Monday, April 29, 2013

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, patience, how long will that take?”*

This is a shout out to all you brave writers hailing from the query trenches. Life in query land is its own special hell. I know; I’m there myself (and it’s not my first trip). And since I’m currently in the trenches, I’ve been researching (former life as a researcher, so it sort of comes with the territory). My current objective is to find an agent, so I’ve been researching agents, what they do, what their routines are, who’s stirring the pot at Absolute Write and Query Tracker (both excellent resources, but should be taken with a grain of salt as the qualifications for joining sites like that is the ability to remember your password). What I’m seeing a lot of this time around are agents posting about what their day is like.

This is brilliant.

Mostly what I’m seeing is that agents work just as much as writers do. They keep the same hours that writers do. Work all day long, then come home and try to cram some words into a computer? Just replace words with read submissions, and that’s what agents are saying their days are like.  

I know, people are starting to wonder if I’m a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders here, but I’m always trying for perspective. What I’m seeing is that agents are unbelievably busy. Like when I was working 80 hour weeks, people would shake their head at me and ask me how I did it. I usually told them that I kept a list of impossible tasks and just didn’t feel comfortable without one on my plate.

And because agents are so busy, something else happens: we writers wait.

We wait to hear if our query is getting upgraded to a partial or a full. Once an agent has a partial, we wait to hear if it gets upgraded to a full. If it’s a full, we are waiting to hear if it’s going to be a rejection, a revise and resubmit, or the holy grail of querying: an offer. Oh that waiting is such torture.

And as the time stretches on, we writers start to think, “Well, if it’s taking this long, they must not like it.” Which leads to “If they don’t like it, then why are they just holding on to it? Can’t they just put me out of my misery with a rejection???”

I know how this feels. In the past, I may have felt like this myself *looks innocent*. But that’s not how it works. The reason for this misconception is that we’ve all read just enough success stories where the writer connected with an agent prior to sending a query. The agent then instantly requested a partial; upgraded to a full the next day, and two days later, the agent offered representation. These stories are just common enough for people to think that’s how it is.

I’m here to be the voice of reason. Most agents use a reading queue, so unless you were one of these writers who made a special connection before hand, you’re going to have to go through the reading queue.

As in, they read your query/partial/full when it floats to the top of their pile of work. This seems pretty reasonable from the outside, but when you’re the writer with your hopes tied to that little query letter, it just seems like a short slice of forever.

Sorry to be the one telling everyone that it's going to be more waiting. I really wish we could all have the instant gratification of instant responses, but try to remember that there are other writers just like you waiting for their query/partial/full to be read too. I know it’s hard to hear it. It’s painful to wait when you hope so hard, but just take a deep breath. And if you need a kick in the pants, go over and watch this skit on patience where Ed Grubberman gets a lesson in patience…

*hint, this is one of Ed Grubberman’s lines.


  1. Patience is hard. Twitter makes it harder, I swear. It's so tempting to Twitter stalk agents. And then any time they say something positive or negative about something they're reading you can't help but wonder if it's about you!

    1. Oh, man, I've been blowing too much of my time on twitter lately. I like that twitter makes them close enough to ask questions and what not.

      I hate that twitter lets me look like a complete moron without exerting myself. It should have a second button that says "Are you really REALLY sure you want to tweet this?"

    2. LOL. I want that button too! We should petition.

  2. I've decided the ONLY way to get an agent's attention is to meet them at a conference or through a contest. I've had agents who said "no thanks" to a blind query, turn around a request a full of the EXACT SAME MANUSCRIPT after a contest. Crazy, eh?

    1. You know, I've had some surprising moments just like this. Except I had a manuscript in a contest that got no love, then in another contest with the same agent and got a request!

      Having said that, it's true that ~95% of all their clients come from the slush...

  3. Use the same passwords. I have three, so it's always one of them . (Did I just release info that will one day come back to haunt me?)

    1. I also have a limited number of passwords, but my work email won't let me use the same password for more than six months. So every six months I have to come up with a new one **shakes fist at IT who are otherwise really nice**

  4. I'm not even close to submitting to agents yet, but I happen to have a short story submitted to an anthology, so I'm beginning to understand what this might entail! Everyone says, just keep writing, and wait. Hah!
    Maybe I'll look for some contests ... (more waiting there too, I suppose!)

  5. I don't mind the waiting. I just get to work on something else anyway, so the waiting isn't wasted time. But blergh, those stories where people get offers in 2 days always bring out my insecurities


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