So, you didn’t get into Pitch Wars. Time to query, right?
Maybe… But before I get into that, lemme encourage you to pause a moment and process. Feel what you need to feel. When you’re ready, take a look around on Twitter, or any other social media really talking PW. You’ll see countless folks saying the same things:
Pitch Wars is only one possible path. It’s not the end all and be all. Not getting in doesn’t reflect poorly on you or your manuscript. Etc. Etc. Etc.
And it’s all true. Absolutely. 100%.
Being true does not change the fact that it may be disappointing or even discouraging. So feel what you gotta feel. But don’t give up. If writing is your heart and soul, your dream, your passion… don’t ever give up.
So, it’s time to query, right?
First, this is assuming you want to go with traditional publishing. As in an agent and then on to a publisher. I would suggest pretty much this same approach if you want to skip the agent and go with a small press. Pretty much the same things apply. Self publishing is a completely different business with its own concerns.
Let’s say you have not queried this MS yet. Pause before querying. Ask yourself: Is it ready? Am I ready?
Let’s tackle the easy one first: are you ready… Because querying means waiting. You may hear back on a query within days (I’ve had rejections within an hour… ouch) or it may take weeks… or months… or you may never hear back—some agents take a no-response-means-no approach… which, let’s be real, sucks. But believe me, you’re gonna wait.
Querying likely means lots of rejection. It’s a rare writer who says they sent out a few queries and got requests from all of them. And they all made an offer of representation. The reality is, writers wrack up dozens of rejections. Often hundreds over the years. Especially since querying in the digital age is fast and easy.
Are you ready to wait? Are you ready to hear no—probably over and over again.
What about your MS?
That’s tougher to answer. Partly because it’s so subjective. But I can point to a few signs you might be:
- You have done revisions after honest feedback from crit partners and/or beta readers (who are not immediate family or friends who give nothing but praise).
- You have thoroughly proofread your MS. Ideally, you’ve had someone else thoroughly proofread your book. (No, I don’t mean you paid an editor. I just mean you’ve taken multiple steps to ensure you don’t have typos.)
- You’ve researched your genre and your book is at least CLOSE to the average word count for debut authors in that genre.
- You can clearly summarize your story, including main character and primary conflict, in one sentence. Bonus points if that sentence is also catchy.
- You can clearly summarize your story, including all twists, surprises, and the ending, in a one-page, single-spaced synopsis. Whether it’s pretty or not at this point is irrelevant. Can you do it?
- That one-page synopsis shows a distinct beginning, middle, and end, and hits all the expected beats for your genre.
If yes to all of the above, my opinion only here, you’re likely ready to query. But why are those important?
No person is an island. And we are terrible critics of our own work. We either see it as far worse than it is, or we miss the glaring errors and problems because we see what we want to convey as opposed to what’s on the page. Honest feedback is the best way to combat that.
Ditto proofreading. When you read your own work, you see what you intended. Often missing things that are important. Writing for publication is a business—proofread.
On the business end of things? Word count ranges exist for many reasons, but a big one is budget. The cost of printing a book vs how much people will be willing to pay for said book. Digital publishing has expanded that range a bit, but… a publisher is still spending the time, effort, and cost of editing and formatting. And that cost goes up right along with the word count.
Being able to summarize your story in a single sentence isn’t just good marketing. It shows you have a solid handle on your story. It shows that your story can be pitched quickly and clearly. That means readers can take one look at that logline and want to read your story. (I’m being positive here!)
That synopsis? I could have substituted beat sheet for that. You’re showing your plot and character arcs. If you can’t do that in one page, it’s possible your story is too long. Maybe it needs to be split into two or maybe it needs a lot of cutting. It’s also possible the story needs a bit more refining—is the conflict strong enough, do the characters have clear motivations that make sense for the story, etc.
You don’t have to be good at writing a synopsis to see these parts. Like a beat sheet, at this point, it’s just a tool to help you see your story’s flow and where there may be weak points. And if you’re really struggling? Yeah, do a beat sheet to really shine a spotlight on the story flow.
Now it’s time to query, right?
The truth is, many writers sit on work that is so well polished it’s nearly perfect, and they don’t query. Instead they keep working and working. Sometimes improving even more. Sometimes not. While others query far too soon, sending their MS out into the world before the proverbial ink was even dry. (Been there and done that, I don’t recommend it.)
There is no solid answer. And it’s why I won’t give feedback like: this is ready to query. Or even, I don’t think this is ready to query. Subjectivity is a thing.
But OK… you’ve done the work. You and your MS are ready to query!
Also check out Writing and Editing Tools.