Congratulations, you finished it! From rough draft to final draft you finally did it. It is really on paper, your idea, the story that just had to be told. This… is… it. You’re so excited (I’m excited for you). Now you are on to the next step, publishing your work.
You enthusiastically begin to research how to publish your work.
Hmmmm… that’s interesting. You discover that you might very well need an agent – it can be a very challenging task to get into the big publishing houses if you don’t have an agent. But here’s the catch: Many agents won’t take you if you don’t have previously published work. It begins to dawn on you that this isn’t going to be as easy as you had previously thought. Never mind. “Small things” as we like to say in the Bahamas. You’re not discouraged.
So you start looking for agents in your genre. You check writers’ blogs, do your research and discover that in order to attract an agent you will probably need to write the mother of all introductions for your work – a query letter. Off you go to research query letters: How do you submit a query; and what exactly is a query letter?
An Introduction to Query Letters
According to nybookeditors.com a query letter is:
"A query letter is a one-page letter sent to literary agents in an effort to get them excited about your book. You have one page and 300 words (or less) to woo a literary agent into falling in love with your story and then requesting your manuscript. This letter is short, sweet, and definitely to the point. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to squeeze the essence of your 80,000+ word book into approximately 300 words. Talk about mission impossible! Aside from the near constant rejection we writers face, crafting the perfect query letter is the hardest part of authorship."
For those of you just embarking on this part of the journey, I recommend the reading the above article from Nybookeditors.com. It provides a great snapshot of some of the essential do's and don’ts of query letter etiquette:
I also highly recommend the Query Shark blog spot. Filled with wonderful nuggets of advice that are written with great wit and humor, the Query Shark gives it to you like it is and also shows you how query letters should be written: queryshark.blogspot.com
"You must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living."
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Taking Stock of Rejections
Dear reader, the query letter is a rite of passage. Treat it with respect. Take a class, join a forum, and have your letter reviewed until it is perfect. Then have it reviewed some more.
After you’ve done your due diligence and have poured your blood, sweat, and tears into this letter, it’s ready to go. Not too long, not too short and with the subject title addressed correctly (very important you will discover or they might not even look at the body of the email.) You submit your work and then you wait. And you wait. After weeks and weeks of waiting, you receive an email that goes something like this:
Thank you for your submission – and for thinking of ‘not going to happen house.’ I’m sorry but I don’t feel able to offer you representation. The market is tough and to take a book on, I need to have complete faith in it. I’m afraid that I just don’t have the necessary belief that I could place your work with a publisher.
You’re devastated, it’s not good enough, or it’s not commercial enough, your dream of being an author shattered. All that work and for what?
You start to ask yourself “Should I give up on this dream?”
It is at this point in your thought process that you’re going to stop and ask yourself a very simple, but important question.
Why did you write it?
That short story or that novel. The dream that woke you from your slumber.
Was it for fame? For money? For recognition? For what exactly?
Take your time to answer. I’ll wait. I want you to really think about WHY you decided to take this journey.
"When my writer friends are working, they feel better and more alive than they do at any other time. And sometimes when they are writing well, they feel that they are living up to something. It is as if the right words, the true words, are already inside them, and they just want to help them get out. Writing this way is a little like milking a cow: the milk is so rich and delicious, and the cow is so glad you did it.” - Anne Lamott
I implore you, continue to write and continue to get rejected. Welcome to the club, my friend. It’s going to be a long, arduous journey. If you knew just how arduous, you might not have come, but we are here now. Grab a seat. We’re going to be here for a while. There is much work to be done. After all, we are wordsmiths, keepers of stories, creators of worlds. A little rejection only makes us richer in experience, more determined to hone our skills, eager to share our experiences, and resolute to get the word, OUR words out there.