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Old 12-21-2012, 10:27 AM   #1
BetsyComedy
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Unhappy So bummed my mom didn't find an agent nor publisher

My mom is NOT cut out for self publishing. It is expensive and the money to market her book she cannot afford. She spent years writing her book, she's not young, works full time despite serious medical issues, she's not in a position to really pursue this route the way it needs to be.

But, she did not get any agents nor publishers to take an interest. She sent hundreds and hundreds of query letters and a bunch even came back non deliverable. This was a few years ago. Only one place took some interest, after 6 months she called to ask the status. Nothing ever came of it.

I am really bummed. I want to help my mom, but I haven't even gotten my own show out there. I am kind of overwhelmed and exhausted.

She said she will go the Amazon route, not that she knows anything about it. But first she has to find an illustrator for the cover. My concern is that without the marketing it will just sit there and she will get so depressed when people don't buy. But she's 60's, she doesn't do FB and Twitter and that crap. I try to stay away from it but realizing now I need it for my own project, ugh yuck. And she's not a blogger, she's tired after 10 hour days at work. She's not remotely tech saavy, at all. Not that I am, but I know the basics, not enough though.

Anyway, does anyone have any suggestions before I try to help her on top of my own projects? I honestly wish she could have gotten interest because her book is so unique and interesting. Naturally she feels that working on her book 7 years is enough. But sadly that's not how it works. I am wondering if I should start sending out her query? If so, I'd need to find a list of current agents and those who bring in the money. I forget the site that shows this info? So much stuff here hasn't applied to me as someone writing for TV, so I sometimes miss things.

Thank you in advance, sorry for the rambling, sorry for the venting, I am a bit stressed seeing my mom so very down. I hate feeling helpless.
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Old 12-21-2012, 11:05 AM   #2
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Betsy, this part of your post caught my eye:

Quote:
She sent hundreds and hundreds of query letters and a bunch even came back non deliverable. This was a few years ago. Only one place took some interest
If she sent out hundreds of query letters and got no interest, then I'd guess there's a problem with her query.

That doesn't mean that her book will necessarily sell if she fixes her query, but it's an indication that something is definitely wrong with that query.

If she really wants to try for a publisher she might want to throw herself into Query Letter Hell--assuming, of course, that she's already had the help of various beta readers, to make sure it's ready to query.

Quote:
I am wondering if I should start sending out her query?
No! Don't do that. If an agent gets even a whiff of an indication that a book has been submitted by someone other than it's author, they'll reject it without looking at it.

ETA: moving this to the Round Table, as it's not really about self publishing.
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Old 12-21-2012, 11:16 AM   #3
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Sorry it was in the wrong place, thanks for moving to where it should go. I guess I am not sure whether to help her with the self publishing or try the traditional route again. Both are time consuming and I want to make sure I invest precious time in the right place. Both have advantages and disadvantages but right now I mostly want to do whatever she'd have a better shot at.

What I meant was simply sending the query for her just like she would if she had the time, not writing anything for her.

What is query letter hell? It's been a long time, I will ask to read her query to make sure it's OK and also get more eyes on it. Her book has been edited by two people already. One that just took her money and did nothing, and another that I think did a good job.

Where was the link that shows how much each agent grosses for their company? If I go this route, I'd like to start at the top and work my way down with her book.
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Old 12-21-2012, 11:37 AM   #4
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Query Letter Hell.

I don't know the rules regarding it(slaughter me if I'm wrong), but I'd think it would be fine if you post her query letter up when you have 50+ posts.
Have her read the stickies and revise the query letter before posting. All the guidelines are there, she just need to apply them.

Also, make sure you and her research what agents would be interested in her story. Find a genre that matches what she has written and fine agents who deal in that genre.
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Old 12-21-2012, 11:42 AM   #5
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Query Letter Hell is a place where your mom can post her query and have us critique it. Here is the link to the Share Your Work forum: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=26 and you can find the link to QLH third down from the top.

I strongly agree with Old Hack about putting the query on QLH first before sending it out to agents again, because if only one out of hundreds and hundreds of agents bit, then it sounds to me like there's a problem with the query itself. Trying again just because it has been a few years would not make much of a difference.
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Old 12-21-2012, 12:16 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BetsyComedy View Post
She sent hundreds and hundreds of query letters and a bunch even came back non deliverable.
Not trying to be harsh, but the bolded above says a lot.

