Query Blues


Was hoping that being super selective about agents to query based on their preferences I might have heard some good news by now. But, nay, six rejections with periodic episodes of cricket chirping.

I had one agent that seemed excited and enthusiastic about the book and that was, of course, instantly infectious. Upon further examination, I saw that she was brand new and had never sold a book. We had a phone chat and many of my questions were answered much more vaguely than I expected. So that’s a pass for me. It would be nice to find an experienced agent with her enthusiasm, though.

I’m about halfway through the alphabet on a large directory that shows AAR member standing. I’ve picked a few who aren’t AAR based on what they enjoy and represent. It’s a daunting task.

This one wants a query and ten pages…that one five pages, this one two chapters, that one fifty pages, this one twenty five pages, that one just a query. Some want attachments, others want ms samples in the body of the email. Others require going directly through their onsite contact app. My desktop in so cluttered I can hardly find a thing. I have a spread sheet going, but it’s a lot to keep up with and stay confident.

I’m not going to deny that I am discouraged. I still have not heard back from my favorite agent that I met at Slethfest two months ago, who asked for the whole ms. I’ve pitched on twitter #PitMad sessions, face-to-face, by email. My rejections that are personalized almost always say the same things, but in different words. They loved the pitch, the premise, the query letter, but did not see in the ms what they were expecting or didn’t feel enthusiastic enough about it to take it on. They all have told me the writing is good. So I’m not quite sure what I need to do differently, if anything.

Everybody who has read it loves the first chapter, we don’t get back to Brandi until chapter five. They are brief chapters and things move quickly, but being the star of the show, it might have been a mistake to have readers wait so long. It was necessary to introduce the P.I. and move the plot forward until that point when she reappears on the scene…but eh…I dunno.

My honey, the RS who reads three crime novels a week, says it’s better than anything he’s read in the past three months. His last comp book was Coconut Cowboy by Dorsey in January, so that’s encouraging. But that’s what he’s there for, support and encouragement, right?

I’m beginning to feel that I should self-publish and with the help of my publicist, Maryglenn McCombs, set up the launch and just go for it. That would give me a marketing boost, and allow me more time to write. I’ve fleshed-out the next book’s outline, but haven’t felt motivated to write and that’s not good.

I thought after our week-long vacation I would come back inspired and ready to get to work, but coming home to rejections, especially the quickie generic form ones, sort of dampened my spirits. And there has been a lot going on with the grandbaby’s party and the daughter has left town to go visit her dying grandmother, so I have the grandkids for three days. Not gonna be much happening in the way of writing around here for a few.

For those who have queried…any advice?

How are you doing with your writing projects?

Anything new on the horizon?

44 thoughts on “Query Blues

  1. It’s frustrating, no doubt. Sorry you haven’t gotten a solid bite. I honestly think agents have far more than they can handle, and many of them openly admit most of what they take is based on referral from someone else.

    Have you considered a small press? There are many that don’t require an agent, and they can be a nice alternative to going it alone. While those of us who are small-pressed published still have to promote ourselves, at least we don’t have to take the time to format and submit the book to all the sites it needs to be on. Just a thought.

    • I would be happy with a small press having a publicist as an asset. But if I am going to do that, then why not self-publish and keep the royalties? I have someone who can format the file and get it up on a distributor site , and Amazon is easy, Createspace should be easier with this book than my last as it’s not divided into parts. I’ve even considered going Amazon Select. I’m torn.

  2. I went the indie route to avoid this very thing–I still submit short works to magazines and anthologies, some get accepted, most do not. But just as in short stories, there is a reader for every book, as long as the book is well-written, and yours are.Keep trying, and don’t let roadblocks discourage you.

    • I haven’t ruled out self-publishing. That’s what I did with my last book. The reviews were good for the most part. Getting exposure was the greatest challenge. Maryglenn McCombs may be able to help with that. I may write her a note tonight. I said I was going to at least give the query process 90 days…it’s been sixty…I’m half way through the alphabet so I need to step up my game, query the other half and maybe extend to 120 days.

  3. First: I hear you, Susan. We pour our hearts into these books.
    And you summed up my current post perfectly with that opening quote!

    Second: write back to every one who has rejected it, asking for three things they would have done differently. Most may not reply – but one or two may.
    Third: remember the story of Louise Penny, who had so many rejections she instead entered her book in an international mystery novel competition. Coming in second gave her just the thing she needed to resubmit her book – now, every book she publishes is a New York Times bestseller. Thank God she didn’t give up, because I love her Inspector Gamache series. But her writing is so different, as are her characters and settings, that I can see why agents/publishers didn’t know what to do.

    I haven’t read your book. Maybe leaving your lead character for 3 chapters is not good. I know some books start with other characters (the person who is going to be murdered — a prime example) then introduce their lead character later. Maybe you are right.

