The Query-Go-Round

The Query-Go-Round

The only thing keeping me strong with revisions is the thought that I might someday be done with them. I love revising, I do (where else in life can you hit the DELETE button on your mistakes before anyone else can see what a moron you are?). But sometimes revising seems endless, especially when you are anal retentive neurotic obsessive a teeny bit of a perfectionist like me.

So I have this list:

There's more, of course, but I don't want to give my brilliance away for free.

The list is three pages long, and I’ve checked off many of the (super quick) tasks over the past two and a half weeks. As soon as everything is crossed off, I will give the manuscript to some poor, unsuspecting super-lucky friends. While they read it and give me frequent updates on how awesome it is, I will be readying myself and my (super-brilliant) manuscript for the Query-Go-Round…the most uncomfortable part of wanting to be published. (Once a writer has published something, there is probably a whole new batch of horrors, but I don’t know anything about those yet. Thankfully?)

This will be my third trip on the Query-Go-Round, and I think I’ve learned a few things from my first two trips.*

First Lesson: A list of agents and a query letter are not enough.

Yeah, there are a few agents out there who don’t want anything except your pitch and maybe a few sample pages. But there are so many others, and some of them look fabulous, who ask for a synopsis. I limited my options with manuscripts 1 & 2 because I didn’t write synopses (yes, the plural form of synopsis is synopses). So this time I’m going all out: a one-page synopsis, a two-page synopsis, and a “detailed” synopsis, which, according to various sources, could be anywhere from twelve to 50 pages long. I’m going to shoot for ten.

Second Lesson: The synopsis is only painful if you don’t show it who’s boss.

Seriously. Once I stopped referring to it as the Dread Synopsis, things got a little easier. Then easier still when K in my critique group brought in a book jacket blurb. I don’t remember the book at all, but the jacket cover told quite a bit of the story, and it sounded actually interesting (unlike every previous synopsis I had attempted). The trick, we decided, is to infuse the thing with melodrama. My reasoning here is that a) I’m really great at melodrama, just ask any friends from high school, and b) you can always back off on the melodrama once it’s in there. But if you start with a dry recount of your story, nothing will give it life.

Third Lesson: Do your research.

It’s so much easier to query an agent when you know that he or she is a) actually looking for new clients and b) represents manuscripts similar to yours that you actually admire. Nothing is more awkward to me than telling an agent she should look at my manuscript because…because… I always look at the Acknowledgements page of books I love, because their agent (usually acknowledged) loved the same book, meaning we have similar taste, and naturally, she will love my book too. (Maybe not my first or second books, but definitely my third book.)

Fourth (And Last) Lesson: Don’t freaking give up after ten rejections.

I don’t know if I gave up too soon or not. It felt right to give up on manuscripts 1 & 2, because they didn’t feel like the Best Thing Ever. Why would I want to try to sell something that wasn’t my best? At the same time, maybe it was too early for the second manuscript. I could have revised for character, but werewolves seemed already overdone…I mean, I didn’t even want to read about them anymore, & I used to think they were the coolest.

With this manuscript, though, I plan to query agents in groups of five, then take what information I get back (assuming nobody offers to represent me on the spot, which, given my winsome charm and manuscript of awesomeness, is quite possible)…what was I saying? I’ll take whatever feedback I may get, and mull it over, consider revising, and revise or move on to the next wave of agents. Possibly. It’s an evolving process, and I’m learning from it all the time.

________________

*Because I am not yet a Published Author, I don’t feel qualified to give writing advice. However, I’m really good at getting manuscripts rejected by literary agents, so I think I can talk a little about that.

Comments
20 Responses to “The Query-Go-Round”
  1. Have no idea why people think literary agents are the only resource. I’m sitting here taking queries for my small publishing house, I already know you, Beth, and keep tabs on your blogs. How many ways do you need to hear “foot in the door?”

  2. sirsteve says:

    Yeah, I don’t like synopses either and I am not looking forward to writing the next one. But, like you said, it’s writing and like writing the story, you have to master the synopsis. Like Sunny said above, there are other avenues than just lit agents. I’ve had an idea there are three types of authors. The Lucky Dog who gets published first time out of the chute. The career person (cop, lawyer, business exec, etc) turned writer who has contacts and gets published. Then there are the masses who go through years of hardship receiving letter and letter of rejection before being lucky enough to make a contact who will take a chance. There are shades of these and if you find yourself resembling the latter, then don’t give up. Keep doing what you’ve been doing but do even more. Find the other avenues.

