Open Letter to Querying Writers

Dear writer,

Querying is pretty much universally accepted as being the Worst part of writing, and I know how hard every step of it is.  It’s hard sending that first query out.  It’s hard waiting for a response.  It’s hard watching the rejections roll in.

And I know how difficult the cocktail of emotions surrounding querying can be to swallow. Everyone talks about how difficult it is, how horrible it feels to be rejected, because of course those things are a huge part of the process, and they are so, so hard to take sometimes.  But those obvious negatives aren’t the only hard part, or the only part that makes the process difficult and I get that too.

The other half of that querying cocktail is the hope.  Painful, bright, cheerful hope.  It can be intense, to feel that much dewy-eyed excitement and love for your project, to slowly rekindle that feeling until you’re ready to send out the next batch of queries, only to be thrown back into the pit of waiting, trudging through those infamous trenches, readying yourself for the inevitable barrage of rejections.

I get it.  It’s easy, in the face of all that, to want to pull back.  To pull your book out of the line of fire.  To think maybe there’s something wrong with it that you just didn’t notice before.  Maybe it would be worth taking another look at it, making it stronger before putting it back out there.

But here’s the thing.  It’s time to commit to this.  Do you know why?

It’s because your book is good.

At every level that it can be, it’s good.  The writing is sharp and focused and specific.  The characters are lovely.  They linger in readers’ minds.  And the final scenes bring everything together.

There are issues still, maybe, and questions that need answers. The truth is, I don’t know the answers to those questions.  There are issues that might mean it’s time to let the book go. Maybe there are too many books like it already.  Maybe the market isn’t ready for it.  It could really be any number of things.

But none of that means that this book doesn’t deserve a solid push.  And I’m talking about an actual, real, solid push.  A significant number of agents queried.  Now is the moment.

Now is the moment because the book is so, so close to being as good as you could possibly make it.  Yes, you’re always improving, but at this point, every revision consists of smaller and smaller details.  You’ve done what you can do, and you’ve made it as good as you can make it.

That means it’s ready.  It’s ready for more than test runs and trials.  It’s ready for a real effort.  And if it doesn’t work out after that — after putting real effort into the querying process and putting your absolute best foot forward and giving the thing its real and honest best chance — then maybe it’s just not going to work out right now, and that’s okay.

The book is better now than it’s ever been.  It is good.

If it doesn’t work out now, it is out of your control.

I know this is a bit of a downer for a pep talk.  I just really don’t want you giving up.  I don’t want you pulling the book out of the trenches because “maybe it’s not ready.”

It’s ready.

So if you’re thinking about giving up before you’ve even given it a real chance, please don’t.  Let your book try to find its place in the world.  If it doesn’t work out now, it’s probably because there isn’t a place for it in the wider world at the moment, and that’s okay.  It happens sometimes.  Focus on making the next thing as good as this one is.  Even better, stronger in the ways that this book struggles.

It’s hard, I know.  Equally hard, maybe, both to imagine giving up on it entirely — shelving it for the foreseeable future — and to imagine forcing yourself to keep querying even if it doesn’t feel like it’s going well.

All you can do is keep going.  This is not an easy process.  It never has been.  It never will be.

It doesn’t mean this book doesn’t deserve its chance.

And if this one doesn’t work out, that’s okay too.

It doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be published, and it doesn’t mean you never will be.  It doesn’t even necessarily mean this book never will be.  Maybe you just need a little more cooking.  It’s allowed.  You have a whole life, and so many long years of creating characters and writing stories ahead of you.

So let’s just reiterate the important bits.

This book is good.  It’s beautiful.  Perfect?  No.  But beautiful.  You’ve worked so very, very hard on it, and no matter what does or doesn’t happen with it, you’ll always have this beautiful thing that you made and that you can be proud of.

And because this book is good, it deserves a to be given a real chance.  Tweak the query if it’s not getting any attention, work on the book if you’re getting consistent feedback, but don’t pull it out.  Let it be.  Give it a real chance to make its way in the world. And if you do that, and nothing comes of it, recognize that there is likely some larger issue with the book or with the market that is making it unfeasible, and that this is out of your control.  Set the book aside, love it, say goodbye to it, at least for now.

But don’t berate yourself.  Don’t hate yourself for not being good enough. Because this precious, small, imperfect book is the best thing you have ever done.

It is the best thing you have ever made, the best thing that has ever come from your head and your heart and your hands.  And you need to honor that for yourself.

Let it go, if it’s time to let it go.  But love it.  Because it deserves your love.  And take from it all the lessons you’ve learned from working on it, and go make the next thing, and hope that it can be as beautiful as this one.

If you can do that, you will have made your own success.

Love always,

Chelsea

2 thoughts on “Open Letter to Querying Writers

  1. THIS THIS THIS. I hope you’re shouting this all back at yourself, too, because it’s so, so true. Querying is the worst, and I’m literally sitting here about to compile a list of agents that I want to query, and it just feels so daunting, but then there’s this. It IS worth it. It’s scary and sometimes awful and a little bit debilitating, but it is worth it because our novels are good, and we deserve it, damn it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely! As you know, it can just be hard to hold onto that truth sometimes. I originally wrote this letter for myself, actually, and I revisited it recently to encourage myself. And it was while I was reading through it that it occurred to me that with a bit of tweaking it could be applicable to anyone who was querying, so I decided to share it!

      Liked by 1 person

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