This is not a post about defeat and I certainly don’t mean it to sound like recreational angsting. I’m actually a very optimistic person, but at the moment, I’m also feeling surreal and a little disappointed—although preemptively.
Back at the end of September, I queried my first-ever real/live novel. It occurs to me now that I never got around to posting the quick-and-dirty about that, so these are my stats.
- Queries sent: 14
- Rejections of query with no comment: 3
- Rejection with suggestion to query mega-agent: 1 (this comes back later)
- Requests for more material (array of fulls and partials): 6
- Non-responders: 4
- Offers of representation: 0
I realize that there are many people who might look at these numbers and be scandalized that I only sent out 14 queries, particularly since my hit rate was very good. However, and I’ve said this before, the feedback I’ve gotten has been consistent. There is agent-consensus. I am the author of what is essentially a flawed manuscript, which is fine, since it was also a first manuscript. Honestly, I’m pretty proud that the book isn’t awful, as that tends to be an occupational hazard of first manuscripts. Upshot=I promise that in the future, I can do way better.
However, on the topic of the mega-agent:
In my mind, this woman is basically the pinnacle as far as literary agents go, but I was way too scared to query her, because she is Impressive. So, instead, I queried someone else at the same agency—younger, hungrier, building his list, you know the drill. He was very courteous and wrote saying that while he didn’t think the project was right for him, I should query his colleague (big, fancy agent) because it sounded like the type of thing she might be interested in.
Until yesterday, I counted her as a non-responder (you’ll remember, all this was happening back in September). But yesterday, she requested a partial. Here’s where the defeat-part comes in. Six months ago, it would have meant everything to get a request from this agent. Now, what it comes down to is, I don’t have a lot of faith in the project. I’m at a loss regarding how to fix the thing on a structural level, although over the past few months, I’ve taken several runs at making it less ugly. I wish I had something really knock-out. It seems like such a waste to get a request from from one of my most-coveted agents for something I don’t feel is strictly viable, but there’s nothing to be done.
Defeat time is over now. I sent it anyway.
Well, it’s great that you got a partial request from Ms. Big! Good luck with it.
Here’s my take on the situation. If 14 queries seems like enough to you, then it’s perfectly okay to stop querying about this novel and get on with the next one. There’s no point, that I can see, in querying on a book you’ve lost faith in.
ON the other hand…if you’re still excited about the book and are getting a good hit rate, there might be an agent out there who can see *exactly* what isn’t quite right with the manuscript and will tell you what it is and take you on as a client. You never know.
Here are my stats, for reference. My first novel, I subbed to six agents, had two full requests, two rejections, two non-responses; in the end, six rejections. And that was it. I didn’t love the book and didn’t feel all that enthusiastic about querying further, so I didn’t.
I’m at that point where I’m thinking Someday, when I’m older and wiser, I’ll know how to fix this manuscript. I don’t know if that will turn out to be the case, but it’s nice to dream :) Of course, I’d love it if an agent came along and said, “Well, there’s your problem.” Or words to that effect. Some very prescriptive suggestions might be just what I need. While I don’t know that I’ve given up on the manuscript, I will say that I’d definitely forgotten about it, so the request came as a big surprise.
Thanks for sharing your query stats. I really like seeing other people’s process and it’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only person who sent out fewer than eleventy-billion queries ;)
My take is that she likes the sound of it enough to want to see more – positive ;)
Not sure whether you sent any actual words? but if you did then she likes the writing enough to see more – positive ;)
She may *see* exactly what she thinks it needs and suggest this, with rep now, later or not at all – still positive cos you’ve somewhere to go with it ;)
None of this stops you querying mega agent on anything else at a later date – positive ;)
I’m like you though, would feel the same about not having something to wow her with *now* so its okay to feel both up and down about the whole thing ;)
Good luck, and I hope it all works out.
She may *see* exactly what she thinks it needs and suggest this
I would actually be unreasonably happy if I came out of this with a solid sense of how to fix the thing (’cause, you know, I do like it, even if I’ve recently gone off it a little).
The submission packet did have some sample pages and a synopsis. With this manuscript, I figured out early that I should show agents what they were getting into, because it sounds a lot more high-concept than it is.
And yeah, up and down is about how I’d describe it, but it’s all part of the fun, right? ;)
Well, I’m jumping up and down for joy (if you’re not). As a first reader, and not having seen the revisions, I still think it’s kickass!
Okay, I didn’t have actual jumping-action, but in the short-term, I’m pretty happy about this. It’s definitely been a learning experience all around. The main lesson being, I’m capable of writing a decent query letter and an intriguing first five pages. After that, well . . . But my plan is to channel all my newly-acquired knowledge into making the the not-a-fairy-story really, really good (even after the first five pages). And then I can start querying all over again :)
You’ve done super on a first novel. I don’t see a problem with only querying 14 agents. In fact, I’m still astounded when I hear that people send out 100+ letters.
And good luck with Ms. Big. That’s really great that you have her interest. I have my first manuscript out with my own personal Ms. Big, and I’m kind of in the same boat as you now: I think mine sucks. I keep having to remind myself that my Ms. Big read the first fifty pages and asked to see the rest – she wouldn’t do that if my book is as bad as I think it is. I think we writers tend to be overly critical of our own work.
Oh, wow, good luck with your Ms. Big, too!
It’s so funny how subjective writing can be (and how strong to temptation to disregard all the good things and only focus on what needs work). It’s like I’m always forgetting that even though it’s the same story I sent out last time, it’s a completely new person reading it on the other end and sometimes that in itself can make a difference.
Yay! Go you for sending it to her!
Even if she isn’t thrilled by it this is a big step, and you can perhaps talk to her now about sending her the next, shinier, better thing, if she likes this one even a little bit?
I’m actually really hoping that this query-run has made people more receptive to reading my next thing. A lot of my rejections have been really positive (is that semantically possible?), so I’m about to get to work on shining up my new manuscript–which, while it admittedly has many problems, does not have the kiss-of-death wandering problem of the last one.