Google throws up 259,000 results for ‘how to query a literary agent’. I read approximately 258,999 of them when I was preparing to query (the remaining one wouldn’t load, even though I refreshed for sixty-three hours straight).
Yet I still found writing my query difficult. And by difficult, I mean I:
- left a pad, pen and shot of whiskey out each night in the hopes that Query Elves would write it for me; and
- sold all my possessions and spent my life savings reaching the seventh level of a Satanic cult in an effort to sell my soul for the perfect query letter. I now live in a box and it turns out Satanic cult leaders aren’t above lying.
That kind of difficult.
hired a blimp with an ‘Anna has an agent!’ banner to fly around the world calmly announced my news in the writing communities I’m part of, I’ve had several private messages from other authors asking about my journey. The 259,000 sites tend to focus on how to write the perfect query. People are hungry to know is how it feels once you’ve sent it off.
When I sent my first query, I was terrified. I must have worked on that one-page email for about an hour. I’d read so much about awful query mistakes and how irritated agents get at query fails that I’d elevated them to godlike beings who might smite me if I let a typo slip through the net.
By about the tenth query, I was kind of enjoying it. I like box ticking–I’m a great fan of forms and surveys (don’t judge me, I was born this way)–so I found it fun researching each agent’s submission guidelines and making sure I complied. I also find time management games fun. You know, the ones where you give yourself carpal tunnel by clicking imaginary objects 300 times a minute in order to achieve precisely nothing in your life.
Yes, you’re right: I’m not much fun at parties. I make a great cat lady though.
This highly scientific graph shows how I felt throughout an average day:
- I’d wake up in the morning and check my inbox. Hell, sometimes I’d wake up in the NIGHT and check my inbox even though god knows I need my beauty sleep.
- I’d get to work and check my inbox.
- I’d leave my inbox open all day at work (thankfully, I work for a great company who don’t mind!)
- I’d refresh my inbox every time I finished a task, even though I had desktop notifications enabled.
- The last thing I did before leaving work was check my inbox.
- When I got home, I’d check my inbox.
- I’d leave my inbox open all evening at home.
- The last thing I did before going to sleep was check my inbox.
- I dreamt about checking my inbox.
I took comfort in filing. I made a folder for storing all my sent queries (I BCC’ed myself in because I’m cool like that). I made a folder for rejections. I made a folder for partial/full requests, and I stroked my screen lovingly when that folder got its first occupant.
I took comfort in tracking my queries. I had a spreadsheet. It was colour coded. I joined http://www.querytracket.net and paid a small fee to give me extra
stalking powers information about where my query was in the agent’s line.
I took comfort in other querying authors. We handed out virtual cookies for rejections. We handed out dancing bananas for requests. When one of us was offered representation, I think I was almost as happy as she was. Almost as happy as when it was finally me who was being congratulated.
Most importantly, I carried on writing that second novel. It meant that even if every single agent on QueryTracker rejected my novel, I could start all over again when the second one was finished.
I got my first rejection literally two hours after my first batch went out. I wasn’t upset. I wasn’t surprised. I was zen.
You see, I’d read that I had about 0.05% chance of getting representation. Naturally this is not a precise science, but the working out was logical. I’m kicking myself because I can’t find that article now, but this one has the same figure. I like statistics, and numbers. I wasn’t depressed by the staggeringly poor odds. I think if I hadn’t known how difficult it was, I would have taken the rejections a lot harder and a lot more personally. As it was, I wasn’t expecting anything else.
Others began rolling in. Sometimes I was zen. Sometimes I was upset. Usually, I sent out a ‘revenge’ query, something I know other authors do: get a rejection, send a new query. Get a rejection, write a new story. Get a rejection, drink tequila. We all have our methods.
Of course, I didn’t know that one of my very first queries was The One. You never know when it’s going to be The One.
So just keep querying, and drinking tequila.
Now, excuse me. I’m just off to cling to my agent for dear life and beg her to never, ever leave me and throw me back in the query trenches again.