You’ve written and polished a manuscript, and now it’s time to find yourself a literary agent. But what sounds like it should be quick and easy, definitely isn’t.
So far on the blog we’ve covered how to query pretty extensively:
- Querying 101: Everything you need to snag a literary agent
- Deconstructing a successful query letter
- How to write your novel synopsis using The Hero’s Journey
- Now what? Query strategies, etiquette and next steps
But once you’ve pressed send – no matter how prepared you feel – it can be extremely nerve-wracking while you wait for responses. Even more so once the rejections come rolling in – which they inevitably will.
You can start to doubt yourself and your project, and you’ll start checking your email every 20 seconds or jumping every time it pings.
So in a stressful time, how can you stay productive and keep from totally losing your mind?
Now I am an organizational freak in all aspects of my life, but I really think it’s crucial for everyone to employ some type of tracking method while querying. It can be a spreadsheet, it could be a list, you could use Query Tracker. Just use something and it will save you a lot of headache later when you’ve lost track of who’s who.
Take a break from social media
Social media is a wonderful tool for marketing yourself and your books, becoming a part of the community and finding great resources. But I encourage you to take a step back while querying for two reasons:
#1 – A news feed full of other people celebrating getting an agent or signing a book deal can be really devastating for someone who’s hearing only crickets or being rejected while querying. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t compare our own careers with those of others. But often that’s easier said than done.
#2 – It’s extremely tempting to share every single update with your social media friends: your first rejection, your first partial request, an agent requesting a phone call. But please, please don’t do this. It can be seen as unprofessional, and the publishing world is so unpredictable that none of these are sure bets. It can also create more pressure for you which – if you’re querying – you already have plenty of. This is a perfect time to practice staying silent because once you go on submission/sign a book deal, there’s plenty you won’t be able to share.
Find a cheerleader
Querying can be tough on the psyche and the heart. Writing a book is such an emotional journey, that it’s easy to take rejections personally or to get worn down quickly. That’s why it’s important to have someone to lean on and cheer you on in this stage. Family, friends, significant others, critique partners – that’s what they’re there for!
Indulge in some self-care
If you’re like me, when working on a manuscript, everything else falls to the wayside. Now that you’ve reached a huge step forward in your journey, take the time to do the things you’ve been sacrificing. Go out with your friends, take a glorious bubble bath, get outside in the fresh air and go for a walk. Give your brain the time to rejuvenate and take care of yourself.
This goes hand in hand with the previous recommendation but it’s so important that it gets its own section. I have a hard time reading while working on my own project, so when I finish, I have a pile of novels waiting for me to enjoy. Reading not only gives you a great escape from the stress of querying but it keeps your creativity in shape for when you’re ready to dive back into a new project.
Work on a new project
There’s nothing wrong with taking a writing break – in fact, I encourage it as you can see above – but once you’re feeling refreshed, my biggest piece of advice while querying is to start something new. It’s been my saving grace to have my new novel to work on while out on submission because if my brain is full of voodoo rituals, character arcs, and swoony love interests, it can’t obsess over hearing back from editors – or agents in the case of querying.
So there you have it. A list of activities you can do to keep yourself sane while querying. And remember that it only takes one yes from the right person. Trust in your skills that it will come, even if it seems far away.