Encouragement from the Query Trenches

For those of you who aren’t writers, or have never queried a novel, the “query trenches”–that period of time when your novel is complete and you’re sending query letters out to Agents in the hope of securing representation–is a strange time of fun and insanity. There’s the thrill of researching an Agent who seems like a perfect fit. Then the nervous reading and re-reading and re-re-re-reading the query letter to check for spelling mistakes. And you want to come across as personable but professional and maybe a bit witty but not frivolous and show you’ve done your research on the Agent, but not in a creepy-stalker way, though it feels really stalker-y when you’re Googling the Agent and reading every interview and blog post about them. Side note: if you like a lot of attention, consider a career as a Literary Agent. But be careful what you wish for. Then after half an hour of hand-wringing and spell checking, you send the email. Then you check your Sent Messages box to make sure it went. And you open the Sent Message to make sure you really did spell the Agent’s name correctly.

The next part is the hard part: Walk away, knowing that when an Agent says “We respond to queries within 4-8 weeks,” they probably mean it. It’s so hard, we don’t do it. Even now, I’m expecting responses from Agents I queried last week. Completely unreasonable, but that’s the truth. And when you get responses, and they DON’T say, “I read your query and I love your writing so much, I want to go ahead and offer representation!” you’re a little disappointed. In fact, the polite form rejections will make you stop and re-think your life. They shouldn’t, but they do. That’s just a fact.

How do we writers keep sane? We cheer each other on (see the What’s Up Wednesday meme for a good example of such support). Also, those who have come through the trenches and ended up with an Agent share their stories. All Agent success stories are fun to read, and for me, the most fun aren’t the “I queried on Monday, and Dream Agent called Wednesday to offer me rep,” but those like Dannie Morin’s. If you’re with me in the trenches, I recommend you read Dannie’s “How I Got an Agent” post. Her road to finding an Agent was about as circuitous as you can get, full of mistakes and missteps. The encouraging thing is that she got there.

Here’s the link:


7 thoughts on “Encouragement from the Query Trenches

  1. Jennifer Pickrell

    You’ve pretty much described my process from the re-reading to checking the sent messages :)

    Just read Dannie’s story – it makes me feel much better about my current revision crazytimes.

    1. cds Post author

      The thing that surprises me the most about myself is the fact that I know all about the process, and how long I should wait for Agents to respond, and how Agents really aren’t that picky about minor spelling/grammatical errors if the query’s awesome, etc. But in the midst of the query trenches, all that goes out the window and I’m like a n00b again, spell checking, and obsessing over details, and checking email every 5 mins… :)

      I’m glad Dannie’s story encouraged you too. All the best to you, Jennifer!

  2. Pingback: What’s Up Wednesday » Colin D Smith

  3. Rachael

    The waiting is definitely the worst. I like to use Querytracker to look up the response times other people have had and then vary my batches. That way I’ll have some agents that respond within a week or two, others than take a couple of months, and maybe some that are non-responders. I know of a few agents that regularly respond within twenty-four hours (my record is two minutes) and that can be a nice change of pace, too.

    1. cds Post author

      I use QueryTracker too, and I’ve also been looking at query response times. But even an Agent’s past history isn’t necessarily a reliable gauge of when to expect a response. It’s selfishly frustrating that Agents don’t check their query inboxes as often as I check mine, but I’m sure my perspective would be different if I was one of their clients. After all, the bulk of an Agent’s time is rightly spent maintaining current clients, since that’s where they make their money. Queries are such a small part of an Agent’s day, and can be easily set aside for more important things that come up (e.g., conferences, BEA, lunch/dinner with editors/clients, etc.).


Share your thoughts... I usually reply!