As a veteran of querying—I sent off my 701st submission on Friday—I’m glad that I’m returning to self-publishing. I’m preparing to launch my Cornish Detective novels this summer, which means building an author platform. Getting two blogs together and deciding how to post on social media doesn’t feel much like being a writer, but at least I’m getting a prompt reaction. Querying feels like throwing a message in a bottle into the sea, hoping to be immediately rescued.
This article in New Republic makes for salutary reading. It shows how it’s not what you know, or what you write, but who you know that determines whether you get published. If you already have an ‘in’ to the publishing world, then your submission is more likely to be given serious consideration.
But escaping the slush pile might be down to the whims of unpaid interns: if you think that your three chapter writing sample, synopsis and query letter is scrutinised by a literary agent or editor, then think again.
After spending five months at the beginning of 2015 researching the likes, dislikes, blogs, tweets and YouTube videos of literary agents, and querying 160 of them to a chorus of rejections and total silence, I’ve since run two more campaigns of querying, bringing my total of submissions to 690!
I’ve written five novels in my series featuring a Cornish detective, so can pick and choose which title to use to query. Most agents reply within six months, with the quickest taking only two hours! I have a hide like a rhinoceros, so take rejections philosophically.
I’ve learnt a lot about the querying process, for, like editing, creating a blurb and a synopsis or self-publishing on Smashwords and Amazon, you have to do it to appreciate the problems and refine your technique.
To my astonishment, two form letter rejections came in during the last week. I queried both agencies 16 months ago! It’s polite for them to eventually reply, though I now have an image of them buried under piles of manuscripts, their hard drives clogged with queries as they labour to say ‘No’ to legions of hopeful writers.
This is an interesting article, which argues that self-publishing and putting our books before the public, is just another way of entering a slush-pile – but one with more freedom to escape from, by providing discerning readers with what they want to read: