But even now, after having sent out more than my share of queries in the past, I still get insanely nervous every time I hit "send." Here's the thing: it takes hours to find the agents you want to query, to dig up blog interviews they've done, to suss out their formatting preferences (if they give them at all), and to make sure you've spelled every single bizarre last name correctly. Some agents are cool; they won't be mad if you include ten pages of your ms even though they didn't specifically say it was okay in their guidelines. They won't be offended if you call them Ms. when they're actually a Mrs., or if you add an extra "i" in their long, Italian last name. But there are others who are not so kind. They will reject you at the first typo (or so we are led to believe by some people out there).
The trouble is, every agent wants something different! And sometimes it just isn't clear what they want. Janet Reid, for example, just had a poll on her blog regarding page numbers. Apparently they're supposed to go in the footer, lower right. I've been following different guidelines for the past couple of years (in the slug line, upper left), and now I feel like a complete moron. Even if there were a standard for these things, they would be constantly changing anyway. I was apparently the last human being on earth to find out two spaces in between sentences is a major faux pas. How far down the page should the beginning of a chapter start? Are my one inch margins acceptable? Formatting the title page alone is enough to cause a minor heart attack. You see, it's not enough just to write a good book. Or even a good book and a good query. You have to get everything *just right*, or risk blowing an opportunity.
And then, at the end of the day, you have to be okay with the fact that your query might not even merit a rejection. While you're busy hoping that Agent X just hasn't gotten to your query yet, it could have been relegated to the virtual garbage bin weeks ago. It's an awful lot of work for potentially a whole lot of nothing. And you'll never know if you were rejected because your writings sucks, or because you just happened to put your page numbers in the wrong darn place.
|Why is a query like a writing desk?|
So, how does one stay sane in the face of all this madness, you ask? Some people suggest starting your next project. Others recommend working on your synopsis, just in case an agent asks for one. Some people find solace in complicated querying spreadsheets that make them feel like they have some semblance of control. But I find that the best way to stop obsessing about one thing is to find something else to obsess about. Schedule a telephone job interview with six people in Russia, for example. Or find a new musician you love and then make yourself crazy trying to find tickets to his sold out concert. Enter a few writing contests - those are practically guaranteed to cause obsessive worrying (about something other than your query).
Not that I've done anything like that, of course. These are just mere suggestions, from one nutter to another. Because if there's one thing I've learned, it's that there is no way to stay sane during the querying process. You just have to embrace the madness. And, as always, hope for the best.