On Queries
January 31, 2011

I have to be honest: I always breathe a huge sigh of relief when we close our query lines in December. Finally, I think, a chance to catch up! But after a couple of weeks in a query-less world, I get twitchy with anticipation and anxious to dig in once again. Thus, I always approach the re-opening of our query lines with a sense of hope and a certain amount of nervousness. Not unlike, I suppose, many writers who are about to submit their work to agents feel as they pause, scanning their query letter one last time before clicking “send.”


As you probably know, we re-opened our query lines last week. Perhaps you’ve just sent out your first-ever round of queries to agents. Or perhaps you’re on your second or third round of queries, having made tweaks and revisions to your query letter and novel based on previous feedback from agents and writers. Whether you’re a first-timer or a veteran, you most likely log into your email each day, nervous yet hopeful that you’ll get a response or two from the agents you’ve queried.On my side of things, I log into my query box every day (or every couple of days), nervous yet hopeful that I will find the project—the one that will keep me up all night reading, the one that is so beautifully written that I will follow my husband around the house reading it aloud to him (as I am apt to do when I really love something), the one that I can pitch to editors with the utmost confidence and enthusiasm—basically, a project I can shout to the world about (and I’m happy to report that I’ve signed several such projects lately).That said, in order to find that one project that I can’t live without, I have to read—and let go of—plenty of manuscripts. How many, you ask? At last glance, I had just over 150 queries in my inbox. Out of those queries, some will show great potential, but will need more work before I can consider signing them. Some will be great, but just not right for me. And some of them just won’t be very good.Once all is said and done, about three out of the 150 queries in my inbox will excite me enough that I’ll request a full manuscript. That’s right—three.Look, I know this sounds dismal. I know that rejections are an unpleasant part of the submissions process (hey, don’t forget—agents get rejections, too!), and I know it’s discouraging to receive several rejections in a row, or not to hear back at all. And after awhile, it’s difficult for a writer not to take it personally. But as you go about your submissions process, remember that I’m not reading through queries looking for reasons to reject you; I'm reading with the hope that I will find a project I love. And that’s what other agents are doing, too.So what can you do while you’re waiting to hear back? Keep writing (every day, even if it’s only a couple hundred words). Keep networking. Keep researching and querying more agents. And keep asking questions. If you have any questions about the querying process, the reading process, etc., shout ‘em out in the comments section.Finally: Don’t give up. I’ll see you in the query box!