Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Query Weary

Are you query weary? Have you offered your bright and shiny manuscript up to what seems like a sky-high stack of agents and haven’t made a love connection yet?

You are not alone. Welcome to the business end of writing.

I went to a fabulous SCBWI query workshop last year where I heard, “If you haven’t queried 100 agents you’re not doing your job.”

Wow, 100 agents.

Recently I read on a blog that a writer’s magic query number was 187 before she clicked with her agent.

Wow, 187.

In my acting days we used to say that if you had one callback in 20 auditions you were doing well.  As a writer I equate that to receiving one request for a partial or full in 20 queries.

Is it worth it the hours of agent research and a memory book full of rejections?

You betcha! I’m a first hand witness to the magical synergy that happens when a writer finds THE agent they were meant to connect with. It’s an exciting partnership that inspires and motivates. The journey is worth the prize.

So if you are query weary, here are some hints to keep on the trail to successfully finding the agent of your dreams:

Channel your Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys self and analyze your track record. Is there a pattern to your “no thank yous” from agents? Can you find a weakness to strengthen in your:

Query letter/Voice/Characters/Plot…

There are wonderful blogs and websites that will guide you to excellent agents.  Two of my many refueling stations are:

Casey McCormick’s Literary Rambles

Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents

They know your work. They are fresh eyes for you. They are going through the same thing you are be it at the agent or editor query stage. In the case of my group they are now cherished lifelong friends and trusted colleagues. Lean on them.

4. KEEP THE FAITH: In the hopeful song PICK YOURSELF UP Lyrics by Dorothy Fields and Music by Jerome Kern from the film SWING TIME:

Nothing’s impossible I have found,
For when my chin is on the ground,
I pick myself up
Dust myself off,
Start all over again.


  1. Such great advice, Leslie. It's tough out there in the query doldrums, but it's posts like these that help us know we're not alone.

    Going to my first SCBWI workshop in June and super excited! :)

  2. I was planning on querying my novel to at least 100 agents before giving up on it. But while I was analyzing my current WIP with one writer craft book I now love, I realized I needed to do the same with the book I was querying.

    Works for me. Hopefully that will solve the problem some agents mentioned (okay, I know it will). I was getting bored querying anyway (even if I did only query 20 agents). Now I have to perfect excuse to take a break for it. :D

  3. @Pk - Prepare to be wowed by your SCBWI workshop. I always leave them with a brain full of "AH HA" moments.

    @Stina - I've taken several query breaks when I've found inspiration in a craft book, critique, or workshop to put a fresh coat of paint on my MS. What is the name of the craft book that lit the fire for you?

  4. Leslie - you are AWESOME and you will find your love connection! Keep that chin up. Such great advice.

  5. Leslie, this is awesome advice. I love the saying, "Keep going, it only takes one YES!" Your voice is one of a kind, and there's a lucky agent out there ready to snag you up :D

  6. Julie and Lisa you both touch my heart.

  7. Sometimes it's so hard to keep going though. I'm glad I've been on a query break this year to write. But I know next year will be different. I must put on my armor and get ready for the fight! :)

  8. Thanks for the tips! I had to pop in and tell you I loved your procrastination/Indiana Jones reference in the comment you left on my blog! It made me smile, so thanks :)

  9. Nope I'm not query weary! Have only queried a few agents so far. I'm taking the slow and strategic route. ;)

    I love your advice here. Great.

    What also surely helps (don't call me Shirley) is to make sure your first line/paragraph is really intriguing. Gotta grab them right away.

  10. I havent' started querying yet but I'm looking forward to it!!! I know, I'm crazy. Rejections hurt me bad. But this whole editing/revising process has been so tedious that I'm looking forward to a change of pace. And I figure those rejections are just necessary notches in your belt, so to speak.

  11. Ha ha ask me about my querying attitude again, a year from now! Two years from now! :)

  12. @Laura - I'm jealous of your query break. If you need a pep talk any time next year I'm here for you.

    @Jess - I'm glad it gave you a giggle. One of these days the door will actually smash my procrastinating hand.

    @Lee - Your AIRPLANE reference cracked me up.

    @Margo - Remember, every rejection is an excuse for an ice cream reward.

  13. If you count all of the queries I sent for every manuscript I wrote before I got an agent, it would be like 220, or something like that! EEK.

    Anyway, I wish you luck!! But then, if you query widely and work hard, you might not even need it! :D

  14. Thanks, Monica. I like the way you think.

  15. I have something for you over on my blog, come and claim it :)

  16. Carolyn, what a nice Sunday surprise. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'll pop right over to your blog.

  17. Yes - it's a roughy toughy world trying to get an agent. I too am 'query weary'(I just love those words - they go together so well, don't they?) As you say you just don't have to give up... Love the tips and love the poem too. Will follow your blog with interest.

  18. Welcome, Pat. Thanks for the kind words. Have some chocolate and Gatorade for energy and get back up on the query horse. Best of luck to you.

  19. Such a wonderful post. I haven't gotten to querying yet, but the prospect often times scares the living daylights out of me. Your putting a number to it, even as high as 187, gives me hope. Thanks!

  20. Thanks for stopping by, Deana. Don't be scared. Get your system down. How many agents will you query at at time? How are you tracking your progress? What is your research plan? Then...GO FOR IT!

  21. Great advice. I think I shall follow you.


  22. Lovely advice, Ms. Leslie! Absolutely lovely and appropriate. And I just finished writing something similiar. But I'm not surprised to find us on the same wavelength. I miss you! WHY are you and Lisa so far away?