The querying process can be a long, hard road. After researching the agents, looking at their client list, embedding the required materials (with a double check of course) and sending off recently took me two hours, and I sent five. With the waiting (or quick rejections) that come next, and the doubts that can occur in the meantime, how can a writer maintain a positive attitude and the drive to keep trying?
I have to admit, the answer to this took me a long time to figure out myself. And since the publishing industry often moves at a slow rate, that’s how I passed the time–trying to figure out how to pass the time! Of course–inevitably–the answer ended up being the age old advice that I think we all know but don’t want to hear because it feels like such a passive way to wait. But here it is:
Ugh. You hate me now, don’t you? I hated that advice too. I was (and am) so ready to move forward, to do something more productive. We know there’s so much to do in order to make a writing career successful and it feels like we should be doing that NOW. Create a new website? Get a marketing plan in order? Expand our social media knowledge? All of these things are important and will need to be done at some point, but even after getting the agent and after getting the publishing contract, there will still be plenty of time for all those things and you’ll be better off doing them when you have the professional support of your future team.
In the meantime, the best thing any of us can do is to keep writing. Because that’s what we’re good at and that’s what makes us happy and since waiting can be pretty stressful, nurturing our spirits is of the utmost importance. Once I gave in to this bit of advice, that’s when I finally started to find my own peace.
I’ll add one caveat to the common advice: write stuff just for fun as much as possible. Again, I know it feels natural to go ahead and start getting Book 2 ready so that once you do get your first publishing contract, you already have the next one in the queue, but you know what? There will be more waiting at that point too. There will be plenty of time to write Book 2 even after you sign your first contract. What you might end up being short on, though, is the sense of freedom you have now. Once you have deadlines, it will be harder to fit in writing just for you. Use this time to play, explore, and get super connected with the reason you started writing. As you transition from amateur to professional, focus and a deep understanding of what you want out of your writing career will be the best gift you can give yourself.
The other gift you can give yourself, is understanding and forgiveness. Waiting isn’t easy and it never seems to get easier. I think I’ve been through the five stages of grief a million times–sometimes several times in one day–while waiting for responses to queries and submissions. Each rejection can feel like it’s the last one you can take, but then you’ll wake up the next morning, your dream renewed, and you’ll start all over again. For the longest time, I thought I must be taking this harder than everyone else. I must be the only one who is a complete and utter emotional wreck. But as I’ve talked to other writers, and they’ve shared their own stories, I realized I wasn’t. We all go through it. Try not to be too hard on yourself about it.
What we do isn’t easy. We put our hearts out there to be examined and judged and 90% of the time, it’s found to be lacking. That is the nature of being an artist. We hold out, though, for that 10% that look at us and say, “Yes. You’ve written my story. I’ve always felt the same way. I thought I was alone.” We hold out on the hope that our art will make a difference to someone, somewhere, some day.
So write, my friend. Keep finding your happiness in your work. Building this habit now will benefit you for the rest of your career.
Wishing you a quick offer,