As you can see from my previous post, I finished Surviving the Road! I also submitted four out of my eight possible queries, decided that I’d see how the responses on those look before I submit the other four, applied for the Lambda Literary Writers Retreat, and did some major world-building and magic-system-fleshing-out for the secondary world setting in which I intend to set a bunch of short stories.
On the plate for this coming week is seriously looking into Patreon for my short stories and doing more world-building for what I’m thinking of as the Tattoo Magic world. I likely won’t start revising Flight, my second book, until February. I’m giving myself a little time to cool off from the high-pressure stuff like drafting and revising in favor of something a little more light-hearted.
It’s January. I’ve finished a new manuscript, which means it’s time to query on my old one. Why does it mean that? Because I’m full of the finished-novel high and it’s a time of boundless motivation and energy. So I’m putting the to good use to conquer something I dread.
I hate querying. I hate trying to sell my work, and myself, to people who don’t know me. I don’t like random contacts and I feel like everything about these interactions is judged, even though I know that in reality there’s probably just some tired agent on the other end shrugging and sending a form rejection. I invariably screw something up (like the first query, in which I typoed my word count at 77,000 when it’s really 70,000, whoopsie) and it gives me something to beat myself up about for the rest of the day.
But I keep doing it, because I haven’t given up on traditional publishing yet, and if I’m doing traditional publishing, I want a professional to help me sell my work. I think this is the lawyer in me. Sure, you CAN represent yourself in court, but you really really REALLY should have a professional do it. They know all the sticky little rules and procedural stuff.
So here I am, assembling my list and paring it down and sending out my queries to the professional representers in the writing field.
When I hear of authors querying hundreds of agents, it boggles my mind. This year, my list of agents I’m looking at for Surviving the Plague is… eight. Eight whole agents in the entire world who I feel like would be a good fit for this manuscript based on their stated interests and the story I’m trying to sell. Eight letters before I shrug, set aside Surviving the Plague for another year, and wait for the rejections (or hopefully maybe the lucky R&R but I’m not holding my breath but man that would be nice) to roll in.
I have prepared my querying materials, the basic body of the cover letter, the synopsis, the sample chapters, anything they might ask for, long in advance. Long enough in advance to revise those just like I have revised the story itself, trying to polish until they shine. So really, Query Hell is just three days of research and querying, while I’m at my highest of novel highs, and then it’s over.
My work on writing-related things has been pretty scattered this week. Last week I finished the last major revision of the plague novel. This week, I’m about 33% of the way through my final “read out loud” revision, where I’m fixing typos and minor language issues. For obvious reasons, this is going much faster than any of the major revisions.
I’ve also very roughly drafted a query letter for the plague novel and started researching agents. I’m to start sending out my query letters after I pitch to an agent in person at a writing conference in late January, so I want to have all of my research and letter redrafting done by then.
Next, I pulled up my short stories spreadsheet and updated it. One of the online magazines that I submitted to has abruptly closed down, so while I don’t have an official rejection from them, I need to resubmit that story. Now that I have two stories that aren’t submitted anywhere, researching submissions is on my list of things to do for next week.
Finally, I’ve been playing around with some new story ideas. I’m not sure whether I’ll launch right in to revising the flight novel when I get done with the plague novel revisions or whether I want to start a new project. Writing new things is so much more exciting than revising old things, and it’s a lot easier for me to feel discouraged about being a writer when my creative juices aren’t flowing. It might be a good idea to write a couple of short stories or start outlining a new project to keep the creative juices flowing. On the other hand, the more revision I have done on the flight novel, the sooner I can start pitching that as well. I’m kind of torn, here, and haven’t yet made a decision about which way I’ll jump.
Lately, I’ve been gearing up to trying to find an agent to represent me as I try to sell Surviving the Plague. What I’m going to do after I finish my NaNo novel is to take my beta reader feedback, do a third draft of the novel, and then start looking for an agent.
Querying agents is as foreign and terrifying to me as the initial thought of submitting my short stories was. So I’m going my usual route to compensate for a lack of confidence–extensive research!
One of the most helpful things for me when I was thinking about this process was the Writing Excuses podcast in which Dan Wells and his agent talked about why his query letter stood out to her. Clearly, different agents have different likes and dislikes, but it always helps me to have a template to work from when I’m trying to do my own thing.
I’ve been practicing a lot of query letters, and I think I finally have a solid pitch down. I have a short list of five really great YA agents that I intend to send it to first. I know that five is a very low number (my novelist first judge sent queries to over 100 agents, for instance), but I feel very similar to how I feel about my short stories. I want to be represented by someone I have confidence in or I don’t want to be represented at all. I’d rather wait and do it right than rush into something I’m unsure of.
Besides, I know that I’ll probably want to tweak my letter if I don’t get any interest back at all in the first batch. And the same would go for a second batch, or a third batch, and so on.
I also have a page in my submissions spreadsheet set up to track responses. That makes it feel real to me. The page looks at me and tells me that I AM going to do this. I can’t chicken out now, not when I’ve come so far.