Does Querying Have You in a Quandary?


Q is for Querying

Some of you may know that I submitted a novel (a poorly written one) to half a dozen agents last year (I still cringe when I think about that). Ah! What was I thinking? I had this grand idea that they would…well, I imagined it would go a little like this:

Yeah, that’s my future agent there with a feather in her hat, trudging through the endless slush pile, growing more disappointed with each manuscript she encounters. But then, then she picks up mine, and hallelujah! {key the music, clouds part, angels sing} What a glorious day! She has discovered the holy grail of writers! Her heart swells as she reads prose, unlike anything she has ever fixed her gaze upon (unfortunately that still may be true).

Heh heh. It’s fun to dream isn’t it? As writers, we spend the majority of our day playing in our imagination, but I was severely delusional. I’m afraid this was most likely the scene that occurred when an agent read my query:

Hate all of It meme

Yep. I’m certain they hated it, all of it, every poorly produced piece of prose. Yeah, I’m aware that alliteration almost always annoys. I’m using it as a literary device to irritate you as much as I irritated the agents I queried.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the writing equivalent of the singer who tried out for one of those talent shows based on the advice of a friend or parent. You know…someone like this guy…

Never mind. I’ll spare you that scene, but I’m sure you can imagine it. Is it possible to overestimate your abilities so dramatically? Is there a writing equivalent for being tone-deaf? Prose deaf, possibly?

So yeah, I submitted a manuscript laden with weak writing to half a dozen agents and received six fairly quick rejections. Oh, but the mistakes don’t end there. Oh no. I actually thanked a couple of them for replying. Their responses were so kind, thoughtful, and encouraging. Plus, they took the time out of their busy schedule to respond to me. I had to thank them.

Yeah, don’t do that. Agents have enough crap to sort through. Don’t add to it.

Can I just go crawl under a rock now? In fact, I think I might take up residence there, maybe turn it into one of those little hobbit holes and live there forever. Fortunately, I discovered my mistake early on and didn’t send anymore.

So what’s the point of this post? Don’t do what I did. If you plan on going the traditional route (I’m not sure that I will), and querying has you in a quandary, here are some tips to follow when submitting your query letter:

The Top Ten Query Mistakes

The 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter

How to Write a Query Letter

Have you queried or do you plan to query an agent? What has been your experience? What lessons have you learned that you’d like to share?






15 thoughts on “Does Querying Have You in a Quandary?”

  1. Reblogged this on Tricia Drammeh and commented:
    At the beginning of my writing journey, I submitted a poorly written manuscript to at least a dozen agents. Yes, I still cringe when I think about it. This is an excellent article about queries from someone who has been there. Thank you, Melissa Janda, for writing this!

  2. Don’t beat yourself up!! 🙂 We learn as we go. So this was a learning experience for you! I have what I call my “30,000 word picture book,” the first book I submitted around. Believe it or not, an agent picked it up. She must have been as naive as i was. LOL. Needless to say it wasn’t published, and I continued on, always learning. Thanks for this honest post!

  3. Oh, I would have done what you did – thanked the agents for their responses.

    The thing with this though is that you put something out there and learnt from it – that’s priceless.

    The thing I don’t like with trad publishing is the fact that a select few people make the decision on what they think thousands will enjoy reading. At the end of the day, some agents may not like something that plenty of readers out there will enjoy.
    Personally, I think I’ll go the indie route, I like the idea of being able to control the whole process – and it feels like there’s a more direct connection between writer and reader with indie writers. You leaning towards indie publishing too by the sound of things?

    1. Yeah, I’m leaning toward indie, but I still have much to learn about indie publishing. Fortunately, there are many indie authors who give advice and openly share what they’ve learned from their experience.

  4. I initially sent out query letters to agents for my novel and found some interest but no takers. Then I read a lot about how agents go through queries they receive and realized just how subjective the process is. I didn’t want to spend years trying to find that one agent who loved my story as much as I did, which very well might never happen, so that’s when I decided to self-publish. I want to be in control and not be caught up in the whims of the big machine of traditional publishing. It may or may not be the right decision, but I won’t know if I don’t try.

  5. The key here is you recognized you had work to do instead of blaming the rejection on an industry who doesn’t understand you. I received my early rejections in the form of contest feedback. I focused so hard on grammar and strong word choices and clever dialogue. The comments I received were “where’s the plot?” “Where’s the conflict?” “Things are just happening…” I had zero idea how to plot or pace. The action really got started around chapter 5, which was AFTER the required submitted page count. That’s a problem…

    Those who are kind to help us newbies along are a Godsend. I try to return the favor now that I’m marginally further along 🙂

    1. Ah yes, conflict is key. Larry Brooks (Story Engineering) says “No conflict, no story.” Or something like that. I’ve learned so much since that first submission. I hope it pays off eventually. 🙂

Don't be shy! I'd love to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s