How to survive querying agents or a job hunt

Sending out a query letter to literary agents, or applying for a job that you desperately want is scary. You pin so much hope on your submission and feel as though you have handed over responsibility for your future happiness. It doesn’t have to feel like that. In my post, 5 Ways to attract what you want into your life I share practical steps on managing feelings when you want something too much.

Maybe, like me, you have been burned before and so are cautious this time around. My third novel is ready to submit to agents. I have had a literary agent in the past and lived through the anxiety and trauma of finding an agent and a publishing contract. It is not for the faint-hearted. This time I am in a good place as:

  • I am not attaching myself to one particular outcome
  • I am not looking for validation
  • I know that I have options and I am in control
  • I have faith that the right solution will find me so long as I am open to possibilities.

However, despite having done a lot of inner work to reach this healthier state of mind the prospect of seeking an agent and contract is still daunting. When something is important to us, we will always feel some trepidation. 

I have enjoyed taking regular runs for many years. When I was in my fifties, I experienced pain in my hips after a run. As a result, I gave up running for a few years. Then, a fitness trainer explained to me that if I prepared properly for a run by stretching and did the same post-run then I would not experience any joint pain. She was right. I am using this analogy to explain how the pain of trying to get a job or an agent can be avoided with proper preparation and after-care.

Before 

I successfully self-published my first two novels The Borrowed Boy and Just Bea, receiving great reviews and three awards. However, it is a challenge to reach the audience I would like to attract without a publisher and agent championing me and helping to promote my books. This is why I am going to approach agents and some independent publishers with my new novel. 

Before applying for a job, querying agents, or approaching publishers be very clear about what you want, why, and what a good fit would look like.

My goal is for my books to be visible to a wider audience of readers and to increase sales. I want to achieve this so that I can share my stories, engage with readers, and be heard. For me, a good fit with an agent would be one where there is mutual respect, a partnership with both parties listening to the other, an agent who loves and understands what I write. 

Just as the wrong job for you can be damaging to your career, so can the wrong agent. It is not a one-way street – you are looking for the right job/agent just as they are looking for the best person to employ/ sign to their list.

Do your research. Now you know your needs and what you are offering, invest time in finding potential agents/jobs that are a good match.

There are several ways you can achieve your goals. Be imaginative and brainstorm other options to get what you need. Getting an agent is not the only, or necessarily the best, outcome for me, it is just one.  I have other options:

  • Find an Independent Publisher to publish novel three and potentially my first two novels.
  • Enter competitions to attract an agent or publisher.
  • Rebrand my first two novels with my third and fourth to make them more marketable. This would include changing the covers to make them recognisable for the genre and my brand. Invest in advertising. 

I am excited about the third option and have a long-term strategy to promote sales. It is important not to attach ourselves to one particular outcome. This week I read a meme on Instagram God’s plans are greater than our dreams. This spoke to me as in the past I have found this wisdom to be true. I am thankful that I am not the creator of my future because what has unfolded in my life is more than I could have imagined or hoped for. 

 If an agent rejects our submission, it is because they do not think that we are a good fit. I know my shape and size – I am holding a jigsaw piece up to see where it goes. The agent is another piece of the jigsaw and they too know what they are looking for. It has to be a perfect fit for the author and the agent. That means trial and error before finding a match.

Christos Giakkus Pixabay

During 

You have applied for the job or sent out query letters now it is time to wait. You can check your inbox every few minutes or put the time to good use. I will be using the time to do a much-needed revamp of my website. I will also be plotting my next novel. By focusing on the next project, you can save wasted energy worrying about the outcome of your submission. When you get a full manuscript request you will need the distraction of a shiny new project to stop you from imagining every scenario from a harsh and crushing rejection to the opening night of your book to film premier. When The Borrowed Boy was out on submission to publishers, I wrote my next novel, Just Bea.

Focus on other options. You might well get the positive response you are hoping for but there is no harm in thinking ahead and planning the next steps. 

My daughter was recently disappointed when, following a lengthy recruitment process, she got the call to say that whilst it was a close thing, she had not got the job. On reflection, my wise daughter had come to a similar conclusion. A few weeks later, she got a call from the same organisation inviting her to apply for another job which they considered a better fit. I am delighted to say that she got this job and much prefers it to the original one.

After

You have had an interview or maybe you have been invited to meet with a prospective agent. Be fully prepared. 

  • Research everything that you can about their organisation and how they work. 
  • Clarify the questions that you will want to ask.
  • Be clear on what you would be expecting from your future employer/agent. 
  • Consider the terms and conditions that are acceptable to you. 

and you will be confident in your decision to accept or not.

If you do not get an offer then you know that you have other options. Do not standstill. Be positive and pro-active in improving your application/submission for next time, network, raise your profile on social media, improve your skills, try new things – a different genre, or short stories. Do not whine and complain on social media. Lick your wounds for one day if you need to but then get back up and out there. A positive, confident employer/author is more attractive and therefore attracts more opportunities than a negative one.

Published by Deborah Kleé Author

Author of The Borrowed Boy. Blogger on the inner journey of the creative. Passionate about social justice, wellbeing and the benefits of meditation and yoga.

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