5 Ways to Stay Sane in the Querying Trenches

It’s hard to believe, but it has been about a year since I dipped my toes into the writing world. In that time, I’ve sent out 67 queries on two manuscripts, participated in more than a few pitch parties, and had a request for revision followed by a request for more work, followed by a no. (wah-wuh...) I’m proud of these numbers though, because if nothing else, it means I have stuck with this completely difficult thing for a year. Sticking with my earlier metaphor, I’d say I’m at least waist-deep in the writing waters these days. I have learned so much and thought I would share a few things that I’ve found to be helpful in my current stage of writing life: the dreaded querying trenches.

I’m by no means an expert, but I have certainly felt firsthand how difficult it can be as you search for an agent. So here are five things that will help you stay sane as you wait for your “Yes.”

1.     Pitch Parties: I know that pitch parties are kind of a “love them or hate them” deal, but I’m in the “love them” school of thought. Here’s why: they hone your pitch and they give you a good idea of what everyone else is writing.  Take the time to read the hashtag feed throughout the day. Pay attention to who is getting “likes” from industry pros and then look at their pitches.  It’s easy to get frustrated if you don’t get any love, but you can learn so much just by taking part.  (And share the love by retweeting. Seriously.) So much of querying is waiting, and I’ve found pitch parties are a great way to feel engaged in the process during that waiting phase. Bonus: Most of the agents who have given my pitches “hearts” also took the time to give me specific feedback which can be hard to come by in the querying world.

2.     Stay organized. I’ve been querying 2 manuscripts over the past year.  I tend to batch them out: sending 3-4, waiting for responses (or the determined amount of time for an “assumed no,”) and then send out more. I have a master excel spreadsheet with the date, each agent’s name, agency, contact info and website. I color code based upon response and/or request and add notes to personalize as appropriate.  This keeps me from forgetting if I’ve already queried someone in an agency, and which ms I sent them. Another tip, if you’re a twitter user, you know you can find a good deal of info on agents. If I come across an agent that seems like they might be a good fit, I’ll screenshot their info to look up the agency later. I also use the #mswl website, querytracker and SCBWI’s “The Book.” My super-nerdy spreadsheet helps me keep all of it straight.  And it’s pretty.

3.     Keep learning.  I’ll be the first to admit that when I decided to start writing, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. But luckily there is so. much. out there.  No matter what phase of the writing process you are at, you can find great resources to learn more. I love podcasts, even though I only get to listen to them while I do dishes or other random housework.  My two favorites are “The Literaticast” with Lit Agent Jennifer Laughran and “Picturebooking” with Nick Patton.  Both offer a range of topics and a plethora of knowledge on "all things bookish." 

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4.     Connect. Connect. Connect some more. My favorite thing about the writing community is that they are so open and willing to help one another.  My second favorite thing about them is they are willing to do it all through email and social media so for the most part I don’t need real pants. :) But seriously, connecting online (or in person if that’s your thing) with other writers will save your sanity. I think it can be hard for someone outside the industry to understand how frustrating and (at times) soul crushing querying can be. So find your people, commiserate, collaborate, and hopefully very soon, celebrate! If you happen to be a mom who is writing, FOR SURE check out @writermomsinc on Twitter.  They host a weekly chat and I can’t tell you how much it helps to hear from others on the same journey.

5.     Write. I know what you’re thinking.  Duh, right? Of course you should be writing.  But I have to say for me, this is the hardest one lately. It is hard to keep working on new projects when you haven’t found tangible success yet.  Because honestly, sometimes it feels like, “what’s the point?” But the point is you have words and stories bottled up inside of you. And the more you let them out, the better you’ll feel. So write something. Anything! As my kindergartner would remind you, “You are an author!”

Emily Ramquist