  3. Riding the Query-Go-Round, I’ve gathered lots of rings. I haven’t pulled the brass, but I’ve got a fistful of silvers. Aquisitions Editors- (ok, Sunny Frazier who shares advice on the how to’s that I’d never thought applied to moi), a great group of people to share the little glories and aches and the knowledge that when my MS, house chemistry and I are ready, I will capture that elusive brass ring! What a great ride!

    • Beth Hull says:

      Theresa, thanks for taking the metaphor even further. I love it. Yes, if we keep persevering, improving our craft, and wait for the moment, we’ll get the brass ring. I love your optimism!

  4. One thing’s for sure: in spite of all the frustrations, you’ve managed to keep your sense of humor. That’s something we all need to do. I think that includes learning to laugh at ourselves and I can tell from your post that you’ve mastered that.
    Remember, perseverance is the name of the game. Good luck!

  5. I was always told you “never” send to more than one agent at a time.
    Have the rules changed on that one?

    • Beth Hull says:

      Bonnie, I have noticed a few agents prefer exclusive submissions, but many of them realize that it often takes so long to get a response that you could waste years – YEARS – going through querying one at a time. The best thing to do is check out each agent’s/agency’s website and read through the submission requirements. Some of them ask that you notify them if it’s a simultaneous submission. Others might ask that you query them exclusively (again, this is uncommon, but I have seen it). If they don’t say anything at all about simultaneous submissions, I go for it. Also, I think if you choose to do simultaneous submissions, it couldn’t hurt to let the agents know in a quick note at the bottom of your letter. I hope this helps!

  6. Marja McGraw says:

    I tried finding an agent and it wasn’t fun. Gave up, went my own way, and I’m happy now. After a couple of rejections, I found a publisher for one of my two series. Then I found Oak Tree Press and Sunny Frazier for my other series. You have to decide what’s best for you, an agent or no agent. I like being (somewhat) in control without a middleman. Now, just because I said, I’ll find a need for an agent. Wouldn’t it just figure?

    • Beth Hull says:

      Marja, thanks for sharing! It’s so refreshing to hear from all these different points of view! In most of my YA lit circles, it’s all about the agent, so I tend to focus on that. Sunny’s right: it isn’t the only way. And I hope you didn’t jinx yourself, Marja. 🙂

  7. Jim Barrett says:

    Hi Beth – well – I think it is sort of “ugly out there,” and an agent doesn’t necessarily change that. I’ve worked with agents – been told by that agent how hard she worked on my behalf – but nothing happened. I’ve also done self-publishing and subsidy publishing and sold one book to a traditional publisher without an agent. What’s best – well who knows – there are so many variables. But what will keep you going – keep writing – stay positive that you have something important to say and eventually things will fall together for you.

    • Beth Hull says:

      Hi Jim, thank you for your thoughts! It sounds like you’ve tried many different avenues for publishing, and I love the different perspectives you can share. I think your final piece of advice, to keep writing, and stay positive, is priceless.

  8. Kat Hinkson says:

    I read your blog a loud to a friend in a coffee shop and had several tables laughing along with us. Your blog attracted the attention of several students from Drake University. They said they were going to take the blog back to class with them on Monday and discuss it. This was a great blog and I acquired nearly 75 rejections on the first story I ever sent out. I finally read the manual script again. It should never have gone out without some major, MAJOR, revisions. I love revising, I REALLY do.

    • Beth Hull says:

      Kat, thank you for spreading my brilliance among the university folk. It’s good to hear others enjoyed it. Flattering. My ego’s almost too big for the query-go-round…I think they have a head circumference limit. 🙂

  9. Gloria Getman says:

    I think it’s tougher to get published now with the economy like it is and book stores closing. I’ve noticed that a lot of publishers want to go straight to e-books now. I want to see my book in my hand. But in the end, I guess we must enjoy the pain or we’d give up.

    • Beth Hull says:

      Gloria, thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! I hope someday my book is available in whatever form people want it in – electronic, paper, audio. All of that. I don’t know that we enjoy the pain (at least, I don’t think I do…that’s something I’ll have to bring up with my therapist friend). But I definitely enjoy the process of writing, and whenever I feel down, that’s what I have to remember in the end. In fact, my husband just had to remind me of that a few months ago when I was whining to him on the phone. So if I ever get whiny on my blog, I hope people remind me here, too.

  10. I tried finding an agent but then realized they knew they’d never get rich off me, so I went to small publishers. There are down sides to every choice one makes, but I’m pretty happy with my publishers. I have found an agent for one of my manuscripts and she seems to be working very hard for me.

    • Beth Hull says:

      It’s good to know that one can always do both (small publishers and literary agents), so thank you, Lesley, for sharing. And best of luck to you with the agented manuscript!

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