For fun, here are some honest answers to the questions querying (or pre-querying) writers REALLY frequently ask.
Q. Is my book any good?
A. Yes. But it could be better.
Q. OK, is my book good enough?
A. WRONG QUESTION! It’s never good enough. Back to the revision pits!
Q. How do I make this book better? I’ve looked at it so long my eyes are bleeding.
A. Give it to good, honest CP’s. Take a month or two off from it and start something new (not a sequel). Fall in love with the new thing. Learn from it. Now come back to the first thing, especially if you don’t love it anymore, and you will magically be able to make it better.
Q. But I want to start querying NOW!
A. NO. No exceptions. Take the time off and start something new to get some distance first. DO IT.
Q. OK, I did it. Now, OH GOD, how the HELL do I write a query letter?
A. Go critique other peoples’ letters in a forum or blog workshop somewhere first. Also go look at query contest winners on the big blog contests, and figure out what you like about your favorites. Also, QueryShark.
Q. That’s a lot of information. Can you sum it up in three words?
A. Yes. Character, conflict, stakes.
Q. Ugh, writing a query letter STILL sucks.
A. It will always suck. Go get feedback on yours now.
Q. Does my query letter suck?
A. WRONG QUESTION. Ask yourself, “Is this so awesome anyone in their right minds would immediately NEED to read this book?”
Q. Seriously?! THAT’S the bar?!
A. Yep. Terrifying, isn’t it?
Q. Dude. I should just quit.
A. NO. No quitting. BACK TO WORK.
Q. I sent out my query letter. WHEN WILL AGENTS GET BACK TO ME?!?!
A. Never. They will never get back to you. Your suffering is eternal.
A. Or you could check QueryTracker.
Q. Argh, now they’re getting back to me and it’s all rejections! Does my query suck?
A. Yes. Or else your book isn’t ready.
Q. How do I know which one?
A. Get feedback from someone whose judgment you trust who will be honest with you. Then listen to it. Then revise.
Q. I’m getting requests! OMG OMG!!! What do I do?!
A. Keep calm and query on.
Q. HOW LONG CAN IT TAKE AN AGENT TO READ ONE FREAKIN’ PARTIAL?!
A. Ten thousand years.
Q. Will they EVER get back to me?!?!
A. Not always. Non-responses on fulls are a thing.
Q. SERIOUSLY?!!?!? That is the WORST THING EVER!!!
Q. Can I nudge?
A. On your full? After 3 months or according to guidelines. No sooner. Get your finger off that send button. (Smacks)
Q. When do I give up on this book and move on?
A. You should already be writing the next book the minute you start querying. If your book isn’t getting the response you want, stop. Pause. Look at it. HARD. Make it better. Make it better than that. Then try again. Chances are it’s not hopeless, you just queried it too early.
Q. I looked hard, and, um, I think it might be crap. NOW should I move on?
A. If it’s actually crap and you’re not just having a low moment, sure. If you’ve got a new book that’s better. (If not, why weren’t you writing it all this time, hmmm?) If it might not be crap, or you don’t have anything else ready, BACK TO THE REVISION PITS!
Q. You say that a lot, don’t you?
A. There’s a reason for that. Every book can be better, always. MAKE IT SO.
That was fun! What did I miss? Got any suggestions for more Honest Writer FAQs I should add?