How to query with confidence.

Your manuscript sits. Waiting. Polished to a shine. Ready to go. Just a week ago you put the last bit of spit shine on it. Your mouse hovers over send. With one click your dreams could come true.

Stop. Right. There.

For some that might work. Go ahead and try it if you want.

Remember my posts about confidence and staying in a place of encouragement? Letting your manuscript sit for 4-6 weeks is a great way to do it. It sounds like a long time but…

  • This will give you perspective on your story and your query letter.
  • Use the time to research agents and get your list ready.
  • Start brainstorming and prewriting and plotting your next story!
  • Use the time to read, study and grow in craft.

After the 4-6 weeks, read through your story one more time. You’ll know if you’re ready to query. You might even catch an embarrassing typo on the first page.

It’s so hard to focus on plotting your story or writing when rejections are rolling in or you have full requests. But if you already feel that excitement about your new project and have the first few chapters written – the rejections are much easier to take. (I didn’t say easy – just easier.)

Guess what I’m doing? I’m letting my current wip sit until August. Who’s with me?

How long do you wait? Should we take into consideration the market? Is there ever a time to rush your submission?

31 Responses to How to query with confidence.

  1. Ansha Kotyk June 22, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    Any advice for those of us who keep sitting on our manuscript hoping it’ll take wings and fly? 😉

  2. Kris Asselin June 22, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    Waiting is sooooo hard, though, Laura! 🙂

  3. Pat Newcombe June 22, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    I think it’s best to let your ms sit for 4-6 weeks after the first draft and before you start the editing/revising phase. This allows you to see the MS with a readers eye and allows you to cool on it a bit. This phase can take me weeks or even months depending on how much needs doing.
    So if you then wait another 6 weeks after completion, before submitting, it is drawing the time out quite a bit and I would run the risk of going totally cold on it. My enthusiasm cannot be maintained indefinitely without re-reading again. All time…
    I do agree about getting on with another work so the rejections are easier to deal with.

  4. Sarah June 22, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    Haha! This is like my post on not eating that marshmallow! Yes, it’s so important to let things sit, but so difficult. I was never very good at this, honestly, and have paid the price repeatedly. It helps to have friends who understand, and who can keep reminding you to be patient. It DEFINITELY helps to get involved in another project.

  5. anne gallagher June 22, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    Also, not to be a downer, but waiting on a manuscript through the summer is a wise decision. Most agents take vacation and close to queries until September. (I found this out querying 3 books). So waiting is a good thing to do now.

  6. Donna K. Weaver June 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    I can’t NOT edit, so I’m not going to. I’m letting a friend catch my typos. That’ll give me a break once I’m to that point.

    I’ve still got mixed feelings about the querying thing. I’m having fun doing this. I don’t want querying to ruin that. Yet, it’s almost a trail you have to go through in order to say you’re truly a writer. Kind of like paying your dues to become an actor.

  7. christine danek June 22, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    This is the hardest part for me, waiting that long. I know a lot of things that need fixing and want to do that so badly. I could start revising my other one. I haven’t looked at that since January.
    Is there a way to tone down the excitement of wanting to start revisions? I know weird wanting to start revisions.
    I hope to query in the fall, but will a ton of other people be doing the same thing?
    Thanks.

  8. Matthew MacNish June 22, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    The best way to get through waiting is to work on something else. I know everyone says “write that next novel!” And that would be great, but I can’t do that. I’m always thinking about the one I’m waiting on, until it succeeds. But what I can do, is critique. It really helps me move my focus if I can work on helping my friends with their writing.

    • Laura June 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

      I guess we all find what works for us. I don’t let it sit long after finishing the first draft because usually I already know some of the major rewrites I need to do. I’ll keep writing and revising until I don’t know what to do and then let it sit. And having my break happen during the summer is perfect. Find when that break works best for you.

  9. Ava Jae June 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Waiting is hard but DEFINITELY important. I can’t even tell you how many times I thought a manuscript was ready, then when I looked at it a month or so later started editing all over again.

    Of course, that may just be because I could edit the same WIP over and over again probably forever. Ah well.

    Regardless! I’d say you should NEVER rush into submissions. In fact, never rush any part of the process. Rushing makes you sloppy and sloppy is the last thing you want.

  10. Karen Strong June 22, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    Very smart strategy Laura!

    This is exactly what I plan to do. I’m already kinda getting excited about my next project too. 🙂

  11. Laurel June 22, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    I think your plan sounds very wise. I rushed into querying not once but twice–long story (in both cases, agents contacting me) but thankfully I didn’t query widely either time.

