|“The Gust,” Willem van de Velde|
In the tangled morass of uncertainty that is the query process, it becomes easy to lose sight of the basics. People e-mail me every day me for feedback and suggestions on their query (which I’m unfortunately unable to provide), and want to know why their project isn’t working and why they’re not finding success with the query process.
Every project is different, every situation is different, and it’s really difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why something isn’t working. But when you boil it down, there are really only two possibilities.
a) Your query isn’t strong enough, or
b) Your query is fine but your project isn’t resonating with agents
Which is it?
Well, if you’re receiving some requests for partials or full manuscripts, chances are your query is fine and you just need to keep at it. You may be on the right track and just need to find the right match. Or you have a great query but there’s something lacking in the manuscript. But unless you receiving some specific feedback that gives you an idea for a revision, the result is the same: All you can do is keep trying.
If you aren’t receiving any requests, it might be time to pull back your query for some more feedback and possible tweaking. If you’re following the batch querying theory you should have plenty of opportunity to keep things moving while perhaps trying out a different approach.
Ultimately, while it can be agonizing to pursue the traditional publication path without knowing whether your novel will or won’t make it through the gauntlet, it’s also exciting too! Your work is out there. It’s so tempting to want answers, but there’s no one out there who can tell you for sure why something is or isn’t working. The only thing to do is to keep evaluating the response, try to keep a level head, and keep things moving forward.