There’s a lot that’s frustrating about the querying process – form rejections, months of waiting, zero hits during Twitter contests, etc. Still, something that pains me just as much is seeing other writers come into the query trenches ill-prepared.
“What does PB mean?”
“What does Agent X mean by ‘partial’?”
“What do MS and MSS stand for?”
“Sent my full 2.5 months after Agent Y requested it because I changed my whole story’s tense”.
It makes me cringe – not because I know everything about querying (no way that’s true); but because everything I do know says that these are things writers should have taken the time to learn in order to set themselves up for success.
As a individual and as a writer, I believe in preparation. I believe in hitting up your local library, your laptop, your friend who-once-published-something and getting the basics down before the first query is sent. Like any subject matter, it’s important to become familiar with the jargon of the industry. To dive in without armoring yourself with information first is like sending that sword fighter against Indy with a pistol – you don’t stand a chance.
As for me, I researched for two months before my first query a year ago…and never stopped. It’s on my to-do list to reread some of the material I studied in the beginning of my querying process – I’m quite sure that there are tips and tricks I’ve forgotten.
Not only should you, the writer, be ready, but your work should be, too. That last example drives me crazy – if you think, even for a moment, that your work might benefit from a tense change, don’t send it! Your MS (that’s manuscript, by the way) should be polished – gleaming – before you hit send.
Do it once. Do it right. Don’t give up.