It may not seem like it, but I just had a very, very productive month.
Of course, nobody wants to hear about how I turned my entire office into a bedroom for my soon-to-be-born son, but it was pretty high on the list of priorities (as was baby-shopping.)
But still, I got some real work done: specifically, as of two minutes ago, I’m back to sending queries.
I’ll be putting up a query report in the next few weeks, once I’ve had the time to receive some answers. I’ll probably be starting my counts of queries sent/rejected/accepted all over again, since I’m now querying with an entirely revised manuscript, an improved query letter, and a much better synopsis.
We’ll see how it goes.
Whew. I just now finished my re-reading of the novel. Now I just have to enter my corrections, and to decide whether or not to keep my prologue and epilogue.
(apparently, agents really dislike those for some reason, but in this case I think the ‘logues do necessary work. Then again, maybe it’s because I don’t want to rework the information found in those parts into the main text of the novel – that’s a decision for the weekend I guess.)
Once that’s done, I’ll draft another query letter. Obviously, the previous one wasn’t working very well. Then it’s back into the slush pile. Hopefully, I can get started on that next week.
Let’s hope perseverance pays off.
Last time I posted, I’d just realized I probably ought to made a few changes to my book, in order to make it more palatable to agents.
Well, that short revision turned into another revising and editing pass. There are still obvious issues to be fixed (especially in the first chapters) and that’s probably in large part why my querying isn’t going so well.
On the plus side, I’ve re-edited over half of the manuscript so far, and I am almost on top of my real-life obligations as well. Which means I should be able to get back on querying soon.
On the minus side, I haven’t written a new word in weeks. It’s been extremely frustrating: whenever I have the time, I don’t have the energy. It’s the curse of the unpublished author: we can’t justify focusing solely on our writing career, so there’s only so much work we can put on books in a day, and so it’s hard to get published.
Which means I better get back to work.
The last month has been extremely busy and exhausting – so much that even banging out quick updates for this blog became daunting.
But that’s over. I’m still recuperating, but at least I’m going into the weekend rested enough that working on my writing will be plausible.
So, what are the plans for the next few weeks?
First, I need to do some maintenance on my query spreadsheet – I need to figure out how many of my queries are still live, and who are my next targets. Then I’ll write a long overdue query report (which will probably be depressing, but oh well.)
I’m also going to reread Book the First. It won’t be a full editing pass (although I’ll surely do some edits) but I need to get it back in mind, because I’m considering a few smallish changes. Specifically, I wrote a short prologue that serves as a framing device, and judging from the feedback I received from agents, it’s not working all that well. I want to see if it’s necessary or not to the story.
And while I’m at it, I should probably give the first three chapters another thorough editing pass (and especially chapter 1.) They’re good, but not great, and apparently great is what’s needed to hook agents.
That’s going to be hard, unexciting work, so I’ll keep working on my other books as well. Unless my schedule takes another hit, I think I could have a Shitty First Draft done by late August.
So that’s what I’m looking toward.
It’s that time again, and this time, it’s not so good.
- Potential Agents Identified: 29. As usual, that’s probably low-balling it a bit.
- Query Letters Sent: 23. That includes one letter sent directly to a publisher, who’s actively soliciting un-agented manuscripts.
- Rejection Letters Received: 15, including one from the agent who had requested a partial manuscript. That’s the “ouch.”
- Ignored Queries: 0. I’ve moved the three I had in that category into the clear rejections category. Right now, all of my queries have been either rejected, have been responseless for at least a month more than the recipient claims is their dead-by date, or are still well within the live-query zone.
- Manuscript Requests: 0. The one request I had has been moved to rejections.
Where does that leave me?
Well, obviously, my basic query wasn’t working. A 1-in-8 manuscript request rate wasn’t great, a 1-in-15 rate is flat-out terrible.
So I’ve reworked my query – I’ve added comparables and a short bio, and I’ve rewritten part of the pitch (there was some awkward phrasing in there that I’m very glad I fixed.) We’ll see how it goes.
I’m now beginning to get replies from my second series of queries, and I have to face the music: what I’m doing is not working very well.
On the positive side, it’s my query that seems to be the problem, not my manuscript. And I have inklings of what is wrong.
First, my query didn’t include an author bio. That may not seem like a big thing (and it probably isn’t the main reason my queries keep failing,) but including a quick line about me probably makes the letter a bit more relatable. And it’s something that I should have remembered: people are much more likely to give you a chance if they like you.
That’s easy to remedy, too: it’s easy to integrate a line or two that turn my impersonal query in a personal email. It’s a small-cost, high-impact change.
But the lack of a bio isn’t the big issue, I think. The major problem is that I didn’t state comparables. I’m probably too modest for my own good, and by ignoring comps I’m making it a lot harder to understand what story I’m offering, and it’s also ignoring the opportunity to sell my book.
Comparables are tricky, however. If I had to pick just one, I’d say my book most resembles the Dresden Files. But that’s a major series, and obviously some could find it a bit presumptuous that I want to compare my freshman novel to a beloved, fifteen-books-and-change opus. It’s not my intention: I really do think that my book is similar in structure, and style, to Fool Moon or Grave Peril.
But I’m going to try it, at least for one round of querying. Hopefully, it’ll hook more people than it’ll turn off. We’ll see!
So, it’s been roughly a month since my first query report, and since I said I’d try to do those monthly, I might as well get to it. Plus, there is something to report, so…
- Potential Agents Identified: 16 so far, and actually a bit more as some agencies don’t have in-house referrals, meaning if your first contact at that agency isn’t interested, you’re free to query the rest of the agency in due time. I didn’t get much research done in the last month, as I ran out of mental stamina a few days after the first Query Report post.
- Query Letters Sent: 10. That includes the first six I’d sent prior to the first Report, two more I sent in early December, and the two I sent yesterday. In this case, the low progress was deliberate: I didn’t want my queries to fall into the huge pile agents have to sort through as they come back from vacation.
- Rejection Letters Received: 4. I’m trying very hard not to over-analyze those, as they’re more than likely only form letters. Still, one in particular was surprisingly positive. But the fact remain that they’re still rejection, and so I’ve began looking at ways to adapt my basic query to up my success rate.
- Ignored Queries: Rapidly approaching 3. Of those, only one is from an agency that doesn’t clearly state their response/no response policy. But it’s been on hold for long enough that I’m calling it dead.
- Manuscript Requests: And that’s the good news. One of the agent I contacted requested a partial manuscript. So far, I count this as a 1/8 success rate for queries (the two queries sent yesterday don’t count, obviously. )
So let’s hope for further good news this month!