Wednesday, February 15, 2012
How Long Should You Query a Manuscript?
You've written the next great American novel. You've edited, made it pretty, worked on your characters, and developed a stellar plot that no one has thought of. Okay. Now it's time to query the agents and editors.
What? You've been querying? No one's expressed interest? Bummer...
Does that sound familiar? Probably. Most writers go through the above process at least once, though I'd venture a guess that it happens more than that. How do you know when it's time to stop querying a manuscript and move on?
First, consider a few things.
1. How long have you been at it? A month? Two? That's it? Quit your whining and keep trying! Some agents take six months to respond to one query. I'm talking from personal experience here!
2. Six months go by and no one has requested a full, a partial, or the first 10 pages. It's time for you to look at your query letter again because it may be that it just isn't doing your novel any good. Query letters are tricky little beasts that are meant to entice the agent to want more. Maybe you aren't sending a letter that's very interesting or that captures the flavor of your novel. There are many articles on the web that will show you how to create a great query letter. A lot of agent websites will tell you exactly what they want, too. One of my favorites is Janet Reid. Talk about brutal! That lady tells it like it is and doesn't care who she crushes in the process. If you want feedback on your query, check out her webpage! I've included her link for those feeling brave: Janet Reid
3. You've queried, received requests for fulls or partial manuscripts, but you keep getting passes from agents. Okay, this one really isn't about your query. Obviously, that's getting the job done because agents want to see your work. The problem is your manuscript. Reread the rejections carefully and without emotion. Is there a common theme? Are you getting similar complaints? Then fix the problem and keep querying.
4. You've queried, been rejected, made changes, and still nothing. Oh, my friend...I've so been there and done that. You have a few options at this point. A.) Keep trying. B.) Look at small presses. Many of them would love to have your work! C.) Consider self publishing. D.) Move on to your next project.
Any of the above paths have the potential to get your work out to readers. Trust your gut and your heart when it comes to making the final decision on whether or not it's time to stop querying. While you're querying one novel, be writing the next. It's possible you may discover some flaws in the first manuscript as you work on the new project that will change your mind about its potential. Maybe it just isn't marketable as is.
These are tough things to contemplate, but no matter what, don't quit writing!