You’ve queried agent after agent, hoping to find the perfect fit. Finally, you land that first miracle: a requested manuscript! Now what do you do?
If you’ve hung around for a while, you may remember a post I did a while back called Project 100. My goal for my first querying process was to get 100 rejections for the YA fantasy I had finished writing. The purpose was to change my perspective on getting rejections, because rejections are a part of being a writer. They just are. And if you can’t get a handle on rejections, writing–or rather trying to get that writing published–might not be for you. (Just go read the post. It’s good.)
So I girded my loins, and sent out my novel, prepared for a slew of rejections.
And I got a lot of them. In fact, I got plenty of form rejections and some no responses (which are my least favorite). I knew it was coming, and I had prepared for it, but it still can get discouraging, especially if you haven’t had a single request out of 20 or more queries.
I got my first manuscript request.
Now, I fully understand that a rejection is still likely. That’s just the nature of the game. And if this agent passes, I’ll add it to my Project 100 total and keep moving forward. But I wanted to share some tips on what to do when you get that first request. (Spoiler Alert: Do NOT act like you just sold the book and start counting chickens before they hatch.)
Make Sure the Book is Finished
I feel like this is a no brainer, but don’t try and sell a manuscript that you haven’t actually written yet! How awful would it be to have a great query letter and several requests to see the finished book, but you don’t have anything to show! Write the book. (Try something like NaNoWriMo!) Revise the book. Edit and proofread the book. It is never going to be perfect, but your work should be your absolute best before you send it out.
Then, way you get the manuscript request, you have a polished novel ready to submit.
Responding immediately won’t mean that you’ll hear back quickly, but you should be respectful of the agents time and respond promptly. This is not the time to panic and start trying to revise again. (Believe me, the temptation was VERY strong to go through my novel just one more time before sending it out.) Push that out of your head. If you did the work–see above–submit the novel and let it go.
Follow any Instructions Given
Every agent has a process for how they like to receive manuscripts. Whether they want a hardcopy through the mail or use a third party host like Query Tracker, follow. Their. Directions.
If the agent requests that you send the manuscript as an attachment via email with a specific code in the subject line, then that’s exactly what you do. Don’t be cute. Don’t be clever. If someone is willing to read your work, be grateful and respectful and follow their instructions to the letter.
You don’t have an offer of representation yet, so don’t inundate the agent with all these great ideas for books or plans for book tours. Don’t continually email with requested updates or feedback. Don’t stalk them on Instagram or Facebook. (And do NOT slide into their DMs.)
Simply thank them for their time and interest, submit the manuscript, and tell them you look forward to hearing from them. That’s it. Don’t gush. Don’t hover. Just be professional.
Take a deep breath, because this might just be the hardest part: Wait.
Some agents give a time frame for when they consider a novel. Usually something like 2-3 months is pretty normal for a novel consideration. So unless the agent has given you the go ahead to check back before that time, don’t even think about it.
I know it’s hard. I know you’re excited and want an answer immediately if not sooner. But you have to give the agent time to actually read the book, And by the way, they probably have two dozen other manuscripts that they need to get through besides yours. I know it’s hard, but 90% of writing and publishing is waiting around. So consider this good practice for the future.
Even if at the end of the process the manuscript is rejected, it is still a step in the right direction. It’s confirmation that your query letter is doing it’s job. Keep moving forward and just query the next agent on your list. Writing and submitting is not the place for the faint of heart. You need to keep pressing forward one step at a time. Celebrate even the smallest victories, because this process is hard and can get dishearting.
What has the querying process been like for you? Tell me in the comments below!!