I have a pristinely perfect record of query rejection, many many many, but I've never had an "undeliverable" return.

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Old 12-21-2012, 12:28 PM   #7
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I don't see anything wrong with basically acting as your mom's secretary in this case, as long as the words are all her own. But I notice you keep coming back to which agents bring the most money. I'm not sure that's the angle you want to take on your agent hunt. Stephanie Meyer's agent made her a ton of money, but if she doesn't take the genre you mom wrote, then submitting to her won't help you. (Though it's a good reason to look at that agency to see what genres the other agents there take.)

I believe the site you may be thinking of is Publisher's Marketplace. They do list the newest deals, and while they don't list amounts per se, they often come with descriptions that indicate what range the deal fell into. There's a subscription fee involved, however, so don't sign up with them until you're really ready to use them. (Every time I've done agent research, I just sign up for a month and cancel afterwards.)

What is your mom's goal with this book? If she did get an agent, would she be willing to work on revisions with that agent? What about if she gets a book deal, but the editor wants to see revisions? I don't mean sentence tweaking stuff, I mean adding or removing thousands of words. What about a sequel? Are these things she is willing and able to do or is she satisfied with having written this one book and just wants to see it published as-is?

If the latter is the case, commercial publishing may not be the path for her. Even in a best-case scenario, people are going to ask a lot of work of her. It's not the same type of work that a self-publisher does, but it's still work.

The advantage of programs like CreateSpace or Lulu is that you only have to put in as much effort as you care to. For people who just want to see their book in print and available to others for purchase (without really caring about the sales), it can be a nice way to get that desire satisfied without being bombarded with rejection letters. The key is having realistic expectations. Odds are, without any marketing behind it, the book will sell only to family and friends. For some people, that's enough. (You can even look into making covers yourself so you don't have to spend the cash there.)

I'm not at all trying to discourage you. I'm going for the commercial path all the way. I guess I'm just saying make sure what you want for this book and what your mom wants are actually the same thing before you start submitting.
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Old 12-21-2012, 02:55 PM   #8
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Betsy, you can't post your mom's query in QLH for her. She'd have to be a member and do it herself.

1st, when you send out queries, they need to be targeted. It sounds like your mom scatter-shot to every agent she found a name for, which is why some came back non-deliverable. Her list/source was out of date and the addresses were no longer valid.

After the MS is ready, and the query is ready to go, she needs to go to Agent Query and/or Query Tracker and seek out agents that represent the sort of book she has. Once she's got those names, she still can't send to everyone on the list because you're going to end up with agency-mates, and most agencies don't allow you to submit to more than one agent at a time within the agency. (Some don't allow you to submit to more than one agent, period.)

Once you've got your list of potential agents, then you need to vet them. You can check out Preditors & Editors, which is free, to see if they're recommended or not. You can subscribe to publisher's lunch, or you can pay the $20/month subscription fee to Publisher's Marketplace, which will give you the latest information on who has made deals in what genre and how big those deals were. Finding out how much an agent "grosses" for their agency isn't really on a list anywhere.

Another route is to Google the names of writers with whom you are familiar and who write in the same genre. Google [author name] + AGENT and that should net you some names. (Query Tracker also has a client listing for all of their agents as part of their free search. You might have to sign on as a member, though. I'm not sure.)

You need to also be aware that those top agents are the ones most writers want, and they're going to be the ones with the fewest openings on their lists. Some agents can take as few as 1-2 new clients a year, some can't take on any because their lists are full.
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Old 12-21-2012, 03:07 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BetsyComedy View Post
My concern is that without the marketing it will just sit there and she will get so depressed when people don't buy.
What kind of sales is your mother hoping for, Betsy? Does she want to sell thousands and thousands of copies, or a few hundred, or would she be happy with just the occasional purchase?

Quote:
Naturally she feels that working on her book 7 years is enough.
This part concerns me, because if her manuscript does attract an agent's or editor's interest, would she be prepared to revise it in response to critical feedback, or would she feel that having worked on the manuscript for seven years was enough?

