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Old 04-05-2012, 08:42 PM   #1
StellaArgentum
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Even form Rs are better than silence!

I just need to vent, and what better place than R&D? :p

I've been querying my first novel since October 2011, and have had the frustrating experience of making revisions to both the project and query that *reduced* my response rate. The trouble is, I really like the revised manuscript/query! I look back now on what I was working with late last year and think, if anything, I queried too soon, when the manuscript was not polished enough.

I got a few partial requests and a full back in October/November, but they all ended up as polite Rs, with no real feedback. So I revised, re-did my query, had the new query run the gauntlet in SYW. My new query has had 2 form Rs and, over the course of 3 months, 24 no replies.

I don't get it. The query is not full of holes or errors, I am targeting agents that rep my genre (historical fiction/LGBT), I really did read 95% of the QueryShark archives, I follow submission guidelines ...

From a lot of the agent blogs/Twitter handles I follow, the general logic seems to be that most queries are rejected because they are poorly written, don't follow guidelines, are in a non-represented genre, or just plain boring. I don't think my query is any of those -- and my opening pages have been revised and revised into pretty good shape.

I've got the querying blues. I have been working on my next project, but it's been a disappointing start to the year. Blah. OK, thanks for listening, moping over.
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Old 04-05-2012, 09:57 PM   #2
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Yes, this is the place to mope.

First, of course, I can't comment on your project or query, not having seen them.

Second, I have heard that more and more agents are choosing to respond only to projects that interest them. If you don't hear from them, you can assume they're not interested. They don't even bother to send a simple, polite rejection! That's infuriating, of course, but it seems to be the new norm.

Third, since your bio states that you are a magazine editor, perhaps you can see things from the other side. This is very difficult, but the more you can think of your marketing as a business, as opposed to part of the creative process, the less your ego will be wounded. Switching from being the author (who has invested so much heart and mind and time into the project) to a relatively impassive salesperson is probably not possible. But if you imagine that you are selling widgets instead of creative projects, you must expect that some widgets will sell, some will not, some may be purchased and returned, and most will be ignored.

I know. That's a fantasy, and I can't say I've been very successful at it myself, but marketing your stuff really is a sales job. You're no longer a creator; you're a salesperson. The people at the other end have no investment in you or your work. They are free to change their minds, forget about you, or get up on the wrong side of the bed and be nasty as hell--just as a customer can walk into a store, ask to see a watch, spend half an hour examining it and end by saying, "I guess not," and walking out.

None of the above may help. I'm just indicating that most of us have gone through situations similar to yours, have suffered bruised sensibilities, and have survived to submit another day and--ultimately--to see our work published.

Good luck!
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Old 04-05-2012, 10:09 PM   #3
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Thanks Nymtoc. I know there's not much I can do besides keep busy on the new book, but I hit that point today where everything just seemed to be a perfect storm of depressing crap. Thanks for reading my rant and for your words of encouragement.
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Old 04-05-2012, 10:17 PM   #4
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I can understand query depression. I won't tell you how many times I check my email every day-- It's sad lol.

From what I've read, if it's gone past their (usually respond by) date then it's more than likely an R. You can just go on and mark it off of your list.

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Old 04-05-2012, 10:55 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ohthatmomagain View Post
I can understand query depression. I won't tell you how many times I check my email every day-- It's sad lol.

From what I've read, if it's gone past their (usually respond by) date then it's more than likely an R. You can just go on and mark it off of your list.

Big Hugs...
Thank you. I do have to get over my inbox-checking addiction. It's always the worst the first week or two after a new round of queries goes out, then settles into a mild disappointment. Oh, the joys of querying.
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Old 04-05-2012, 10:56 PM   #6
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Unfortunately, silence seems to be the new form rejection for many agents. (Not all, but many.) The good news (if there is any) is that you aren't limited to sending one query at a time like you are with submitting directly to publishers. If it makes a big difference to you, first query agents who make a point of sending rejections. Put them at the top of your agent wishlist.

Trust that agents who like your work will get back to you. Treat anyone who doesn't get back to you within their average response time as someone who sent you a form rejection. If you get a lot of rejections and no requests, take a break and look and the query and sample pages again.

Repeat as needed.

Edit: I just read your signature. I don't have a copy of the song, but I've been known to sing a line or two when some particularly hard rejections come in. Nice to know I'm not the only one.
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Old 04-06-2012, 12:40 AM   #7
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Thanks, Katrina. I've been sending out queries in batches of 6 or 7 (all personalized for each agent), with a few reserve ones prepared to send off one at a time after receiving an R. Unfortunately, I've only gotten the two Rs this year (the rest have been non-responders), so my strategy is not going so well!

I might need to take a break soon, if there's no querying luck by the end of May. Just stop pounding my head against a wall and work hard on my current writing project, as opposed to worrying about querying. It will certainly help my stress levels.
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Old 04-06-2012, 08:16 AM   #8
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If you got any agents to request more of your first novel, you did better than me. My first project got nothing but form rejections. I collected 30 of them before I stopped, mostly because I could tell my writing was improving and this just wasn't the best example of my work anymore. My second project did way better. (No offer, sadly, but some really close calls. And the possibility of revising and resubmitting was left open.)

Form rejections don't come with a gauge of how close you were. Your query may very well be doing everything technically "right," (ie it's better written than 90% of what agents usually get in their inbox), but if they just don't get excited about the project, you'll get the same form rejection (or silence) as the guy who wrote, "I rote a book. It's about ppl. Won't u read it plz?"

