Thursday, June 21, 2018

Query in haste, repent in leisure!

I know you're going to bite my head off for this question, but here goes...

Hypothetically speaking...Let's say a first time novelist gets overly excited and queries a bit too soon. Perhaps she wants to test the waters and sends out a few queries before her beta readers have gotten back to her. (I know...I know...)

Well...her beta readers have gotten back to her and everyone is really loving her novel, except for one little flaming red flag...they hated the opening chapters.

She's fixed them and is very happy with the changes, but the question is...At this point, she's assuming those initial queries are all going to get rejected, which she's accepted, but is there anything she can do to let those agents know the opening has changed? Or should she just chalk it up as a lesson learned?

(And yes...she's well aware that she's tasty shark bait at this point. She's hiding safely under the covers with her toes far from the edge of the bed.)

As always, thank you so much for your time and advice. As afraid as I am to hear it, it's still very much appreciated!

You did WHAT?

Well, you can requery. There is no law that says you can't query again even if the agent has passed the first time. There are no black lists. Agents don't gather in covens to hand around lists of Bad Bad Writers. (The lists are of Bad Bad Editors!)

You'll want to change your email address if you do.  If you query me from an email address I've heard from before, gmail groups those emails even if the subject line changes.

Do NOT mention you queried before.

And don't expect a flurry of requests.
Often, the reason I pass on queries is not the first pages; it's a problem with the query, OR it's a book I don't want to read or work on.

I recently passed on a project that had a terrific query and artfully written pages. It was a book about an emotionally charged subject, and I don't have the emotional bandwidth to even consider that book right now.  Nothing the author can do about that. (I passed with a personalized email saying why, but still, not fun for the author.)

But, this time, make sure you've really polished that query and first pages till they sparkle.
A do-over is fine. A dozen-over is a sign your enthusiasm needs better management.

Your enthusiasm is the flip side of the writer who can't bear to send a query cause it might not be perfect. That writer tinkers endlessly. With the query. With the pages. With the novel.  That kind of LACK of eagerness is just as much a problem as your abundance of enthusiasm.

That sweet spot of when to query is when you're confident, and your revisions are just moving things back and forth without actually changing much at all.

Bottom line: there are no query police and I'm always looking for good work.


Julie Weathers said...

Ho boy.

If it was just a few, I wouldn't even bother. If it was sixty, what in the world were you thinking?

Don't go to the job interview until everything is done. Brush your teeth, comb your hair, put on your clean, pressed, good clothes. At least knock the cow crap off your boots, if not get them polished. Take a bath. It shouldn't need saying, but you never know. Show up on time. Little things make life so much easier than saying, "Man I wish I'd--" or "Here, hold my beer."

E.M. Goldsmith said...

OP, been there done that. It happens. Now, I am going the other way and have fear to query. Just one more round of beta readers. Just one more revision. Turns out no matter how carefully you prepare, how much love you give that manuscript, once sent, us writer types will fret over a thousand new ideas on how it could be so much better. This is about how it goes or so I have noticed.

1. The query and manuscript are finished and perfect. Send. Send. Send.

2. Five minutes later. There’s a typo on page 4 from that last revision. The agent(s) will think me a moron.

3. An hour later. That bit about the shark and the puppy is not working at all. Can I recall this thing before the agent even looks at it? My career is over. Puppies do not play fetch with sharks.

4. In the middle of the same night, around 3 AM – My book is garbage. Everyone is going to hate me and a blacklist will be created just for me. Sharks and puppies can’t be friends. No one will ever believe that.

5. Three to five days later – 2 form letter rejections – Oh no, I need a drink. Grieving and howling commence and lots of whisky, some of it making it into my mouth.

6. A week later. No killing that compulsion to write your madness. Get back to work on that next book even though clearly I have been blacklisted and no one in publishing will ever speak to me again.

7. 2 weeks later – full request. Hope explodes. My book will be a best-seller. Oh wait, can I revise once more before I send? (And herein lies the path to madness)

Now, I am trying to remember why I even want to do this. Ok, back to the day job and my imprisonment in the dread cubicle.

Leone said...

Thanks for your comments, E.M. Goldsmith, and for reminding me I'm not the only one who does this. I saw a Facebook meme that said, "Don't believe the things you tell yourself in the middle of the night." So true.

John Davis Frain said...

Welcome to the life, OP. You're doing it the hard way, which is the right way. Lots of company on that path.

Don't fret. If you've read a few books in the past month or so, I'll bet you read an author who did exactly what you did.

Enthusiasm is like the first draft. You need to get it through your system first. Then, you can go back and make everything right. You're in fine shape.

*Above note prepared by a guy whose mother says, "I'll read it when I can buy it." So, advice is for entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as a recommendation.

Sam Mills said...

I assembled my query package, had my query critiqued, had my first five critiqued, edited, edited, edited the rest of the MS...back in April. I've been sitting on the whole thing for 2 months due to a bad case of nerves.

Despite having the next, unrelated book in rough draft form, ready to be edited and sent out if book #1 doesn't snag any bites.

Despite having detailed notes for the next book after that, ready to start drafting and take my mind off the process.


Maybe next week.

BrendaLynn said...

Unfortunately, I ascribe to the ‘no guts, no glory’ school of querying.
My first query letter nabbed some requests (one of them from Janet during a momentary lapse in good judgement on her part). Did I leave that query alone? Of course not!
No requests on the second query letter on many, many emails. I can’t remember the exact amount but it’s around sixty.
Finally, I came to my senses and rewrote the query—I won a critique from an agent which helped— and I have requests again. I still have agents left on my list but in my query frenzy I exhausted my options at some major agencies.
Trust me. Only send out a few queries at a time. It could save you some heartache.
My only consolation is that I’m not of the self-publishing mindset. If I was, I’d already have several crap books in print and a career circling the bowl instead of a hard lesson learned about patience.
I am so very grateful for the refining process that is traditional publishing.
Most of the full/partial requests have come back as ‘no’.
I read that Mary Higgins Clark landed a deal on her sixth book. If that’s what it takes, so be it.

Craig F said...

The tangled web that clogs the rodent wheel. Everyone has been there. Should I, should I not, that is the question.

On the bright side, OP, at least you beats agreed on something. I have never been that lucky, they are always all over the map for me.

You have it fixed. Now sit on it for a while. Then read it again. Make sure this next time. Then query about five agents a week. Keep it manageable. Maybe some feedback will come your way, maybe not, but don't forget the sunscreen. It is one most agree on.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Me too, OP :) !

I have queried Janet. TWICE (second time around 11 months later). And from the same email address (I didn't know what Gmail can do!).

Since the second time, I have changed my opening pages completely, she hasn't seen the new ones.
But, I have given up on our Queen ;). I don't believe it's for her anyway.

Best of luck, OP!!!!!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I could have been OP too. Not much to add but man oh man some of these comments are priceless.

MA Hudson said...

I so understand the temptation to 'test the waters' especially in those early stages of unbound enthusiasm. Why make the world wait? After all, they gagging for our works of genius!

Thankfully I haven't given in to this temptation thus far, but now that I know about changing email addresses, I might start sending a different version of my query to the same agents every week.

(Mwahaha, just joking - I promise!)