An Update On My Querying Journey

I debated whether or not to write this post. A part of me reserves the belief that I shouldn’t talk publicly about the often disheartening process of querying. But another part of me feels that I might explode if I don’t write down some fraction of the mixed emotions I’ve experienced over the past month.

As some of you may know, I began querying my YA fantasy novel, HYMNS OF SALT AND TERROR, the second week of January. I began with a small batch of five queries. From those, I have received three form rejections and one personalized (and encouraging) rejection.

I took some time to rewrite my first few pages, because based on the small amount of feedback I got back it appeared that though the premise intrigued some, the first sample pages were not doing the work of pulling them in.

No problem, I said to myself. I can do this.

After the minor re-write and a bit of polishing on my query letter and comp titles, I sent out three more queries and crossed my fingers. Only three, I know, but slow and steady, right?

A form rejection rolled in a week later from an agent I had really had my heart set on. I began to (perhaps prematurely) worry. If I’m not getting at least partial requests at this point, then is something glaringly wrong with my novel?

I saved the rejection to a separate folder and noticed that #SFFpit, a twitter pitch contest for science fiction and fantasy, was happening in a week.

Instead of sending out more queries, I crafted ten pitches and scheduled them to go out on Wednesday, January 30th. Then I promptly forgot about the contest, focusing instead on moving back to school after the winter holiday.

On Wednesday morning, I went to the gym without checking my email or twitter feed. When I got back to my room around 9 am, I did a double take at the notifications waiting on my phone. Keep in mind, I have a very minimal twitter presence. I think I had 25 followers prior to Wednesday. By the end of the day, I had near 100.

I watched my notifications light up throughout the day as kind strangers retweeted my pitches and commented words of encouragement. I watched as agents who had long been on my list liked my pitches. I sat glued to my screen for the rest of the day, only tearing my eyes away to go to class and work. Another rejection rolled in that day, but I couldn’t have cared less.

All in all, I got twelve requests from industry professionals, Of those twelve, eight were from literary agents that I was keen to query. That night, I researched their agencies, their manuscript wish lists, their current clientele and sales records. One agent requested a full manuscript. Another the first one hundred pages. Two more the first fifty.

I went to bed, my head reeling, determined to send out the requested materials the next day.

I have a rule that I do not check my email before I’ve eaten breakfast. So it was not until I was sitting in my university’s dining hall with a friend that I opened my laptop to see if a professor had gotten back to me on a question.

Instead: it was a reply to one of the three queries that I had sent out two weeks before.

I read the ticker line that gmail teases after the the subject, and knew instantly that this was not the same beast as the form rejections I had gotten before.

A request for my full  manuscript.

Reader, I fell out of my chair. My friend thought I had a stroke.

So much had happened within the course of two days. I did not know how to feel. The agent worked at an agency that represented some of my favorite authors. She seemed to love the writing in my sample pages.

I took an hour to calm myself down before sending her the full.

The rest of the day I sent out the requested materials from #SFFpit in between classes and meetings. It is so surreal to be able to say that two agents now have my full manuscript while at least three have my partial.

This should be a sign of things looking up, right? I should relax, admit that it’s now out of my hands, and feel proud that at least I’ve gotten this far.

Well, if you think that, then you do not know what cavernous pit of self-doubt and anxiety gapes in a writer’s mind.

The next day I immediately began to panic. I skimmed through my novel and found a million things wrong with it, a thousand places I wished I had re-written, a hundred fumbles of sentence structure that I should have refined. I scoured twitter. I refreshed my email every thirty minutes. I worried that even though I had piqued the interests of several highly respected agents, that my pages would ultimately disappoint them.

I thought, I’ve tricked them with my pitches and my first pages. 
The work itself can’t live up to their expectations, whatever those may be. I am a snake.

I was paralyzed by the fear of misleading them, of letting them down.

Phew. Yes, I am aware that that is not a healthy brain-space to dwell in. But on that one day, in the wake of sending out requested materials to nine agents, it was a very real emotion.

So I did what I always do when I feel like control has slipped between my fingers. I put on a face mask. I ate ice cream. I drank pinot grigio with my friends. I called my mom.

And now, I know that all I can do is wait. It may be months before I hear anything back. But I have calmed myself with the assurance that even if they are rejections, I will learn so much more from them about where to begin my fourth round of revisions than I have learned from any form rejection thus far. In the meantime, my new project awaits.

Does anyone else find themselves flailing on the emotional roller-coaster of querying? I’d love to hear your story.

Happy writing, happy querying, happy roller-coasting!

-Emily

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