Querying is a Battlefield: Song Choices for Writers in the Trenches


Music is a great source of inspiration, especially if you’re a writer beginning or restarting the querying process. I’ve been querying my first manuscript for agent representation for almost a year now and I thought I’d share my playlist of songs for the 6 stages of the journey.

Stage 1: This is Going to Be the Best Day of My Life – As writers, we know our odds. We must remain positive and persistent. We want to frame our first rejection like a store’s first dollar bill, preferably before Wal-Mart moves in next door and crushes all hopes and dreams. But as the radio plays This is Going to Be the Best Day of My Life every-damn-day while the rejections take on tidal wave proportions, you begin to prefer, We’re Not Going to Take It and I Don’t Give a Damn About My Bad Reputation or Turn Down for What?!

Struggling with staying positive? Try,

  1. Try, Colbie Caillat
  2. Counting Stars, OneRepublic
  3. Happy, Pharrell Williams
  4. Let it Go, Idina Menzel (although side effects include insanity, nausea and illusions of grandeur)
  5. All About that Bass, Meghan Trainor (This allows you to not feel guilty about that pint of ice cream.)

Stage 2: The Waiting is the Hardest Part –Time in publishing is an interpretive art dance. Don’t try to understand it. Don’t apply logic or reason to it. It’s all part of the space/time continuum, whereupon for every day your manuscript is out on submission you will age 1 year, much like in Interstellar, where Matthew McConaughey returns to earth after what he thinks is 2 hours only to find it’s been 23 years and his daughter is Betty White.

Between each submission and response, your entire garden will have germinated, gone through its tenth round of growth and death; your cat will be on its ninth life and tenth litter; new crooks in congress will have been elected, rejected and then reelected; more apocalyptic series will have been created and given spin-offs; Biggest Loser contestants will have lost and gain a total of 5,000 pounds; old terrorists are now allies and old allies are the new enemies; a new disease will be launched, hyped in the media until mass hysteria, then quietly defeated when the news moves on; Mission Impossible will have geriatrics kicking other geriatric ass; and Taken 14 will have Liam Neeson trying to rescue his great, great granddaughter.

Struggling with impatience? Try,

  1. Dust in the Wind, Kansas
  2. Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper
  3. Time, Pink Floyd
  4. When I’m 64, Beatles
  5. It Was a Very Good Year, Frank Sinatra

Stage 3: I hear the secrets that you keep, when you’re talking in your sleep — Stable, reliable, well-adjusted you will become neurotic and insecure. You’ll sit amongst a group of friends talking about movies and books, current events, the polar vortex and the merits of Kim Kardashian’s latest ass-splash and ALL you can think about is: Where is my manuscript in the slushpile hell pit? Has it been read? Will they like it? Oh, whom am I kidding? I’m a worthless hack. Please, God, oh God, don’t let my friends ask about the status of my manuscript! I just know they’re secretly plotting an intervention. Wait. Just. A. Second…. Why the hell is no one asking about my manuscript? Don’t they think I can make it? Oh, my God, they don’t! They’re trying to spare me! They think I’ll never get published and that I’m a grown woman with a Rolodex of imaginary friends! And it’s true – I’m starting to see dead people!

Struggling with sanity? Try,

  1. Insane in the Membrane, Cypress Hill
  2. Crazy, Gnarls Barkley
  3. Basket Case, Green Day
  4. Loser, Beck
  5. Sedated, The Ramones

Stage 4: Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you — Stable, reliable, well-adjusted you will become a stalker. You’ll begin your mornings trolling websites for Querytracker updates and new interviews with the agent of the month. You’ll read their twitter feed, know their favorite cup of tea (Chai seaweed? Really? Must be a New York thing), their favorite Girl Scout cookies (Thin Mints? Me too!), know they loves cats and coffee and are addicted to The Walking Dead and The Golden Girls. You’ll also find out they receive 500 queries a week and never sleep, so you can’t even feel angry that you haven’t heard from them in 2+ months.

Struggling with unrequited love? Try,

  1. The Heart Wants What it Wants, Selena Gomez
  2. Love Hurts, Nazareth
  3. All By Myself, Eric Carmen
  4. Big Salty Tears, Sublime
  5. I Hate Myself For Loving You, by Joan Jett

Stage 5: Walk out the door, turn around now cuz you’re not welcome anymore — Then the “Dear Author” rejections roll in.

Dear Author:

Whoever you are and whatever your book is about — Thanks, but no thanks. However, this is a subjective industry and tastes vary and I’m totally sure another agent will think differently about MOBY DICK.

Agent Nuffsaid

Struggling with rejection? Try,

  1. Turn Down For What, DJ Snake & Lil Jon
  2. Gives You Hell, All-American Rejects
  3. I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor
  4. Creep, Radiohead
  5. Send in the Clowns, Judy Collins

Stage 6: Take This Job and Shove It – You will swear you’re quitting. But you know you can’t. You begin another manuscript instead.

Struggling with addiction/recovery? Try,

  1. Chandelier, Sia
  2. Sober, Pink
  3. Comfortably Numb, Pink Floyd
  4. Ball and Chain, Social Distortion
  5. Not Afraid, Eminem

Then repeat this cycle for the manuscripts that inevitably follow, blog sporadically to relieve the frustration, and remember, in the name of all things Kelly Clarkson: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”

Happy Holidays!


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