“Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos.”
Okay! Try this one!
"If you aren't receiving any requests, it might be time to pull back your query for some feedback and possible tweaking."
Nathan Bransford | past literary agent, author
I hear writers say this a lot, "I'm not stopping querying until I have 100 rejections!" or "I won't stop querying until I get an agent!"
I shudder inside when I hear those.
This is a fact (I know only too well): no matter how much you tweak and polish your query, if you're getting ONLY rejections and never requests, there's something wrong with your query.
Honestly, just because all your critique partners and writing friends have helped you with your query doesn't mean it's "perfect". I'm pretty sure, actually, that every query sucks to some degree.
why you shouldn't aim for "100 rejections"
I think this is a bad idea on multiple levels. For one, what if query-letter-one-hundred-and-one is The One Where You'll Get an Agent?
For two, it could very well be your query that sucks. Your manuscript could be awesome! You could be flunking your chance with a hundred really cool agents because they're reading a dodgy query letter.
Revise. Revise. Revise.
I, personally, think you should only stop querying when it's no longer your passion to be an author (because you've moved onto other things, not because you're piling up the rejections and you don't believe in yourself. Never give up if that's the case).
I "gave up" querying multiple times (in, um...just the one year). But you know what I did when I had "quit"? I wrote a new book. I rewrote my query. I entered pitch contests (a totally different way to get an agent). I wrote 4 new books. I was willing to acknowledge that maybe that book I was querying wouldn't get published. BUT I wasn't going to quit my dream of Being An Author.
ways to help you revise your query
Obviously your critique partners and writing friends are invaluable! Keep hanging out with them and getting them to look at your revisions. Take their advice, too. They'll probably get sick of you after 20 different versions of your query...but, hey. Tell them you'll thank them in the back of your awesome book when you're a bestseller.
- Query Shark: This is a great site for revisions. Even if you don't submit, the archives are busting with queries that have been edited. You can learn a lot from it!
- Miss Snark's First Victim: This blog often does query critiques and agent contests. Totally an invaluable blog to follow if you're querying.
- Follow author and agent blogs: I landed a query critique from author J.R. Johansson's Forging Fridays. (She's no longer doing them, though.) Author Susan Dennard talks about querying and agents on her blog. And Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner has archives STUFFED with query advice.
And for the curious ones... I queried about 30 agencies before I signed. Most of them didn't even send rejections! Also a fun fact (well, I think it's fun): the agent I queried actually forwarded my query onto another agent in the agency...who then went on to sign me.
All right! Off you pop! Go keep querying. But remember to revise your query. After every batch of agents you query, revise your little letter again.