PDA

View Full Version : Super Sad True Agent Story



dgaughran
03-30-2011, 10:56 PM
I finished (or thought I had finished) my novel in August 2009 and stuck it away in a drawer for a month or so before giving it one final edit and then began sending it out to about 15 agents, garnering only one partial request before realising it was far from ready. I went back to the drawing board, pulling it apart and putting it together again, all the while learning more and more about writing, editing, agents, the query process, and publishing in general.

For the next round of queries, in early 2010, I cast the net a little wider, this time getting several partial requests, a handful of which turned into fulls. I had a couple of back-and-forth conversations with agents by email too, but ultimately they all passed, mostly with very helpful comments on the way forward with the manuscript, often complimenting my writing and encouraging me to keep going. Quite a few agents told me that I had something special on my hands but that they didn't have the requisite contacts to sell my book, but that I was sure to find an agent soon.

Over the summer I took all that feedback and took the novel apart one more time, piece-by-piece, pretty clear in what needed to change and how I was going to get there. It was long, difficult, painful process but by September 2010, I felt I had done it, that I really had taken onboard all the advice from beta readers, agents, and editors who had seen my work informally, and resolved any issues with the manuscript.

After wrestling with my query for some time, I was finally ready to start sending out again. The reaction was far, far better this time. I was getting partial requests, but also a lot of full requests, straight off the query. I think I had eight or nine fulls out at the same time, and was starting to feel confident.

While I was waiting, I had a couple of short stories published, one of them also selected for an anthology, and I really started to think it was beginning to happen for me.

Then the rejections started coming in, one after the other, mostly form rejections this time, even though I knew the manuscript was far stronger, and as Christmas approached, I began to think it was never going to happen with this novel. I was kicking around some ideas for a second, and getting ready to start on that, so I just put the first novel out of my mind.

Just after Christmas I got the email that I thought was going to change my life. It was from an established, well-regarded NY agent with a solid record, who loved my book, asking if I had an agent yet, and if not that we should talk. I had just come in from the pub, and I had to read the email several times to make sure it wasn't a prank, then woke my girlfriend so that she could confirm what I was reading.

I tried not to get too excited, after all, there was no mention of an offer of representation, just an invitation to talk, but I also knew the agent didn't want to talk to tell me they didn't like my book. I sent a response with my contact details and so on, then began preparing for the call, drawing up a list of questions, writing queries for future projects so I could 'pitch' them effectively if the conversation progressed to that point.

A couple of weeks passed with no response from the agent, so I emailed again. Another week passed and I decided to call the office. The agent's assistant was lovely, and as soon as I mentioned my name she told me she had read my book and loved it. She informed me that the agent was on vacation and that I should phone back the following week. When I did, the agent told me that I had written "an amazing novel, big, sweeping, really great" and that everyone in the office had read it, and loved it. The agent said that they had sent it out for external readers' reports, and cautioned that before they could offer representation, the readers' reactions would have to be equally positive. He apologised for asking me to wait a little further, and asked me to give him a week.

Just over a week later I phoned the agent, and something seemed to have shifted. The agent seem annoyed that I had called, saying that they hadn't gotten back to me because they had nothing to report. Then the agent pulled back a little, saying they appreciated that the wait must be excruciating, and that they would try and hurry up the readers' reports. I told the agent not to worry, saying that I understood how slow the business moved and that this would not be the first time in the publishing process where I would be required to show patience. The agent signed off by asking me to give them another week.

A few weeks later, I got an email from a UK agent who apologised for the delay in reading my full and that she was going on vacation and would read it then. As the UK agent had rejected a previous draft of my novel (and invited me to resubmit with helpful editorial suggestions), I wanted to appraise her of the situation. I explained that I may have an offer forthcoming, but that I wasn't sure. She phoned me and asked me not to accept any offer without talking to her first and that she would read my novel ASAP. The next day she called again, saying that she was part way through the manuscript and loving it, and would read the rest on vacation. However, she also intimated that if she made an offer, she would expect for it to be accepted on the spot.

This put me in a little of a quandary, so I emailed the NY agent (who I hadn't heard from going on a month now), saying that there was other interest in the novel from a UK agent, and that an offer may be forthcoming. I also said that I would give him the opportunity to make a counter-offer, if he so wishes. I know this was getting a little ahead of myself, but I felt I was just being fair to the NY agent who had already invested a lot of time and resources into my novel.

