Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Is Anyone Still Querying?


I’ll be honest. I haven’t sent a query letter out in ages. That doesn’t mean I've given up or don’t have material out there with agents. There’s still one full out with an agent who seems to have dropped off the face of the planet, and a big R&R I finished in December with an agent who I’m really looking forward to hearing from.

But that’s it. 

Every book I write, it’s the same vicious cycle: I get an idea I can run with, write like a maniac, finish the book, get excited, spend the necessary time revising and going back and forth with betas before that crucial moment where it’s time to query. I have an insane list of agents who represent the kind of books I write. I’ve done the research. And sure, those first few queries are always filled with blind optimism that ‘this will be the one!’. 

And time and time again, I came close, but no cigar. 

The last year, however, my process has been stunted. Sure, I’ve written 20k here, or 30k there on a couple different projects. But I lost interest in them before I could make it to the next step. Add in some personal drama and an R&R rejection that left me gutted for a few months and you’ve got the crazy mess that is my current creative well.

As you can see from my last blogpost, I’m not going to put pressure on myself to start the process anew. But I can’t help feeling kind of like the kid that stays home to work on the farm while all his friends go off to college. 

Or the middle-aged woman who’s still looking for Mr. Right while all her girlfriends settle down and start popping out pink bundles of joy.

So many of my writer friends have moved on. They’ve either given up, or gone forward. They’ve signed with agents. Or small presses. Or decided to self publish their first books. Their goals have changed. Their priorities and how they spend their time has changed. They've traded in agent-search sites, querying and craft-honing for goodreads ratings, amazon reviews and sales and marketing... 

Which is good. 

It’s what we’re supposed to do, right? We’re supposed to move on and move forward.

And while I’m excited, proud, and envious of all of my writer friends who have advanced in the process, I can’t help feeling like the pool of people still actually querying agents is getting smaller and smaller. 

I know that self-pubbing and small presses have become increasingly popular. But has the general consensus become that querying agents is no longer the next logical step when you want to become a successful published writer? Is anyone still querying? Or am I holding onto a quickly-shrinking iceberg?

40 comments:

Alexandra Shostak said...

I'm kind of stuck in limbo, too, actually. I got my last manuscript ready, I had a big list of agents I had researched thoroughly, and I started sending out queries. Somewhere between 10 and 15 queries in I just...stopped. I couldn't really do it anymore. I was and am feeling the same way you are--everyone else is moving on in some capacity. I guess I'm pausing right now to see exactly how I want to move on, too.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I'm still with you on the querying thing. (Even if I'm not actively doing it right now.) I have a full out, too. And one out at a publisher. I'll keep trying this route until I can't anymore. Then, maybe, I'll look at other avenues.

But no, you're not alone.

Nicole Zoltack said...

You're definitely not alone. I've been writing a lot lately and have been hearing back from beta readers and am slowly making changes before sending them out for more feedback. I almost wonder if I'm purposely stalling and taking my time so that I'm not ready to query yet. I'm so paranoid I'll query before the story is ready that I might be waiting forever to query.

Slamdunk said...

Just from reading some of the querying blogs dedicated to the topic, I can understand the level of frustration involved.

Maybe it is that we are in a time of transition.

I hope you are feeling better CQG.

Tom Franklin said...

I'm still querying -- although after some excellent comments on my first 10 chapters I've stopped in lieu of another round of rewrites.

fwiw, out of 18 queries I had only one request for a full. (This is the same project that garnered several requests for partials and fulls the first time I queried on it, three years ago) Very disconcerting.

After my last R&R on this book failed I was so dejected that I decided to give myself six months off from writing. I was too depressed to want to even look at The Book. I didn't want to have to think about what I was going to do with it, so I didn't.

(Well, sorta. After a good two months I started entertaining ideas for some changes and after a third month I decided to try putting some of those ideas down on paper. However, giving myself permission to not think about The Book nor writing anything was very liberating. As a result, I was able to go back to The Book with renewed energy and optimism.)

Eliza Tilton said...

People are still querying. I think the pool of what agents take on is getting smaller. Look at all the new releases. I'm thrown by how many people write and have great concepts.

Jenny said...

