The Queries Series: Numbers Game

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When I proposed the concept for this series, many people expressed interest, but few brave souls were willing to share their own stories or publishing journeys. Perhaps that’s because, as frank as we are about the difficulties of being a professional writer, there is a sense of shame for many of us who continue to experience failure.

So, in the interest of destroying the stigma, I’d like to share some data about my querying progress. For me, analyzing the successes and failures in my querying process in terms of numbers takes a bit of the sting out. It also reminds me that this is a numbers game, and sooner or later, my number will be called!

When I first started querying, I kept all my submission information in an Excel spreadsheet. However, I found the spreadsheet to be a bit isolating. Then I discovered QueryTracker.com and made the switch. QueryTracker offers free and paid memberships, giving you the ability to track the various stages of your query, share comments with others who have queried the same agents, and create reports on data like response times, rejection rates, and more! It’s fascinating and a bit addicting. It also allows you to create cool graphs (like the one below) which would take me hours to figure out in Excel.

As you can see from the graph, I've submitted 30 queries since the end of January and 50% of them were rejected.
As you can see from the graph, I’ve submitted 30 queries since the end of January and 50% of them were rejected.

What I’ve learned from successful writers I know and the advice I’ve read is that the authors who have the happiest, most fulfilling writing careers are those who are in it for the “long haul”. By this, I mean that they’ve been through the rite-of-passage that is agent research, querying, repeated rejections, and somehow they emerged on the other side, stronger for having experienced the pain and frustration.

There is courage—some might argue insanity—in continuing to send your work out into the world, seeking acceptance in the face of so much subjective, wishy-washy, “this isn’t right for me” rejection.

In his craft book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King says:

Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.

And King is right! At this stage in my professional writing career, I have to focus on the projects that bring joy and meaning to my life, because there is no guarantee that my work will ever reach a wider audience than my critique partners. I write what interests me, what frustrates me, and (more often) what scares me. I must keep writing in order to prove to myself that I am a writer.

***

If you’re stuck in the querying quagmire, check out this post by Literary Agent Carly Watters on what to do while you wait!

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