When the UK agent returned from vacation, she told me she felt the manuscript was very close, but not quite there yet, and asked me to do a chapter-by-chapter synopsis for her. She then replied with a short email suggesting I cut the cast of characters in half and focus on the love story that was only a minor part of the novel. It was not a direction I really wanted to take the novel in, but I thanked her for all the time she had put in helping me.

I never heard back from the NY agent, despite emailing him again one month after my last email, advising that the UK agent was out of the race. It's now three months since the NY agent first emailed me saying they loved my book, asking if I had an agent, two months since we spoke on the phone when they told me I had written "an amazing novel, big, sweeping, really great", and asked for "one more week". In those two months I have only attempted to contact the NY agent twice, both times by email. Both attempts have been met with silence.

At this stage, I am ready to give up.

turningpoint
03-30-2011, 11:05 PM
How incredibly frustrating! But it hardly seems like you should give up- the reactions were more and more encouraging. Why not keep querying?

Jamiekswriter
03-30-2011, 11:21 PM
From Christmas to now is only 3 months. That's not a long time in publishing. How many times did you nudge the NY agent in three months?

4 e-mails and 2 phone calls?

That seems a bit excessive to me. And it could have pissed them off a bit -- especially when you mentioned having another offer pending. Then when you told them the UK offer is no longer on the table, they might have already written you off as a pest or a high maintenance author. What does query tracker say about their response times?

But there's a couple of alarm bells going off for me.

I've never heard of an agent sending a manuscript out to "external readers." Was that the exact wording they used? Because I don't think they have the right to share your book with the public without your consent or a contract. Unless the external readers are interns or other staff. Who exactly are these "external readers" A guy at the coffee shop? Their Mom? Any agent I've heard of doesn't need a "second opinion" from someone outside the office -- especially if everyone in the office read it and loved it. It makes me doubt this agency's professionalism. Have you checked to see if they have a thread in AW's Bewares section? Have they logged sales in PM or are their clients signed with an advanced paying publisher?

Also the UK agent who wanted an answer on the spot -- sounds dodgy as well. In the states, I believe, it's considered good form to let everyone you have a full or partial with that you have an offer. And I don't think a week or two weeks would be a long time to wait. Aside from that, how could you agree to sign with the UK agency "on the spot" if you haven't reviewed their contract?

crazynance
03-30-2011, 11:37 PM
Well the first chapter was great. Where's the rest, buddy? :D Forget those agents. Yours is out there waiting for you.

dgaughran
03-30-2011, 11:39 PM
Hi Jamie,

Sorry I wasn't clear there.

I never nudged the agent while they were considering my full (three months or so). I only contacted the agent AFTER they emailed me requesting a conversation.

I only called the office AFTER they asked me to get in touch so we could talk.

If the agent had asked for three months, I would have waited three months. If the agent hadn't asked for a specific time-frame, I would probably have waited around that long before nudging. The agent asked for a week. I called around a week later. The agent asked for another week. I sent a nudge email a month later. Then one month again after that. That's it. No other communications at any point in the process. That doesn't seem excessive to me.

In all my communications I have been professional, polite, and patient.

Neither agent is dodgy. Both are well-known, established agents with solid sales records. I am not going to name either, but trust me, I did all the necessary research. Both agents' bona fides are beyond question.

Regarding external readers, I have heard of this several times before, and there is nothing that alarms me here. I believe it may be more common in the UK and at smaller US agencies. It's not unusual for an agent to seek a second opinion in one form or another before offering representation. There is nothing in this that concerns me.

As a side note, I would always inform all other agents holding a partial or a full if I received an offer of representation, and give them an opportunity to make a counter-offer. I have heard of agents (including top agents) not wanting to take part in what one termed "a beauty pageant" and withdraw from the process at that point. That's their prerogative.

Dave

dgaughran
03-30-2011, 11:45 PM
Well the first chapter was great. Where's the rest, buddy? :D Forget those agents. Yours is out there waiting for you.

Thanks, that's very kind. Flattery like that will get you everywhere.

jaksen
03-30-2011, 11:54 PM
Keep querying. At least two agents have shown great interest in your work, so I'd just continue scouting out other agents. Some writers query 100+ agents before finding one that works for them.

And obviously, unless one of them suddenly phones you of the blue, these two aint working.

Marika
03-31-2011, 12:18 AM
Keep querying!