I feel exactly the same way...don't know if that's creepy or not :-) I assume we're still supposed to be querying, but for some reason I've lost that mojo. But I haven't moved on, either. Limbo, yeah...

Ricky Bush said...

After over a hundred agent queries for my first manuscript, I went the small press route and got a contract. Went through three rounds of editing with the publisher, then they quit. Accepted a contract with a second small press and they went out of business before any editing started. I'm on my third small press and they published me about a year ago. I sent a few agent queries out for the second in the series, but those who responded didn't want to handle pushing the second book in a series. So, it will be published by my current publisher in a few days. Stick to your guns with trying to get an agent. The small press route is a tough road.

Rachel said...

I just sent back my R&R and am waiting to hear back. In the meantime I'm querying. Responses are SO slow. I can definitely see how one would want to do it their own way. I have a friend who did. She had 2 agents, 2 almost book deals with Big 6's and then they all fell through. She left her agent and self published a book she wrote for fun. The sales went through the roof-- which she was NOT expecting -- and now she writes full time. Crazy how it works! I think I'll always want an agent in my corner so I'll keep querying, no matter how long it takes......

SA Larsenッ said...

No. I don't think the pool of querying authors has shrunk. It's just that there are more options out there for authors. Those who would enter the querying round to begin with, I think would also do so despite the new avenues in the publishing world. Yes, some folks have ended up taking different paths than they'd originally intended. But that's just it - it's their path. Not yours. Your path is special just to you. :)

Donna Hosie said...

I know a lot of writers no longer querying. I actually decided that, after successfully self publishing last year, my previous ms would be the last I ever queried. Lo and behold I ended up with seven agents interested! So now I self publish and have an agent.

Do what is best for you. With publishing house mergers, fewer books being taken on, and small prints closing, I think the way forward over the next decade is self publishing. People go on about the promotion, but writers have to do the majority of promotion with a large press. I know an author with S&S and they did NOTHING for her novel. It sank.

Publishing paradigms have changed.

stu said...

I've queried agents in the past, and realistically, it's the best way of getting taken on by the big publishing houses, but I suppose that's the question you have to ask yourself. Are the big publishing houses going to be falling over themselves for your novel, and putting everything into it? It's only when the answer's yes that it's really worth it.

Katie said...

Nope, no more querying for me at the moment. I went the self-publishing path with great success. I recently released my 5th book, and it's currently #51 on the Kindle Fantasy bestseller list.

TC Avey said...

Last week I said a prayer and sent out a batch of query letters. Now the dreaded waiting process.

It had been months since I had the courage to send out a letter. But I had worked and worked and worked on making it better. Now only time will tell if the effort was worth it.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I agree with Sheri that people are still querying. In fact, I've heard of two who recently got agents.

I know the feeling of watching everyone move in some direction whether it be agent, small press, or self-publishing. My journey is SO slow right now. Like snail pace compared to others. It's not a lack of commitment to my writing career. It's just at this point in life I'm being pulled in so many directions. So it's okay for me to go slow. I know in a few years I'll have settled into a new job and my daughter will be in college, so I'll have more time. Then I can be faster.

I am planning to query this year as soon as I can research the 60 agents left on my list to query.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I read through the comments and I can't help but feel invigorated by all the new avenues. A power to the people kind of feeling.

I went small press. My dad had terminal cancer and I wanted, desperately, to be able to let him hold a book before his time came. He dreamed bigger for me than I ever did. Sadly, even with small press, I was a year late.

And my first book was a series of three, so by contract, I owe the publisher the next book. What will I do after that? I don't know. There are a lot of things I LOVE about small press. The publisher is a sweet heart and she personally answers the phone when I call. She has time to deal with neurotic me and I feel more like I am in a family than in a business.

The downside is the reach. Big publishers have a bigger platform. And of course there is that badge of honor that comes with having a big 6 contract. And insecure me would love to be validated, no matter how cocky she pretends to be.

Cynthia Lee said...

I'm not querying. I plan to self-publish and see what happens.

I've heard waaaaay too many agent horror stories lately and, quite frankly, I don't want to deal with that crap. I value my peace of mind too much, ya know?

It's just . . . boring, the whole querying thing. And time-consuming as hell and I don't want to deal with it anymore. That's the real reason for me, in a nutshell.

