The writing life certainly has its ups and downs: As the song goes, “some days are diamonds, some days are stones.” Some days you seem to make progress and some days, things feel sluggish and you have to fight just to feel any sense of accomplishment. The same is true of the query process: trying to connect with agents and pique their interest isn’t easy. Many of my query letters, which I’ve put lots of time into tailoring, seem to disappear into cyberspace. That seems to be the norm.
Here’s what happens: When you don’t hear anything back it’s easy to assume that people just aren’t interested. And when you do finally hear from people, sometimes all you receive is an automated “thank you, but no thank you,” note. When you hear from an agent personally and they take a pass on your project, it can be pretty dispiriting. Sometimes they offer very helpful advice, but still, it’s tough. And occasionally, your email box brings good news: someone wants to see all or part of your project.
Recently, in a 48-hour period, I went on a roller-coaster ride: one agent asked to see my work, one took a pass, a few others didn’t respond, and then one agent I had sent three notes to said that for some reason, my first two notes had fallen through the cracks and she’d be happy to take a look. Wow, am I glad I decided to give it one more go!
Up, down, up — the whole process can be dizzying and jarring. One valuable lesson I’ve learned from query land is this: when you hit a rough patch, the best way to handle it is to not to pull back, but to increase the level of your effort. Here’s why:
We have no control over how someone will respond to our work, but we do have control over the level of effort we invest. And the more effort we put in, the better we feel about ourselves and about our chances for making something happen. Persistence empowers. So if you’re feeling low about some phase of your writing, don’t put on the brakes — step on the gas. And write on.