Querying · Recommendations · Self-Publishing · Traditional Publishing

The Fear of Querying

I used to think that there was this great canyon that divided the published authors from the unpublished authors. That those authors that had successfully brought a book into the world and into the hands of actual readers were on one side (far, far away) and I and my unpublished compatriots were on the other. The gaping crevasse seemed insurmountable, and I felt ill prepared to find my way across.

Whether you choose to self-publish or go the traditional route, there is a whole vast world of knowledge between “I wrote a book” and “I published a book”. I’ve been writing for ages (15+ years if I’m doing my math right), and I enjoy the process. But once you choose to publish and let that manuscript see more than just the inside of your own bookshelf or hard drive, there is a whole slew of things you suddenly need to know.

For self-publishing, you suddenly need to know things like how to find an editor, or who to go to in order to get a book cover made, or how to format a book for epub standards. (Don’t even get me started on how to market a book, have a social media platform, or write a newsletter. Besides, these are things you increasingly need to know both for self- and trad-publishing authors.)

If you’re pursuing traditional publishing, the biggest question you need to answer is: “How do I find an agent?” Yes, it is possible to go straight to an editor or a publisher if they put out a call and accept unagented authors, but it is extremely rare.

My goal with my writing was always traditional publishing. I want to see shiny covers sitting on the shelves of Barnes and Nobel with my name on them. I may also self-publish at some point, but I’m not yet ready to give up my original dream, so into the gorge I must dive. How exactly was I to find an agent?

The truth of the matter was that the answer wasn’t nearly as fear or panic inducing as I thought it would be. Since I really didn’t have any references on how to start, I went to the writer’s best friend: Google. I typed in “Literary agents accepting romance novels” or some such phrase, and boom, I was provided with a handy dandy list.

I also poked around and found Publishers Marketplace. While this site may look straight out of the 90’s, it’s a fantastic resource. There is a fee (I currently pay $25/month), but it’s worth it. This site lets you see book deals as they’re announced. It shows you which publishing house bought which title from which author via which agent (and more!). You can also look agents up directly to see how many deals they’ve made, the categories they represent, and which publishers they’ve sold to.

Finally, I felt armed. I had lists of people that actually like romance novels. I could see how well known they were (or weren’t). I still did my due diligence. I went to the website of every agency I was considering. I looked through every agent that worked there and narrowed my list to the one person per agency that I felt best fit my book.

I took the query letter that I had carefully drafted and found out the specific details of exactly what bits and bobs this particular agent wanted (Just a query letter? A synopsis? An excerpt from the book? If so, how long?). I compiled it all and then… I hit send.


Nothing happened. Obviously nothing happened. The world didn’t end or even shift on its axis. The agent wasn’t sitting eagerly on the other end with baited breath waiting for exactly my submission so they could eagerly call me up and offer immediate representation. Only one thing changed.

Me. I was no longer afraid to send queries.

It wasn’t some mystical process that required all the spells I write in my books. It was just… work. You sit down, you do the research. You put in the time, and you hit submit. And then you do it again. And again. And again.

With that release of fear, one thing is true. I’m one step closer to my dream.

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