Wednesday, August 27, 2008

All this waiting on my query is driving me crazy! What do I do?!

I got this letter last week.

Dear Moonrat,

So, I know you are busy and I don't want to bug you, but can I just whine to you for a minute? Pretty please?

I've got a bunch of queries out, a handful of rejections, and a couple of requests for fulls or partials. For the ones that haven't responded yet, it's been well over two weeks, which I've been taught to understand means it's probably going to be a no.

The rejections I have received didn't hurt--they were the nicest rejection letters I have ever received. But it's the ones I haven't heard from that drive me batty. Not to mention waiting on the fulls and partial--which I know will take a long time.

But although I know this, I am still an impatient head banging mess. I've got lots of work to do for my real-life job but I am completely uninterested. Instead I constantly check my special query-only email address. Constantly.

I am trying to do what others always say, start writing the second book. Except my second book is the second in this series. What if the first book never sells? Am I wasting my time?

I am literally paralyzed. Any advice?

Love,

Impatient Head-Banging Mess


Me? Advice? Do I ever.

Dear HBM,

First, I know this is easier said than done, but--don't let yourself get distraught. It's not worth stressing about. Our end (the editors/agents end) is very slow-moving. Slow like molasses slow. I know that doesn't exactly make your life better per se, but seriously, you haven't waited that long from our perspective. (It's reasonable to expect that even after a month your query might not even have been opened yet, depending on the agency.)

I do think you should distract yourself by writing. This is the best idea ever, since writing will force you toward other emotions (maybe equally stressful, but at least different!). But I do think that if possible you shouldn't work on the next book in your series. I have a number of reasons, but I'll list the biggies:

1) If an agent decides to work with you (or, later, an editor) on the condition that you do some certain edits, they might drive your first book in developmental directions that differ from or outgrow the second installment you've already spent time on.

2) In the event (God forbid) you don't end up placing the book you're submitting right now, you'll have two unwritten books in the same series instead of a different, unrelated book that you can pitch separately. However, if you write a different book, you might be able to place THAT one, and then come back later when you're famous and reputable and place the first one.

The thing is, and I can vouch for this, writers develop really quickly and constantly, so the next book you write will--guaranteed--be better than the one you've already written. This is a reason for you absolutely to keep writing and writing.

But yeah, I would take up an entirely different project to distract you. You might be one of those people with tons of other ideas to pursue (sounds like you are, if you've already planned out a series!), but in the event you don't, you might try nonfiction short pieces. They can act as prompts for you, but might also turn into articles you could use to build your platform!! (Eg how about pitching some short creative pieces online?)

Just some of my thoughts.

Good luck! All my fingers are crossed for you, obviously!

Love,

Moonrat

21 comments:

numdlmom said...

I know how you feel. I have partials/fulls out there and its been 6 months and still no word. But like Moonie says, I've been keeping busy writing and she's absolutely right. The second book is much better than the first. So, take a deep breath and let those ideas for book 2 flow. If nothing else, it will help you pass the time until you hear back about your first book.

Good luck.

Pamala Knight said...

The thing is, and I can vouch for this, writers develop really quickly and constantly, so the next book you write will--guaranteed--be better than the one you've already written. This is a reason for you absolutely to keep writing and writing.

Thank you for that. I've finished my first manuscript and am writing the second one, and find your words to be absolutely true. I almost feel like I'm cheating on the first manuscript, because it's the one I'm polishing to submit queries for, all the while, I'm working on the second manuscript and I can't help thinking, "wait till they get a load of you." LOL

I really enjoy your blog and appreciate all of the useful info you impart.

cindy said...

oh, i do not miss querying hell. good luck to you, head banger! =) QUERY AND CONQUER!!

micheleleesbooklove said...

How perfect. I really needed to hear all this again. I'm going crazy because I have 3 partials and a full out. The full is on a rec from a friend to her agent so I have no real method to communicate with the agent, and am unwilling to push because I've already been done a huge favor. The three partials have been out at least 5 months (one has been out since January.)

I really needed to hear again that I need to just step back and focus on something else. Thanks.

JES said...

I do think that if possible you shouldn't work on the next book in your series.

I was stunned but delighted to see someone whose opinion I respect say this. Conventional wisdom has always seemed to be, Publishers love series. The better job you do convincing them you've got a series you can actually deliver, the better your odds of publication. Now I'm confused (which isn't all that unusual). I will say I'd LOVE not to be freaking out over a sequel.

Cat said...

Thanks, Moonrat, for those incredibly kind and patient words. I, too, am encouraged to continue working on the next book.

moonrat said...

JES--Interesting to hear you say that. It's very possible that others will disagree with me, and I can only speak for myself on this. (Everything below with that caveat.)

If a single book can't stand alone on its own merits, there's no way calling it a series and telling me there's more to come will help the argument.

Sure, publishers love to buy "properties"--authors they can keep publishing and publishing. But a single written book and a one-page precis on the second (and third, fourth, fifth, etc) would, I venture, in 9 out of 10 cases, serve the same function. With the first book, you've demonstrated your ability to write and be creative; with the precis, you've demonstrated your direction.

