How to Not Go Insane While Querying Your Novel

How to Not Go Insane While Querying Your Novel


So you’ve written a novel. You’ve spent months – years, even – pouring your heart and soul into these words and finally you’ve finished. You’re happy with how it turned it out. You love your characters, your world, and you’re proud of your novel.

But only until your first rejection from a literary agent.

After all those endless hours spent working on it, you’re left with just a few seconds to grab an agent’s attention – a hundred thousand words distilled into one page saying, “Please help me get this published.” And every “no” is a nail into the coffin of your aspiring writing career.

I haven’t had an agent accept my novel(s) yet, but after plenty of rejections, I haven’t completely lost my mind – which I consider at least a small victory. So here are some tips I’ve learned to help you not go insane while querying your novel.

Get used to the rejection

“What do you mean, you don’t want to represent my novel? It’s the next Game of Thrones! Does this mean my writing is terrible? Does my book suck?” It’s easy to have these thoughts, but there could be any number of reasons why an agent would decline representation. And maybe your novel is the next Game of Thrones but if an agent passes, then they don’t agree – and you want an agent that will believe in your novel as much as you do.

So how do you get used to the rejection? First, have the mindset that every “no” doesn’t destroy any hope your novel has. And second:

Keep writing

Distance yourself from the novel. It’s done – you’ve done all you can and now it’s up to the right agent to fall in love with it. So the best thing for you to do now is to write your next novel. And guess what? You’ve already written a novel so now you know how to do it. So by default, this one is going to be even better.

And while you’re writing:

Keep querying

Here’s something to try: for every agent who says “no” to your novel, send a new query to another. Turn each rejection into a new opportunity. And don’t keep sending the same query – refine it for each agent. Creep their Twitter, find what books they like and tell them how your book is similar. Every partial and full request I’ve received came from highly personalized (bordering on creepy) query letters.

Do something completely different

Maybe you’re much farther along your querying than I am and you still haven’t found the right agent. Maybe you’re completely burned out on writing and just need a break from this terrible, terrible process. If that’s the case then I’d recommend trying something completely different. Stretch the same creative muscles you used to write your novel and try writing poetry, starting a blog, doing photography, learning a new skill or starting a new hobby. To repeat my last point, turn this rejection – or burnout – into a new opportunity.

Remember that every writer has gone through the same thing

Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishers. Steven King’s first novel was rejected over 20 times. Every writer has felt the same disappointment you feel after every rejection. But none of them gave up. They kept trying and kept writing. So what you’re going through isn’t anything new. And every agent who reads your query wants you to be the next Rowling or King.

So what’s stopping you?

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When not working as a designer, Matt's either reading a book and drinking whiskey or writing a book and drinking coffee.

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