The 5 Stages of Querying

#1) Conceit – This is the beginning of the query experience in which you are convinced that any agent would be a fool to turn you down. You know deep in your heart this is the most fantastic book ever written and every agent who reads your query will request a full, (or at least a partial) immediately. And your mother, husband/wife and BFF beta’s said so.

Guest column by Anne Gallagher, an aspiring
writer of romance novels living in the Foothills
of the Piedmont. Read her blog here.


#2) Fear – This second emotion is harder to contain as it encompasses a variety of anxieties at the same time: Is the query strong enough to get a request? Is the manuscript good enough? Have I revised enough? Did I find all my typos? Did I say everything I was supposed to say?

#3) Bargaining – This is when you’ll do absolutely anything if an agent requests any part of your manuscript: Spend more time with the kids, your mother-in-law, the PTO. You’ll keep up with the laundry, dishes, dust bunnies. You’ll remember to make breakfast, pay the bills, feed the dog. And you’ll pass up the new shoes you saw last week at the mall … you swear, if you could only get a request.

#4) Depression – This is how far you’ll actually sink before you start climbing up from the pit of despair. Some frequent comments in your head will be—“My query sucked, the agent will hate it. My book sucks. Why am I doing this? I can’t write a book. No one would read it anyway, it will never sell.” At this point, you must remember you do have family and friends who love you and care for you. Step away from the chocolate, get out of your sweats, take a shower and go for a nice long walk. A little fresh air never hurt anyone.

#5) Acceptance – And this last stage is when you realize, the query is out, agents are looking at it, you gave it your 100% best shot and there is nothing more you can do. So relax. And I won’t tell you not to check your e-mail account fifteen times a day because I know you will, (I do, too) just try and get it down to three. Breakfast, lunch and before bedtime.

These five stages are not all encompassing or complete. The emotional reactions to querying varies across individuals and largely depends upon their support systems—and how much bourbon is still left in the liquor cabinet.

Here are some guidelines that will help you to manage these Five Stages of Querying and allow you to get on with writing your next book. If you’ve sent out your book, try these guidelines:

  • Respond: Try to respond appropriately when someone asks about your book. Incorrect Response: “Oh my God, I sent it out to query like three weeks ago and haven’t heard a word, and it’s like freaking me out, I can’t stand the waiting, it’s killing me because I knew I forgot to fix the typo in the return address and it’s like …” Correct Response: “I’ve sent my book out to query. I should hopefully have more information in a few weeks. Thank you for asking.”


  • Education & Developing Increased Resourcefulness: Now is the perfect time to stroll through agent blogs and find out what you need to ask them if “The Call” comes. An agent will appreciate you’ve done your homework instead of babbling incoherently, “I can’t believe it, YOU really called me. Oh my GAWD!” 
  • Encourage Your Peers: Pay it Forward. As I’ve said before, many times—we are all in this boat together and if we don’t help and encourage other writers, it’s going to be a nasty voyage. I’d hate to be the one stuck out on the poop deck.

  • Recognize That a Moderate Level of Anxiety is Acceptable: Of course, you have anxiety—your “baby” which you’ve slaved over is out in front of the world. 
  • Develop a Sense of Control & Efficacy: Clean your office, your workspace, your kitchen. Write your author blurb, dedication, back cover blurb. You’ll have to do it sooner or later and, who knows, if “The Call” does come, you’ll be ready and agents love an efficient and prepared writer. Besides, you won’t have to panic later.


Happy Querying!!

The quickest way to get an agent’s attention
is a professional submission. That’s why you
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd. Ed.
It has dozens of query letter examples (novels,
nonfiction, short stories, kids books and more).



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15 thoughts on “The 5 Stages of Querying

  1. Irene Watson

    Thank you for this list!! Your #1 is priceless. The sad part is that many authors actually think their book is "the most fantastic…" and they will get at least a high six-figure advance. If I had a dollar for every author that told me that I’d be retired and living on Mykonos!

  2. Kurt Kamm

    You left out the SUICIDE STAGE. But I guess there’s nothing after that.

    Just kidding, nice article

    Kurt Kamm

    (I guess I would add- my favorite rejection came xeroxed, cut from a page into a one inch wide strip of paper.)

  3. Natalie Aguirre

    Great advice. I haven’t even started querying yet and I feel I’m at all your negative phases. I agree with all your steps to deal with them. Thanks.

  4. Elizabeth MacKinney

    (It’s true and humorous at the same time, Melody.) I think what really helps is having a lot of manuscripts and projects going simultaneously. Trying to make sure every manuscript that is ready to go out the door is actually out there keeps me from dwelling on the wait to find out how they’re doing. The times I’ve had most anxiety is when I submit to an editor I know personally. Then I feel tense. I’m also very tense while writing the actual queries and proofreading them. My family has learned to leave the room (or the house) when I’m doing this. After it’s in the mail I’m much easier to live with.

  5. Theresa Milstein

    Oh my GAWD, what a great post. I never get to that acceptance part when I go through my five stages of grief… I mean, querying. Perfect timing because I just sent a query yesterday and I’m already up to the bargaining stage.


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