Querying Agents: Thoughts and Fears

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a just-plain-update on my writing. For my thesis project at Hamline, I rewrote and revitalized Exodus. With that novel finished, I’m working on its sequel with the hope of soon sending queries for the pair to agents.

I think the whole query process is probably the most daunting part of writing to me. Revision can be a hard mountain to scale but, as a writer, I have all the tools I need to do it. Whether I succeed or fail is entirely in my own hands. When querying, the ball is in somebody else’s court. Sure, the more agents I query, the better my chances. Definitely, devoting time and effort to writing and revising is crucial and my doing so can make or break the whole thing.

However, ultimately, someone else is making the call. They read my work and decide 1) Is it for them? 2) Where do they think the money is going to be next year (or the year after) in the publishing industry? And 3) fill in the blank here. There are a lot of things in #3. Sometimes, it’s a matter of making some kind of personal connection (hard in an email; it can be done, but you’re pretty much shooting in the dark). Other times, it’s a matter of hitting an issue or topic near and dear to an agent’s heart. And of course, some can be pretty picky when it comes to publication history (as in, while one agent might figure 5 or 10 short story or poem publications says a writer is dedicated, another might not be interested in you unless you’ve published a book or reached a certain size of audience). So, in the end, it’s not all about the story or the quality. Partly about it, but not wholly.

That’s a good thing, because it is an industry that has to make money, but it’s a daunting thing for a writer. Or at least it is for me. I’ve done querying in the past and even got personalized rejections (which still sounds sad but in the writing field is actually really exciting) but that was back before grad school when I didn’t really know what I was doing. Not that I’m an expert now, but my professors gave out so many “guides to querying agents” that I still haven’t been able to get through all of them.

So…here’s to more rejection! And ice cream—lots of ice cream…

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