Corner Turning?

For the first time in a while, I have free time and the mental energy to create something.

Let’s not get carried away: it’s an afternoon (and parts of an evening), not a five-week vacation. But I will write a few words today if it kills me!

I also will push through at least one chapter revision. I’ve received my newest post-manuscript rejection, and it was… honest. As in brutal. “Not agent-ready.”

So yeah, I think I need to finish that editing pass, and probably do another one (if I can’t find the money to pay an editor.) All the while enduring that nagging feeling that my time would be better spent working on another manuscript.

In addition, I’m getting frustrated by the life-preventing-me-from-having-a-writing-career trap. It’s probably easier to write when you don’t have to hold a job, can pay an editor, and are famous enough to be able to deliver less-than-perfect manuscripts to your publisher (I’ve read ARCs by famous authors which were far less well-edited than my current manuscript.) But there’s nothing I can do about that except to keep rolling the dice.

In any case, I need to get back to work 🙂

Not So Weekly Update

Well, the last few weeks have been demanding. Not bad, but exhausting.

On the plus side, that’s in part because I’ve received a manuscript request (based on the revised-for-self-publication version of the manuscript) following a query I sent on a whim a few weeks ago. But that added some work (integrating my latest revisions, mainly) that I didn’t expect, I ended up spending even more time than I expected at work, and so on and so forth.

On the minus side, I was exhausted, which meant I basically focused most of my energy on the Let’s Play project. In other words, I’ve been messing around on EU4 way too much and not producing a lot of actually marketable content.

Let’s be honest: I’m going to allow myself to relax on the LP a bit more, then return to writing as my main “leisure time” activity afterward. But I really need to find the correct balance of work/play/be a dad/write, and right now I’m going the easy way of ignoring writing. I needed the break, but I want it to be a break, not the new normal.


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.

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.

A Productive Month

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.

Real Life and its Inevitable Consequences

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.

Query Tracking

The querying process is long and arduous. That much should be obvious by now. You need to find agents (a task that is surprisingly time-consuming), to write good queries, and to keep an eye on the queries you’ve already sent.

And that’s not all – if you want to improve your queries (not just the letter itself, but your writing samples and synopsis over time, it helps to know what worked and what didn’t.

That’s an awful lot of information to track, which is why I created a spreadsheet to track my progress.

I’m not going to put it up for download, because it’s full of weird color codes and assorted notes. It works for me, but it wouldn’t necessarily work for anyone else. Instead, here’s the list of the information I track:

  1. Name of the agency;
  2. Name of the agent;
  3. Date I sent my query;
  4. Date I received an answer;
  5. Date at which I should consider the query ignored or dead. Here, I make a note of whether no answer means I should re-query the agent, query another agent at the same agency, or consider that agency as a lost cause.
  6. What materials the agent requested. Some agents ask for five pages, other for ten or fifty. Some agents want a synopsis, others don’t. I’m tracking that to see if, for instance, I have more success with my first five or first fifty pages.
  7. Any useful comments made by the agent upon rejection – obviously, I don’t track form letters and generic rejections, but I do want to note any hints and pointers I get.

Hopefully that helps anyone looking for help in managing the query process.