The Querying Quandary: When to Wait

A couple of weeks ago I posted about why it’s so hard to get your first novel published, and I said I was having a different experience with the novel I’m currently querying. It’s because I have more experience this time. The key? Patience.

I am not a patient person, but I learned in my last querying experience that it’s vital to success. Unfortunately I learned that too far into the process with the last novel. Here’s how I’ve done it this time, and keep in mind that I’m still in the trenches.

November 2011 – Wrote DUET WITH THE DEVIL’S VIOLIN during NaNoWriMo.

December 2011-January 2012 – Revised, revised, revised!

February 2012 – Sent to two beta readers, then revised.

March 2012 – Sent to a third beta reader, then revised.

April 2012 – Finally gave the novel to my husband and mom to read. They had no comments, and they usually do.

April 2012 – Sent out an initial round of queries, mainly to test the query letter itself. I had two requests from this batch, both from agents who received the query only, so I felt confident it was strong.

Things got exciting in May when I entered The Writers Voice Contest and was selected for Krista Van Dolzer‘s team. Krista critiqued my query letter and first five pages, helping me tighten them up. When the contest went live, I received three votes from agents, which equaled three requests. That convinced me I should contact the other agents who had been interested in my previous manuscript, just in case I received an offer.

At this point, I knew my premise was strong. Now it was time to figure out how strong my first pages were. I continued to query, but instead of doing batches, I sent a new query whenever I received a response–whether a request or rejection–so that I always had the same number of queries out. I received requests from queries with and without first pages, so I still felt good about my query package.

I’ve had a great request rate, which is amazing. But I know what it’s like to waste my chances with agents. I’ve done that before. What if the rest of my novel doesn’t stand up to the opening? I think it does. Based on my experience so far, I know I would get more requests if I kept querying, but here’s where the patience comes in with my entry for June.

June 2012-? – Waiting.

After sending about 20 queries, I decided to wait. Of course I’m hoping one of the submissions I have out there will turn into an offer, but if none of them do, I don’t want to have wasted any more chances with potential agents. So I’m waiting to see what kind of response I get from them before I send any more queries. If they all come back as rejections (hopefully not!), I’ll revise and get feedback again before I send more queries.

Waiting is SO HARD! I limit myself to checking my query email three times a day (although I cheat a bit any time I pick up my phone and see there’s no new message on my Gmail app). I only check QueryTracker once a day, and I try not to stalk the agents’ Twitter feeds too much.

In any case, my caution to the querying writers out there is to be patient. Make sure your query letter works. Then make sure your first pages work. Then make sure the partial/full works. It’s easy to ride on the high of early successes and then crash due to overconfidence. Been there, done that. So this time I’m waiting.

Who’s waiting with me? Anyone else have a different strategy?

Responses to “The Querying Quandary: When to Wait”

  1. hannahkarena

    I’m currently querying on behalf of someone who’s book got an agent a few years ago, but none of the editors/publishers ended up buying it because it was too “niche.” So now I’m querying a bunch of small literary publishers. It’s currently sitting at 8 different places–so less than your larger batch–but some won’t get back to us for more than six months! The waiting is dreadful. I submit to another two or three publishers every month.

  2. Melanie

    I’m in the same boat. I’m waiting on two fulls and one partial and haven’t wanted to restart the querying process until I hear from those and then revise once more. So just waiting… and waiting… and writing something new while I’m doing all that waiting!

    • Michelle Mason

      I hate it but I know it’s necessary. I’ll be glad I did it if I do need to revise more.

      I’ve been trying to start something new but have had a lot of freelance work lately. I’m going to make it a priority after I get back from vacation.

      Good luck with your submissions!

  3. kiperoo

    LOL, same here, in 100% the same situation. So glad I have someone else to wait with!

    I agree completely with your strategy (obviously, since I’m doing it too). I’m sure if your ms doesn’t get signed right away with this batch that you’ll still have plenty of chances to make it even stronger this way, so I’m sure it’ll be worth it in the end.

    Luckily I’ve had a lot of freelance work recently too, so that definitely helps with the wait. Keep us posted! I can’t wait to pop the champagne for you when the time comes. 🙂

    • Michelle Mason

      Thanks for stopping by, Kip! It’s nice to have people who understand. The urge to get just a few more queries out there is strong, but as you say, if nothing happens with this batch I’ll still have a lot of options. In addition to the freelance, I’m heading out on a family cruise at the end of next week so I’ll have even more distractions. Hopefully that champagne will be for both of us!


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