The Story of Open Minds
Ch 7: How to Know When to Query
Ch 8: A Writer’s Journey: Self-Publishing Open Minds (Part 1)
Ch 9: Owning theWriterly Path:Self-Publishing Open Minds (Part 2)
How do you know when your story is ready to query (assuming you’re going to make a pass at the get-an-agent-traditional-publishing gauntlet)?
This was my biggest question, when I first started writing. In my previous life as an engineer and scientist, there were measureable goals, actionable items. Projects came with deadlines, tests, and presentations. You knew what you were supposed to do (for the most part), how to do it (sometimes), and when you were expected to have something to show for your efforts (always).
This is how it works in the normal muggle world. But in the world of fiction…not so much.
In creative works, you are in charge of deciding what to write, and how many times, and what revisions must be made. And when to stop. That last one was the most difficult of all for me, because how was I to know I had reached THE END of the endless revisions?
My novel Open Minds was not the first novel that I queried. And neither was Life, Liberty, and Pursuit (my first published novel), because that book had a quirky path to publication, going past GO and collecting $200 right away. My first queried novel was Clone Runners (middle grade science fiction), which I decided was ready to query because I couldn’t figure out what else to do with it.
This is actually not a bad criteria to use for querying readiness.
I believe that every novel is a learning experience, and if you aren’t learning anything new in working on it, it probably is time to move on. In fact, taking the next step of querying is a learning experience in itself, and I learned a LOT from querying Clone Runners. I learned that I could write a query that would get a lot of requests; I also learned that there were some peculiar biases against middle grade science fiction in the publishing world; and I learned that Clone Runners wasn’t really ready for publication yet. Close, but not quite.
As I worked revision after revision of Open Minds, it became clear to me that it was ready for querying. Not only had I learned all I could from the story. This time, the signal came from the reaction I received from the people who read it.
When you read your opening chapter to your crit group for the first time and the response is shocked silence, followed by Wow: it’s time to query.
When the critiquers who read your MS two revisions ago keep asking when you’re going to query because they want to see your story published: it’s time to query.
When you’ve put every last bit of your storytelling and craft skills into the story: it’s time to query.
Because keeping that MS in your drawer isn’t doing anyone any good.
p.s. I did query Open Minds and received lots of requests. But I ended up cutting the query process short in order to self-publish. The story of that adventure in publishing is in the next two posts.