I had a similar thing happen a couple of years ago. An agent from a very reputable agency loved my novel, etc., etc. We had lots of friendly email exchanges. Then I was told that it had to go to "readers" to determine marketability. And then I heard nothing and nothing and nothing. Until I got a form rejection in the mail. I emailed the agent and eventually got a response from an intern that the agent had left the agency and that my book had marketability issues. I did contact the agent at the new agency, but he had decided not to rep that genre anymore. Oh, well, the only thing you can do it move on.

dgaughran
03-31-2011, 12:26 AM
I just don't understand why you would go to the time and effort of talking to the author, getting an external reader, and then cut off communications. It seems odd.

Julie Worth
03-31-2011, 01:54 AM
Regarding external readers, I have heard of this several times before, and there is nothing that alarms me here. I believe it may be more common in the UK and at smaller US agencies. It's not unusual for an agent to seek a second opinion in one form or another before offering representation. There is nothing in this that concerns me.

The "external readers" might be just that, or they might actually be editors he thinks might buy it, and of course he wouldn't tell you if they are. This not returning your emails is just rude, however, and you shouldn’t want such an agent anyway.

For my present novel, I’ve been working on the theory that it takes ten fulls to get a 50% chance. So I went well past that--20 requests for the full and a handful of partials. Was that enough? Maybe not. Fourteen agents have now passed for various and contradictory reasons (one passed after the initial reader said I'd written a "magnificent book” and was sending it on with his highest recommendation). So that leaves me with six. On the bright side, I have a hundred or so agents I could still query. Even so, it’s beginning to look suspiciously like another trunk novel.

dgaughran
03-31-2011, 02:35 AM
I have queried pretty widely at this stage, I don't know if I could go out there again, with this novel at least.

I haven't stopped writing, I have started a new novel, and I am working on a few more short stories. It is a struggle to motivate myself to write sometimes; perhaps I just need to cut this book loose, leave it behind, take what I have learned and move on.

But that step is hard. I had actually done so at Christmas, I had let go. Then I got that email and I started believing again.

Sass2379
03-31-2011, 04:04 AM
Since it seems like there is interest in your work, I wouldn't give up just yet. Good luck!

IceCreamEmpress
03-31-2011, 05:12 AM
I am sorry you had these frustrating experiences! I think that making a plan that includes querying really widely can help give a bit of a cushion against this kind of complication--because you always have new prospects to turn to--but there's no sure way (alas) to avoid these quicksandy entanglements entirely. Disappointment is tough.

turningpoint
03-31-2011, 05:33 AM
Does self publishing seem at all viable if you feel you can't continue to query this book? Does that seem like a failure or just a different option?

mscelina
03-31-2011, 05:42 AM
Does self publishing seem at all viable if you feel you can't continue to query this book? Does that seem like a failure or just a different option?

There are all kinds of other options available to an author who is done querying agents with a specific book--small publishers, e-publishers, indie publishers, reworking the concept and rewriting the book.

Self publishing the book would be like wrapping it up with a big bow and throwing it into the ocean, hoping someone passing by in a boat would pick it up and like it.

Don't be so quick to suggest self-publishing. Without an established readership, a platform, a known name and a backlist, self-publishing is unlikely to be a positive experience for any unknown author.

Sandsurfgirl
03-31-2011, 09:58 AM
I posted a thread about how many queries to send and people said that they or people they knew or knew of had sent 200-250 queries before they got an agent. One even posted that there was an author who had a dozen novel on the NY Times bestseller list who had to send 250 to get an agent. So don't give up. And in the future, until you have a contract in hand do not stop querying.

Also keep on writing. If I can't find an agent for the novel I'm shopping around now, I will query the next one and then maybe they will represent me on this one too. Get it in by way of the back door I supposed you could say.

I have had lots of compliments and great feedback from agents and plenty of requests, but still do not have a agent as of yet. It is a frustrating process for sure. But having all that positive feedback means you DO have something good and you just need the right person to believe in it. Keep your chin up!

Purple Rose
03-31-2011, 06:48 PM
Sad but ture and a cautionary tale for any of us who could find ourelves in a similar situation. As other AWers have mentioned above, there were red flags with both agents. So now you know and you're all the better for the experience.

Keep querying, email every agent in your genre. Subscribe to Publisher's Marketplace if you haven't already, and every other reliable database like Agent Query.

Whatever you do, don't stop writing.

kaitie
03-31-2011, 08:22 PM
Yup, I was one of those query widely folks who sent about 250 queries each for two separate books. The second time around, I did get an agent. He was one of the early agents I submitted to, but I actually had two requests after I got the offer, so don't give up on it yet unless you've hit everyone who does your genre. Well, that's my advice anyway.

