A lot of the QueryTracker success stories involve writers whose book was rejected about a hundred times before they landed an agent. Miss Snark told queriers to plan on querying a hundred agents. Think about it. Think about ninety-nine rejections.
But don't reach for the bourbon right away. You need a game plan. You need to know how to stay motivated.
1) Don't get married to any agent's profile, twitter feed, or blog. A lot of agents sound chatty and personable on their blogs, and that's probably because they're chatty and personable. That doesn't mean they love you. Up until the moment an agent offers representation, assume your affection for your "dream agent" is entirely unrequited and one-sided.
You may feel connected because the agent has created a connection with many people online. Get too attached and it's going to burn like the dickens if the agent sends you a form rejection. (Not that it eases the pain to get a rejection beginning with "I love this book! But alas...") Moreover, being "married" to an agent in your mind will keep you from really looking at others. Monogamy is laudable, but not at this stage of the game.
2) Respond to rejections by sending more queries. Have your next ten queries in mind while you're sending the first batch of ten. When a rejection comes in, roll your eyes, square your shoulders, and send the next query or two. If you have a concrete plan for responding to rejection, you'll find it's easier to handle.
3) Incorporate rejection into your goals. Back in 2005 when I decided I was sick of being a failed writer, I set the goal of getting either ten acceptances or 100 rejections for the year. This covered everything: poems, essays, short stories, magazine articles, novels, even advertorial writing. To do this, I'd need to get two rejections a week, and doing that meant I had to submit two to three queries per week.
When you've got that many balls in the air, it's difficult to get too worked up about any particular rejection. For one thing, you don't have the time to wallow -- because if you wallow, you're not going to hit your short-term goal. And in a perverse way, rejections get you closer to the overall goal. "Ooh, only 46 to go!"
In order to achieve something this broad, you probably need to branch out. But the interesting thing is that while doing this, you're going to start wracking up some literary credits, which then make it easier to get more acceptances.
4) Change your own attitude. You wouldn't be getting rejections if you weren't actively pursuing your goal. In this age of no response means no, I found it helpful to respond (in my head) to actual rejection letters with "Oh, good -- this means I'm alive."
5) And most importantly: write your next piece. (Unrelated. Not a sequel.) Working on another novel will inevitably create in you a sense of love that dwarfs any feelings you have for the one still out there. Oh, you'll still love it, but if you're neck-deep in Manuscript B, a rejection of Manuscript A is going to have the same effect as a friend from high school mentioning your crush who dumped you three years ago. Yeah, that was great, but look at the one I'm with now.
You know may be a long slog; prepare yourself.
One final note: when I was doing my year of 100 rejections/10 acceptances, an established freelancer said to me, "How do you celebrate your successes?" I shrugged. She shook her head. "Do something," she said, "no matter how small." So I instituted my "acceptance routine" of eating one frozen fun-size Snickers and dancing with my Kiddos in the kitchen to the Happy Dance Of Joy.
It's silly, but just as it helped to have a routine for dealing with rejection, it also helped to have one for acceptance. I therefore pass along her suggestion: celebrate your successes. Partial requests, full requests, R&Rs, hand-written rejections that begin with "I can't represent this, but let me tell you how it changed my life," referrals to other agents, and even "I would really like to see your next piece."
Fortify yourself. You're on your way.
The Wrong Enemy. She has four kids, three cats, two books in print, and one husband. She lives in the Swamp and spends her time either writing books or ejecting stink bugs from the house. At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four kids. If you want to make her rich and famous, please contact the riveting Roseanne Wells of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency.