One of the biggest hurdles to publication is, no doubt, securing a literary agent. However, there may come a time when your author-agent relationship isn't working anymore for any number of reasons: your agent may no longer share the same vision as you for your projects, or maybe you want to write in a genre they don't represent anymore. Perhaps they've left the industry or retired, or their response time has become so poor you wish they would retire, so you didn't have to break up with them first. In any case, relationships change for all sorts of reasons, and you may find yourself back in the query trenches sooner than you thought.
Don't despair. From personal experience, I can tell you, it's not as bad the second time around, and you might actually find yourself in a much better spot than you were before, because:
1. You’ve Been There Before
If your previous stay in the query trenches was a few months or a few years, going back to them shouldn't seem as daunting as the first time. It wasn’t long ago that I remember typing, “What is a query letter?”, into my web browser, and now, I smile at the memory, and how scared I was to hit the “send” button on my e-mail, and how devastated I was when the same agent responded within a half-hour rejecting me. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Even if you didn’t spend a ton of time querying before, you undoubtedly know so much more about the process than you did before, which will help you manage your expectations the second time around.
2. Your List Gets Smaller
If you’ve become part of the writing community, followed industry professionals on Twitter, met agents and editors at conferences, you’ve made some connections you didn’t have before. Through dialogues with other writers, you may have also learned the inside scoop on these individuals—both good and bad—and now you’re in “the know.” Your journey to publication becomes more about finding the right agent and editor to represent your work, so your list will likely be smaller and more targeted than before.
3. Experience Counts on Resumes and Query Letters
Query letters are your brag book when selling your project. You’re giving someone a list of reasons why they should work with you, and in some cases a sample of your writing too. If you’ve made the connections listed above, your letter will likely be phrased with a personalization that will garner more requests than the first time around, and having previous experience with other agencies can’t hurt. It shows writing was good enough to secure representation once, so think of it as previous "job" experience.
4. You Have A Better Product
Whether your querying an old project that didn’t move with your previous agency or starting the query process with a new project, you’ve likely received editorial feedback from publishing professionals that will make the manuscript your sending out into the world better. You also know the value of a polished manuscript, and wouldn’t dare query something before it was ready for submission.
5. You Have More Confidence In Your Works
You’ve done this before. You can do it again. In my case, I had been on a bit of a writing tear when I re-entered the query trenches. I had developed a backlog while I waited on submission with my first novel. So, when I started querying agents again, instead of having one project to pitch, I had a two, and ended up querying both.
My personal stats the second time around: I queried my project to twenty-one agents over four months and secured representation with my number one choice, Carly Watters of P.S. Literary, for my women's fiction project, and I couldn't be happier!
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Author of women's fiction and domestic thrillers