Querying? Here’s How to Stop Life from Getting in the Way

querying broken computer

For the past few years, I’ve buried myself in writing projects, the result of which was two complete book manuscripts. Now that those texts are done, I’ve moved on to querying. The plan is that, if I don’t get any agent bites, I’ll self-publish. So this past week, I found myself preparing for a weekend email session.

But oh, no. No, no, no. Life laughed. And as she laughed, the shelving in my son’s closet collapsed. I donated unnecessary items from the closet to Goodwill to cut the weight the shelving had to support. As I got rid of those items, my husband reinstalled the shelving. When I got back, I put everything back on the shelving. Then, the shelving collapsed AGAIN. Despite a discussion on making sure the braces were in the studs rather than the drywall, the screws found themselves handily installed….in more drywall. Because surely, my husband thought, the drywall would hold this time.

Did I mention my pet peeve is doing things twice?

To be clear, I love my husband even when he puts a shelf back into the drywall. But needless to say, my querying weekend quickly disappeared.

This is not the first time that life has interfered with my querying plans. But because these kinds of things happen, I’ve built some strategies into my writing process to make sure that the querying still gets done without significant delay.

Put a makeup/overflow querying session (or several) on your calendar.

This tactic is by far the easiest for stopping life from interfering with the query process. Putting the session on your agenda means you have some built-in breathing room. If your shelving collapses, it’s OK, because you can use your alternate time. If the shelving stays intact, you can work ahead on contacting the people on your agent/publisher list, do follow-ups, write something different, work on your marketing, or take a (probably) much-needed nap.

Double-check your technicals.

More than once, I’ve gotten up well before the sun to query only to find that my laptop decided to have character (writing pun intended), shut down, update, need a key (thanks Windows 11), or generally misbehave. I’ve lost my Internet connection, discovered corrupted audio/video interview files, and lost power.

If this type of stuff happened to you, what would you need to do the job and crank out your queries anyway?

Maybe this means knowing where the nearest McDonald’s or coffee shop is for WiFi. Maybe it’s using a library computer, using another application, or creating backup files to store in the cloud. It all depends on your setup and preferences. But set yourself up so that technical difficulties aren’t going to stop you. I’ve learned not to go to the Nth degree with my risk management here. But at least have a Plan B.

Tap some delegates.

I don’t mean that you should hand off your writing. But could someone else do the dishes? Maybe a friend hop over for an hour to watch the kids? What often happens is that when writers have to choose between basic responsibilities and their craft, they choose the responsibilities. That’s especially true if they have other people telling them that writing “isn’t a real job” or is “just a hobby.” This issue has been the biggest cause of getting behind on writing duties for me than anything else. If you have people who can occasionally step in for you on some of the everyday tasks that can pile up, you’re less likely to bail on the writing. You can pay their kindness forward in whatever way makes sense for your relationships and situation.

Chop up your querying sessions.

Plenty of writers find it hard to query in big blocks of time. They figure that, if they can’t work in a larger chunk of time, there’s no point in starting.

But many people have 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there. Take the time to create a more detailed querying spreadsheet or use a CMS that allows you to see the status on smaller tasks, such as figuring out which agent from a specific house is your top choice. Put everything you need to query in one folder on your laptop or in the cloud. Then knock out a single task whenever you get the chance. It’s almost impossible to get into a state of flow this way because the sessions are so short. But as the saying goes, you can eat an elephant one bite at a time. Pick away at your list enough and pretty soon it will disappear.

Find a buddy.

This tactic works for two reasons. The first is that having someone who can query alongside you (or at least check in) offers some basic accountability. It’s just like if you need a buddy to go with you to the gym each week. If you’ve made a commitment to have someone over, go meet, etc., you’ll think twice before letting the querying slide to the background to other tasks, and you’ll get a little more creative about holding your commitment to the other person. But it also means you truthfully can put the session on your shared/public calendar as a meeting, which other people are less likely to ask you to sacrifice. If people don’t respect the fact the session is for your querying, label it as a work meeting. If writing is your business, that’s truthful, too.

If you plan to do any kind of traditional publishing, even if it’s not for a book, querying is an unavoidable part of the process. So, build some failsafes around getting your emails out. If you protect the chance to engage in those communications, you’re investing in your career. But if querying and traditional publishing don’t work out, don’t give up. Most of these tactics are easy to adapt to self-publishing, such as finding a buddy who can work with you through beta reader feedback or formatting your book on the publication platform.