How to Survive the Query Wars

Photo credit: ashley rose, on Flickr
Maybe it's because summer is finally starting or maybe it's just a coincidence, but I've noticed more than a handful of writers mentioning that they've finished their WIP and will shortly be entering the trenches of the query wars as of late.

Querying is not an easy process for either partyfor agents and publishers it means reading hundreds (or even thousands) of letters a month in search for a story that refuses to be passed up, and for writers it means researching agents until your eyes are about ready to fall out and forcing yourself to write letter after letter to be sent into cyberspace only to sit back and... wait. And wait.

No, it's not easy to send out query letters (or even write the darned things for that matter) nor is it easy to wait for responses and receive inevitable rejections (because regardless of how good your story is, it's very near impossible to avoid receiving any rejections).

However! There is hope! It is indeed possible for writers to survive the query warsin fact, slews of writers do it all the time, and with these easy tips, you can too.

How to Survive the Query Wars: 

  • You will be rejected. Accept this. I'm not being a pessimist when I say you're going to be rejected, nor am I saying that everyone you query is going to reject you. What I am saying is that as a writer you're going to face a lot of rejection throughout your career, both in the form of form letters from agents and publishers and in the form of reviews later on. You are a writer. Rejection is part of your life, now. But that's ok, because every writer has faced iteven those who went on to become multi-billion dollar successes (*cough* J.K. Rowling *cough*). 

  • Learn to discern. Not all rejection letters are created equal. Receiving a form rejection means something a little different than receiving a personalized rejection (more on that here), and when you receive the rejection (i.e.: upon initial querying, after a partial/full request, etc.) speaks volumes about you might need to revise to get more positive responses. Remember: personalized rejections are a good sign. It means it was a near miss. Don't lose hope. 

  • Write something else. I sometimes forget how important this is, but remembering to write something entirely unrelated to whatever project you're querying truly is essential. Working on another project accomplishes a few things: 

    • It distracts you: distractions are worth their weight in gold during the query process. The less energy you spend worrying about that query letter you sent, the more energy you can spend on your writing.

    • It reminds you that even if this project doesn't work out, you are a writer and will write again

    • It takes the edge off rejection:I can't tell you enough how much easier it is to accept that your current project might not be ready for publication (or might have to go in the drawer) when you're excited about another new WIP. 

    • As a bonus, if you get an agent or publishing contract, you now have another WIP with publication potential for the future.

Finally, when you do get that coveted agent or publishing contract...


Seriously. You've done it! Now go get some drinks, or have a nice dinner, or bake some cupcakes (or all of the above). You've gone through the query wars and came out on the other side whole. Now go celebrate.

What tips do you have for writers entering the query wars?


Susan Sipal said...

Great post, Ava. That section on distraction and writing something else is so crucial. We tend to obsess as writers, and if we don't occupy ourselves as we wait for a response, we'll obsess over our queries/submissions and may end up making pests of ourselves. Not that I know anything about it... :-)
- Susan

J. A. Bennett said...

Good tips and something I need to hear right now. I've already thought about the writing something else part, I need some distractions while I do all that waiting!

Ava Jae said...

Thank you, Susan! I certainly don't know anything about obsessing over queries and submissions, either *innocent whistle.* In all seriousness though, the distractions help more than I originally imagined.

Thanks for stopping by!

Ava Jae said...

Thank you, Jenny! The distractions are pretty essential to our mental health during the querying process. I wish you the best with your journey!

Joseph Humphreys said...

Really wise words, and as someone at the nerve-shredding waiting stage (agent's subbing to publishers as we speak), very timely indeed. Thanks!

Julia Tomiak said...

Thanks for the advice. I hope to start querying next year. Even though I know the process will be tough (ok, horrible), posts like this will help me get through it. I love how supportive the writing community is!

Ava Jae said...

Thank you, Joseph! I can only imagine how you must be feeling waiting for that kind of news. "Nerve-shredding" sound s pretty accurate.

Best of luck!

Ava Jae said...

I'm completely with you, Julia--the support of the writing community is absolutely fantastic. Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for commenting!

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