zen and the art of querying

This morning’s post saw the arrival of a rejection. Ha! I shrug and file it. It’s easier to handle rejection after you’ve just received an acceptance. Little injections of hope keep you buoyant for weeks and months before the sticky fingers of rejection pull you out of the air and down into the mire. It’s hard to plod along while those hands and sucking mud pull at your feet. Yet, you persevere and build strong thigh muscles.

One thing I hate writing is query emails. There is a point when you realise that a story has been out to a market far too long. You miss it. More importantly you think it could be out hustling for a slot with a rival. So, you check the response time, ensure it’s outside the allotted period, and sit down to compose a query.

Most markets are overloaded with material, and there’s no point whining about how long they’re taking. I aim to keep all my queries simple and neutral. Generally, I get an answer of some variety within days.

What’s quite uncomfortable is writing a second query after the first one has garnered no response. Once again I strive for professionalism, and keep the tone complaint-free.

The third email I write after the second one has been ignored is to withdraw the story from the market. I understand that most editors are busy people and have acres of words to read, but there are limits to my patience especially when I have received no contact from the person(s) in charge. I will wait on an answer as long as the editor(s) keep me informed about what’s happening with the story.

This situation is not easy to navigate. There is no use getting irate with people who are in control of markets, but on the other hand it doesn’t benefit the writer to do nothing when markets take well over the odds to respond to submissions and/or queries.

The only antidote of course is to write a lot of stories and keep sending them out to a variety of markets. Also, it’s important to retain a sense of humour. This is the reality of the writer’s life. The best thing you can do is discover the markets that like your work, and ignore the ones that don’t deal with responses in a judicious manner. It takes a lot of time to figure out, however. It can be frustrating, but I try not to obsess about it, and concentrate instead on writing better work.

Long walks in woods with the dog are also therapeutic. It reminds me of the wider world, and keeps my problems in perspective.

On a sunny autumn day, when I kick through the piles of crunchy leaves under the overarching trees, smell the mulch and mushrooms, and watch my dog scamper after squirrel-trails, I feel inspired, and want to write again.