One of the agents I queried required a query (what a mouthful) follow a very specific format, so I found myself copy and pasting lines from my synopsis.

After reading and re-reading the query, to ensure it ticked all the boxes, I realized this letter sounded better than my synopsis. Therefore, I was soon copy and pasting lines from my letter into my synopsis.

I deleted a few words. Then I deleted a few more.

Feeling like I was at the controls of a power juicer, I watched pulp fly from my synopsis as it went from 477 to 456, ultimately resting at 282 words.

I look back at that first synopsis and shudder.

Apologies for all the juice analogies.

It’s been a long road so far, but I feel like I’ve just pulled out of the driveway.

After polishing my first three chapters, drafting my synopsis, fine-tuning and personalizing each query letter, researching and selecting the most suitable agents, I sent off half as many queries as intended. The goal was six, so three more to go.

Reading comments on Query Tracker is helpful, as they give a good idea of what to expect in terms of rejection content and turnaround. If I hadn’t read the comments, I may have felt a little defeated when my first rejection came just 10 hours after I sent it.

So, armed with that tired adage of “every no is one step closer to a yes”, the rejection didn’t feel good, but it felt like something. Each hurdle, no matter how big or small, feels one step closer to being (I loathe the term) a “real” writer.

After all, it’s better to be a little known writer than to forever lament how “I always wanted to write”.

I’ve been researching/querying literary agents for the past few days, putting in around 20 hours total so far.

The (p)research I did, reading everything I could on finding and choosing an agent, didn’t make it sound simple, but didn’t prepare me for this. Maybe I’m putting too much thought into it, being too discriminating, but I don’t think so.

One common sentiment I saw often was that choosing your agent is a lot like choosing your spouse. (It should also be noted that’s a two-way street.) But perhaps the quote I like most, doesn’t come from the myriad of sites and blogs and tweets about writing and publishing.

It comes from an article about sniping defenseless animals in the wild.

I’m in no way suggesting anyone start shooting agents (unless it’s with a water pistol full of champagne while celebrating a book deal). After all, I just got started in this. But just toss the word agent in front of the quote, and it sums up everything I’ve been learning quite nicely.

(Agent) Hunting requires research, patience, flexibility–and a willingness to fail.

It couldn’t be truer. A few days ago, I decided to start my first batch of queries by contacting a half-dozen agents. I would aim high, personalize each query, and send them off.  Apparently not learning from my experience thus far, I naively thought: “This shouldn’t take long.”

Even so, I decided to give myself ample time, planning to send (only) two queries a day. Perfect. I’d have six queries sent off by the weekend. 20 hours later… I’ve sent two queries. One yesterday and one today.

Getting back to the hunting quote, the 20 hours are the result of research, and it is definitely requiring patience (and persistence). I’m sure quite soon I’ll encounter flexibility. And I’m counting the days until I get that first rejection!

That should test my willingness to fail.

If the world can’t even agree on universal units of measurement, the shape of power outlets, or how to spell wi-fi, why would literary agents agree on a standard submission format? It stands to reason they differ on what they want. Some ask for the first chapter, some ask for the first three, while others ask for none. Some want a synopsis, some don’t. But they also differ on how they want it, so there is no single answer. The only thing people seem to agree on is 12pt Times New Roman.

Now that I had my “final” draft ready, my query written, the synopsis painstakingly crafted, and a few agents researched, I was ready to send my submission. Still, it was best to take a few minutes to double-check standard formatting rules. This shouldn’t take long.

Reading endless articles and posts about what agents consider ideal, I came across:

“The ideal emailed submission includes… a covering letter, with a synopsis and the first three chapters attached as two separate files.”

“Your safest bet is to include sample pages in the body of the e-mail, under your closing line several spaces.”

“Don’t send attachments. Links to a website [URLs] are ok.”

Remove all [URLs] links to websites.”

“In a day and age when gender is no longer binary… the safe and courteous way to address the agent is:” Dear Jane Smith.

“Dear Ms. (or Mr.) Last name COLON. No first names, no nicknames.”

“Simply use the first and last name.”

It goes on, and on, and on… so I won’t.

Everyone agrees that your manuscript must be double-spaced. But what about if pasting it into the body of the email?

Yes, it should be double-spaced. But also, no, it should really be single-spaced. Double-spaced is easier to read on devices, but also, single-spaced is easier to read on devices.

Awesome.

Eight hours later I was ready to send my first query.

 

Writing the query letter was not so challenging after all. And with the synopsis already written, knocking out two sentences on the plot of my novel was actually a breeze.

So, there’s that.

I opened my travel-battered copy of The Novel Submission Road Map (coming soon for $19.99) to see where I was heading next. That was four days ago.

The next step was straightforward enough: Look at your first three chapters.

Well, that’s easy. It hadn’t even been two weeks since I finished editing my third draft, and those first few chapters were obviously part of it. They must be in great shape. This was going to be a breeze!

Regardless, in preparation for this leg of the journey, I figured it couldn’t hurt to read a few articles on opening chapters. Short, punchy, to the point–that’s what sells. That’s what draws the reader in. That’s what agents want to see.

Short. Hmm.

My first chapter was no problem, clocking in at just over 2,500 words. But that second chapter, at a few keystrokes under 11,000 words, was definitely a point of contention.

Quickly, and quite simply, that gargantuan second chapter became three chapters. The book reads better by just that alone. Unfortunately, the end of Chapter 2 became the end of Chapter 4, so it won’t make the cut to send to agents, and I really wanted it in there. But some agents ask for the first 50 pages, so maybe I’ll include with those queries should they arise.

After slicing up Chapter 2, I took my red pen to page one. Then page two. Then three. And so on.

It took much longer than I’d anticipated, and four days later I had a stack of paper with a lot of red ink on it.

Today was spent typing up the edits, and I finally arrived at my destination. All I need to do is compile it all together, and I’m good to go.

Tomorrow, it’s back to researching agents.