Would she also be prepared for negative reviews from readers if or when the manuscript was published?
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Old 12-21-2012, 03:17 PM   #10
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Something else that I didn't notice when I read this initially - your mom called to check on her submission? Don't do that. Calling is a bad idea, and it can leave the person on the other end of the line with a bad impression. If you want a status update, you email.
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Old 12-21-2012, 04:57 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katrina S. Forest View Post
If the latter is the case, commercial publishing may not be the path for her. Even in a best-case scenario, people are going to ask a lot of work of her. It's not the same type of work that a self-publisher does, but it's still work.
I would second this - I've worked harder on my writing since signing a book deal than I ever did when writing for myself. It's a different kind of work, but it's still work.

I'm sorry your mum is so disappointed at not getting anywhere, but publishing is tougher now than it's ever been. Maybe you could get a nice print copy of her book made through a POD (print on demand) service, so she has something concrete to show for all her hard work, and then sit down with her to make a realistic plan of how she might try again? Focus on learning about publishing, instead of fretting about the book itself.

I also have to say that these days, being totally offline isn't an option. You don't have to do social media, but at the very least you need an email account and to be able to use the web a bit. If you could get her to join a friendly forum like this one, she could talk to other writers herself and it might help her feel less isolated and frustrated.

Hope this helps!
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Old 12-21-2012, 05:34 PM   #12
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Betsy, if your mother doesn't have the time to blog because she's tired after her ten-hour working days, and isn't inclined to do her own research and send out her own queries, then she doesn't have the time to work with a good trade publisher or to effectively self publish either.

I'm sorry to be so blunt: but publishing well, no matter which route you take to find your readership, requires sustained hard work over months and years.

It also requires that you understand the business, and know how things work: and with all the respect in the world, it's clear from your comments in this thread and in others that you don't know enough about how it works to give your mother the help she needs. And from what you've told us, I suspect that your mother won't know enough about publishing either.

If neither of you have enough time to learn enough about publishing to do it well, you're not going to publish a good book and you're unlikely to sell many copies.

If you'd just be happy to know that the book is out there, and don't care if you only sell a dozen copies or so, then go ahead and bung your book up on Amazon and see how it gets on.

If you'd like to do better, would like to see your book on best seller lists and on bookshop shelves, then you're going to have to work a lot harder than it seems you're prepared to, and learn a lot more about publishing than you know right now.

I really don't intend to upset you, and I don't mean to be rude. I hope you can take my comments in the spirit they're intended, which is one of friendly concern.
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Old 12-21-2012, 05:42 PM   #13
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Before having the query critiqued, have the manuscript critiqued. No query in the world is going to help a sub-par manuscript. Has your Mom had any input from beta readers, other than you? Has she had it critted in any place like the Share Your Work forum? If not, have her post the first chapter here in SYW so she can see if what she has is of publication quality. Worry about the query letter after that question is answered.
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Old 12-21-2012, 05:50 PM   #14
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Betsy, if your mother doesn't have the time to blog because she's tired after her ten-hour working days, and isn't inclined to do her own research and send out her own queries, then she doesn't have the time to work with a good trade publisher or to effectively self publish either.
Unfortunately, I agree with this bit completely. Plenty of authors work long hours and come home only to then work on their writing because they don't make enough (or anything!) writing to be able to quit their day job. It's exhausting. But if she can spend even 30 minutes a day after work researching, then saying she doesn't have time doesn't need to be an excuse.

Both traditional and self-pub routes are going to cost at least a little money and a lot of time. Self-pub requires at least a decent cover (which doesn't need to cost hundreds of dollars, thankfully), e-book formatting, print formatting, and editing. Lots of editing. Depending on how good a self-editor she is, she might be able to get away with having several beta readers catch anything she missed. But most self-pubbers need to pay a freelance editor to make sure their book is as close to publisher quality as possible.

Say she goes the traditional route. Like others said: she's going to get a LOT of criticism, and a lot of rejection. That's the way of publishing. Even if she lands an agent, there will be revisions. Then if she lands an editor...even more revisions. I've noticed a lot of people who work for years on the same book and haven't written anything else are usually less inclined to make changes to that book. Also, I could be totally wrong on this, but I think a lot of agents these days are hoping for clients that are looking to make this a career, which means putting out a book a year. (If not more.) If this book is a one-off, it might be a little harder to land. (Again--I could be totally off on this point. Just observation.)

I think it's great you want to help your mom out! But there is going to be a lot of work involved in it for the both of you. Maybe sit her down and ask her what she wants for this book, then start doing the research for it so you can keep her informed and help her along.

