Friday, February 12, 2010

The Five Stages of Querying

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.

Happy Querying!!

Thank you to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition whose resources I modeled this article after.

© 2010 Anne Gallagher
No part of this article can be reused without the express permission of the author or a link to

**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!!


Kristi Faith said...

oh how true! There seems to be those annoying phases to everything in life. Dangit. I will have to print this out though to remind myself that we're all in this together, eh? :)

Great post! BTW-CONGRATS on your partial request. Hope it comes through! :)

Nicole Ducleroir said...

Congrats on a second partial request!! You must be estatic -- great things are in your near future!! I loved this post -- thanks for putting a smile on my face today.

Tara said...

Such a great post! Really wonderful reminders to keep some perspective.

Woohoo! Congrats on another partial request :)

Piedmont Writer said...

Thank you thank you thank you. I have got to find out what year it is on the Chinese calendar -- I haven't had to time to ggogle it yet. Perhaps it's my year. FINALLY!

sarahjayne smythe said...

Congratulations on the second request. And thank you for this post. You've got some really great things in here that I will be coming back to again and again I think. :)

Piedmont Writer said...

Thanks Sarah Jayne -- are you sure you won't be coming back just for the buffet?

Lady Glamis said...

Anne, this is brilliant! I read it before and loved it, too. I think this is so true on so many levels, and that if we approach publication with the right attitude, we will be so much happier and content with how things turn out, good or bad. Thank you for sharing this!


Piedmont Writer said...

Glamaliscious -- Yes but I must keep a firm foot planted on the ground while I dance and jump and go *Squeeeeeee!!!*

I think everyone should read this before they query. Good Lord, if I had had something like this, I wouldn't have had all that crap last week to deal with. I would have just chalked it up to "Query Madness".

Davin Malasarn said...

Congratulations on your second partial request, Anne! Hooray, and good luck! This was a great post. I feel emotionally advanced because I skipped over #1 and went straight to #2. I sort of live my life in #2.

Simon C. Larter said...

Oh, excellent article, Anne. Well done. I may have to come back to this in the future.

Plus, a 2nd partial request? WOOT!

Shelley Sly said...

Congratulations on the partial request!! Yay!! :)

Loved this post. I'm no stranger to the world of querying, and there's so much truth to what you posted.

Falen said...

fantastic article! So so so true!
I'll have to come back to it when i'm at the query stage again.

Piedmont Writer said...

Davin -- Don't we all live our lives this way?

Simon -- Thank you good sir. I can't really believe it.

Shelley -- I'm glad I'm not the only one who's had to go through this, so you KNOW what I'm talking about.

Sarah A -- And it won't be too long now. Get those revisions done girl!!

Teebore said...

Yeah, this post will definitely make a great point of reference when I get querying.

And congrats on the request!

Piedmont Writer said...

Thanks Austin -- I think I might even post in on the side-bar. Without the bourbon.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Well said!

I wish I had had less anxiety during the process, but all's well that ends well.

The waiting is so difficult; some days more than others.

Piedmont Writer said...

Hey Caroline -- Thanks for stopping by. and you're right, some days I check my inbox 15 times other's only two.

Erin Kuhns said...

That is AWESOME, that a partial was requested!!! I'm so excited for you!!!

Piedmont Writer said...

Thanks Erin. Now if I could only get an offer.

Summer said...

It's the year of the Tiger! Which is my sign, so hopefully that means good things! Congratulations on your partial! I'm nowhere near that and can't even imagine how it feels, but I know it must be awesome! Hopefully in time I'll need to reference back to this post. :-)

Piedmont Writer said...

Hey Summer thanks -- yeah I found out yesterday it's the year of the Tiger. Of which I am one so this is my year.

Come on back any time.

Christi Goddard said...

I've never experienced #1. I'm pretty much always at numbers 2 and 3. Usually 2. And rock on, I'm a Tiger, too. Does that mean we're all 35/36? ;-)

Shelley Sly said...

I was actually born year of the Tiger too, and I'm turning 24 this year. Interesting. Yay Tigers!

Piedmont Writer said...

Hey Christi -- Thanks for joining my posse. And don't get stuck in 2, it'll eat you up.
I can't believe how many Tigers I've found so far, and no my darling child, I only WISH I was 35 again.

scott g.f.bailey said...

Yay, you! Hey, it's my year, too!

Ryan said...

That was really good, and I'm glad you posted it. Thank you.

Piedmont Writer said...

Mr. Bailey -- never thought I'd see you here in my little slice of heaven. Thanks for stopping by. And hey, you too huh? 1962 was a very good year.

Ryan --Any time. Your welcome.

Guinevere said...

Great post! Thanks for giving us the appropriate responses... I sometimes fail on those. ;)

Piedmont Writer said...

Guinevere -- No worries, there's no right or wrong way to respond. After my first go 'round I spent 4 months being an idiot. I've since learned a clean house and a clean office beats dust bunnies that bite.

Aggie Villanueva said...

I reallyl enjoyed your hilarious and too true post. Thankx for the insights!