Queries: Just how many is the right number?

This is a solid question. When you set out into the land of submissions, you’re happiness level is high. Just as is the level of hope you hold in your heart and soul.

–and you know it’s coming–

–rejection will sneak into your psyche like a rat into your toilet–

Maybe in the beginning you got a bite, but now… nothing.

So what is the magic number? When do you stop?

Back in 2014 there was a Writer’s Digest posted an article titled, “Don’t Give Up Until You’ve Queries 80 Agents or More.” (that link will take you right to it)

But honestly, if you read the article, it doesn’t explain why 80+ is the way to go. Yes, it does go into a succession of analogies on what it takes to deal with queries and rejections–but not why the number is so magical that it’s plopped in the middle of the title.

My guess as to why they didn’t touch on the why is because there is no magic number. All there is, is perseverance and the knowledge that if we (as writers) keep writing and working to improve ourselves and our crafts–if we don’t chuck our MS into the nearest trash can and say, “time to give up on that dream.”–we increase our chances of actually finding an agent and succeeding.

I set out to find a magic number because I have made a list of potential agents on QueryTracker.com. (This is the site I use. If you know of a better one, please share a link.)

On QueryTracker.com I created a list of 33 agents. I’ve sent queries to 28. Of those 28 I’ve received 17 rejections–one no reply that stated after a month it was an auto-rejection–and I have 10 letters sitting out there in the land of digital inboxes. 5 other names sit on my list. Some have been there for months. Most days I stare at them.

So this is my real issue. My novel–The Trials of Imogen Grace–is speculative science fiction. I supposed in the great scheme of things that yes, there are 80+ agents out there looking for science fiction–but where? At 33 I feel like I’ve exhausted my resources. Those 5 I stare at are because they’re so boarder line when it comes to accepting Science Fiction I’m already 98% they’re rejections and I haven’t even typed out, “Dear Agent,” on a saved draft in my gmail.

Now querying has gone from a necessary step along this path of getting my books published and has been twisted into a middle school math word problem.

A trail leaves Los Angeles with you, your computer, and a query on board. It is bound for an Agent in London. Your research shows they accept science fiction. You’ve done you’re homework and are plainly excited–this may be a good fit. BUT…they like to meet in person, and  that’s when you realize A TRAIN CAN’T GO TO LONDON! You forgot the Atlantic ocean!

But you’ll figure it out. You get out your trusty pencil and write out the equation: 80 – reality = ???

DON’T GET ON THE TRAIN!

In conclusion I’ve come up with my own hypothesis on how many queries is the right amount. As many as you choose to send.

I’m not crazy. (for the most part). I get how this all works and I’m trying to look for the signs, or whatever was stated in the above mention article–but at the end of the day I also learned something more: self belief.

I like my book. I really, really do. I’ve read it about 500 times and I’m sure I’ll read it even more as I edit it one…more…time.

Yes, I feel like I’ve been at this a long time–ten years is a long time. Not on this novel, but in general. But instead of my need and will slipping away, I’ve found in those ten years I’ve worked harder, learned more, been more open to improvements.

Sadly, there is no magic number–just faith in yourself and your manuscript. If you love it and believe in it, than yes–you’ll get past that 80 mark. You probably bypass 100 as well–because you, like me, want what you’ve written out there.

Now all I can do is keep trying and hope someone will believe in it as much as I do.

Never give up! Never surrender. Happy writing! xxoo-A

 

When it feels like an impossible situation…

rejected-logo

I’ve gotten to the point where I’d love to start a query like this:

Dear Jane/John Doe,

I’m emailing you today because I think you’re photo is rad.

–or–

I’m sending you this query, because why the hell not? I mean, seriously, you seem like a nice lady/fells. You tweet. You facebook. What do you think? Let’s do this!

Obviously, I won’t–but it makes me giggle when I think about doing it. It also helps  to have these obscure thoughts when I’m feeling hopeless. You know, remove the pedestal and all that.

No matter how many times I go out and query, it never seems to get any easier…

 

Never give up! Never surrender… but maybe nap and have a cookie.

xxoo-A

Pen caps and [soy] ice cream sandwiches…

 

Chart 'o Writing stuff

 

…or even better, “The nearly uninteresting life of an aspiring author.” But let’s be honest – that title is a bit to contemptuous even for my liking.

So, you’re an aspiring writer. You woke up one morning (or afternoon, or evening – I won’t presume to know your sleeping schedule or lack there of) and you decided you want to write. No! You decided you want to be an author! Ah, yes! The glory of the written word. The world will now know every secretly hidden gem you have held so closely to your chest it burns a light so bright it can be seen for miles and miles.

