My Novels

My Novels
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Oct 1, 2010

A Brief Dramatization of the Query Process in Six Acts

Act I: Finishing Your Novel –
You’ve written tens of thousands of words. You’ve polished it as much as it can be polished without grabbing the buffer and going to town like a crazed carwash employee. You’ve run your hands over the printed out version like Gollum whispering some form of “my precious” and jumping at the passing headlights of cars as they filter through the curtains into your dim workspace. It is the best you can make it and you’re ready to show it to the world.
Act II: Before You Query –
First, you have to write the dang thing. How is it that one page can seem more daunting than the 300 you just wrote!?! As you pull your hair out, you meticulously pour over each word and sentence, this is all you get to use with most agents when you’re trying to sell your baby. It had better be the best thing you’ve ever written! No pressure right? So you sit down, you type out a page, read it back to yourself and then hold the delete key down… You try again and again. And again.
Now that you’ve got something you can live with, you have someone else – preferably with grammatical skillz – and have them read it over too. They either tell you all of the horrible mistakes you made while you were trying to get your voice right and sell your masterpiece, or they hand it back to you and say “it looks great” because you succeeded in creating a perfect pitch of your novel! You do a little happy dance and then you fill in all of the pertinent information for each agent you’re querying. Your finger hovers over the mouse as you read it once more before you click SEND.
Act III: The Waiting Game –
What have you done? Are you sure you were ready? Did you spell the agent’s name right?
These, along with a host of other self doubting questions run through your mind. You bite your nails, you incessantly refresh your inbox and your eyes start to bleed from the unbroken hours you’ve spent with your face glued to the backlit screen. Finally, you’re able to peel yourself away from the computer. You close out of your email only to compulsively open it again, just in case. It’s like that blasted refrigerator light!
Finally you calm down. “It can take anywhere up to eight weeks,” you say, reminding yourself of the stated response time on the agents’ websites, and you start to calm down. You delve into your next project, but you still obsessively check your inbox.
Act IV: Your First Rejection –
There it is! That email you’ve been waiting for. Your cursor hovers over the agents name in your inbox as your stomach does flips and you can’t decide if you’d rather open it or just throw up in your office trash can.
You breathe deeply, finally calming down and open the email. “Thank you for your interest in our agency, however, your project isn’t the right fit for our agency. This is a subjective business and other agents may feel differently. Good luck in your pursuit of publication.” As your eyes scan the page again and again, waiting for the follow up “just kidding” email, you convince yourself that agent had no idea what they were looking at. That it was inevitable you’d pick one agent with bad taste and fill your head with more falsehoods to soften the blow.
By the time you’ve finished trying to convince yourself you’re okay with the fact that this agent rejected you, you’re curled up in the closet, hiding behind your winter coats sobbing and wondering why they didn’t like you.
Act V: More Rejections –
Each new rejection that pours into your inbox changes a little more of your heart to ice, but that doesn’t matter, it’s why you drink your coffee black now. You slowly turn into the cynical person you told yourself you’d never let this industry make you. Now when you see a response you don’t even let yourself hope for it to be favorable. You sneer at the blip in your inbox, already cutting the agent to shreds in your mind. They will, undoubtedly, be like all the rest of the agents who didn’t understand you.
The form rejections are starting to blur together. You suspect they are pulled off an agent forum titled “how to make querying writers die a little inside,” or, you postulate, they are all written by the same jaded man sitting in his closet sized office in New York. You start to wonder how these people have jobs if none of them will buy a book. Well… you’re sure they’re buying someone’s book, but they should be buying yours and you feel cheated because no one is giving you a chance.
You slowly turn into that creature that lurks in a dark house, jumping when the phone rings – though that’s happening less often now that you’re so jumpy your friends don’t want to hang out with you anymore.
Act VI: Your first Partial –
You crawl out of bed feeling fifty years older than you are and scuffle to your computer. You’re certain that there is no light in your life aside from the humorous blogs you’ve used to replace the friends you’ve alienated and seek solace in the lighthearted banter of the blog-verse.
 As the blue light of your screen bathes you in its acceptance you notice the blinking indicator that you’ve got an email. It’s probably just from your mother, reminding you that you haven’t called, that she loves your book so she’s sure that someone else will too. You ignore it for a while, reading up on the shenanigans of your favorite internet stalkees and sage words of the agents who have or undoubtedly will reject you. You finally feel like you can deal with your mother’s nagging about not calling and potential cobbler recipe that lurks in your email. You click over and it’s another response from an agent.
Sighing, you sip on your coffee and open it. There’s no longer any fear or hope in your heart, only resignation. You skim over the note. “Thank you for your interest in our agency… your project… the right fit….” Your cursor starts to go to the delete button and then you see it. Your eye catches on the words “sample pages” and you’re heart buoys. You read it again. Someone wants to read your novel! And you fall to the floor in a panic induced seizure.


  1. You really nailed it!

    I was checking my mail constantly, sometimes waking up at like 3 or 4 in the morning to go check my inbox. "Is anybody gonna respond at 3 in the morning? I would ask myself, trying to talk myself out of it-- which, by the way, some people do-- time zone differences, maybe.

    I couldn't even recognize the person I'd become- sitting in the basement in the dark, stalking agents on the internet all night.

    And LOL re: drinking black coffee! I'm slowly getting there. I think that could be another blog post-- loss of innocence as manifested by types of coffee consumed. Because honestly, in the beginning I drank my coffee practically half and half with Hazelnut cream and sugar. Then I went down to just cream and sugar. Then I went down to coffee withener with sugar. Now I'm down to coffee whitener with Sugar Twin.
    I'm slowly heading towards the black coffee stage of things.

    Have a good weekend!

  2. I'm right with you on act III. Do I dare say congrats on receiving your first partial request??? Hang in there.

  3. At least you have a Katie to whine to throughout the day :)