is even interested in trying again if you edit your manuscript to their liking. If you're exceedingly lucky, they may even give you some pointers, and tell you how you can improve.
Cons: It's an email detailing all the reasons why they rejected you.
12. And cry.
Ice cream is optional, a whole new wave of self-doubt is not.
13. Get rejected five times in one day.
See, this is a fun side effect of sending out multiple query letters around the same time. Most agencies reply within 6 - 8 weeks, which means, if you sent two agencies a letter on the same day, there's also a chance you'll hear back from the two agencies on the same day.
So, the more agents you query on the same day, the more likely you are to also get shot down by them on the same day.
Fun fact: I once got rejected six times within an hour. It was like they were firebombing.
14. Realize that there is no escape from the query process.
Not even while you sleep. Once you've started, it's on your mind 24/7. And once you start having dreams about it, it's officially too late for you.
15. Refresh your email... every 10 seconds... forever.
So what if you sent the query literally five minutes ago? Maybe they replied!
So what if you've already checked twenty times today? Maybe they replied!
So what if you're giving yourself heart palpitations by stressing yourself out? Maybe they replied!
Repeat ad nauseum until one of them actually does reply.
What are the struggles you go through when you're querying? Tell me about them in the comments!
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