There’s a lot of talk among writers about what I like to call the trinity of publishing: the query, the agent, the deal. We discuss at great lengths the query I think most of all. Is it written? How many times has it been revised? Did your CPs sign off on it? And on and on.
Once the queries go out, the focus then turns to request and rejections. There is a sort of mythical formula that goes along with this stage. If you get two requests (or three depending on who you’re talking to) for every ten queries sent, then your submission package (query and first pages) are doing their job. If you don’t get any requests in those first ten, then the next step is to go back and look at the query and first pages and tweak again until they are ready.
But what happens if your query does work? You send the full or partial, but unfortunately, those requests come back as rejections. I don’t think a lot of people talk about this stage. Why? Maybe because it’s embarrassing to get that far and not have an agent bite. Or perhaps it feels like a huge let down to get so close and then get a “no”.
Here’s the thing though, this stage of the querying process is not uncommon. It’s the reason why you read so many articles about querying in batches, so you can reassess when things aren’t going right for you and your manuscript.
Recently, a great writing friend of mine, Amy Reichert, announced her publishing deal for her book, THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE (I love, love, love this title BTW!). In a blog post, she talked about the ups and downs of publishing and the detour she took with her manuscript. This detour included pulling it from the query trenches and doing a massive rewrite based on the feedback from a close writing friend. When Amy shared this with me, I was amazed by her commitment to the manuscript and her willingness to pull it apart and put it back together. Most of us, I think, would have trudged forward in the trenches and prayed someone would take a chance on us. But what Amy did was very brave. She knew that parts of her book weren’t clicking. She made the right decision, albeit a scary one, to step back and rework a story she loved in order to connect with an agent and eventually sell it.
So if you’re in the query trenches, and struggling, let Amy’s story be a beacon of light for you. Don’t be afraid to pull back and reassess. Send your manuscript to new CPs or perhaps work with a trusted editor. Do what you can to make that beloved book better. If you put in the hard work, you may just have a happy ending like Amy’s.
What are your thoughts about stepping back mid-query? Have you done it before? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments!