When people express their admiration upon hearing that I have written a book I tend to downplay it. After all, I really enjoy the experience. It's fun to be a god-like world builder. It's also therapeutic, like jogging for the brain. But, unlike jogging, it doesn't suck. I'm always happy to receive praise so I thank the person for saying so and leave it at that.
But when it comes to the query, finding an agent, and (hope hope) going through the publishing process I'd appreciate it if someone would pin a medal on me.
I wish I could show it rather than write about it, but I once found a meme that basically summed up the difference between finishing a novel and trying to get it published. Its a composite of two images of Leo DiCaprio. The "I'm the king of the world" scene is used for completing the novel, and the getting it published picture was Leo from the Revenant.
Pretty much sums it up.
But, when I'm being honest with myself, and not just filled with self-pity, working on the query and contacting agents has helped me with my writing. Finding an agent is a lot like waiting for your High School crush to call you, with all the ups and downs that goes along with that giddy feeling. It can be fun, but if you want to find an agent it helps to have a strong stomach (for all the booze).
For the uninitiated a query is a short (about 400 word) summary of your novel. An effective query reads a lot like a book jacket summary but with a few more specifics about the plot.
I resisted writing a query. After finishing my first manuscript and spending years to write 90,000 or so words the idea of summarizing it in 400 sounded about appealing as swallowing my flash drive.
For the first manuscript, part of the problem was that I didn't really believe in it. And trying to summarize and "sell" its greatness in a one page query really made me face that fact. Yet I soldiered on, and after my first attempt the problems I tried to ignore became clear. So I decided to fix them.
I revised the book, and the end result was better. Not perfect, but at least good enough that I felt if it didn't find an agent or publisher (it didn't) I would self-publish it and give it as a thank you gift for all the people who supported me along the way. They are many such people, by the way, and will all be thanked profusely when my current manuscript The Illusion Queen gets published. (It will happen!)
Writing a query for The Illusion Queen was so helpful to me that, rather than wait till its ready to shop to agents, I plan to write one for my next project just after finishing the first draft. It really helps focus you.
So, even if it doesn't land me an agent, here are some ways writing the query helped me as an aspiring writer.