Years ago after I finished my first novel, I sat down and wrote what I’m sure was a truly awful letter to a literary agent, hoping to catch his eye. Astonishingly enough, that agent requested to read my full manuscript. But without critique partners or any real concept of craft, my work was rejected. Many years and manuscripts later, I’ve written several query letters, and some have landed publishing contracts. However, there are other authors who can give better advice on how to write a great query letter, so I won’t get into that. But one thing I know is: the key is to have patience.
I recently sold my third novel, HER WICKED CAPTAIN, to Samhain Publishing. The story is a little unusual–a historical romance set in the 1850s on a Mississippi River steamboat with dangerous gamblers, rogues, and gunslingers. Finding the perfect home for it took some time in a genre dominated by Regency dukes and Highlanders. But that’s where patience really pays off. Here are three things I’ve learned from my experience with querying and submissions:
First, after you’ve written your awesome query, you’re about to begin the big waiting cycle. If you’re looking to land an agent or publisher, make a list of those who represent or publish your genre. Put your favorites at the top of the list. Do your homework and research what they’re looking for. Second, for me it helped to send out a few first queries to the ones at the bottom of my list. If they requested the manuscript and later rejected it, I might…might…get some feedback. Use their advice or toss it. But if you get the same comment more than once, you may want to give it more consideration before sending queries and submissions to the agents or editors at the TOP of your list. And third, do not get impatient when waiting to hear back on a submission. Write your next manuscript while you wait. It can take several months for an agent or editor to read your full manuscript. Generally, if it’s been six months, it’s okay to drop them a brief email to check on the status, but don’t be surprised if they need even more time.
It really is just like fishing. Be patient!
SANDRA JONES, author
Legendary romance… www.sandrajonesromance.com