You sit down at your computer (because while paper is fun, typewriters are antiquated – lets face it – the world is digital) and you pour out your soul. There are laughs!!! There are tears… There are epic moments!…!…!

You type the words “The End” and nod proudly at the blinking cursor (as you compulsively save the manuscript 100x) – you, my friend, are D-O-N-E! Boom!

 

BRING ON THE LITERARY AGENTS!

BRING ON THE 3 BOOK DEAL PUBLISHING CONTRACTS!!

AND BRING ON THE SWEET MOVIE FRANCHISE DEAL!!!

(Everyone wants a movie deal these days. It’s insane. I mean, if you want a movie deal so badly why not just write a movie script? Just an observation…)

But alas, that is not the truth of the writers journey. It is a myth brought on by a combo of believing everything you see in movies and just plain lies. So I would like to give you a list of truths. And why do I want to give you this list? To be honest I don’t want you to quit.

I’ve been writing for eons. In the past year alone I’ve written two books and I am currently working on a new one.

Are these books published? No.

Do I have an agent? Not yet.

Will I self-publish? Probably not.

Will I keep writing? Yes.

YOUR TRUTHS ABOUT WRITING:

  1. If by this point you haven’t heard the Stephen King writing quote on how to become a better writer, here it is: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” I know, he has several other quotes – people LOVE the kill all your darlings one – but this  is my personal favorite. Writing is hard work. There is no book out there that just popped out of someone’s brain polished and ready to be published. (If you don’t believe me pick up the On the Road: Original Scroll and prepare yourself for utter boredom.) 
  2. Your “1st” Draft. This is one of those things that boggles my mind. It is called a “1st” draft – the title alone would imply there are more than one of them. As stated above – writing is hard work. Can you do it? Yes. Will you? That’s up to you. Go, hide, write your first draft. Look at it like the bones of a skeleton and when you go back add all the meaty parts that make it a body. Don’t be afraid of this. DON’T assume someone else out there will do it for you. It’s your book. It’s your job. YOURS and yours alone.
  3. Thomas Edison said “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” So it writing.
  4. That Literary Agent you love and want to rep you – well they may or they may not – but you’ll never know unless you send off your query letter. So SEND OFF YOUR QUERY LETTER! Do it! Right now. Stop with the excuses.
  5. There will always be something else. There will always be your day job. You will always be tired. Your children will take up your time. Your friends will be in the way. You will need to wash your laundry (Please wash your laundry. And guys, wash the sheets.) THERE IS NO GOOD TIME TO START WRITINGS. I will say it again: THERE IS NO GOOD TIME TO START WRITING! So you may as well start right now.
  6. People keep telling you to write what you know – which is fine. I mean, for me that means I will write stories about being a yoga teacher stay at home mom who is vegan. NEW YORK TIME BEST SELLERS LIST, I’M COMING FOR YA! (not). Back to #1 – read and write about things that inspire you. You love The Game of Thrones and want to write the next epic fantasy novel! Go read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. Why? Because the characters are amazing and you can use what you learn there it give a different perspective in your warring world. Want to be the next YA Fiction God/ess? Read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Hienlein – because his use of dialect is a game changer. Expand your horizons and don’t be afraid to thing about thing you may not know. We live in the information age. Google it. Look up someone who has the info you want and email them, give them a call, ask questions. If you’re a woman and want to know how a man would react to a certain situation – ask them. Ask questions. Watch documentaries. Get the hell outside your comfort zone.
  7. Okay – so you already know all of that stuff, now what. The biggest thing about being an aspiring writer is not giving up on yourself. Yes, you’re going to receive rejection letters. Some will be the fun, “It’s not you, it’s me” break up style letters that leave you feeling empty and raw. This is where the ice cream sandwiches come into play. Don’t give up, but take a second to treat yourself and tell yourself it’s okay, because let’s face it. You’ve tired and that’s a lot more than some have done.
  8. This is my final one – pen caps. On this journey you will meet an assortment of people. You’ll meet the ones who tell you to keep going and you’ll meet the ones that tell you to quit. Take the pen cap and shove it up their nose (metaphorically of course). Believe in yourself. Be open to criticism, use it to make yourself a better writer. We all have hang-ups. ALL OF US.

Writing is hard, but it’s worth it. Don’t be afraid of hard work, and don’t try to cut corners. But most of all, don’t give up on yourself. If you want to write and become an author – the only thing standing between you and that goal is yourself. Get out of your own way and go write.