Interim Query Report

Well, Book 1 hasn’t left for the self-publishing industry yet, but it’s getting its bags ready.

In the last Query Report, I had twelve live queries left. I added one a few days ago. But some of those queries are now obviously stale, others have been confirmed dead. So, as of today, I have six queries still live (some of which I’ll call dead in about a month, the rests are either still young or allow for a follow-up if I get no answer.)

All of those confirmed dead queries died by form letter. No request for manuscripts, no personalized feedback.

So that’s where I’m at. Frustrated, but still clinging to a forlorn hope.

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Agent Search Pre-Mortem: Three Mistakes

It’s a bit early to call Book the First dead (and besides, even if I don’t find an agent, I’ll self-publish it.) But I think I made some mistakes in my agent search, and I wanted to put them out there. Hopefully, this may help someone else.

So, if you’re pitching a book, avoid the following mistakes:

1-I failed to research what agents want:

That’s probably my biggest mistake: I think I wrote a great book, and one I think many people would enjoy… but it’s not one that many agents are looking for.

It’s New Adult (a category that agents shy away from), the main character is a young white male (in other words, exactly like the hero of fifty other manuscripts any given agent has looked at today), the book series which would make the best comparative is too big and popular to be a useable comp so I’m stuck using less appropriate comps… Those are all strikes against my manuscript.

Now… Some of those elements are why I managed to write my book. I wanted to tell a specific tale, and I did. But going forward, I need to be aware of agents’ preferences.

2-I rushed my query (and especially my synopsis):

I probably screwed myself out of at least one or two request for manuscripts by sending out a weak query and a frankly unacceptable synopsis early on. I really should have sat on my manuscript for a month or two while I perfected my pitch.

3-I didn’t manage my time properly when querying:

I should have been willing to wait before sending my queries… but I also should have been a lot more organized and efficient while sending them. I didn’t have a good workflow, which made it hard to push out custom-made queries, and I also tended to waste time hoping for responses (especially after sending my full or partial manuscript.) Bottom line: I should have been done with queries several months ago.

Query Report: Perhaps the Penultimate Edition

 

Well, for better or for worse, I’ve sent off all the queries I wanted to send. I might fire off a few more if I read about an agent for whom Book the First would be an obvious great fit, but other than that we’re moving on.

Number of Agents Identified: 26

As a reminder, those are only the agents I’ve identified since making a major reedit/reworking of my manuscript, synopsis and query.

Number of Queries sent: 26

As I said, I’m done sending queries.

Number of Rejections/Stale Queries: 14

 

No changes there. Obviously, some of my queries are quite close to being officially stale, but I’ll wait a few more weeks.

Number of Requests for the Manuscript: 2 – Both ultimately rejected

Still no change there. Hopefully I’ll get at least one more tally in this category (along with one in the “offer of representation” category.

Final Thoughts:

Well, it’s time to move on. Book the First, you’re on your own now.

 

Query Report: Back to Square One

Well, I was about to write this with a hopeful tone, but then I received an official manuscript rejection, leaving me with exactly zero potential leads at the moment.

It’s my fault – sure, the baby has been a massive timesink, but I should have been throwing out more queries this fall. So, with all my queries either dead or stale… it’s time to reassess the situation.

Number of Agents Identified: 25*

That’s the work I’ve managed to do this fall. Twenty-five names of agents that I feel could be interested in reading my manuscript. Figure on maybe another ten that didn’t make the list because I don’t query multiple agents at the same agency at the same time (hence the asterisk.)

Number of Queries sent: 14

Well, six queries in what, three months? As usual, blame the baby.

Number of Rejections/Stale Queries: 14

As specified, by now all the unanswered queries can be considered rejections. One caveat: I’ll go through my list of stale queries and see if there are any that come with a guaranteed reply. Those will warrant a second try.

It’s probably worth mentioning that I received another personalized, “this-is-great-you’re-obviously-talented-but-it’s-not-for-me” reply, in addition to the positive side of the feedback from the manuscript rejection. Those are nice to get, but we’re looking for success here!

Number of Requests for the Manuscript: 2 – Both ultimately rejected

That hurts.

Also, while the feedback I got with the first rejection a year ago led me to do a revision that ended up making the book better… I’m not sure I can do anything with the feedback from rejection no. 2. Don’t get me wrong: it’s certainly something I will consider for my future writings, but applying it to Book the First would entail a full sentence-by-sentence rewrite. And I’m not sure I want to do that.

Final Thoughts:

Hard Truth time: between all the queries I’ve sent, and the feedback I’ve received… I think getting an agent for Book the First is starting to look like a forlorn hope.

Sure, I can probably keep identifying new agents and sending queries forever, but at this point I need to start looking forward. And that means beginning to consider that traditional publishing is just not going to work for my first novel.

 

I’m not out of the race yet. I’ll take the time to prepare fifteen really good, personalized queries over the next month, then ship them out before the end of January. But if those don’t work, I’ll turn Book the First into an e-book and move on from there.

Query Report: Resurrection

It’s time to have a first look back at the querying work I managed to do since reediting Book the First, reworking my query and rewriting my synopsis.

Number of Agents Identified12

This could easily be a lot higher – I really should take an hour or two to draw up a list of names that numbers in the low thirties. That part of the process goes a lot faster when it’s done as a methodical crawl through various agent listing sites.

Number of Queries sent: 8

Obviously, this can’t be higher than the number of agents I’ve selected. Beyond that, however, this is a bit low considering I’ve had more than a month to get cracking. Now that I’ve adjusted to the new baby in the house, I should be able to send at least one query every couple of days.

Number of Rejections/Stale Queries: 0

I haven’t received any formal rejection on those eight queries, and it’s a bit early to consider any of them dead-from-old-age yet.

Number of Requests for the Manuscript: 1

That’s good news, but I really do want to see if I get a few more requests before celebrating – my first query generated a first request quite early, and never did again, so this could be another outlier.

Final Thoughts:

Well, it’s an early report covering the dog days of summer. One positive answer and no formal rejections is as good an outcome as could be expected. But I want to see how things turn out before saying I have a solid proposal package. We’ll know more next month.

Query Report 3: Ouch.

It’s that time again, and this time, it’s not so good.

  1. Potential Agents Identified: 29. As usual, that’s probably low-balling it a bit.
  2. Query Letters Sent: 23. That includes one letter sent directly to a publisher, who’s actively soliciting un-agented manuscripts.
  3. Rejection Letters Received: 15, including one from the agent who had requested a partial manuscript. That’s the “ouch.”
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Back to the Query Drawing Board

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!