Elizabeth Kübler-Ross described the five stages of grief in 1969 in her book, On Death and Dying. It detailed her observations of terminally ill patients as they dealt with their diagnosis. I think it’s equally applicable to the querying process.
DENIAL: This is it! My 250,000 word urban fantasy featuring vampires and brooding shape shifters is going to land me an agent at the biggest, baddest agency in New York. There’s going to be a bidding war with the BIG 5. It’s going to be made into a blockbuster movie. Foreign rights will pay for my private jet. I’m going to quit my day job and wear pajamas all day for the rest of my life, just like Hugh Hefner.
ANGER: Crappy form rejections! What’s wrong with these agents? Don’t they recognize talent when they see it? You know what happened to the stuck up kids in high school who never invited you to their parties? They became agents! I’ll show them. When I hit it big, I’ll start naming names of everyone who rejected me. They’ll be sorry.
BARGAINING: I’ll only send five more queries out, then I’ll stop. I can stop any time I want. If I just personalize it a little better…Hey wait, this agent loves Joss Whedon! I love Joss Whedon. This could be the one. It only takes one yes. I don’t need multiple offers. I don’t need a movie deal. There’s this one literary agent in Omaha that’s also an insurance agent. It could work. My neighbor’s grandson has a start up press in his garage. Indie is cool. Indie is the new traditional. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Just one more query first.
DEPRESSION: I suck. I suck so badly I even suck at sucking. I’m a worthless, talentless hack. What was I thinking? Why did I bother? My mother was right. I should stick to what I’m good at: Sucking. Are we out of chocolate?
ACCEPTANCE: I had a tough sell in a crowded genre. It’s not personal. It’s business. I’ll dust myself off and move on. I jotted down an idea for a new book the other day. I think I’ll start outlining this weekend. I do love to write, after all. This too shall pass.
FOLLOWED SIX MONTHS LATER BY:
This is it! This is the one!
P.S. Don’t let yourself stay too long in stage 4. Sure, we all get down, but don’t let the rejection get the better of you. It does only take one yes. And you can’t get to that one “yes” unless keep writing.