I remember reading on websites, forums, and social media that once I started querying a manuscript, I should focus on writing a new one. The advice was that unless I was getting multiple rejections on fulls, or multiple rejections with similar feedback, I should just leave the manuscript alone.
The first three times I queried, I mostly disregarded this advice. I worked on something new for a little, but was constantly going back to the thing I was querying and editing and revising.
This got confusing very quickly.
Which version of the first chapter did I just get a request on? How many other agents did I send that one too?
There were a lot of times I thought things like, “if only I waited longer to query this or that agent!” or “Why didn’t I just keep the opening how it was?”
One of the few benefits was that sometimes, if agents who had already rejected my query requested a query because of a twitter pitch, they were willing to take another look once they realized I had revised. Unfortunately, all of these second chance queries ended in rejection. In the end, it wasn’t much of a benefit.
Not wanting to go through all that stress again, I took a different approach to querying my fourth manuscript. As soon as my first batch of queries was out, I decided to focus on other projects. I started writing a sequel for Power Surge, but I wasn’t ready yet. I wrote prequel novella, Life Minus Me, which will be published this winter. I worked on revising a space opera, but got bogged down in the revisions and put it aside. Then I went back to the sequel, finished it, and worked on short stories while I let it rest between drafts. I wrote the first draft of a middle grade novel and started revising.
I have to say, this was the least stressful bout of querying I’ve had so far. I did make some changes to my opening chapters after a slew of rejections, but I haven’t read through the entire manuscript since I sent out my first full.
I was more productive in the past year than I was in the year or two I queried my first three books, and spent a lot less time stressing and obsessing over my query.
If I look at this in terms of success? The answer isn’t as clear cut. I am still unagented.
Queries from both batches resulted in offers from small publishers.
Power Surge, the second novel I finished and the first I queried, ended up with two offers from small publishers, and ultimately, I signed with NineStar Press. It was published last year. The prequel novella and sequel are both under contract with NineStar and scheduled to be released Dec 2019 and Feb 2020.
Song of the Forest, the first book I finished and second I queried, did get an offer, which I turned down because the contract was bad. I did not get any other offers and shelved this book. Honestly? I’m glad it didn’t get published. It has some potentially problematic content that would need to be revised and then looked at by a sensitivity reader and revised again. However, back when I wrote it and started querying it, I hadn’t really looked far enough outside my white, privileged bubble to realize. I know better now. I hope.
I have open R & Rs on this from small publishers. One day I might try to fix the problematic content I think is there, and the world building issues mentioned in several rejections. But right now? It’s low on my priority list.
The third one I queried, Like Birds Under the City Sky, got no offers. It was a strange little book where I experimented with form, and ultimately, it just didn’t work. Its currently shelved.
My fourth book, Earth Reclaimed, was the one I left alone while querying, and in 2021, it will be published by Aurelia Leo.
Revising while querying versus leaving the manuscript alone didn’t have an impact on how successful the query was, but the level of stress and anxiety was much lower when I focused on writing new things.
The new projects not only distracted me from worrying about the querying, but they assured me that even if this round of querying failed, there would most definitely be a next time, another chance at getting an agent or a contract from a small publisher.
My recommendation is to be working on a new book while your querying.
However, I understand that what works for me might not work for someone else, and in the end, it is important for writers to do what is best for themselves.