I am close to finishing up my editing on The Proper Way to Say Goodbye, and I hope to be querying by October. At least that is the plan. And I don’t want to make the mistake I did with my first novel–querying with a bad letter–so I’m getting as much help as I can.
Thursday I’m over at Falling For Fiction. The ladies there offer critique help, and I’ve submitted my query. So Kelley G. will be giving me her suggestions, and I’d really appreciate any comments you may have also.
Since I’ve written a little about queries, I’ll now write about query rejections. According to my very unofficial approximated tally, only about 50% of literary agents even send responses.
A general rule is that if you don’t hear from them in about 2 months, you can probably consider it a no. Many of them will tell you on their websites what their response time is, if at all. It can vary from 2 weeks to 3 months.
Most of the replies are form rejections. So I’m impressed when I get one that is addressed to me personally. They don’t offer much advice though. (Which I do understand, but don’t like.)
Usually what mine have said is that they are not the right fit/agent for this project. That could mean several things. Maybe they don’t like the story. Or maybe they don’t like the writing (it needs a lot of polishing). Or they’re just not looking for that type of story right now. It could be a lot of things.
I had one agent say Frosty was an “interesting premise,” but wasn’t right for her. I had one agency tell me it wasn’t “polished” enough. That was very helpful and since then I’ve done some major polishing and other additions so I could resubmit to them. Normally you wouldn’t do that, but I called the agent’s assistant and she said it was okay to resubmit.
Some of the rejections are apologetic, like they don’t want to hurt the writer’s feelings. They remind you that writing is subjective so there may be another agent out there who might get excited about your story. Often times they wish you good luck. But as I said, this is usually a form letter.
I wish they had the time to give a tiny bit of feedback. A form letter would be fine, but if they could include a little check box with these options, it would help.
__ I’m not looking for this type of story now
__ Your idea sucks (could be for many reasons, but at least you know it’s the idea and not the writing)
__ Your writing sucks
Then I wouldn’t have to wonder what it means when they say, “I am not the right agent for your book.”
There is lots of information out there to help you write query letters. Even with all that advice, you may have a horrible query letter and not know it. So then, you need to go to other sites for help with your actual query.
Here are a few sites I have found.
Mother. Write. (Repeat.) is the blog of an aspiring writer. She has been doing a contest called The Agent’s Inbox. A limited number of people can submit a query and the “first page” of their work. Anybody can comment on your query and she has a literary agent who reviews them too. If the agent likes any of the queries, she may ask those people to send in their manuscript. The agents that she has hosted have all been well known agents and it is a great opportunity to get some feedback.
Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire (Gotta love that name) This blogger is an agented writer and writes about
writing and other things. (Lots of Ws in that last sentence.) She has offered to do critiques of queries. Although it appears she has just started doing this (I actually found her through the above blogger), I like how she is doing the critiques. She offers comments almost line by line and then summarizes what she thinks.
I have done the first one, and I’m in line to do the second one.
Query Shark is by a well-known literary agent. You submit your query and she goes through and offers comments. I would assume it takes a long time to get your query critiqued because this is a popular site. But you can learn a lot by going through the old ones as she’s been doing this for years. There are a lot of rules to follow and you are supposed to read through all her old posts before submitting. I won’t bother submitting to this one, I’m sure it would be a long wait.
Query Tracker is a site that has a lot of stuff on agents and publishers and more. They have a forum where you can submit your query. I haven’t looked into this one yet, but it appears that anyone can post feedback.
I’m sure there are a lot more out there, but these are some of the better ones I’ve found. You probably need a tough skin because you may not like what you hear. But the way I see it, any comments are helpful.
I just finished with my final edits of Frosty and am now ready to send off my query. The manuscript has been greatly improved over the last month and I hope it will attract some attention.
I’ve decided to do something considered taboo. I am going to re-query a few agents. This is generally considered a big no-no. They don’t like seeing the same material again. I guess there are people who resend queries over and over after being rejected. Sometimes from different e-mail addresses, as if they couldn’t figure that out.
I am going to re-query for a few different reasons.
1. My original query was terrible. I queried too soon and even though I researched how to write queries, I got it wrong. (There is a lot to learn) I wrote it more as something you’d read on the back of the book. It didn’t really have many details of the actual story, which the agent needs to see. Most agents want to be hooked by the query to read more, so they don’t necessarily need the ending, but they need a good understanding of the story.
2. My manuscript was not ready. Again, at the time I began querying, I didn’t realize how bad it was. But since I first started re-editing, I’ve added about 10,000 words, helping with character development and tying up loose story ends, along with cleaning up the grammar and punctuation.
I’ve searched the internet for advice on re-querying and a few agents say it is okay, under certain circumstances. So I’m hoping that it doesn’t annoy the agents I re-query. If it comes back no, I won’t try again. And I’m not doing it with my whole list; just a few that I consider to be great agents. I also have one agent who requested my manuscript last summer but (obviously) rejected it. I’d really like to send her the improved story too.
The whole process is live-and-learn. So many people talk about jumping in too quickly and it’s hard because you’re excited about that next step. But now I’m ready to query again.
So we’ll see what happens.
What are my chances of being published?
Unfortunately, not very good. I’ve looked on the web and it seems that about 97-99% of queries are rejected. So if an literary agent receives 50 queries a day, only 1-2 might pique their interest. (MIGHT)
For those 1-2 queries they liked, they may request a manuscript. But that doesn’t mean they’re signing you on yet. They have to read it. Figure out how much editing/rewriting is involved and then I assume they do some research about if they think it’ll sell. But most of the manuscripts are rejected in the end.
Supposedly agents only take on a few new clients every year. So the chances of becoming published are very small.
Another bad thing for me. Paranormal (think Twilight) and Dystopic (think Hunger games—an imaginary dysfunctional world) are the big things right now. My writing has so far been contemporary fiction—meaning realistic. And although there are plenty of authors who write contemporary fiction, it’s not the most popular genre currently. But that’s what I’m writing and any day it could swing back the other way.
If I came up with a good paranormal young adult idea, I’d go for it. I just haven’t gotten that idea yet.
Either way, your chances of being published are tiny. Gotta keep trying though.
Coming next… Why Literary Engineer?