Best of luck to the both of you.
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Old 12-21-2012, 07:43 PM   #15
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I would suggest forgetting about publication efforts until your mother gets some impartial beta readers. There's no use marketing material that isn't ready for prime time.

And as others have noted, getting a publisher doesn't mean your work is done. Far from it. Deadlines for rewrites, for galley checks, for the next book start popping up like Whack-A-Moles that cannot be hammered back into the earth.

If the thought of that hard work frightens and if your mother doesn't want to keep writing, self-pub would be the better route to follow. You can do as much or as little marketing as you want when you're the one in charge. Just don't expect a little to return a lot in the way of sales. But maybe sales aren't the real point here.

They don't have to be.
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Old 12-21-2012, 08:25 PM   #16
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As a fairly active member of QLH, I just wanted to repeat what Cyia said -- it's not a good idea for a query to be posted there by anyone other than the author. QLH is a pretty demanding place, and we have the 50-post requirement, so that the author has a chance to prepare for the feedback she's going to get. It's NOT a place to simply post the query, take the advice and run. it's interactive, and you can't be interactive for someone else.
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Old 12-21-2012, 10:09 PM   #17
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QLH Mod here, chiming in to agree with Jan and Cyia. There's a reason for the rules in QLH.

OP, if your mom wants her query critted,she needs to join AW, read the Newbie Guide, and become part of the reciprocation in the community. Only the query author can post his/her query.
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Old 12-21-2012, 10:30 PM   #18
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What kind of book does your mom write? The reason I ask is because if its a memoir and your mom is not somewhat famous or infamous, then memoirs are very hard sells to agents and publishers.

As to your moms age, I am 61, have all kinds of health problems and my age and problems have nothing to do with my ability to write or publish. I do not do facebook as it really is a waste of time and energy as far as sales go. Age really has very little to do with the writing industry. Its all about the story and how well it is written as to be sell able...

I would also suggest that your mom join a writing group, in person or online, and have her work critiqued. Reason, there are very few writers who could not use a second or third pair of eyes to catch problems and flaws. If your mom has not had any feed back outside of family and friends, then more than likely she is in need of a good detailed critique of her work and style.

Tell you mom, chin up. Its not the end of the world...
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Old 12-22-2012, 08:12 AM   #19
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Well I asked about the agents that grossed the most because I've heard of agents that don't do anything for you. She is very hard working and motivated, it would be nice to work with an agent who is the same. Sales is the only way I thought of to be able to narrow the search down and work outward. Thank you for the search terms!

She only called because the one agent actually asked her to call in a few months in case he forgot. He had requested her manuscript. That's one out of a few hundred, and it was 6 months into waiting that she called, then once again at the 2 year mark. They did more snail mail than email then. She never called anyone else. But then he stopped working there so that never went anywhere.

It's not that she's not willing to do the work. She did do the work. But it's naturally disappointing when it goes nowhere. I know someone who sent 10 queries for her book and is waiting around for something to happen. That was *not* my mom. It's just difficult to start all over after hundreds of query letters were sent. If someone took an interest, she'd be open to making changes like she was with the editor, she would be open to writing more potentially, she would be open to a lot. She'd have hope. A flower won't grow without a planted seed. She's not looking to make a killing on the book but after everything, yes, she would like to make a little money on it naturally, selling to an actual audience, not family and friends as that is no measure of success nor worth so many years of work.

Her book is general fiction which is so broad, there is a little bit of everything in it.

I do wish she could quit working her day job to focus on this because she is retirement age. I know she can't though and neither can many, but it makes it much harder no doubt as she has much more fatigue due to her health issues. But she's very passionate and she pushes herself. Many of her friends are housewives looking for things to do, it's so very backwards lol.

It seems like if you don't have a huge network to market to, and at least 30K to start, self publishing just isn't the right fit for her. I could be wrong, but that's my impression. I don't want to talk her out of anything, she just doesn't seem to think she has a choice because she tried the traditional route. Whereas I want to see if there is still a shot there.

Since I can't post her query here, which I do understand (ironically I can post my own yet I am not read for that like she is), I will try to get her query to some local writers for an opinion, I'd pay for it, I just have to get some advice since like you guys said, maybe it needs some changes. She did go to book writer groups before and they all said her query was perfect, so there is some sort of disconnect.

I don't get what was meant about receiving a lot of undeliverable mail saying a lot about the writer, and the poster hadn't ever received any? She found out many of those agencies had gone out of business and she was using up to date resources to find them. But I don't think it's any reflection on her...

