You should know this: Steph Sinkhorn is pretty awesome. She says very smart things about publishing and feminism, and I’m always delighted to see her name pop up in Google Reader.
Her latest post is about how she knew she was ready to query agents.
For me, the answer was pretty simple: I didn’t. I queried anyway.
I think that’s probably the route a lot of people end up taking. Querying can’t hurt; you’ll know when you’re ready when agents start knocking on your door and offering contract, right?
It’s not always so easy. If you send out queries too easily, thinking you’re ready, you might get discouraged when agents don’t bite. Or you’ll get bitter, and decide that agents clearly can’t recognize good writing anyway. On the flipside, if you’re insecure about your work, you might never send out queries, or you’ll dip your toes into the querying waters only to be scared off by the first rejections to come across your path.
External feedback can be a good indication, but it’ll also depend on who’s giving that feedback. A published CP’s opinion on that matter carries more weight than my mom’s, is all I’m saying.
That’s why I really liked the points Steph made. One that particularly stuck in my mind was the one about your reaction to writing advice. When I first started writing novels, I followed about a hundred or so writing blogs. I’ve cut down on that over the years, but probably 80% of what I know about publishing is a direct result from following those blogs.
At first, I went, “Ohhh, ahhh, I’m learning shiny new things. I’m going to rock this publishing thing.”
Then, I went, “OK, so THIS is how it works. BRB, writing terrible query that’ll net me a million requests!”
(One day, I’ll show you my first attempt at a query. It was amazingly awful. It must’ve listed like half a dozen genres.)
Next, I went, “I think I might’ve made a boo-boo there. This one person might’ve said Y, but all these other people are saying X. They probably have a point.”
I slowly went through all those steps and finally end up at the point where I am now–where I a) don’t need a lot of the advice anymore; b) can offer others advice without being insecure about it, and c) will often wince seeing incorrect advice tossed about.
Two years ago, c) would’ve just confused me.
Like Steph says, everybody has different indicators. There is no one way of saying, “THIS is how you know you’re ready.” It’s easy to fool yourself one way or the other. But her point about the publishing/writing advice (as are the others–this is just what I latched onto!) is spot-on. You just have to make sure to read enough advice from different sources to get to that point.
TL;DR: Read Steph’s blog, for it is shiny.