Bottom line: I feel your pain. We writers are experts at driving ourselves crazy.
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Old 04-06-2012, 09:43 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katrina S. Forest View Post
Bottom line: I feel your pain. We writers are experts at driving ourselves crazy.
That is pure truth!
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Old 04-08-2012, 04:18 AM   #10
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You can write a well-written query that misses out the most unique and interesting things in your book. You can write a poorly-written query that includes those things. Most of the critiquers won't have seen your writing samples or remember what you've said about the book elsewhere... so they won't know if you've missed out your biggest hook.

You could ask a more focused question in QLH. Show the old and new query, and say what you're looking for are interesting elements of the first that are missing in the second (rather than wanting a full query critique). Explain that the first got more requests.
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Old 04-08-2012, 11:43 PM   #11
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You could ask a more focused question in QLH. Show the old and new query, and say what you're looking for are interesting elements of the first that are missing in the second (rather than wanting a full query critique). Explain that the first got more requests.
This is a great suggestion; I'll give it a try.

Thanks, Polenth!
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Old 04-06-2012, 11:25 AM   #12
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No disagreement here. In fact, I'd argue that form-rejections are better than drippingly insincere semi-form rejections that attempt to say something soothing to the submitter without saying anything useful that would indicate the submission was ever even read. And I've grown to detest that "Best of luck with your writing" statement, or its equivalent. If you have no concrete suggestions about the writing to offer, a simple "No" will suffice. I didn't submit something to you to make you feel all warm and fuzzy and good and altruistic and sympathetic about rejecting it.

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Old 04-06-2012, 05:04 PM   #13
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One of my favorite things about QueryTracker is the advanced reports.

My notes for queried agents look like this:

"+ 1 week consider R, - 2 weeks, 0% pr, 0% fr, 19% R, 72% NR"

This agent has a median positive response time to queries of under a week. If I don't hear from him in a week, I'll consider it a rejection. He rejects at about the 2 week mark, requests no partials and no fulls, and only responds with a rejection 19% of the time. 72% of the time, no response means 'no.'

If you keep track of stuff like this, it won't get you down quite so much, as you can feel confident in assuming that if you've not received a proper R in whatever time, it's an R anyhow, and you can move on and worry about agents who take a longer time to reject.

Or just query people who have a high response rate.
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Old 04-06-2012, 09:40 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by HoneyBadger View Post
One of my favorite things about QueryTracker is the advanced reports.

My notes for queried agents look like this:

"+ 1 week consider R, - 2 weeks, 0% pr, 0% fr, 19% R, 72% NR"

This agent has a median positive response time to queries of under a week. If I don't hear from him in a week, I'll consider it a rejection. He rejects at about the 2 week mark, requests no partials and no fulls, and only responds with a rejection 19% of the time. 72% of the time, no response means 'no.'
Thanks for this info, HoneyBadger! I will look into where my currently queried agents stand.
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Old 04-06-2012, 09:12 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StellaArgentum View Post

From a lot of the agent blogs/Twitter handles I follow, the general logic seems to be that most queries are rejected because they are poorly written, don't follow guidelines, are in a non-represented genre, or just plain boring. I don't think my query is any of those -- and my opening pages have been revised and revised into pretty good shape.
I thought I'd respond to this part...

I don't think that's quite what they're saying. I think what they mean is that about 90% of the queries they receive just aren't worth considering, for all of those reasons you stated.

So about 10% of the queries--yours included--are in good shape, follow the rules, etc.

But they're only going to request more from less than 1% of the queries they receive.

It's not like they say, Oh, hey, this guy followed the rules! Let's read more of his book! They're looking for something that grabs them. Something fresh and original or new and exciting or exactly what some editor just mentioned they were looking for or... They may not even know what they want until they see it.

It sounds to me like you've got a good query, but it's not yet great. Or it may be that the premise of your book isn't quite different enough to stand out from the crowd.

I've been lucky so far. With each query I've sent out, I've eventually gotten feedback from an agent that explained why they weren't asking to see more. One was too much like something currently on the market--and it was very similar. Another was too "small and quiet" a premise to stand out as a debut novel--and I see what they mean, so I made sure my next project was BIGGER! More high concept. And I got a great request rate on that query.

If you're not getting any requests at all, it's time to quit sending out that query and rework it. Maybe in revising it this last time, you lost some of the fresh voice that worked in the first query? It would be worth comparing the two and seeing what can be fixed.
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Old 04-06-2012, 09:39 PM   #16
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It sounds to me like you've got a good query, but it's not yet great. Or it may be that the premise of your book isn't quite different enough to stand out from the crowd.

...

If you're not getting any requests at all, it's time to quit sending out that query and rework it. Maybe in revising it this last time, you lost some of the fresh voice that worked in the first query? It would be worth comparing the two and seeing what can be fixed.
Thanks for your reply, MsJudy. I know it's hardest to objectively look at our own work, but I've revised my query about 5 times over 5 months, and I like this version the best. I put the first version (and several others) on SYW and it got ripped to pieces, while my current version got good peer reviews. Of course, this means the version that got the most agent interest was deemed crap on SYW, and the one that's gotten no positive responses was praised. The mixed messages are confusing and frustrating, so like I said upthread I think I need to take a break after this month and just trunk the book for a while.

As for the premise, I haven't seen or read any books like it, so I don't think that's what's killing me here. However, it is American historical fiction, which apparently is not selling well recently (no castles and dukes and such in the 1890s Pacific Northwest). And my main character is transgender, and very few agents specify that they're looking for LGBT themes. So maybe it's unsellable, and agents are running screaming when they see the query.
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