Laura Pauling said...

I know writers still querying, still signing with agents, and some still stuck in the trenches. So you're not alone.

I do say that I don't miss querying. That gut wrenching that happens with a full rejection. My creative process and motivation to write has skyrocketed since I stopped querying. I didn't realize how much it affected my writing until after.

But we all need to do what we want to do, depending on our goals. If there was ever a time in publishing to reevaluate our goals, it's now. Or, I should say, how we're going to reach our goals. B/c I think it's always been to reach readers. :)

You'll get there!

Sophia Chang said...

God I so relate to this on not just a querying but also a life level - all my college classmates ARE married (in gorgeous expensive weddings of course) and living their gorgeous expensive lives in insane highrises in Manhattan while I'm praying every month to make ends meet and pleasantly surprised that I still have housing and clothes on my back.

And yes, I actually just started querying (again), with trepidation and unease, as well as the teeth-gritting determination.

Marsha Sigman said...

I'm revising a new story now so I'll be querying again in a few months.

It's disappointing at times but not heart-breaking because ultimately I am doing what I love.

Focus on the ride, not the destination. I may stitch that on a pillow...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

People are still querying. I never sent my query to any agents but went straight to publishers. There are actually quite a few mid-sized ones who take direct submissions. (I just started big and worked my way down until I did land a small publisher.)
Maybe with less querying your chances are better? Or maybe times are changing and you should adjust? All depends on YOUR goals, Katie.

Anne Gallagher said...

Hi Katie, hope you're doing well.

I stopped querying after realizing there were only two or three imprints which would take my non-sex Regencies and those were full up until 2015. And that was back in 2011. So I self-published. I wanted my stories out there but didn't want to go with a small publisher so I did it myself.

It seems to me, that once you get "out there" and prove yourself and your sales (either by self-pubbing or with a small press) agents will take you a little more seriously. Agents don't want to take a chance on a "what if" if they can get a "sure thing". Unless of course you have a dynamite product.

I do plan on querying again at some point. I have a couple of projects I'd like to have backed by a big 6 pub. But that's way in the future for now. Then again who's to say agents won't be a thing of the past by the time I get there.

Just do what you feel is right for you.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Well, you know I started by self-publishing. And then I signed with a small house on my own, agent-less. And then I queried and found an agent.

I am so grateful to have Sara on my side. I won't go into details publicly, but I'd be happy to share with you by email what I think an agent can offer that you can't get on your own.

Of course, it has to be the right agent for you. Because I've heard horror stories, too.

LD Masterson said...

I'm still going the query route. Nothing against self-publishing but that's just not part of my dream.

Miranda Hardy said...

I think everyone's goals differ. I've noticed more and more people not even attempting the traditional route (myself included). If it's something you want, never give up. Just keep trucking along and it will pay off.

mshatch said...

I'm waiting to hear back but my plan remains the same: get an agent, get published, live happily ever after.

DL Hammons said...

Even though I'm pretty close to ending the cycle for my last book, I am still querying. And if I do shelve it, I have another that I'm working on that will be my next focus. So I guess I'm one of the ones still swinging a pick axe at that pile of rocks! :)

Botanist said...

You're not alone. I guess I'm still technically querying even though I haven't actually sent one out in over 4 months while I've been head down drafting a new story. Will probably try another round yet before taking stock and deciding where next.

Dean Crawford said...

Don't you dare quit! Don't even think about it! Apologies to the many happily self-published authors who blog and reply here, but if an author has had to self-publish it's because they either quit or they weren't good enough to attract an agent and a publishing deal. Would those that claim to "want to be self published" turn their noses up at a three book deal with a publishing house? No, course not.

By having already worked with agents on your MS, you're 99% ahead of the rest of the field. To quit now would be like completing 25.9 miles of the London Marathon and then saying: "You know what, I'm no good at running, I quit."

Writing is often lonely, hard work with repeated rejections but the rewards are more than worth the effort if you just stick-with-it.

Rant over, it's now up to you. You either keep pushing to be one of the few who get through, or you go and be one of the millions who self-publish into obscurity never to be seen again....

Hillary said...

