Or perhaps more properly called Squaring Your Chin For A Thousand Kicks.
Your beta readers have given you sound feedback, and you’ve made your edits accordingly. Now comes that big moment: when you dismantle the walls of coffee-stained notebooks that fenced in your writing desk. You replace them with books on querying.
You spend weeks whittling down your 90,000 word novel into three paragraphs, and at some point, you wonder if you even know what your own book is about. Finally, you get it—the perfect query letter. Your hook is a killer, and you’re going to reel in a whopper.
Now, if you’re one of the few writers whose confidence and ego are large enough to carry you through the querying process, congratulations. Have a cookie on me. For the rest of you poor saps—those writers tasting their own bile as they stare at the SEND button—well…I get it. Your novel was the best thing ever written. Was. That is, until just now, when you sent your first query email. In that tiny fraction of a second, your once-cherished manuscript turned into a big pile of steaming dung.
As soon as you’ve queried, you’ll start checking your email every five minutes. I would recommend training for this, because you’ll need to do it with one eye closed, standing an arm’s length away from the computer, while holding your breath. You may only exhale when you see “No New Messages”.
When you finally see an email in your in-box, you will experience a surge of nerves to the ends of your fingertips. This is normal. Before you open the email, you will allow yourself to dream a little. “What if it’s good news?” you will ask yourself. You brace yourself, open it, and it’s a rejection, and not a very helpful one either: “Sorry, not for us.”
You knew it, right? You submitted the worst pile of crap that agent has ever seen. They’re probably passing your query around the office, laughing at you, at the precious darling that took you years to write. Snippets of your writing will probably make it into one of those nasty books and/or web sites highlighting the worst queries ever.
Get a grip.
You have a few choices here. You can quit, and plenty do. Or you can toughen up and send out more queries. I won’t lie—rejection sucks. But once you realize that agents are real people—people who know their business and their market—you’ll understand that the rejections are not personal. Even the finest writing may be rejected if there is no market for the story. The key is in plodding ahead, like an Amish plow horse in a furrow: one step at a time.
With a little perseverance, one day you’ll get a request for your partial or full manuscript. When that happens, you may look like this:
The picture at right was taken by my husband just after I’d received my first request for my full manuscript. I was leaning my head against the wall, muttering, “Oh my god…oh my god…” As you can see, everything’s sagging, even my sweatpants. I remember what I was thinking here. I was thinking, “Oh man, I should never have done this. She’s going to fillet me.”
But she didn’t. She didn’t offer representation, but she did tell me that the writing was “smooth and flawless” and that I brought my historical setting to life. It encouraged me to press on, and after I’d received seven more full requests, my confidence grew.
Rejection is a part of this game, unfortunately. Your queries will be rejected. Your submissions, if you’re lucky enough to get requests, will be rejected. When your agent submits your novel to editors, you’ll be rejected. Even if you make it to publication, your readers may reject you (and they may not be so nice about it!).
If you’re a tender wee flower like myself, rejection can hurt. But it’s a part of this process, and we all need to embrace it. We’re writers, people who aim to take readers on vacation for the purchase price of our books. We’re allowed—and even expected—to be a little sensitive by nature. But don’t give up. Whatever you do, don’t give up. If you do, you might just miss that one “yes,” and one “yes” is all it takes.