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!
In commemoration of the receipt of my first official “Not Interested” answer, I figure I can throw some numbers out here, just to illustrate where I currently am in my search for an agent.
- Potential Agents Identified: 12 so far. I’m a firm believer that targetting agents who state their interest in the kind of book I wrote (contemporary fantasy, if anyone’s interested) is a lot more likely to lead to a successful query. Plus, it’s basic courtesy not to spam people.
- Query Letters Sent: 6. As a corollary to point 1 above, I think each agent deserves something better than a Dear Agent letter. Besides, the submission guidelines change from agency to agency, which means I have to rework each letter anyway. Still, I really need to push those remaining six letters out ASAP.
- Rejection Letters Received: 1. That’s not cause for concern yet. At this point, I’m trying really hard not to second-guess myself (and my approach) yet. Some rejections are perfectly normal (and I much prefer getting a formal response than being ignored – see below.)
- Ignored Queries: Rapidly approaching 1. The second agent I queried has a “If you don’t hear from me in two weeks, I’m not interested” policy. While I prefer to be told flat out if a particular line is dead, at least this gives me an idea of when to stop hoping. In this case, we’re right on the two-week mark… but I’ll give it a few days more, as the query was sent during Thanksgiving.
So this is where I stand. Obviously, not where I want to be, but this isn’t cause for anxiety yet. I’ll probably write up an update in a month or so.
Well, my first couple of queries have been sent. That’s not a lot, but I figure it’s better to send one or two well-written query per week instead of spamming the same one to half the agents in North America.
And honestly, getting the first one ready was hard enough. Obviously, there’s the letter itself to write, but the agent in question also requested a synopsis, which turned out to be a serious pain to write. Condensing a 76,000 words novel into two interesting and fun-to-read pages, while still hitting all the important plot points, turned out be be a solid weekend’s work.
On the plus side, I can see how getting better at writing outlines and synopses will help me at writing in general. They’re awesome tools to locate plot holes and fix pacing issues. In fact, I’ve written two short outlines for future projects already, and I’m planning on writing a third one just to practice that skill a bit more before starting on my next book.
Really, I’ll do anything to keep from checking my email compulsively at this point.