The Querying Experience I Was Afraid to Share

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

(I'm offering to send you my query letter--both versions--for free if you're interested. Get it here.)

A few years ago, when I decided to query agents for my novel, I didn’t know what to expect. I focused on learning everything I could about the process, especially formatting the letter and researching agents. Preparation (including spreadsheets) was key for me. But somehow, in all my Googling, I missed the part about how writing a query was considered hard. Very hard. Like, flaming circle of hell kind of hard.

And it is good that I didn’t have those expectations in my head because it would have slowed me down. I would have done what I always do and proceeded to overthink each step in the process. Instead, I jumped right in because there wasn’t another way around it. I didn’t even get another pair of eyes on my query (a recommendation I would never make to others). I’m a writer and an English professor, after all. I was confident that I could write a short query for my project, and revise along the way if needed.

My results were more than I ever expected. Not only did I get an offer of representation in three weeks, I had over 50% positive responses (asking for full or partial manuscripts) according to my Query Tracker stats.

The query worked! I cracked the code to getting interest in my novel. And when I signed with my agent, I was confident that I would have a book deal in weeks.

Spoiler alert: it has been three years and I do not have a book deal. My agent is great and I know many first books don’t sell. I haven’t wanted to share my experience because I don’t have the book deal. Yet. I have viewed my experience as failure, which I see now as ridiculous.

I learned so much. And I have so much to share. What if I helped others who are about to query? Sharing my story is the first step.

My experience taught me several things. I learned that getting an agent isn’t always the hardest part (though I know so many others would kill to be in my shoes). I learned that having a solid query is only one piece of the puzzle; the manuscript also has to live up to the promises the query makes. I learned everyone’s experience is wildly different.

And I learned that I like queries. I like writing them and I like editing them. (Especially compared to the Works Cited pages and annotated bibliographies I grade in my day job).

If you are out in the query trenches, you aren’t alone. There is a large writing community on Twitter (and other social media sites, I assume). And there are so many resources out there. You likely know these query-related sites, but I’m sharing them anyway because I want you to feel as prepared as I felt before jumping in.

By the time you read this post, who knows where I’ll be in the process, possibly even preparing to query again. I hope you’ll reach out if you ever have questions. We need more stories in the world--we need your story--and I'd love to help. Sometimes it helps to have a friend who will let you vent.


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