If you think you're having a hard time working on new stuff and getting motivated because querying is getting you down, then go ahead and wait until the next book. I mean, we all reach a point where we say, "Okay, enough of this. I'll try again next time," and that's a different point for everyone.

And just remember, even if you set this one aside to try again with the next one, it doesn't mean this book will never be published. Maybe it's not the right first book for you, but it would make an awesome second book. Good luck. :)

popmuze
03-31-2011, 09:00 PM
For my present novel, Iíve been working on the theory that it takes ten fulls to get a 50% chance. So I went well past that--20 requests for the full and a handful of partials. Was that enough? Maybe not. Fourteen agents have now passed for various and contradictory reasons (one passed after the initial reader said I'd written a "magnificent bookĒ and was sending it on with his highest recommendation). So that leaves me with six. On the bright side, I have a hundred or so agents I could still query. Even so, itís beginning to look suspiciously like another trunk novel.

Oh no, don't say that. What would Fran do? Anyway, my stats are pretty close to yours: 100 queries, 36 full requests, 11 still out there, some more than four months. I actually had an agent during this time, who LOVED it. But when I couldn't get this agent to give me notes on more than fifty pages after eight months, my attitude started to deteriorate. We would up rescinding our agreement. I've had more than 20 requests since then.

dgaughran
03-31-2011, 10:02 PM
Does self publishing seem at all viable if you feel you can't continue to query this book? Does that seem like a failure or just a different option?

For every Amanda Hocking there are 10,000 others struggling to sell 100 copies to their friends and family. Without any kind of platform, self-publishing could be a big risk, and would mean I could probably never go the traditional route with this book at a later point.

On the other hand, I have been reading Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler all day, and wondering if my attitudes are out-dated.

I don't see self-publishing as failure. I see self-publishing and selling 10 copies as failure (for me). I want to make a living out of this. I want lots and lots of people to read my stories. Prestige and NY Times bestseller lists are of very little importance compared to that. I would rather sell 10,000 ebooks at $2.99 than 1,000 hardbacks at $29.99.

If I thought I could make a living self-publishing, I would do it tomorrow.

dgaughran
03-31-2011, 10:04 PM
There are all kinds of other options available to an author who is done querying agents with a specific book--small publishers, e-publishers, indie publishers, reworking the concept and rewriting the book.

Small publishers/indie publishers and so on would be an option. That's a whole side to the publishing industry I know nothing about.

dgaughran
03-31-2011, 10:08 PM
I actually had two requests after I got the offer

Is that like waiting all day for the bus then two turn up at once, after you got in the taxi?

Seriously though, that's some impressive determination you have shown, and it got you the result in the end. Inspiring.

aekap
04-02-2011, 01:02 AM
I'm with those who think you should keep querying this one while you work on your next project.

And this (as others have said,) is not standard practice:

if she made an offer, she would expect for it to be accepted on the spot.


From everything I've read (and experience), agents always give you a few days to think things over/ponder other offers.

It sounds like you got very close this time, and it doesn't really take much time to query once you've got your package ready. What if you just sent out 10 more, and a terrific agent who loved your work was one of the ten?

I was all set to bail on my current project when my agent offered... I was burned out and wanted to move on, so I understand how you feel. But you may be closer than you realize.

dgaughran
04-02-2011, 04:04 PM
And this (as others have said,) is not standard practice:


It may not be standard, but I have heard several examples of it happening, including one of the top agents in the US who mentioned such a case on her popular blog. She said she didn't want to participate in a beauty pageant.

And as I said above, it is their prerogative.

Anne Lyle
04-02-2011, 08:57 PM
However, she also intimated that if she made an offer, she would expect for it to be accepted on the spot.

Well, you could give her a verbal agreement on the spot, but since a written contract is mandatory under UK law, your acceptance would not be final until you signed on the dotted line. On the other hand, breaking your word is not terribly professional, so once you said yes, it would have been tricky to change your mind.

However I agree with the other posters - this must have been an incredibly frustrating experience, but it's by no means the end of the road for your book. If you're getting close to getting offers, the manuscript must be sound, so just keep plugging away until you find the right agent.

Graz
04-02-2011, 10:00 PM
Congrats on how very far you've gotten in your process. Screw 'em all, keep submitting

dgaughran
04-03-2011, 02:50 PM
Thanks for all the comments guys, it really is appreciated.

I have been sick in bed all week reading about Barry Eisler and Amanda Hocking, reading Joe Konrath's blog and Dean Wesley Smith's blog, and it's fascinating reading.

