My absolute least favorite part of the writing process is queries, only because once you submit them (after making sure you’ve written them well), then there’s nothing else to do but wait, and months can go by before you finally get your, “Thanks, but no thanks,” at which point you have to start all over again, six months older and that much farther away from having a published book in your hands. I’ve never been one for twiddling my thumbs.
A week ago, on a whim, feeling as though I hadn’t done anything with my YA novel lately, I pulled up WritersMarket.com and looked for an agent to query. I checked the website for submission requirements, as well as the agent’s client list, to see if my book belonged on her shelf. Then, despite contradictory information elsewhere about query methods, I freshened up my query letter and hit send on the e-mail.
Then promptly forgot all about it.
Four days later:
Please email the first chapter, along with your query below. Thanks very much.
Well, hey, cool, what a nice surprise – and a fast turnaround, something that’s still pretty much a novelty in this very old-fashioned business. I immediately scanned the first chapter of my novel for typos and shipped it out, without expecting much. Exactly five minutes later I had a reply.
I love this; will you please send the entire manuscript to my office, along with your query letter below and an SASE? Thanks very much.
I was kind of stunned; things don’t usually happen this quickly. But while I was thrilled and excited, I also struggled to keep my hopes at a reasonable level – I had my full manuscript requested once before, and it went nowhere. Still, there was no question: I printed out all 291 pages, packed it up, and shipped it FedEx overnight.
Then the waiting began. Waiting is the most common and most frustrating part of this business, and because of the fast reply requesting my manuscript, I had unrealistic expectations of a response to it. I’m usually much more reasonable than that, particularly when it comes to submissions, but it all happened so fast, I was planning on waiting a week at most, two at the real outside. I started compulsively checking my e-mail every five minutes, imagined the phone call I’d get the next day, desperate to sign me.
Then I thought it might be a good idea to do some homework, to know what I might be getting myself into. It’s a good thing I did – thanks to the wonders of the internet, I discovered that even though the agent was fast on the request, I could be waiting months for her response. That knot in my stomach could relax. Doesn’t mean it’s going to.
The only thing to do while waiting the 3-6 months is to keep busy. Don’t put your life on hold – the agent certainly isn’t. I just wish there was something I could do to speed up the process; where’s the Flash when you need him?