    Maybe fix that issue and do like Louise did: enter it in a mystery novel competition.
    Sending you a huge Canadian hug from your favourite recovering coward!

    • You coward?! No way! You’re an inspiration. 🙂 I’ve never written back an agent after rejection unless they personalized their email…and then, just to thank them for doing so. My story can’t really be told bringing Brandi back in sooner. Other things have to take place before she steps up to the plate. I’m good with it, but it bothers me some that agents stop short at one or two chapters on something they are interested in.

      • Or maybe you want to give that newbie agent a try. Perhaps others in her agency will help her along. She has to start somewhere, and who knows, maybe you’ll be her career-launching writer!

        • There are no other agents in her agency. I appreciate newbies working in an agency, but she is somebody who just made a website and called herself an agent. They have no licensing required to be an agent. A lot of these folk set up shop and get authors ensnared in contracts and never sell their books to publishers.

  4. You were wise to pass on the agent you spoke with by phone, Susan. Keep searching, you’ll find the right fit. I don’t really have any advice when it comes to querying agents, but I hear it takes a lot of time.

  5. You are going through what every author who decides to go traditional goes through. You can’t help but feel it’s you. It is not you. Agents have to take on projects that tey feel they can successfully sell. Some have become pretty fat with clients and only want what is easy. So quit trying to fix something and either keep the query process going or self pub. Those are the only tow choices you have to get the book out there.

    • I haven’t touched the ms since Eamon edited it except for a few cliches that needed to go. I’m ready to get it out there and don’t like waiting. It’s hard for me to move onto another project when I’m feeling one is left undone. “Don’t start something you can’t finish,” was my grandfather’s motto. I have half a dozen projects that need my attention. I’m spending hours a day picking through directories and sending off queries, when I’d rather be writing and promoting. Yes, even promoting and marketing is more fun 🙂

  6. I have one word for disappointment – it STINGS. Having experienced this emotion once again on a different front, I can empathize. Though I cannot offer wisdom regarding querying agents, I would say many of your commenters have good advice. If you have the strength, you could do as Cynthia suggested, follow up with authors who rejected your project initially. Or not.

    Remember: self-publishing does not have the stigma it once had. Besides, you may have more control going that route. A writer’s life is not for the faint-hearted, especially once whose inner critic was screaming bloody murder today. You CAN do this, S. K!

    • I’m not about to forgo publishing this book. I’m impulsive and don’t like waiting.I may need the control of self-pubbing. At least I have some experience there.

  7. A few years ago, I tried a few rounds of submissions … both to agents and to publishers who didn’t require an agented submission. It has the feel of randomness that drives me crazy. As others have said, most agents likely have more than enough writers and books to work with, so you’re looking for an opportunity that is very slim. You just have to accept that and, as others have said, don’t let this become about you. It isn’t about you. It’s about how agents do things and how traditional publishing works. It is extremely difficult for new authors to break into that world. Just keep moving forward, explore your options, and don’t give up.

  8. I’ve been told that every author feels like a poser about ten times per day. We consider ourselves lucky when something goes right, and never take credit for doing something well. That has always been true for me. Remember you always have a backup plan, and stick to your guns. You’ll never get a traditional offer if you self publish. Only you can decide when it’s time to change plans.

    • Jep. True that. I was told that even writing in another genre, the fact that I self pubbed another book already takes away from the fact that I could be introduced as a debut author. I was bummed about that for a while, but really have no regrets. That was a great experience to have under my belt and I may need to rely on what I learned. I planned to get through the alphabet on agents to query by May first but I’m only halfway to where I expected to be by now. It’s much more difficult and time-consuming than I had anticipated. I’d like to have my second book in this seriews good to go in six months, but that won’t happen if this first one takes too long to get off the ground. Even if I could just get it into the hands of an agent, I feel I could relax a bit and focus on writing. As it is now, it’s consuming me.

  9. I don’t have any advice to offer, but it looks like you’re getting a few suggestions. Good luck with the continuing queries! Who knows? It might be that last one. 🙂

  10. I can’t tell you how many times, or by how many authors, I have heard a variation of the idea that the difference between a published author and an unpublished author is persistence. Collectively they provide supportive reams of paper listing names (i.e Thomas Edison, J.K. Rowling) which hearten us. Until we actually experience the rejection. Ouch. Super ouch. All I can say is save them all so that a lecturing author can hold you up as one of those who persisted in spite of! Pray for the right fit with an agent – hold out for it – and keep writing, my friend. Your passion and product trump the temporary pain!

  11. I know that it can get frustrating to get agents publish the book that you have been working so hard. But don’t be dishearten and continue on pursuing. If not, just try self publishing and I know that you will do wonders! On the other note, I find that it is unfair for both writers and inspiring writers to get rejected by countless companies when ‘stars’ have their opportunities to publish a book that they don’t even write. It’s saddening that due to their popularity, they have the chance to publish their book. Oh well.. 🙂

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