I think I will park this novel for now and focus on new writing. I have a great idea for a second novel, and two short stories which are demanding to be written. In a month or so I will look at this again. Maybe I'll start querying again, maybe not. Maybe I'll keep it in a dusty trunk for when my agent bags me a two book deal. Maybe I'll self-publish it.

Maybe I'll even call that agent and see what's up.

I don't know, but at least now I realise I have options.

Thanks again,

Dave

cate townsend
04-04-2011, 11:59 PM
Dave,

I'm with the camp to keep it circulating. Keep submitting, and in the meantime, work on the next project. Don't park it. With that much interest in it, someone else is bound to grab it.

Renee Collins
04-05-2011, 02:35 AM
Dave,

I'm with the camp to keep it circulating. Keep submitting, and in the meantime, work on the next project. Don't park it. With that much interest in it, someone else is bound to grab it.

Ditto!

I clicked over to your website, and your book sounds fantastic. I have no doubt this situation is frustrating and disheartening, but you do have a good idea and clear interest.

Best of luck :)

stormie
04-05-2011, 03:02 AM
Keep that query out there. You just haven't found the right agent for it--and you--yet. With all the attention you're getting just from the query (and then the partial and full), you'll find the agent you can work with on the strength of that novel.

Work on another novel, but as others have said, keep this one circulating.

MikeGrant
04-05-2011, 07:19 PM
Thanks for all the comments guys, it really is appreciated.

I have been sick in bed all week reading about Barry Eisler and Amanda Hocking, reading Joe Konrath's blog and Dean Wesley Smith's blog, and it's fascinating reading.

I think I will park this novel for now and focus on new writing. I have a great idea for a second novel, and two short stories which are demanding to be written. In a month or so I will look at this again. Maybe I'll start querying again, maybe not. Maybe I'll keep it in a dusty trunk for when my agent bags me a two book deal. Maybe I'll self-publish it.

Maybe I'll even call that agent and see what's up.

I don't know, but at least now I realise I have options.

Thanks again,

Dave

You can totally query AND write that second novel. No need for the two to be mutually exclusive. You should definitely do both, as there is an agent out there for the first book somewhere. :)

dgaughran
04-05-2011, 07:23 PM
I'm actually going to take a break from both. I have two short story ideas which have been bugging me since I started the second novel. I'm nearly half-way through the first (it's turning out longer than expected). When I am done with those, I will return to the novel and, maybe, to the querying. Maybe not.

Querying takes time, and energy, and at this stage, it gets me down. I even have two requested partials that I haven't sent out. They both wanted hard-copy, which is their call, but it's gonna cost me $20 (postal rates from Sweden are high), and right now I am thinking: what's the point?

crazynance
04-06-2011, 06:31 PM
Ya never know, DG, send them. Consider it your 'lottery ticket' with much better odds.

dgaughran
04-06-2011, 06:47 PM
I dunno. I have four fulls that are ticking over onto six months now. I sent a status request on each after three months, then another about six weeks later, then another today.

I also have a partial that I originally sent in in January 2010. They finally got back to me in October last year and asked me to send again, then went silent.

I'm beginning to miss those old same-day rejections. Maybe this book is cursed!

Corinne Duyvis
04-06-2011, 07:13 PM
I've only had a request for a hard-copy partial once, but when I asked the agent if I could e-mail it since I was overseas, she immediately agreed and apologized for even asking. Given the extra time and costs and the lack of reliability of overseas mail -- the first contract my agent sent me never arrived -- most agents will be sympathetic. You can always ask. :)

dgaughran
04-06-2011, 07:18 PM
It's good advice, and I always try it, these were just the only two that insisted on a hard copy.

shaldna
04-06-2011, 07:55 PM
How frustrating, but don't let it put you off. Instead look at it as two near misses with agents who really wanted your work. If two like it, then another 2, or 20, or 200 will like it too.

popmuze
04-06-2011, 07:55 PM
I dunno. I have four fulls that are ticking over onto six months now. I sent a status request on each after three months, then another about six weeks later, then another today.

I also have a partial that I originally sent in in January 2010. They finally got back to me in October last year and asked me to send again, then went silent.

I'm beginning to miss those old same-day rejections. Maybe this book is cursed!


I'm in the same boat, with fulls out there anywhere from four months to four weeks. Agents are taking almost as long as publishers these days. Did you have any success with your status requests? Two agents on my list never responded, the others did at least acknowledge that I was still in the queue.

dgaughran
04-06-2011, 08:24 PM
I'm in the same boat, with fulls out there anywhere from four months to four weeks. Agents are taking almost as long as publishers these days. Did you have any success with your status requests? Two agents on my list never responded, the others did at least acknowledge that I was still in the queue.

