Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Guest Post: How to Know When to Query

Quinn: Things that make
 you go 'Wow'
Today's Guest Post by Susan Kaye Quinn 
Launches her new novel, Open Minds.
How do you know when your story is ready to query (assuming you’re going to make a pass at the get-an-agent-traditional-publishing gauntlet)?
This was always my question, when I first started writing. In my previous life as an engineer and scientist, there were measureable goals, actionable items. Projects came with deadlines, tests, and presentations. You knew what you were supposed to do (for the most part), how to do it (sometimes), and when you were expected to have something to show for your efforts (always).
This is how it works in the normal muggle world. But in the world of fiction…not so much.
In creative works, you are in charge of deciding what to write, and how many times, and what revisions must be made. And when to stop. That last one was the most difficult of all for me, because how was I to know I had reached THE END of the endless revisions?

My new paranormal/SF novel Open Minds was not the first novel that I queried. And neither was Life, Liberty, and Pursuit (my first published novel), because that book had a quirky path to publication, going past GO and collecting $200 right away. My first queried novel was Clone Runners (middle grade science fiction), which I decided was ready to query because I couldn’t figure out what else to do with it.
This is actually not a bad criteria to use for querying readiness. 
The Wow Factor
I believe that every novel is a learning experience, and if you aren’t learning anything new in working on it, it probably is time to move on. In fact, taking the next step of querying is a learning experience in itself, and I learned a LOT from querying Clone Runners. I learned that I could write a query that would get a lot of requests; I also learned that there were some peculiar biases against middle grade science fiction in the publishing world; and I learned that Clone Runners wasn’t really ready for publication yet. Close, but not quite.
As I worked revision after revision of Open Minds, it became clear to me that it was ready for querying. Not only had I learned all I could from the story. This time, the signal came from the reaction I received from the people who read it. 
When you read your opening chapter to your crit group for the first time and the response is shocked silence, followed by Wow: it’s time to query.
When the critiquers who read your MS two revisions ago keep asking when you’re going to query because they want to see your story published: it’s time to query.
When you’ve put every last bit of your storytelling and craft skills into the story: it’s time to query.
Because keeping that MS in your drawer isn’t doing anyone any good.
p.s. I did query Open Minds and received lots of requests. But I ended up cutting the query process short in order to self-publish. The story of that adventure in publishing is in the next two posts (see the full story below).
Buy the Book
Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available for $2.99 in e-book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and $9.99 in print (Amazon, Createspace).
The Story of Open Minds (linked posts)
Susan Kaye Quinn is giving away an Open Books/Open Minds t-shirt, mug, and some fun wristbands to celebrate the Virtual Launch Party of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)! (Check out the prizes here.)

Three ways to enter (you can have multiple entries):
1) Leave a comment here or at the Virtual Launch Party post
2) Tweet (with tag #keepingOPENMINDS)
Example: When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep. #keepingOPENMINDS @susankayequinn #SF #YA avail NOW http://bit.ly/SKQOpenMinds
Example: Celebrate the launch of OPEN MINDS by @susankayequinn #keepingOPENMINDS #SciFi #paranormal #YA avail NOW http://bit.ly/SKQOpenMinds

3)  Facebook (tag @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn)
Example: Celebrate the launch of paranormal/SF novel OPEN MINDS by @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn for a chance to win Open Books/Open Minds prizes! http://bit.ly/SKQOpenMinds
When Everyone Reads Minds, a Secret is a Dangerous Thing to Keep:
Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available in e-book (Amazon US (also UK, France and Germany), Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and print (Amazon, Createspace, also autographed copies available from the author).


  1. Ok, that tag on the photo totally made me laugh! Thanks so much for being a Party Host! :)

  2. I had to laugh when I read your summary of what is expected from a regular job. It's so true and so very different from writing. Great list on when it's time to query. :)

  3. Looking forward to experiencing that silent WOW of a critique group!

  4. This story definitely has that WOW factor. And I'm enjoying reading all these posts about how it came to be.

  5. The Wow factor is elusive but well worth searching for! Good advice Susan.

    Nice to meet you Gail! :)