Since the market is so whimsical, the fantastic series idea you have right now may actually not be fantastic. Two years from now... who can say? Maybe it will be back in! (Or maybe, in two years when you look back at it with a judging eye, your writing will have evolved so that you see the magic change you have to make to sell it this time.) In the meantime, you have to keep writing, and I think that taking your brain in a different direction is just the thing to do.

I'd like to hear other publishing professionals weigh in on this, now. I'm going to go court some of their attentions.

writtenwyrdd said...

Good thoughts Moonie, and thanks!

I just got off my lazy rear and subbed a short story this Spring and didn't hear I was short listed until last week. Slower than molasses running uphill in the Arctic Winter slow. Not atypical, either.

Sherri said...

That's exactly the advice my agent gave me, Moonrat. Start a new project, hold off on the sequels to the first one till we get a deal.

But will I care as much about the first project after taking this long break? Will the my growth as a writer change my style enough that it's incompatible with the original? These are things I wonder instead of writing.

Natalie said...

Yeah, two weeks isn't long. And yay on the partials/fulls! Definitely write a new book...or a few, in my case, heh. It's going to be a while.

And then, when you write more, you realize the new books are better and you wish you could submit them instead...not that I'm in this situation...hehe.

Kiersten said...

A friend saw this post and emailed to ask if I had written the letter. It's nice to know other people are in (spookily) similar situations!

And thanks for the response, Moonrat. Wise words. But I don't bang my head, I just stress eat ; )

Great blog, by the way...

moonrat said...

Sherri--I know this might sound counterintuitive, but sometimes having the passion for your project die a little bit (or at least, lie fallow for awhile) will help you see it with a more objective eye.

I've personally found that when I look back at something I wrote, say, a year ago (yes, that recently!) I cringe at all the right places. I also find that I am still tickled and excited by the things that deserve to be there.

So that distance between you and your project isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Re:Micheleleesbooklove comment:
I understand this business moves at a snail's pace, but frankly, five months and still waiting on a partial strikes me as glacial. I would have to send a query status letter after two months at the most and then monthly thereafter. I'm not impatient, but five months on a partial...seems excessive. Am I wrong?

Conduit said...

The frightening things is, even when you make it over the transom into the fabled Kingdom of Got-an-Agent-and-a-Deal, things don't get much quicker. I'm fortunate that my agent does move very quickly, whether reading my stuff or answering emails, so that's terrific. But the rest of the industry - jeebus, it's like waiting for Christmas!

Patience is an absolute requirement for being a writer, and in so many ways.

micheleleesbooklove said...

>>Re:Micheleleesbooklove comment:
I understand this business moves at a snail's pace, but frankly, five months and still waiting on a partial strikes me as glacial. I would have to send a query status letter after two months at the most and then monthly thereafter. I'm not impatient, but five months on a partial...seems excessive. Am I wrong?

*sigh* I have. I've been assured that the partials have been received they just haven't been read yet. How many times can a girl push before it becomes annoying?

jwhit said...

The point about a sequel or a series is something I would like to hear more about in terms of pitching or querying. I've co-written a novel that introduces characters for a series and have begun writing number 2, with the concept for 3. Do I say that in the query for 1?

Facts:
Genre: mystery
setting: Melbourne, Australia
ongoing characters: a female Indian psychiatrist and a detective
And the books could stand alone if the first doesn't find a home.

moonrat said...

jwhit--you should mention it; you've done the work already. whether or not it helps you get a book deal depends largely on the agent and what s/he is looking for.

my main concern is that you're putting all your eggs in one basket--a basket that hasn't sold yet. but since you've done the work, certainly flaunt it.

Mary said...

Good advice! And it re-confirms things for me. I’m in query hell with my first novel, which could potentially be a series. I’ve written the first chapter of what might be the second in that series and moved on to the next project.

“Wait and see” takes on a whole new meaning when writing and submitting fiction. (That probably goes for non-fiction too!)

Julie Weathers said...

This does make me a little nervous. My wip can stand on its own, but it obviously doesn't answer all the questions as it is meant to be a series. The king is still missing, the mystery of the dead guards isn't completely solved and the bad guys are still running amok. If I answer all the questions and tie up all the loose ends there isn't much need for a series. How much of a problem is this? The genre is epic fantasy.

As for working on the next project I have no problem with that. I already have a second book going. When I get disgusted with Paladin I go play with dragons so I don't burn the first project in a sacrificial fire to the writing muses.

jwhit said...

Thanks, Moonrat. As for putting eggs in one basket, naw. I have another finished work that I'm also shopping and another in revisions. So eggs are spread widely. I also have been researching for a dystopian specfic. One day...

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

This is such excellent advice and insight, Moonie.
I once started writing a series (loooong ago) - and now have three unpublished manuscripts to show for it. Still, it was a good exercise - yes, I can write more than one book, yes, I can write a series and gosh, gee, my writing improved.
Right, now off to edit two more manuscripts - and then right some more... And do some querying, I guess :-)