Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Secret to Querying

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

In my next life, I'm going to start off as a used car salesman, then switch careers to write romance novels. Think Nicholas Sparks in a bad suit.

Oh, the fear and gnashing I went through to find a publisher for my first novel. This is what I had to do to query agents, editors, and publishers, so I could get my book in print. Okay, this is the big freakin’ secret.

I stopped writing and I used my writing time to write query letters and ship them out. That is what I had to do. It takes about half an hour to research an agent, write the first few lines saying how you heard about them and what you like about them, and then you copy in your pitch and bio and hit send.

Thirty simple minutes.


And yet I had to drop everything and focus on only doing query letters because it wasn’t the time commitment that made it so hard. It was the emotional work involved that left me burning into ashes and exhausted beyond belief.

Oh, the agony, the angst, the mortal terror. It’s like finding a parent for my little baby, and going door to door in a Calcutta slum to do it. Most of the time, when I knocked, no one answered. Sometimes they opened the door, said a few nice things, and slammed it shut. And sometimes they sent a robot to answer the door. They didn’t want my baby. Thank you and good luck with finding a home for your human infant.

Like most things in life, querying agents is simple. It’s the emotional baggage that makes it hard for me. That’s why, if someone wants to be a writer, they should start by going into cold call sales, door-to-door. Because querying is a numbers game.

I talked with Catharine Ryan Hyde, who is a hardcore, stone-hearted warrior, and she tried to help me overcome my fear. I asked how many agents I should query before I gave up. She said ALL OF THEM. And you know what, she’s right.

Now, let me say this. Having no agent is better than having a bad agent. Don’t go with someone who isn’t selling, who smells mildly of corruption, or with one who actually hates what you write. More and more, literary agents are becoming unnecessary, and yet, I still believe in the old system. If you wanna’ play with the big dogs, you gotta’ find a handler for your work—a home for your baby. Or did I just mix metaphors?

But it’s hard. You know what's harder? Looking a reader in the eye and trying to get them to buy your book. Same basic process, but at least with an agent, I can hide behind email. In the end, sales is a part of the game.

Now go out there and sell big!

About the Writer:  YA Paranormal author Aaron Michael Ritchey has penned a dozen manuscripts in his 20 years as a writer. When he isn’t slapping around his muse, Aaron cycles to look fabulous, works in medical technologies, and keeps his family in silks and furs. His first novel, The Never Prayer, hit the streets on March 29, 2012.

1 comment:

  1. The business side of writing is my least favorite aspect. Although I write as a freelancer, I still spend an inordinate amount of time writing queries and follow-ups. Worse is when a piece is requested, I write it, and it still gets rejected. Ouch. And yet, we do what we love, and for that, I'm very thankful.


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