Update on Querying

When I jumped into the query trenches back in September, I said I wouldn’t be giving an update. I lied, LOL.

I’m not going to give you stats — who I’ve queried, how many people I’ve queried, number of requests, number of rejections, etc. Instead I’m going to talk more about the experience and an unexpected choice that experience drive me to make.

The Experience

Intellectually, I knew querying would be hard. I knew it would be long. I knew there would be tons of rejection. I knew this book might not get picked up.

The head knows. The heart does not.

Querying is soul destroying. It killed my interest in publishing. It killed my interest in writing. The new story I had been so anxious to start sat untouched.

The problem isn’t rejection — it’s lack of feedback. I don’t expect feedback on queries, but it sucks to get no feedback on fulls. There are many reasons for rejection. Some are things I absolutely have no control over. Others, though, are manuscript issues that might be fixable. Am I wasting my time sending out more queries? Can I change something and get more interest?

Awful. Horrible. Soul destroying.

The Unexpected Choice

I don’t believe that writers aiming for traditional publishing should pay for professional editing. Pro editing is expensive, and it misrepresents your skill level. But I needed to know if my manuscript was fatally flawed.

I chose to get an editorial assessment from someone at Reedsy. His name is Dominic Wakefield, and he had worked for Harper Collins and Little, Brown as an acquisitions editor for books like mine.

An editorial assessment isn’t editing. It’s more like an extended book report. He read my book, and he told me what worked and what didn’t, and he gave me concrete suggestions for improvement.

It took him about a month to do the report, and we followed that up a week later with an hour long phone discussion.

Was it worth it? For me — 100%! I had told him my big question was whether there were issues — fatal flaws — that would prevent me from getting an agent. He addressed that on page one: No. In his opinion, the manuscript was good enough as is to get an agent.

He went on to give me various suggestions to make it even stronger, nearly all I agreed with. But the value for me was in reassuring me that I’ve just got to keep looking for that agent who falls in love with my manuscript.

Let me be clear: Reedsy is high-end, and it's expensive. Getting an editorial assessment was extremely valuable for me, but it's a lot of money.

The Experience after the Assessment

Just asking for the editorial assessment back in December settled my heart a bit. I created a new list of agents to query, and I began noodling on the next book.

After receiving Dominic’s feedback in January, I felt even better. I sent off the new queries, and (until work took over my every waking moment) I did significant pre-work on my new WIP.

But rejections are still rejections. Especially full rejections.

I don’t know if I’ll send more queries for this novel. I still have fulls and queries out, so I’m not giving up. I’m just not sure I’m going to put my energy into Doubting River anymore.

If work allows — seriously, I may be working seven days a week through the end of May — I’ll work on the new novel. If Doubting River doesn’t land me an agent, I can put it in my back pocket and query my next book.

What about self publishing?

I am not anti-self pub. I actually think self pub is awesome. But it’s not a great choice for standalone book club fiction.

If I were to self publish Doubting River, it would blow my debut status. If I want to traditionally publish in the future under my own name, blowing my debut status would not be a good thing.

So I’ll never say never, but right now, self pub isn’t in the cards.


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