Monday, September 17, 2012

How Querying has Changed for Me

As I get Sacred Fire ready to send to agents, I've thought a lot about the first time I went through this process almost two years ago. The difference between then and now is like night and day.

The first time I queried Sacred Fire, I was about as green and inexperienced as a person could be. I didn't have anyone else read it because I liked it the way it was. Besides, I'm smart enough to know when a book is bad, so if there was something wrong with it, wouldn't I know? (I'm chuckling as I write this.)

Within a  month, I sent my book to 120 agents. My reasoning was that if I sent it to everyone all at once, people who liked me would accept me all at once, and then I'd be able to chose between all my options.

It didn't occur to me that 120 agents would reject me all at once.

I've gone through three drastic rewrites since then, I think I've done about 20 or 30 drafts of my cursed query letter, and I've had so many beta readers, I don't even remember how many there were... was it seven? Or eight?

(Sometimes I'm proud of my tenacity, and other times I'm embarrassed that it's taking so long.)

This time, I've done my homework and I honestly believe the book and the query are as good as they can be.

It suddenly occurred to me what that entails: if my book is as good as it can be, I send it to a bunch of agents, and it still doesn't get accepted, that means it's time to quit.

Two years ago, I believed in second chances. This time, it's now or never.

Familiarizing myself with the market has also changed my attitude. Before I could shrug off rejections, but now I know enough about particular agents to get attached to them. That makes every rejection hurt.

I'm at a scary moment in my career. But all in all, I suppose the fear is good. It inspires me to work harder. If someone recommends a change in my book that's too much work, I can't shrug it off and say the book is good enough because "good enough" is too risky. It would be devastating if I had to move on to my next book knowing there was something else I could have done.

UPDATE: I just want to clarify because some people seemed to be confused; I'm not going to give up on writing altogether. I would just move on to my second book. If that doesn't make it, I'll write a third. 

Most people have to give up on their first book. I still have that list of 120 agents and I'm only sending my query to five people at a time, so I still have a lot of work ahead of me before shelving Sacred Fire.


  1. Good luck, Teralyn!! I'm crossing my fingers for you. I love this book, and I'm sure your revisions have made it even more wonderful. I think your tenacity at sticking with a project you love and working to make it better is amazing. Good luck, good luck, good luck!

  2. Hmm, I don't think it's as black and white as you described. But then again, I'm the queen of second chances and surprise resurrections when it comes to book projects. A book is never "dead" until you decide so.

  3. I feel your pain at times. Just out of curiosity, have you written a second or third book? I know for a fact that when I left behind the first to focus on another book that my writing certainly improved. The second, third, and now fourth books are much easier to sit down and write now that I know how to construct a plot, how to use dialogue properly, and better know how to delve into my characters' psyches. However, I have not laid the first book to rest, because I wasn't persistent enough in the querying process. It went through many rewrites, but reading it now, with that distance I needed, I see my writing and story differently. And I still love it!
    Good luck!

  4. I know how you feel. This process can test so much about us but I think it says a lot that you revised and improved your query letter. Sometimes it's the worst when you're in the midst of it. I remember thinking that querying was terrible and it was for me but now, that seems long ago and worth it, you know? I'm glad you aren't giving up now! Can't wait to see how your journey goes.

  5. You've learned from your previous experience and have grown as a writer because of it. You are more aware and more realistic but I wouldn't just give up all the way if you don't get the response you desire. It could be a simple matter of timing. No one ever really knows.

    As you embark on this round of querying, I wish you all the best and that you'll accomplish your goal of getting SACRED FIRE in the hands of an agent who'll love it as much as you do.

  6. Good luck! I recently queried every agent possible that would take YA Fantasy. I got rejected by them all. But by the power of Twitter my query got sent to an agent that is interested and is now awaiting my first 50 pages! You just never know what's going to happen. :]

  7. The querying stakes are higher for me now too - or will be when I dive back in in a few months. It's my third MS and I'd like to think I've done a much better job this time around. Rejection will be all the more heartbreaking.

    Good luck! Remember the best thing to do while waiting is to dream about your next project.

  8. I wouldn't say it's now or never. There are lots of fish in the sea, and these days, you don't need to just query agents. There are plenty of e-publishers out there that accept unsolicited manuscripts. I, too, am in a different place in my career than I was a few years ago. I really want to establish a career as a full-time writer, so I'm trying to build up a body of work to make that happen. It's definitely harder than I thought it would be, but I'm more determined than ever. I figure that if I have several manuscripts circulating at once, that will be my best bet for publication.

    I agree with Charlotte's advice. Just send SACRED FIRE out into the world and focus on writing your next manuscript while you await the results. Who knows--perhaps your next project will be accepted and that will pave the way for SACRED FIRE's publication. Good luck!

  9. I love your blog!
    I am your newest follower, follow back?

  10. Oh, boy. I wouldn't throw in the towel. I'm going to cross my fingers that you get a bunch of interest in this novel. And if not, write the next one. And decide what to do with this one--I think it is great for writers to have some back list books when they nab an agent. If this one doesn't do it, you have a strong novel in your back pocket once you do get an agent. And, if Sacred Fire really wants a life now, and you don't get interest, then you can hire an editor, and self-publish. And write the next thing. Please don't think this is it!

  11. What Mary Mary said above.
    And if you believe your book is great, polished, ready, you can publish an ebook for not much cash outlay.
    Fascinating post, though. I rarely hear of writers quitting in a this one makes it or bust, black and white way.
    Good luck!

  12. Dint misunderstand me, I'm not planning on writing on writing, just moving on to a second book. I mean, there's no point in querying the same book over and over; you have to move on at some point, right? I'm going to edit the post to clarify this.

  13. I just sent out my first query a month ago. It was my first rejection, which I know is normal. I guess it would be abnormal to think the first time it would be accepted. I think writing is a lot about the love of it, because who would subject themselves to that kind of rejection if they didn't believe in their story? I hope you get your acceptance letter soon, and if you have any tips for me or other newbies to actually getting through this crazy process, I'd appreciate it. :)


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