If you're like me, when you started out querying, you did all this. It took at least an hour or so - more if you actually read their clients' work (I did) - to get each query together, but it was okay, because you were Doing What You Were Supposed to Do. Playing by the rules. You invested your time, hours that could be spent writing or critiquing or sleeping for God's sake, but it's fine! Really! Because you put a lot of work, careful thought and consideration into this query, and determined that you and this agent would be a perfect match. After all, you were Doing Everything Right. You were only querying the agents you were sure would be a perfect fit for you. You sent your query off, smiling, optimistic, and slightly smug.
Thirty minutes later, your email pinged. You nearly jumped out of your seat. You rushed to check it, fidgeting while the page loaded. You looked at your inbox and...
It was a form rejection. "We're sorry, but we don't think your work is a good fit for us."
Oh! NO! This can't be! You Did Everything Right, right?
Wrong. You did one thing wrong.
You fell in love.
When you were doing what you were supposed to do, researching agents looking for the Perfect Match, you let your love for your character and your novel and your hopes and dreams get all mixed up into imagining how you and this agent would work together. And you fell in love with the agent. And now that agent has sent you the message, loud and clear - "Never. Gonna. Happen." You mixed up "business partner" with "New BFFE."
How do I know this? I fell for an agent. And when I got my rejection from her last week, it was not pretty. I might have cried the ugly cry. (I definitely cried the ugly cry.)
How am I preventing this from happening again? I'm implementing strategies to strike a balance between love and business.
|(I liked how the trays on this balance look like nooses. Because that's kind of how this whole thing feels.)|
My pre-query research consists of reading the agent's bio and wishlist to make sure she's looking for the type of material I have to offer. I'll search for an interview if there is any confusion. Of course, I'll check out her agency's submission guidelines and make sure that my query conforms to those. If I already know some of her authors' work, I'll squeal a little and squirm in my seat while clicking send. (It's exciting to query famous peoples' agents!) But if I've never heard of any of her authors, I'll send anyway.
I have my documents all ready to go so I can just add them into the body of an email, no nail-biting or worrying. Sometimes I'll alter a query slightly if I think it'll draw the agent more from what I read in an interview. Usually I don't end up altering it. Of course, I always make sure to type the agents' name at the top, and spell it correctly.
That's it! No one query takes up much more than ten or fifteen minutes, tops. If I get form rejection, I've lost the time it takes to eat an ice cream cone, not the time it takes to write half a chapter in my WiP.
Now, here are my suggestions for finding balance AFTER sending the query:
Once you query, consider un-following the agent on Twitter, and maybe even un-following her blog, until you hear back from her. Nothing will change the more you stalk her, and every time she mentions she's reading slush or that a certain character type (yours!) annoys her or that she hates the use of a certain phrase, you will go nuts. (Why yes, I do know this from personal experience.)
Once an agent requests something from you, CONTINUE TO QUERY AS NORMAL. That agent with your chapters, or your full? She might never respond. Odds are, she will eventually reject your MS despite having asked to see more. She might even send you a form rejection. On a full. This is how agents do their jobs. It is nothing against you. Don't put your whole querying life on hold because that agent maybe, might, fall in love with your ms on her Kindle amidst the hustle and bustle of a New York cafe.
One last thing - every time I click "send" on a query, I expect it to come back as a rejection. This may seem fatalistic to you, but I'd rather be very surprised by a request than very crushed when I get a form rejection. It's just part of how I'm finding the golden balance between agent love and agent apathy while querying.
How do you find the querying balance between love and business? I'd love some more tips to keep me even less crazy...