Cold Querying Process

I’ve wanted to be an author as long as I can remember. I’ve written dozens of books, whether they were journals or manuscripts (shout-out to NaNoWriMo!), but I’ve always been on the outside of the publishing world. This past spring, I decided to finally jump in.

I began testing the waters a little differently than I always expected. Instead of trying to publish a novel, I began trying to publish a children’s picture book. When I wrote this story, I did not intend to publish it. It was a story I wrote specifically for my mum for Mothers’ Day a couple of years ago. After she read it and cried and told me how much she liked and appreciated it (thanks, mum!), she told me that she thought it should be published.

I was pleasantly surprised and with her blessing, decided to do it. But I had no idea how. So months and months and months passed by. Finally, when my husband and I were ringing in the new year and talking about goals we had, I decided that my writing goal for 2016 would be to query at least one publisher for my children’s book. (None of my other manuscripts are ready for that.)

I’m proud to say that I accomplished that goal and surpassed it. And I learned a lot.

Sending out cold queries to publishers is a lot of work. I wanted my letters to be personal to each publisher so I rewrote the letter each time. I researched every publisher from 2016 Writer’s Market that would accept unsolicited queries. (After I learned what an unsolicited query was.) I learned what they published and why they published it.I pitched my story to emphasize the ways it would fit each publisher’s niches. I changed the formatting of my manuscript to fit individual specifications.  I let them know that it was a simultaneous submission so they could hurry up and get their hands on it (or chuck it quickly if it wasn’t for them anyway.) And I made a spreadsheet to keep track of it all.

It was very time consuming. It took me two weeks to send out 17 queries. But I felt so productive while doing it. I was actually doing something to pursue my dreams. And what is the reaching of a dream if not a cumulative effort of reaching a lot of small goals?

Well, I met my little New Year’s goal and then let it go. It’s time to take a break as I wait for the publishers to respond (or not respond at all if they’re not interested, as the case unfortunately is with a lot of publishers now).

I did already receive a few responses. I get extra excited to get anything in the mail now. So far, they have all been rejections. Some have been poorly photocopied form letters starting “Dear Author…” and although the lack of personalization isn’t exactly thrilling, I was still internally thrilled that they called me “author”. Other’s have been addressed to me and signed off with an editor’s actual signature, which is really nice and welcoming. Form letter or personal, they have all been kind and gentle.

And I’m okay with the rejections. If I don’t gain a published book out of this experience, I’ve still gained so much knowledge. And I value that a lot. I’ll need it moving forward.


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