The Five Stages of Querying By Anne Gallagher
In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote the Five Stages of Death and Dying, an invaluable book as to what many patients may face when they are presented with the knowledge they are going to die.
I have chosen to take this premise with regard as to what many of us may face when we have finally honed our manuscripts to perfection and are ready to query. It's a little like death, it's a little like dying. As writers, we are singular in our occupation and sometimes the only human contact we have about writing is through the internet. I hope this will help you identify the emotions you may be feeling as you send out that first query.
The Five Stages of Querying
#1) Conceit – This is the beginning of the query experience in which you are convinced that any agent would be a fool to turn you down. You know deep in your heart this is the most fantastic book ever written and every agent who reads your query will request a full, (or at least a partial) immediately. And your mother, husband/wife and BFF said so.
#2) Fear – This second emotion is harder to contain as it encompasses a variety of anxieties at the same time: Is the query strong enough to get a request? Is the manuscript good enough? Have I revised enough? Did I find all my typos? Did I say everything I was supposed to say? Will I be a babbling idiot when “The Call” comes?
#3) Bargaining – This is when you’ll do absolutely anything for God if s/he chooses to let an agent request any part of your manuscript: Spend more time with the kids, your mother-in-law, the PTO. You’ll keep up with the laundry, dishes, dust bunnies. You’ll remember to make breakfast, pay the bills, feed the dog. And you’ll pass up the new shoes you saw last week at the mall…you swear, if you could only get a request.
#4) Depression – This is how far you’ll actually sink before you start climbing up from the pit of despair. Some frequent comments in your head will be – “My query sucked, the agent will hate it. My book sucks. Why am I doing this? I can’t write a book. No one would read it anyway, it will never sell.” At this point, you must remember you do have family and friends who love you and care for you. Step away from the chocolate, get out of your sweats, take a shower and go for a nice long walk. A little fresh air never hurt anyone.
#5) Acceptance – And this last stage is when you realize, the query is out, agents are looking at it, you gave it your 100% best shot and there is nothing more you can do. So relax. And I won't tell you not to check your e-mail account fifteen times a day because I know you will, just try and get it down to three.
These five stages are not all encompassing or complete. Some people will never reach the acceptance stage, others will be stuck in Fear or Depression, and still others may fluctuate wildly among the five. The emotional reactions to querying varies across individuals and largely depends upon their support systems. And how much bourbon is still left in the liquor cabinet.
Queriers are in a unique position as compared to other writers, given that they are forward looking and can anticipate some aspects of the future. How many of us have already spent our six-figure advance, scheduled a book tour, or designed our web-site?
Recognition of a Rejection however, can be the factor that helps us temper our excitement and bring us back down to earth. Our awareness of the Rejection is necessary. If we defend ourselves against the improbability of that, we are only postponing the agony when it arrives.
Here are Five Guidelines that will help you to manage these Five Stages of Querying and allow you to get on with writing your next book.
Five Guidelines After the Query Has Been Sent
#1) Responding – Try to respond appropriately when someone asks about your book.
Incorrect Response: “Oh my God, I sent it out to query like three weeks ago and haven’t heard a word, and it’s like freaking me out, I can’t stand the waiting, it’s killing me because I knew I forgot to fix the typo in the return address and it’s like…”
Correct Response: “I’ve sent my book out to query. I should hopefully have more information in a few weeks. Thank you for asking.”
#2) Education & Developing Increased Resourcefulness – Now is the perfect time to stroll through agent blogs and find out what you need to ask them if "The Call" comes. Do they have their own Foreign Rights agent and if not, who do they use? Is it possible to get a smaller advance in lieu of a larger royalty rate? Can you get the rights reverted back to you after five years instead of seven? These are just a few of the things you'll want to know, so write them down and put them in a safe place, just in case. An agent will appreciate you've done your homework instead of babbling incoherently "I can't believe it, YOU really called me. Oh my GAWD!"
#3) Encourage Your Peers – As I’ve said before, many times – We are all in this boat together and if we don’t help and encourage other writers, it’s going to be a nasty voyage. I’d hate to be the one stuck out on the poop deck.
#4) Recognize That a Moderate Level of Anxiety is Acceptable – Of course, you have anxiety, your ‘baby’ that you’ve slaved over is out in front of the world. Falling on your face is never anything we want to think about so do have a modicum of hope. Someone may love what you’ve written and as we all know, this business is subjective – What one agent may hate, another may do back flips over.
#5) Develop a Sense of Control & Efficacy – Clean your office, your workspace, your kitchen. Write your author blurb, dedication, back cover blurb. You’ll have to do it sooner or later and, who knows, if "The Call" does come, you’ll be ready and agents love an efficient and prepared writer. Besides, you won’t have to panic later.
Life, After Rejection
This is the most difficult aspect of querying for sure. You’ve sent out however many queries and they have all come back as rejections. Righteous indignation that your-work-is-a-best-seller-and-why-can’t-they-see-that, is useless. Rage is oppressive and despair is not an option. We cannot all be picked up on the first try. So dust your keyboard, sharpen your pencils, open your mind and start writing. It’s very hard and perhaps overwhelming that you have to let this one go, when you finally have to admit to yourself, “They're just not that into it.” You don't suck, the book doesn't suck, you must convince yourself "it's just not right for today's market." However, you now have the opportunity to try again, whether in revisions or something new.
Courage in the face of adversity, my friends, is what keeps us all writing.
Thank you to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition whose resources I modeled this article after. http://www.nccc-online.org/resources/caregivers/stages.html
© 2010 Anne Gallagher
No part of this article can be reused without the express permission of the author or a link to http://piedmontwriter.blogspot.com
**I just had to tell you all -- I couldn't wait until Monday -- I got another request for a partial on The Lady's Masquerade. Yay Me!!