Querying: What It’s All About (At Least for Me)
Even before January, I knew what my word for 2022 would be. In the midst of all the chaos, anxiety, and uncertainty of the past two years, writing has been the eye of my personal hurricane. I know, for many writers, the pandemic and their own experiences with it have made writing hard, if not impossible. As in so many other ways, I’ve been lucky. My ideas, my stories, have stayed with me, and I’ve been able to make steady progress toward my goal: to get enough picture book manuscripts to the place where I feel ready to query them. To be honest, this has been my goal for 2 or 3 years, but this is the first year I’ve felt certain enough to name it.
My word for 2022 is Query.
I’ve been musing on this for the past couple of weeks, and I’ve decided that–as part of this querying year–I would come back to my blog. Primarily for my own accountability, I want to use this space to set out the process I’m following, including some of the specific steps I’m taking, to get my work out there for agents to see. I’ll be using tags so that anyone specifically looking for this kind of conversation can find the posts, but I’m going to hold off on linking to them on social media. If I start to feel like I’m writing anything truly useful for others (and if I stick to posting at all!) then I’ll revisit that plan.
Anyway, if you’ve found your way here…
I hope you discover something to help you or, at least, to make you feel less alone on this stage of your writing journey.
To get started, here’s a summary of where I am, followed up by the next big steps I’ll be taking.
I have three picture book manuscripts “this close” to ready. I have sent them all through my excellent critique group multiple times, and I have workshopped them with other writers & a few agents. (One agent ended our conversation with “keep me posted” and agreed that, assuming I could revise the manuscript as we discussed, I should query her. Guess who I’m sending it to first!)
I will be sending these three manuscripts through my critique group one more time. I am hopeful that, even if they don’t shout, “OMG, SEND THIS OUT NOW!,” the changes I will want to make from their feedback will be minimal. I am not going to restart any of these three or make any changes that mean an entirely new revision pass. I truly believe that it is time for me to get these stories out into the query world.
What do I base that belief on? Well, all the things I’ve noted above, but there’s one other big factor: the feedback I have gotten, and my own sense of the stories, tell me that I will not be burning any bridges by send them out. They may not resonate with everyone who reads them; some agents may feel like they need more work than they’re willing to contribute. I may get no requests for more; I may get no response at all. But nobody will be putting my name onto a list of Never Read Anything from this Writer Again.
My critique group meets monthly. One of the manuscripts is in their hands for January, and I’ll send the other two to them in February and March. As I get feedback, I’ll do a pass to integrate their comments, and then each manuscript will go into the Ready pile. (Oh, yes, you can bet I’ll proofread each again before I send it out!)
While all this is going on (and I’m trying not to be buried by my day job!), I need to also be working on these steps:
- Set up a spreadsheet to track my queries. I’ve done this before–I queried a middle grade manuscript YEARS ago, and I sent out a couple of picture book manuscripts when I first made the shift to this genre. Still, it’s fun to start fresh & someone on Facebook posted about how they code their lists with idea for different colors of hearts. I may steal that!
- Start populating that spreadsheet. I have been playing around in query tracker, and while it’s a good place to see a list of agents, to see who’s open and who wants what, it’s a little clunkier than I want to use for actually tracking things. I’ll start my list off with the agent who said to query her, of course, and in second place is an agent I took a fantastic workshop from, who also represents one of my critique partners. I’ve also done research on both of these that confirms I want to query them. Hmm…maybe I’ll do a post on research. 🙂
- Work on my pitches for all three manuscripts. Honestly, I hate this part, but I’m going to make myself do it. Different agents say different things about pitches & query letters in general – some read them and weigh them, some seem to skip them completely. But I’m not going to put out a sloppy pitch and risk having the agent stop reading before they even get to the manuscript. I just signed up for my second year in 12 X 12, and I will be posting my pitches in the forum for feedback (and giving feedback to others, of course). I may also post some on the Sub It Club Facebook page.
- Keep revising. Keep writing. I have a fourth manuscript that everyone has “liked,” but it has a major darling that has to be killed before I do the next revision. After final revisions on the other three stories, revising this manuscript is the next writing work on my list. Last year, in 12 X 12, I managed to writer or revise a draft in 10/12 months, and I will be keeping up with that as best I can. I’m halfway through Storystorm, and I already have a few ideas that are actually calling to me.
Okay, so that turned into a long post, but I’ve laid out where I’m at and where I want to be going. If you’re new to my blog and want to know who I actually am, you can read a bit about me here. If you think this post or upcoming posts would help someone you know, feel free to share.
Happy New Year and Happy Querying!