Last Steps to the WriteMentor Showcase and Query Tips

Hello, friends! It’s been such a busy summer. I’ll admit, July was rough for me. I had some unexpected health problems, and my mental health took a hit alongside it. But after taking some time to focus on my mental health, I’m doing so much better, and life in general has been great. I hope you’re staying as healthy and happy as you can.

A major portion of my summer has been dedicated to revisions for my WriteMentor manuscript, with the agent showcase now only days away. I set out with the goal of having this novel query-ready in exactly a year, and I’m so thrilled that I actually hit this goal despite every obstacle. It’s the fastest I’ve ever written and polished a novel, and my goal is to maintain this cadence as much as possible for future novels!

It’s a bit strange, because it was exactly this time last year that I was in the query enchanted forest (yes, I’m no longer saying query trenches…query enchanted forest sounds much better to me!) for my YA adventure novel. That was a tough one–I talk a lot about it in this blog post, but the short version is that it wasn’t time for that novel. The market simply wasn’t, and still isn’t, a good fit for it, no matter how much I love that story and believe in it. I’m not giving up on it for good, but I had to turn the page and work on something new.

So it’s odd being almost back in the query enchanted forest, because it was such a tough learning lesson this time last year. The key word, though, is “lesson”– I’ve learned *so* much about the process, I’ve improved my writing craft, I’ve improved my query writing skills, and I’ve had an amazing experience being part of WriteMentor.

The biggest things I’ve learned about querying since last summer:

  1. Pay attention to what’s trending. I don’t mean to say that you should only write for trends, but it’s important to remember that you’re not writing in a vacuum. Agents and editors get paid to sell books, and if they don’t think they can sell your book (or sell it right now), then they’ll likely pass. This doesn’t mean your book shouldn’t be edited and polished as best as possible, but it’s important to remember that having a great book isn’t, unfortunately, the only factor.
  2. Rejections aren’t personal. It can feel pretty personal, and when they stack up, you wonder if there’s something wrong with you (my personal mental health and anxiety certainly makes this a challenge). Ultimately, it’s really not at all personal. Agents are flooded with queries in addition to their client roster and other duties, and they have to protect themselves and their time. A quick rejection, even though it might sting for the writer, is sometimes the best way to move on. It’s not a reflection of you or your personal worth.
  3. Don’t query too many agents at once. I went out last summer with 10 queries at once, and I regret doing that. I got hit with a lot of rejections, and part of that was because my query wasn’t quite selling the book well enough despite tons of revisions to it. By the time I realized this, I’d burned a lot of valuable querying. It’s possible it wouldn’t have changed the end result much, but when you’re trying to do everything to ensure success, you have to be strategic.  This time, I’ll be going out with 5-6 to start, and evaluating as I go. Thankfully, my query skills have leveled up a bunch in the last year, but it’s still important to have a strong strategy.
  4. Summer is a tough time to query in general. I’d heard this before but sort of ignored it, and boy, do I wish I hadn’t! It’s partially why I didn’t plan to query in the summer. Many of my writing friends have told me this summer has been particularly slow, as editors and agents usually take time off in the summer, which leads to a longer backlog. That, and the pandemic weighs on everyone in some form or another, and burnout is a real thing in the publishing industry. I’m sure there are exceptions to the summer rule, but if you plan to query in the summer, don’t be surprised if you’re especially slow to get responses.
  5. Have a support group. This makes all the difference. When your query isn’t working, or when you were so full of hope but it doesn’t pan out, or you want to celebrate a win, it’s important to have people in your corner cheering you on or helping you get back up. I love writing and this industry, but it can take a major toll. Rejection is a huge part of this industry, and it can chip away at you if you’re not careful. It helps to know when you’re not going through it alone. 

As for the WriteMentor showcase, I’m SO excited to be part of it, but I’m hedging expectations. The head of the program was the first to tell us to put the showcase out of our minds as much as possible, because while it’s a fantastic addition to our query journeys, many folks don’t end up with requests. At the time of writing this, I don’t know which agents are involved (I’m fairly certain I’ll know this week), so it’s possible there may only be a handful of agents who are looking for the type of book I’m writing. 

WriteMentor has been a spectacular experience because of my time working with my incredible mentor, Samantha Cook. It’s been amazing improving my craft with someone who has pushed me to be a better writer in every aspect, and who has supported me through every iteration of this book in the last few months. I’m so thankful for you, Sam!

The showcase is a cherry on top of a wonderful sundae, but it’s only the cherry. Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to querying the traditional way soon, and likely taking part in PitDark in October if it’s happening.

To everyone querying or about to do so, I wish you all the luck in the world! I’ll be right alongside you soon enough. 

Hugs and pumpkin cream cold brews,
Valerie

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