    Personally, I’ve had trouble commiting to new novel projects when I’ve had queries out–my confidence about long form tends to get very, very shaky. But writing short stories and poems instead–and trying to build up writing credits–has helped boost my spirits considerably.

  12. Michelle Mason June 22, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    Great post, Laura! I finished my MS in late April and have been letting it sit for two months. I’m itching to get back to it and see if it really is ready to go. I’ve used the time to research agents, work on my query letter and synopsis, and start writing a new novel. I hope you’re right and I will know it’s ready when I go back to it, but I’m one of those people who could edit forever, so we’ll see :).

  13. Susan Kaye Quinn June 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    This is the BIG question isn’t it – when is the right time? In some ways, I think you have to wade in before you will know. Whenever I face this, I go back to my Tao of Publishing approach. It works for me. 🙂

  14. Tana Adams June 22, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    Great advice! It is amazing what perspective you glean during that wait!

  15. Lisa Green June 22, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    Your patience is beyond admirable. It is absolutely a brilliant idea. Patience is hard, but this business is all about waiting anyway, it would be good to use it to your advantage.

  16. Ghenet Myrthil June 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    I agree with this advice and plan to do this before I query. I also plan to do this before I revise my first draft. 🙂

  17. Cynthia C Willis June 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    This is soooo true! What a difference waiting 4 to 6 weeks can make. As hard as it is for me to do this, I am always happy I put a work in progress away for a while when I finally revisit it.

  18. Traci Kenworth June 22, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    Sounds like good advice. I’ll try it!!

  19. Patti Nielson June 22, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    I’m doing the same thing and waiting until September to start querying. I’ve queried too soon in the past and I’m trying not to make that mistake this time.

  20. Susan Sipal June 22, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    How right you are, Laura. This is a lesson that I learned (sort of 🙂 the hard way when I first started.

    I think the time when you may want to go ahead and click send is if there’s some excitement buzzing around you or your manuscript that could get the agent equally excited.

  21. Kristin Gray June 22, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    I kind of am doing the same thing. Working on my picture books while waiting to query the middle grade. But I keep starting new PBs and have begun another MG, so I never get around to spit-shining the first (closer) draft. I’m sure a psychologist would have something to say about that. LOL.

    Happy Wednesday, Laura.

  22. Leslie Rose June 22, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    I completely agree with you, Laura. I think you need to ride out the “I’m finished” high and let the MS mull in your mind for awhile before stepping off the query cliff.

  23. Deri Ross June 22, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

    Great advice. I’m not even close to having anything ready to query, but I will definitely keep this in mind for the future. I find that if I rush my writing in any way, I regret it. If I let it sit and then go back, I have so many great ideas on how to improve it, and I’m much more confident with the end result.

  24. Faith Hough June 22, 2011 at 7:03 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this good advice! It’s amazing how when you DO rush, it always seems you notice terrible problems, like, the minute after you hit “send”!

  25. Margo Berendsen June 22, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    I agree. Related to this, I recently got my first two chapters polished for a contest. First, I had CPs review them. They had some good suggestions, I made the changes, but at this point the deadline was getting close. I read it through again, even read it outloud, but sure enough two week after I submitted it (in another words, after letting it sit and moving on to other things) I re-read the submission and found a typo plus a few of my writerly weaknesses that has snuck back in during my revisions!

  26. Heather Sunseri June 23, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    It seems the longer and more times I decide that I’m in this for the long haul (yes, this is a decision I have to purposefully make sometimes), the easier it becomes to take that time to simply wait. Early on, I found myself feeling like this was one giant race, but the more I tell myself it takes time, I realize I would rather wait and, like you said, go forth only when I have the confidence that “this is it!”

  27. Marcia June 23, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    I totally agree with getting the groundwork done on the next project before querying the finished one. Rejections, waiting/hoping to hear back, and even full requests are easier to handle if you’re already excited about the next book. And having a new project well underway by the time you discuss rep with an agent is just a good place to be in professionally.

  28. Kelly Polark June 23, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    Waiting is so hard. I have a full out there that I should probably status query…

  29. Julie Musil June 26, 2011 at 1:09 am #

    This is such great advice. I’d be horrified if something went out with a mistake on the first page. There’s no rush, and we should definitely take the time to send out our best work.

  30. Mya K June 27, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    After completing the first draft, I let it sit for a week, go back to it and do my edits. Then, I have a critique partner edit it. I read through one last time after making changes and query immediately. To me, all of that takes a good one to two months. No need to hold it off any longer. And, I’m always writing. I agree. Rejections are a little easier to take if you are writing continuously. I was done my second novel by the time I’d received 35 rejections for my first! But, now, I’m more excited to query the second!

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