OK, it may not be up there with divorce, moving house or trying to avoid Game of Thrones spoilers on Twitter, but having your manuscript out there in the big, bad world being judged by big, bad agents* is pretty darn stressful. Here are our top tips for staying sane when you’re looking for an agent :
1. Keep schtum.
Don’t tell everyone what you’re up to. It may seem like a good idea at first, but you’ll end up regretting it when your lovely and supportive friend asks for the thousandth time whether you’ve had any news yet. He/she may even accompany this question with a sympathetic head tilt, in which case you may want to do him/her harm. But it’s not their fault! They’re just being lovely and supportive! They have no way of knowing that a little piece of your soul withers and dies each and every time they ask and your answer is ‘No, nothing yet.’ So do yourself a favour and keep schtum. Tell your best mate, tell your significant other, tell your dog, by all means, but keep the inner circle small. Really small.
2. Keep on trucking.
That’s assuming you DO receive a rejection and you’re not one of the lucky (SO LUCKY!) ones who get snapped up by the very first agent they approach. Like the finest bouncers in the business, it’s good to operate a ‘one out, one in’ policy. Except it’s a ‘rejection in, query out’ policy. We like to think of it as the perfect ‘HA! IN YOUR FACE!’ to rejection. It is also a MUCH better idea than sending a ranty email to the agent who just rejected you. (Seriously. Don’t ever EVER do that. It is a bad, bad idea. But you knew that, right?)
Sending out another query keeps the ball rolling, makes you feel like you’re doing something proactive and helps you stay positive. In the words of the mighty (cough) Chumbawumba: ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never going to keep me down.’
3. Keep writing.
This is a tricky one. We know that. But it’s one of the best things you can do in these trying times. If possible, write something completely new rather than the second book in the proposed series of fourteen novels you’re in the middle of querying. (While we’re on the subject, it might not be the best idea in the world to mention that fourteen-novel series in your query.)
Writing is what you love to do; try to remember that. (And if writing is NOT what you love to do, what the heck are you doing here?) If you’re lucky, you’ll get swept away by your story, to the extent that you barely even notice the DING of your email notifications any more. Even if you don’t end up making much progress on your new story, at least you’ve made a start. A start is much, much better than nothing.
4. Treat yourself.
Wine/chocolate/pizza/cake. One rejection = one slice of Victoria sponge. Two rejections = one pepperoni pizza, with extra cheese. You get the idea? Of course your treats don’t have to be food – or drink – based. Maybe your idea of a treat is going for a run along the beach or doing a thousand sit-ups (we’re not judging) or watching an episode of your favourite TV show. All we’re saying is that now is a time to be kind to yourself.
5. Be patient.
Not easy, but essential. The fact of the matter is that you may be waiting a long time for replies. We could be talking months here. And when the replies come, they may not be what you were hoping for. It might turn out that no one offers representation. This can feel devastating. But here’s where the patience you developed waiting for those replies comes in handy. You’re going to need more of it – lots more of it. You’re going to need the patience to write another story, polish it until it’s as shiny as can be, then work on your query package and go through the process all over again. Keep going. Please don’t make me sing Chumbawumba at you again.
* Agents aren’t really big and bad. They’re just like regular people, the only difference being that they hold your hopes and dreams in their agenty hands.
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Whether you have a brand new idea, or have been fiddling with a text for years … we’re here to help.