Hi guys! My name is J.N. Cahill and I am here to blog about how my first querying experience went. Hopefully this will be helpful to anyone who has been thinking of querying.
Before I began querying, I was nervous, lost, and confused about the entire thing. Even though I found great resources, it’s still difficult to think about the task at hand. You might even have questions concerning querying that you can’t seem to find answers for, or that you don’t understand. All in all, querying can be rather scary. I spent months researching on the process as well as looking into possible agencies, and I still felt scared when the day came for me to send in my first query.
Before I sent out my first query, I had sent my query letter to an agent who was offering honest opinions on them. The only response I received was that the work didn’t interest her, so I took it as a good sign. I believe writing the query letter is probably the hardest thing involved in this process, but that might be because I find formal writing awkward.
Happy with my query letter, I clicked on the agency who I had decided was the best fit for my work at the moment. I probably spent an hour or two reading the instructions, agency bio, and agent bios again just to make sure I pretty much had everything I needed and how querying was going to work with them. I felt excited, nervous, confident, but also scared.
I opened up my e-mail, transferred my query letter and other details over, and spent a long time checking over it. At one point I read the e-mail aloud to myself to make sure it sounded good. I got a second opinion. I prayed. Still, after I put in the agent’s e-mail address, I hovered over the “Send” button, sure but unsure. Sending the first query is probably the second hardest thing involved. Although I was confident of my letter and of my work, it was still very nerve-wracking to push the “Send” button. Finally I went for it and clicked the button. The fear dissolved into relief. I knew that at this point, I had done my best. I had taken the brave step in putting myself out there. I felt so excited over finally making that step that I found it difficult to go to bed.
I felt even better when shortly after submitting my query, I received a response telling me that I should receive a response in thirty days if they are interested. Hopefully I will receive some sort of a response, even if it’s a rejection.
I have come to the conclusion that querying is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of guts because you are putting yourself out there. I’m trying to think of querying as an adventure, though. Although there will be no physical traveling, there will be a lot of emotional and intellectual traveling. I hope to learn new things, to better myself and my work, and to make even something negative into a positive experience.
Querying is brave, but if you’ve come far enough to consider it, you can do it. If you are sure, without any doubts, that the world is ready to read your book, it’s time to put yourself out there. Here are my suggestions concerning querying if you are ready to take this step:
1. Ensure that your novel is finished and has been edited.
Publishers and agents are not interested in authors who don’t even have their books finished. Your books needs to be finished and polished before you are even ready to think about querying. If you are unsure if your book is ready, try to find beta readers and critique partners.
2. Do it at your own pace.
Don’t query because others are pressuring you. You need to do this when YOU are ready. After all, YOU are the one exposing yourself. It’s natural to be nervous, but if you truly feel you are not ready to deal with it, then don’t. Focus on strengthening whatever it is that needs work (this may even include your self-esteem and confidence) and do it when you are ready.
3. Do research on how querying works, concerns and questions you have, and on agencies, agents, and publishers.
It’s important to know what you’re getting into so make sure you know exactly what is expected. It’s also important to seek out agencies, agents, and publishers who are seeking the kind of work you’ve written. If they are not interested in the type of work you write, they are not a good fit. Keep a list and some information on the ones that seem like a good fit.
4. Make sure you have a strong pitch and query letter.
Find examples of pitches and query letters that others have found successful. Some websites will list these by genre. Use these to structure your own pitches and query letters, but don’t copy them. Make it your own.
Once you’ve finished your first draft, get opinions from others. Revise them until they are as strong as possible. If you come across agents or professionals willing to critique or look over your query letter, DO IT. Participate in events like #PitchMadness. Even if you aren’t chosen to be considered, you will learn a lot and meet others.
5. Submit your query.
This is the hardest step, but you’ve come this far–you can do it! If you feel your query letter cannot be perfected from this point, it’s time to send it in. Select the top agents and agencies from your list. Pay careful attention to their submitting instructions.
Most agencies prefer e-querying now, which is a query sent via e-mail. Check that you are correctly formatting the e-mail per their instructions. If they do not tell you what to put in the subject line, make sure to include something about it being a query letter so it won’t go directly to spam. Make sure to look it over to ensure there are no mistakes. Summon some courage, say some prayers, whatever helps you. Then press “Send”! Hopefully you will feel more relieved than scared at this point. Then it’s time to wait, which may be the third hardest step, and hope that you and your work look promising.
I hope that these steps and my personal experience helps. If you are about to query, I wish you the best of luck. Try to find confidence in your work and in yourself. Don’t beat yourself over any rejections that come. Even Harry Potter and Stephen King received rejections. You’ll eventually discover the right agent/agency/publisher for you!
For helpful tips concerning querying, check out my resource page at: http://jncahill.wordpress.com/writing-resources/