Friday, 11 January 2013

5 Tips for Avoiding Query PTSD


While querying is massively exciting, it is equally (or more, depending on who you ask) stressful. Lots of writers leave the query trenches feeling wrung out, and to some extent, there's no avoiding that. But there are a few practical things you can do to make your time in the trenches a leeeetle less likely to scar.

#1 - First things first: before you send out a single query, get yourself a brand spanking new email account JUST for querying. The reason for this is that as soon as you hit send, you're going to become obsessed with checking this email account, and you don't want emails from your Aunt Stacey or the latest offers from your local supermarket making that Inbox (1) indicator give you unnecessary heart palpitations.

#2 - Got your email account set up and hooked up to your phone? Great. Now you can stop frantically hitting refresh on your laptop. BUT, make sure you give your query email account its own ringtone. Again, you don't want to start plotting Aunt Stacey's demise simply because her emails SOUND exactly like Amazing Agent X's emails. Also, probably best not to pick something freaky as your query email ringtone (a good friend had the Jaws theme tune as hers) because it's only going to add to your freak-outedness. You might want to avoid choosing one of your favourite songs, too - let's face it, you're going to end up associating it with abject terror.

#3 - Use a system like Query Tracker or your own spreadsheet-type thing to keep track of whom you query, when, and what their expected response time will be. Also make a note of whether 'no response means no' or when you are supposed to politely nudge if you haven't had a response to your query by a certain date. Bring order to chaos, my friend. Order to chaos.

#4 - Make friends/become CPs with writers in other time zones. The reason this is useful is that a) they can let you know if Amazing Agent X tweeted about reading a FABULOUS submission which sounded JUST LIKE YOURS while you were sleeping, and b) if you decide to enter query contests with submission windows at certain times when you're sleeping/working, they can often enter for you! (Yes, I'd advise checking the rules about this for individual contests, but I've seen this done a lot.) You might actually get a little more sleep this way. 

BTW, if you're looking for CPs, CP Seek is a great place to find them.

#5 - DON'T send out shotgun queries until/unless you've had positive responses from AGENTS. Your CPs and online critique forums are massively helpful in terms of getting your query and sample chapters ready, but if you send it out to 50 agents right away and THEN realise it's not quite there yet, you've pretty much blown your chances with 50 agents. 

I'd suggest sending out 5 or 6 at a time, waiting a couple of weeks, sending out a few more. This way, you'll stagger the response times, and by the time the first 6-week window is up (lots of agents give 6 weeks as a guideline for response times) you'll have some idea of whether the query is working or not. By 'working' I mean either getting a request (of course, and YAY!) or getting a positive rejection - where the agent might praise your writing, but offer the immortal words "it's just not for me". Then you can either send out more queries, or revise your query/MS if you need to. 

Happy querying!

14 comments:

  1. Fantastic advice. Thank you. I confess I hate the idea of querying so I'm not terribly motivated to finish this manuscript.

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    1. Keep going! Querying can also be SO much fun, especially when the requests start coming in :)

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  2. Thanks! I figured some of this out for myself through horrible trial and error, but #2 is the BEST advice ever. I lived in heart-attack land for several days until I figured out how to change the ring tone! :D

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    1. I had to change the ringtone again after signing with my agent because the old one was still giving me palpitations whenever Molly emailed. I think this means I am basically a trained monkey ;)

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  3. Ooooh, I LOVE #2 as well. Too late for me for this go-around, but if I have to go out there again with my next ms (please ... god ... no ...), I will definitely be doing that.

    One of the crazier things I've considered is filtering to folders based on the text in the response. You know, so that emails that start with "Thank you" go to the "strong drink" folder and "I loved" go to the "champagne" folder.

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  4. Great tips that will come in very hand. Thank you!

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  5. Thank you for these tips, Kat. I'd wondered about the query staggering with my two full requests out. I sent additional queries to a couple more of my topsies--just in case the fulls come back with notes to make ms better, or a form R (this happens w full requests, too. ouch)
    So I wait . . . and work on current wip.

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    1. Congratulations on the full requests! And I hope the other queries you've sent out result in more, and the fulls turn into offers :D

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  6. Another perfectly timed blog post! Was just discussing this with other writers on Scribophile last night!

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    1. Thanks, Dannie! I hadn't heard of the Scribophile site before - just checked it out, think I might be hanging out there in future ;)

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  7. What a great post, thanks for this. I love the suggestion of a different email = wish I'd thought of that!

    As a UK person can I please ask a question? Are there any differences between the UK/US query process you know of? For example I hear lots of talk of partials, but UK agents seem to all want 3 chapters straight off, then to ask for a full. Also, query letter wise, is that the same format in the UK do you know? (I've known people put more of a 'blurb about self in' than seems recommended in the US Letter).

    Sorry to blurb out these questions, you don't have to answer, I was curious! :)

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    1. Thanks Vikki!

      I did query a few agents in the UK, and I would say the main difference I noticed in terms of their process was that more were open to hard copy querying. But this was a couple of years ago, so things may have changed since then.

      The number of sample pages each agent/agency asked for seemed to differ as much in the UK as it did with US agents. For example, my agent is based in the UK (the agency has offices in NY and London) and asks for 10 sample pages with a query. I remember some in the UK didn't want a sample at all, just the query.

      I can't say that I noticed any other major differences to be honest, but I only queried a handful of agents in the UK myself, so could well be wrong.

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    2. Thanks so much for the detailed answer, I appreciate it. That's so interesting. Each agent is different I guess! Thanks for replying ;)

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