Query Time

It’s time to send The Cat Lady’s Secret out into the world in search of an agent. Please, just cut off my arm. That’ll be far less painful.

When I sent Give the Lady a Ride out on the publication trail, I knew–at least in my head–that getting published is difficult. I knew to expect rejection, and boy, were my expectations met. I did get published, though, after treading water for months in a sea of Nos. In fact, Cat Lady has already received its first rejection, but judging from the letter, it had more to do with timing than anything else. I have since discovered that if I’d submitted a month earlier, I would’ve had a better shot. This particular agent had just accepted two new clients to add to her current work load, and I guess adding a third was just a bit too much.

Thanks to Jane Friedman, though, I’m not too discouraged. In her article “Revising Your Path to Publication” (Writer’s Digest, July/August 2011), she listed “Signs You’re Getting Closer to Publication,” and I hit pretty good on the signs:

* You start receiving personalized, “encouraging” rejections.

Actually, that started happening about midway with Ride, after I got rejected by Oak Tara. The publisher wrote a wonderful letter, telling me precisely what was wrong with my manuscript, and after licking my wounds for a little while, I fixed it according to her suggestions. Afterwards, all the rejections were personalized and encouraging–but still rejections.

* Agents or editors reject the manuscript you submitted, but ask you to send your next work. (They can see you’re on the verge of producing something great).

That happened twice last year. So, of course, Cat Lady is heading out to those agents first. It may not be a fit for them, but we’ll never know if I don’t try.

* Your mentor (or published author friend) tells you to contact his agent, without you asking for a referral.

That happened with Cat Lady–in fact, the agent recommended is the one I was too late for. But I tell you, my author friend’s reaction to Cat Lady was both a wonderful surprise and a huge boost. She wrote several emails praising the book and suggested only one change, which took all of a half a page to do. Maybe her reaction is why I’m nervous about sending Cat Lady out. Not everyone will get it or will endure the writing liberties I took. So far, veteran writers love it, newbies fuss because I’ve “broken the rules.” Oops. Well, rules are made to be broken. We’ll see how many hand-slaps I get over time.

* An agent or editor proactively contacts you because she spotted your quality writing somewhere online or in print.

Nope. That one hasn’t happened. I did have an agent who I met in Indianapolis in 2010 contact me a couple of times wondering if Cat Lady was finished. (Yep, the manuscript is in his office  awaiting a verdict as I write this).

* You’ve outgrown the people in your critique group and need to find more sophisticated critique partners.

Actually, a few of us have broken from the pack together. Each of my critters excel in something different from the other, and they’re all vital to me. The only reason I went outside the group with Cat Lady is because they already knew the twists and turns. If my new author friend is willing, though, she’ll be a terrific addition to an already stellar group.

* Looking back, you understand why your work was rejected, and see that it deserved rejection. You probably even feel embarrassed by earlier work.

Give the Lady a Ride is my second completed novel, so to be able to say it’s published by a royalty-paying house is an honor, regardless of how small the house is. My first novel, Shattered Crystal, seriously deserved the rejections it got. It’s beyond repair, and has been deleted from every existing computer I’ve ever owned, and the printed copy is dry-rotting in a drawer. My second novel attempt, Petting Wet Cats, only a quarter finished, is also dry-rotting. There’s no point trying to revive it.

You may be wondering why I’m looking at these signs, since I’m already published. Surely book two will be a shoe-in, right?

In the longrun, just being published isn’t my goal. I’m hoping for a major house. Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, B&H. That’s what I want, and since The Cat Lady’s Secret doesn’t reach the word count–again–I may miss my goal–again. If so, I’ll go back to the drawing board and try again.  Cat Lady may wind up at a small house, but I still want to strive for my goal.

Does that make sense?

Anyway, how are you doing according to Friedman’s list? How close to getting published are you? What are your publication goals?

About Linda W. Yezak

Author/Freelance Editor/Speaker (writing and editing topics).
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14 Responses to Query Time

  1. That’s an excellent list, Linda and very true. I have 4 published books – also with a small house. I keep reminding myself that someone believed in them enough to pay for their publication. It keeps my spirits up when the rejections come in altho those personal ones are read and re-read lots of times and I, too have learned to rejoice in them.

    Looking forward to hearing about Cat Lady’s acceptance!

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    • Linda Yezak says:

      Carol, I didn’t realize you had so many books out. Wow! You’re multi-published! I guess you’re waiting to break into the big-leagues, too. Maybe it’ll happen for both of us in 2012.

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  2. Friedman posted a great series on queries (on her blog) last year. I can’t find it online anymore, but hopefully you got a chance to read it, ‘cuz it was chock full of great advice. Hope you find a killer agent for this book! You deserve it.

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  3. My goals are to be more refined with the queries/proposals that I plan to submit later this year…if I need to, later this year, that is. In the early days, I wrote a lot of this and a lot of that. Contemporary, historical, mysteries, etc….I love all those genres, but as a result I have a varied book list. I also haven’t found my brand (getting closer). I also don’t have that “following” yet, or it hasn’t grown beyond a few. My goals this year are to be more focused–I’ve turned down a request to join a novella anthology group. I am also going to work on getting that following or at least a mailing list. And, no more shot-gunning proposals out for me.

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    • Linda Yezak says:

      That sounds focused and professional–and precisely what I need to be concentrating on. I’m not ready to have a brand yet, but my daydream is to lean farther away from romance and toward women’s lit. I think my query letters are good, but I’m having trouble coming up with a quick sales pitch for Cat Lady. I’ll have to work on that for the queries. Sigh.

      Good luck, Lynnette! I’ll be praying and rooting for ya!

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  4. Joanne Sher says:

    Not that close yet – but that’s all right. I KNOW I have lots to learn. Praying for ya, Linda 🙂

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  5. The last two really ring a bell with me. I understand why “Homebody” was rejected before–though it’s probably more because of my query than anything, since I never got anything but form rejections. And, while I love my local critique group, I’d feel more encouraged to stay in their company if they were getting agents and getting published. So far, everyone’s either in a holding pattern, not sending anything out PERIOD, or we’ve got one lady investigating self-pubbing. Which is really frustrating. By this point, I’ve been in the group for 5 years. At least 3 of us should be on our way to being published (and I do include myself in that number.)

    I imagine the only reason I haven’t had the other items ring for me is because I’m almost too scared to put my work out there. But, that WILL change this year. I’d rather get 100 rejections this year and know I’m doing something than languishing in the land-of-doubt anymore.

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    • Linda Yezak says:

      Maybe if you step out, the others will get out of their holding pattern too. Keep me up with what’s going on. I’ll be rootin’ for ya!!!

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      • I’ve got one of the members (one I think is close to publication) looking at my latest draft which got a heavy edit from me back in October, and I also got an encouraging critique of my query from a bonafide literary agent in September… now I’m just waiting for my critter to get back with me, then I need to figure out how to remove at least one or two references to death or the dead in the first two paragraphs of my query… and make my hero in the story seem less likely to be the killer in the query than some have pointed out. 🙂 Not too tall of an order. 😉

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  6. Congratulations, Linda on getting this far. Each step is one closer to your goal. I too will rejoice with you when you finally, (and you will) get that big Yes!

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