I’m setting this up to post automatically, as I’m taking the day off today (Friday) to get out and see some more of this beautiful state. If I’m lucky, and we don’t hit the Great Sand Dunes National Park at its hottest, there may even be some hiking. But Barb has a different kind of walking in mind with her question. To whit:
At what point in the query process do I determine that it’s not going to happen for this novel and my time will be better spent on the next one? 20 queries? 40 queries? I’ve sent 20 queries – 14 rejections and 1 request for the full MSS. I’ve started my next novel and I’m itching to dive into it. I know many first attempts never get published, but I want to at least give my first one a fair chance.
It sounds like you’re giving your first one a very fair chance. I mean, hey, you’ve gotten a full request! Some writers never even get that far. I wouldn’t throw in the towel at this early stage, by any means. Unless you’re working in a very specialized section of the market, 20 agents barely begins to scratch the surface of who might be interested. And if you’ve gotten a full request, even if it turns into a no, it’s a sign you’re doing something right.
But at the same time, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be working on the next novel. In fact, I recommend it!
Querying agents is a different process than writing a novel, and one shouldn’t replace the other. Keep working on your new project (which of course feels all shiny and exciting, as well it should), but give yourself 30 minutes a day to research a new agent, and send off a query for your first book. Or, if it works better for you, write four or five days a week, and take one day to devote to researching and querying.
If you’re getting requests for partials or fulls, you’re doing something right. So when should you quit querying, or at least take a break? When every query you’ve sent gets rejected, with no requests. Even then, if all you hear from your query are “no”s, you have to ask yourself — is it your query, or is it the story?
I’m going to be presenting a workshop at the Douglas Country Libraries Writers Conference on October 10th on How to Build a Query — check in your area or with a local writers group and see if anyone is running something similar. Or submit your query to my About My Query series. I have them backed up to do one a week well into October, but you never know when I might do another whole week of posts on the subject. If all the feedback you get back about your query is positive, then yes, maybe it is time to take a good long hard look at your novel — but by then (since all the above takes time), you probably already have Book #2 finished, and have a new option.
I’ll be honest, I’m of the keep-throwing-it-at-the-wall-until-it-sticks school of submission, or until I get bored. If you’ve still got wall to throw at, keep throwing. Good luck!