I started following you because you are the creepy query girl! I'm not even to the point of sending out querys but I fully intend to become creepy query girl version 2.0 Ha, well not really but querying agents had better be in my future.

Those other paths are all well and good but I still have that feeling of needing to have my work validated by being accepted and published by an agent.

Does that make me less confident in my work? I don't think so. It's just the direction I want to go. I hope as the process rolls along I'll be strong enough to stick it out. Best of luck in your creepy, agent stalking, ways!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I'm still querying!! At least, not right now, I'm in the middle of a WIP, but I'm still planning on it. :)

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Making a blanket statement about your last post and this one: It can be incredibly stressful trying to write a new WiP and query at the same time. Before, I didn't have a problem with it. I thought writing a new idea helped me keep my mind off querying while I was in the trenches, but then I went through some tough stuff (broke up with my agent, etc, etc), and felt for the first time what it was like to have the writing-joy sucked out of me. I had to force myself to write and it was horrible! And querying again sucked, too. It was just rejection after rejection and I kept wondering why I was doing this to myself! All that to say, I understand how you feel. Take care of yourself first and maybe start trying to write little bits of flash fiction every day just to keep your writing muscles flexed. That always took the stress off for me and kept me writing SOMETHING even when I couldn't stand looking at my WiP. There is a mountaintop ahead, Katie! I wish you all the best in whatever path you choose!

Matthew MacNish said...

I'm still querying. Well, not right now, but I will be again. I just have to finish revisions.

LTM said...

I actually posed this question on a blog not too long ago! I wonder if agents have seen a dip in their inboxes as #1-so many major deals are being signed to self-published authors, and #2-as a result, more writers are skipping the querying process altogether.

It certainly is a discouraging time-suck. Here's hoping you find the answer that's right for you! And I hope you're back on your feet very soon~ :o) <3

Carissa Taylor said...

I just started querying, but it is certainly a bit of a roller-coaster ride. I feel like we're in such a time of transition, both in terms of:

(1)an over-saturation in so many genres that has publishers wondering what could possibly be the Next Big Thing and

(2)a kinda-graceful-kinda-stuttering shift to self-publishing that agents/publishers/writers don't seem to know how to navigate yet.

Sigh.

Max Dorkster said...

No, please don't be done -- 95% of it is luck -- the other 5 is good timing.

I just hate to see any writer get laser-locked on books. There are so many ways to get published and get paid for it. Then, every byline adds to your author cred when you hit those agents again. Write a feature about being CQG. Sell it to Time. I'd buy it if I was an editor there.

-gs

Misha Gericke said...

Well... I'm sort of stuck on the edge, I think.

I have a bunch of queries out, but I'm starting to think I'm going to self publish if it's at all within my ability.

Although I always wanted to trade publish and there are very valid reasons for this, querying my novel is leaving me with a bitter, cynical taste in my mouth.

Why? Because I'm wondering here: If publishing houses will now only publish 100% risk free stories, where is the service they're delivering? Because if my book is theoretically risk free, why don't I borrow the money and publish the book on my own? That way, I get to keep most of my royalties.

And since it's safe to assume I'm being turned down because someone decided my genre is out of fashion, I have to wonder why I'm bothering when no one's even bothering to read what I've written.

So yeah. That's how I'm feeling at the moment. I know this might sound like the complaints of a deluded writer, but I just can't help feeling in my gut that my book should be out there. And if an agent won't help me, I'll just have to bypass them in any way I can.

My suspicion is that I'm far from the only writer feeling like this.

Katy Anders said...

These comments are amazing! Max Dorkster might have the right approach.

It's a tough transitional period.

Samantha Vérant said...

Hang in there, Katie. And do what your heart tells you to do. Write another book while you wait, maybe even query one of those smaller presses? I still believe in traditional publishing, but I also feel self-pubbing is a good thing, too. I, for, one, though am sticking to the agent route for now. Who knows? I may change my tune one day, but for now I BELIEVE!!!

Coleen Patrick said...

I think you've got to do what's right for you. I was in transition last year struggling like crazy with how I wanted to shift--because I knew I wanted to. I decided to go indie. Now I'm putting all my energy into that road-I have no idea how it will actually be, but I feel like I'm doing what's right for me. Good luck and keep on keeping on with what your heart wants. :)

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