I’m Just a Mail Order Bride: On Querying Agents

Sometimes being an author rules–I can show up for work in my play clothes, take a dance break when my brain gets tired, and go to the bathroom whenever I want.

Being a writer of a novel is especially fun because I get to be creative, like, all dang day.

But some things are confusing at first. A few weeks ago, I posted that I’d finished my novel and sent it out to agents; people keep coming up to me and congratulating me on getting published. So, this post is to clarify: My novel has not been published. Yet.

Here’s the process, for people like me who choose to go the traditional publication route. It puts me in mind of mail order bridery: my goods are out there, on display for a select few, while I sit at home praying that someone wants me.

  1. Write a novel. (And push it through many revisions, critiques, etc., to make it as lovely as possible.)
  2. Research agents. (More on this in a later post.)
  3. Write query letters to a handful of agents you’d like to work with.
  4. Wait. And wait. And wait. Maybe for months!
  5. Repeat 1-4 with the same novel and new agents, or with a new novel, until you find an agent.
  6. Then…do whatever the agent tells you.* This may include more revising and editing.
  7. Wait for the agent to find a publisher. (Isn’t this great? In the traditional model, it’s the agent’s job to find a publisher!)
  8. Then…do whatever the publisher tells you.* This may include more revising and editing.
  9. Wait. And wait. And wait. Maybe for a year!
  10. Take selfies of yourself in front of your book on the shelves of your local bookstore!

In a “You are here” map of this process, I’d be standing smack in the middle of #4. The waiting part.

For any agents out there who are reading this, lured here by my query letter: look no further! I’m the mail order author for you! Definitely. I’m nice. And hard-working. And full of great ideas!

Plus, reread #6.


*For those readers who are used to warning labels like “The knife you just purchased is not intended for use as a toy,” please note that I accept no responsibility in the case that you fail to do #2-3 properly, end up with a whack-a-mole agent, and blindly follow instructions to sign over blank checks or create a pseudonym spelled exactly like your agent’s.



photo credit: U.S. Department of Defence – 960509-O-0000P-007.

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