Live from the trenches, it’s querying updates

I don’t normally write querying updates, both because I’m just the right (or wrong) kind of superstitious and because I don’t want to sound like a whiny bench.

If I complain about querying, maybe the universe will be all, “I’ll GIVE YOU something to complain about.” If I celebrate a request, maybe the universe will be all, “Your head’s getting too big, time to take you down a peg.” I don’t want to complain to friends who are agented because I don’t want to bring them down, and I don’t want to complain to friends who are querying because they have their own querying woes.

So I don’t talk much about querying. I just kind of constantly panic internally instead.

gif of Pepa and Felix from Encanto singing "we don't talk about querying, no no no"

But I’m feeling feels about querying again today, kind of for the first time in a while. Is that the best time to write a post about querying? Survey says no, but I’m doing it anyway.

Bernie Sanders "I am once again asking" meme. Text reads, "I am once again my querying feels."

There are so many things I wish I’d been emotionally prepared for going into querying. Like, things we either don’t talk about or that I somehow missed the memo on despite everything I saw and heard and read about querying long before I was ready to do it.

That’s a whole post in itself, and one I’m definitely not writing unless I ever get agented, because surely the universe will go, “Wow, complaining again? NO AGENT FOR YOU.”

But for example: form rejections on fulls. Getting ghosted on solicited queries. Getting ghosted on fulls.

There are so many things that happen when you’re querying that just aren’t talked about, and it fucking sucks to learn about them in the trenches.

Like, more than six months ago, I had a phone call with an agent. But it ended in rejection, because a call isn’t necessarily the call.

Luckily, I knew that one going in. I don’t remember where I’d read it, but I’d read it somewhere, ages ago, so as excited as I got about scheduling a call, I kept myself reined in, celebrated minimally, and told very few people.

It still crushed me. But at least I knew that was a possibility. I’m pretty sure I would’ve quit querying entirely if I hadn’t, especially since the call left me spiraling, questioning my whole author brand, and feeling terribly, terribly certain that my timing would always be off and that I’d never get published because of it.

Apparently it’s not common knowledge, I’ve found out from agented friends who are shocked that it happened. So, you know. Be aware. A call isn’t necessarily the call.

A n y w a y, that’s ages ago in querying time.

At this point, I’ve been querying Edna’s story for a year and a half. I’ve sent just over 60 queries, which I realize is a laughably small number for some people, especially for the amount of time in which I’ve sent them, but querying exhausts me. I remember about three or four weeks in, I felt like I’d already sent 50 queries. When I counted it turned out I’d sent…15.

E x h a u s t i n g.

I’m emotionally preparing myself to shelve the story, which fucking sucks to even admit, but here we are.

still of Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket from Netflix's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Text reads, "'emotionally preparing,' a word which here means 'throwing myself into new projects so I can pretend it doesn't matter.'"

There’s been interest. I have a request rate of about 28%, and I’ve read that 20% is good. Several agents have even really loved the story.

In some cases, I can’t be sure why the story was rejected, since I’ve been gathering “not a good fit” rejections like I’m starting a collection, and “not a good fit” can mean about twelve thousand different things. But when it’s not “not a good fit,” it comes down to marketability and the fact that Edna’s story is too different to slot neatly into traditional publishing (or sometimes the fact that Edna’s old, and elderly protags are a ~hard sell~).

That’s another thing I wish I’d been prepared for going into querying.

I still have some fulls out there in the wild. A handful. So I highkey feel like a dramatic bench being all, “Woe is me, for I must shelve my novel,” because what if some agent who still has my full emails me like, “HOLY SHIT, GIVE IT TO ME NOW” and then I sound like an idiot for whining so much?

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli. Added text reads "how I look when I bitch about querying even though I still have fulls out there." The woman on the fainting couch says "woe is me, fetch my smelling salts." The demon says "wtf bitch shut up"
The Nightmare, Henry Fuseli (1781)

I don’t think that’s going to happen, though. The fulls are out there, but I’m treating them as CNRs, since the most recent request is almost a year old at this point. Since other agents, even agents who have loved Edna and loved her story, have passed because it’s not a marketable book.

Since I sent nudges five months ago and got crickets, even though the reason I nudged was because I’d been told I should if it had been over twelve weeks (lol, twelve weeks) and because I’d been told queries sometimes get lost in the shuffle and agents sometimes forget to request or don’t see the query at all until nudged because maybe the original went to spam.

I know mid-career agents frequently hold onto fulls without reading them until someone else makes an offer. And I realize this is because mid-career agents are very busy and prioritize current clients.

But best-case scenario, I imagine the remaining agents standing off with my full.

gun standoff scene from Pirates of the Caribbean. Barbossa, Elizabeth, Jack, and Will point guns at each other. Text reads, "agents waiting for a different agent to make an offer before reading my full."

I know they’re all busy, and on top of that we’re in a pandemic, which fyi is why I absolutely do not nudge after twelve weeks. Even at the six month mark I was iffy and waited a while longer.

But it feels like they’re playing agent chicken, and I’ll just sit here without an offer for eighty-four years even if it turns out one of those agents would a) love the story and b) know how to sell it.

So we’re pretending the fulls don’t exist.

In the meantime, I submitted The Many Buried Things of Peter Shaughnessy, aka GroundskeeperWIP, to Author Mentor Match. Originally, I planned to revise it again and start querying in time for March’s PitMad, because there’s no better birthday present to myself than the gift of potentially more rejections, but I had a major freakout over revising and finally gave into my years-long FOMO over author mentorships and said YEET.

I mean, I did actually revise it again first, but not in the direction I was revising it previously. More in the direction that almost all my betas agreed it needed to go to be query-ready, which wasn’t nearly as drastic.

Will mentors agree? Will they think it’s already query-ready and not something for them to work with? Will they think it’s so far from query-ready that they don’t want to take it on? Who knows! It’s rejection central up in here!

gif of Michael Scott from The Office saying "no question about it. I am ready to get hurt again."

9 thoughts on “Live from the trenches, it’s querying updates

  1. Agents are taking FOREVER to respond to fulls! And yeah some of them definitely hang onto them until someone offers. That PotC gif is perfect lol.

    I believe that you will have The Call with an agent who will champion your books. I know everyone says it’s a numbers game and you only need one etc etc but those things are true. You got this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel for you. Querying is exhausting, especially since different agents want different things, and we’re supposed to research each agent and personalize each query and… sigh. It sounds like you’re doing everything right but falling into the, it’s not marketable bucket. Which sucks, because so many groundbreaking stories didn’t fit the current mold—yet someone took a chance on them, and they hit big (Outlander and Harry Potter come to mind).

    Hang in there. And FWIW, I’d love to read a book with an elderly protagonist!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! My mom is very personally offended by the unmarketability of elderly protagonists – she’s like “I’m tired of reading about people in their thirties, where are my 50+ characters?”


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