Query Time

My YA manuscript about a teenage con artist who lives the same year over and over to pull off perfect crimes has been completed and copyedited for weeks, but I’ve hesitated to actually submit it. Creating a story is a fun and maddening process, but it operates in a vacuum protected from criticism and rejection. It’s a happy place where I enjoy hiding out.

Once the queries are sent, I enter a war zone. Any time I check my e-mail or answer my phone, I could be confronted with a rejection bomb. Often they occur at the least opportune moments, giving your writing self esteem a hit when you could most use the confidence. With this manuscript, my fifth to go on submission, I actually debated whether the chance of tradition publication is worth all the rejection.

It is.

Over the past week, I’ve submitted seventy queries to awesome literary agents on the east and west coasts. It’s only been a year since I last submitted, but the query process has changed. Significantly more agencies accept only e-query these days. I only encountered two literary agents who still insist on paper submissions, and I immediately crossed them off my list. The online submission form is really building steam as well, being expanded beyond the content of your query letter to include questions about the last book you’ve read and your favorite line in your manuscript.

With those positive technology changes come two drawbacks. First, I noticed an alarming increase in the “No Response Means No” agencies. I actually miss those form letters and rejection postcards I could stash in a shoebox. As impersonal as they were, they at least provided closure and the ability to check a submission off my list. Now I have to wait three to six months, and then check off everyone I haven’t heard from. Brutal.

Second, the speed of rejection has accelerated. I set a new personal record on my first day of querying: 51 minutes. I send an e-query over my lunchbreak and the rejection form letter was waiting on my phone by the time I returned to the office. No time to foster any hope on that one.

I’ve also woke to a rejection every single morning this week, proving most literary agents are either night owls or read their queries in the wee hours of the morning before they’re properly caffeinated. Not good for my odds, or my outlook on the day.

Still keep your fingers crossed. Maybe one of these e-mails will be happy news instead of yet another rejection bomb.

About Jennifer Kay

Jennifer Kay is a KidLit author and Structural Engineer. She has a VCFA MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, is an SCBWI Rockford Network Rep, edits the SCBWI IL Prairie Wind, and belongs to Mystery Writers of America. Jennifer works as a writer, freelance editor, literary agency reader, and creative writing teacher.
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