Shute, maybe I should become an agent, I always killed in sales, no one could ever outsell me no matter what I was selling.

Thank you all for your help!!!

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Old 12-22-2012, 09:15 AM   #20
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Hi Betsy. It's past my bed time, but I just read your last response and wanted to encourage both you and your mom to get more involved in and knowledgable about the publishing world. Read blogs, subscribe to magazines, get books. What you've said so far leads me to believe that you have a huge knowledge gap there (agents do a LOT for writers) (calling back after two years...).

Wish both of you the best of luck.
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Old 12-22-2012, 09:56 AM   #21
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Thanks Frankie. You're right, there is a ton we don't know that we should learn. But even as a newbie I still feel comfortable saying that no, not all agents are created the same, as with anything else in life. On this very board that's been proven, I've been reading. And it was she who called him every 6 months because that's what he told her to do. He didn't do anything. Then at the 2 year mark they said he was no longer there. She was very patient, but for nothing.

But anyway, we will just plug along and make sure her query is as good as possible. I read it tonight and there are things I alone saw that needed fixing.
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Old 12-22-2012, 10:40 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BetsyComedy View Post
Well I asked about the agents that grossed the most because I've heard of agents that don't do anything for you.
I'm glad you're thinking about the best way to proceed. That does sound like it should be a good way to go but as is so often the case with publishing, what looks like the right way often isn't.

You need to find agents who have a history of making good sales to good publishers; and who like the sort of book you've written. You could try making a list of books you've heard of, and books you've seen in bookshops and being read on the bus, and books your friends have been talking about, which are similar in genre to your book: then find out who represents the authors of those books.

You can also look up agents on the various listings websites but don't forget to check them on Preditors and Editors and in AW's Bewares room too.

Quote:
It seems like if you don't have a huge network to market to, and at least 30K to start, self publishing just isn't the right fit for her. I could be wrong, but that's my impression.
AW has members who have self published successfully for just a few hundred dollars. Check out any of the diary threads in our Self Publishing room, especially MerriHiatt's (she's a bit of a hero of mine). If you go with a vanity publisher like AuthorHouse then yes, you will end up paying over the odds: but if you do it all yourself, and pay just the people you need, then you'll find it much more affordable. Marketing and promotion will take a lot of work, though.

Quote:
Shute, maybe I should become an agent, I always killed in sales, no one could ever outsell me no matter what I was selling.
Please don't become an agent.

You might have a good track record in sales, but good agenting involves far more than that. You need to know publishing inside and out, and to have solid connections in the business--and you don't, I'm afraid.

Betsy, thanks for being such a good sport. You're being told a lot of hard truths here, and you're responding with politeness and interest. That takes a certain amount of resolve and good nature, and I'm grateful to you for it.
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Old 12-22-2012, 10:43 AM   #23
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A lot of writers don't get agents and deals for their first book. It doesn't mean the first book is bad or that it'll never sell, but it may not be the one that starts her career.
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Old 12-22-2012, 11:50 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by NeuroFizz View Post
Before having the query critiqued, have the manuscript critiqued. No query in the world is going to help a sub-par manuscript. Has your Mom had any input from beta readers, other than you? Has she had it critted in any place like the Share Your Work forum? If not, have her post the first chapter here in SYW so she can see if what she has is of publication quality. Worry about the query letter after that question is answered.
Well she had a couple editors edit it, a bad one and then a good one.

I will look into SYW forum for her, thank you. I encouraged her tonight to get back into meeting with other writers too. I will post for her in a forum that allows it and see what people say.

OK I re-read her query letter and really there was just one issue. Trying to hard to find more, but I can't.
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Old 12-22-2012, 11:56 AM   #25
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I don't know if this helps, Betsy, but a while back we did a poll here to find out how many agents our members had queried before getting accepted. Interestingly, the majority either said fewer than ten, or over a hundred. It seems that either you strike lucky early on (you sent the right book to the right agent at the right time), or you just have to kiss an awful lot of frogs before you find your prince!

Generally, though, the people who don't get published are the people who give up. You and your mum don't sound like quitters, but as Old Hack says, you need to learn more about how publishing works and how best to get that book ready for publication and into the hands of people who want to buy it. There's always hope, as long as you're willing to learn and improve.
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