So I experienced something new recently. I’ve been waffling over making major changes to The Proper Way to Say Goodbye. Now granted, I’ve only queried one novel, so that means I’ve only edited heavily one novel, but I’ve never changed anything big in my stories during the editing process. Little details, yes. But major things like POV shifts or Tense for instance? No.
You may have seen the other posts. My concern is this:
Chloe is an 18 year old freshman in college. Technically, that is not young adult, although you do see other books marketed as YA but with main characters in college.
Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Psyche Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson
Love Story by Jennifer Echols
Hushed by Kelley York
My concern is that I may get an automatic rejection on my queries based on the setting alone.
As of now, self-publishing (as new adult possibly) is not an option. I’m not ready for that.
So what I’ve been waffling on is… should I change Chloe to a high school senior? I’ve read all sorts of blogs about this issue and have talked to other writers for differing opinions.
Then I analyzed my story to see the parts I’d have to change. Chloe would have to attend a few classes at the local college, but could still be in high school. No problem there. And most of the changes could easily be dealt with. Minor things.
But, it wouldn’t be the same. And I have one big issue. Chloe has a relationship with her graduate teaching assistant. Yes, ethically that is wrong and breaks school rules. But I can forgive that for my story, because the TA is a positive character in Chloe’s life, and Chloe is a consenting adult.
But if I changed Chloe to a high school senior, I couldn’t be as forgiving of the TA having that relationship, even if technically Chloe is an adult. To me, that’s a bigger line to cross.
Which is why I’ve been waffling. Going back and forth between thinking I should change. Then back. Then forth. Then back.
But I think I’m done. I’ve decided to stick with it. And when I query, I will keep my fingers crossed that an agent who is interested, but rejects because of the setting, lets me know that. Because that would at least leave options open to change and possibly resubmit.
I love my story the way it is, so I’m going to take a chance and leave it and see what happens.
Have you ever waffled over major story decisions?
I was so excited on Saturday about a contest I got into, but before I get to that, I want to mention a great query/agent opportunity.
Melodie Wright at Forever Rewrighting is having a query contest with her new agent Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. This is a great opportunity because the EMLA is not open to unsolicited queries. That means someone like me can’t submit to them. So check out her site before February 15th and get your query and first page ready.
My other cool news.
There is a new anonymous blogger, Cupid’s Literary Connection, who has started putting on these unique query competitions with agents. The first contest had two agents. The rules mandated how many full or partial requests they could make. You sent your query and first 250 words and if they really liked it, they would request to see your full manuscript or a partial (a few chapters).
The current contest is called the Blind Speed Dating Contest. It’s too hard to explain so check out their site to see how it works.
Friday morning was the first window to submit and I learned a very important lesson. I waited about a minute, worried about a time discrepancy. BIG MISTAKE. I had Cupid on Twitter and a tweet popped up that said FULL. My mouth about dropped to the floor. I was so shocked, I didn’t know if I should try submit anymore but I did, just in case others were rejected. Within about 2 minutes, Cupid had about 150 submissions. I’m still shocked.
So the next window was Saturday morning. Once more chance. And wouldn’t you know it, I woke up from a dream where I was trying to do my submission but my computer wasn’t working and by the time I got it, I was about 2 minutes too late. So I woke up frustrated. A great start to the day.
But I had my plan. The window started at 10am. So at 10:00:02 (yes, two seconds, I watched the second hand tick on my computer), I hit send.
And I got in. I am so excited because this just sounds really cool. Of course I’m not fully in yet. The first step is to get by the gatekeepers. There are four judges and they get to pick who goes on to the speed dating round with the agents.
This week the first 50 entries went up. Next week, the next fifty entries go up (which includes me). Over those two weeks, the 4 judges will pick who moves on to the next round. Then the third week (Feb. 20th), the agents will do the speed dating rounds with the finalists the judges chose.
This is so creative and fun. And the neat thing is I know (in the internet sort of way), several entrants. I’m looking forward to it.
One last note. I’ve started a new story so check out my new WIP under Current Projects. This is the first time I am querying, editing one project and writing a 2nd. It’ll be interesting.
I have never met a literary agent. It would be interesting to talk to one to find out more about their jobs and what they do on a daily basis. How much time they spend on queries. How much time they spend talking with publishers. How the whole selling a book process works…
Most literary agents seem to be in the New York City area. Others are in LA or San Francisco, Denver and a few other places. A lot of the agents who don’t reside in NYC have a little explanation on their websites that they don’t need to be in NYC, where apparently most of the publishers are. Being in the age of of e-mail, it’s probably much easier and in reading agents’ blogs, they seem to travel to NYC periodically.
Therse are a few other things I wonder about too.
Is job hopping prevalent with agents? In my short time querying, I’ve seen a lot of change over. So when it comes to querying my next story, I can’t just send to those on my list. I will have to go back to websites and make sure that agent is still with that agency.
A funny thing happened a few months ago.
I queried Jane at Agency A. I queried Mary at Agency B. On a Friday, Jane responded and said she was not interested. On Tuesday Jane responded to my query on behalf of Mary (who was no longer with Agency B) that she wasn’t interested.
Did Jane switch agencies? Or are the two agencies tied together somehow?
This confused me slightly so I decided to write Jane (now at Agency B) and ask if she switched jobs. She responded. She’d indeed had switched jobs, taking the place of Mary.
The whole thing was weird because it happened within a span of a few days. But it was nice of Jane to respond to my query to Mary—even if it wasn’t a yes.
I also found that agencies share addresses although I can not otherwise find a link between them. In Microsoft Excel, when you start typing a similar word it does the autofill. So are these agents just friends and share a common workplace? Or do they work together even though they each have their own agency?
No more queries…
Some agents post on their website that they are no longer accepting queries. (Some never accept unsolicited queries—you have to be referred). Most of the time they’ll give a specific date when they’re opening back up, othertimes it’s indefinite.
Why do they do this? Are they in query overload? Have they recently acquired several clients and need to concentrate on them?
Being in ND, I don’t get the opportunity to smooze with litarary agents. Maybe someday I’ll get to attend a conference and meet some agents and learn more about how their jobs. It’d be fun to learn more about what they do.
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?
Right now I am in the querying process. Querying means sending letters to literary agents, hoping to find one who will represent your work. You’re trying to hook their interest with a letter so they will ask for more and eventually want to represent you to sell your book to a publisher.
There are many rules to follow. Some seem pretty straight-forward, but I guess people have a hard time following those rules. Here are a few.
- Don’t send out mass queries addressed to Dear Agent (address it to them)
- Don’t query an agent in the wrong genre (young adult, sci fi, romance, what is it?)
- Don’t talk about how you’re the next Stephen King
- Follow the agent’s submission guidelines
The majority of agents have websites. But for those who don’t, you can find their name/address and what they represent on searchable databases. The agents who have their own websites, always have submission guidelines.
And they are all different.
Some just want your query letter. Some want a synopsis. Some want 10 pages of the manuscript. Or 50 pages. Or 1 chapter. Or 3 chapters. Some want author’s bios. I don’t have one because I’ve never published anything.
Some want it more personalized. They like when you mention a book they represented that you admire. But more seem to not want that. They want you to get to the point—what’s your story.
Some agents say they’ll reply within a certain date. Some won’t reply at all—that is their reply. Some reply in two weeks (if you’re lucky). But more likely it’s 6-8 weeks. Some are three months.
Some only accept snail mail submissions. Most have switched to e-mail only.
(Apologies for my overuse of some.)
And that’s how querying works. If you’re lucky, they’ll ask to see your manuscript, but the chance of that happening is small.
Coming next… What are my chances? (of getting published)