I have four fulls out since end of Oct/start of Nov so that's over six months actually. I sent three status request emails for each one (after 3 months, 4.5 months and 6 months) and haven't received one response from any of those emails, not an acknowledgement, or an 'it's in the queue', nothing.

popmuze
04-06-2011, 11:52 PM
I have four fulls out since end of Oct/start of Nov so that's over six months actually. I sent three status request emails for each one (after 3 months, 4.5 months and 6 months) and haven't received one response from any of those emails, not an acknowledgement, or an 'it's in the queue', nothing.

If it makes you feel any better, that's only five months. Here are the dates I'm waiting for:
10/26
10/27
11/22
11/29
12/1
12/6
12/21
1/11
1/14
2/14
2/25
3/5
3/21
(plus about 25 unanswered queries)

dgaughran
04-07-2011, 12:12 AM
woah!

Are those all fulls?

popmuze
04-07-2011, 01:16 AM
Yep. And from some of the responses to the query I thought the agents would be reading it that same night. But no such luck. I did follow up once--and I even supplied a few of them with a revised edition. But I certainly haven't given up on any of them. Although occasionally, as you can see, I send out the old query to another handful of agents.

dgaughran
04-07-2011, 01:39 AM
That's a serious request rate, well done!

dgaughran
04-07-2011, 02:15 AM
If it makes you feel any better, that's only five months.

My mistake above, I actually have you beat - October 8th is my earliest.

kathleea
04-07-2011, 04:33 AM
I am waiting for one of my novels to come back from eight queries (I had close to 100 for it-got one partial and one full request, both passed). I am going to put it up as an eBook. I believe it's good and have had it out to beta readers who loved it. I think that eBooks can sell if you write a good book that has to have a professional cover and be professionally edited. Meanwhile, I am writing another one. Keep going is my mantra.

thothguard51
04-07-2011, 05:16 AM
I feel for you...

dgaughran
04-07-2011, 03:47 PM
...like Chaka Khan (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObjLb6ElTvs)?

Wow. I can't decided if that song is amazing or terrible. No, I can decide. It's amazing.

Anne Lyle
04-07-2011, 03:54 PM
Yep. And from some of the responses to the query I thought the agents would be reading it that same night. But no such luck. I did follow up once--and I even supplied a few of them with a revised edition. But I certainly haven't given up on any of them. Although occasionally, as you can see, I send out the old query to another handful of agents.

That's an impressive hit rate, popmuze!

I imagine that, thanks to email, it's much easier nowadays for an agent to request a full - but that doesn't mean they read them any quicker! I suspect I would still be waiting (and continuing to query) if I hadn't had an offer on the table.

dgaughran
04-09-2011, 03:54 AM
I decided to publish my shorts online for 99c a pop so people can download em to their Kindles and iPhones, and release the album ever 5 stories or so for $2.99. I have no idea how to do it, but I'm gonna learn. I don't know how many I'm going to sell, but I'm going to tell the world anyway, and blog about it here: http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com

It was only when I came up with this project on Sunday that I kicked into gear and started writing again. I feel like I have control of my life back.

I wrote a 5,200 short in the last three days, and I think it's good. I've never written that fast. I'm going to publish it online. I have a few more I can use too.

I strongly recommend doing this, it's a lot of fun.

BarbaraKE
04-09-2011, 11:42 AM
I decided to publish my shorts online for 99c a pop so people can download em to their Kindles and iPhones, and release the album ever 5 stories or so for $2.99. I have no idea how to do it, but I'm gonna learn. I don't know how many I'm going to sell, but I'm going to tell the world anyway, and blog about it here: http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com

It was only when I came up with this project on Sunday that I kicked into gear and started writing again. I feel like I have control of my life back.


Last August/September, I sent out eight queries and got back three requests for partials which were all sent out in September. It took almost six months but I eventually heard back from all three agents. All passed but were kind enough to give feedback.

But what bothered me is that all the feedback was different!! What one agent said was a drawback, another loved! It's like these three people got together and decided to play with my mind by giving me totally opposite advice.

Needless to say, I was discouraged by the whole process (and the waste of six months).

But knowing that the option of self-publishing electronically is a viable option has re-motivated me. I totally agree with your last statement.


I feel like I have control of my life back.

dgaughran
04-09-2011, 01:24 PM
Last August/September, I sent out eight queries and got back three requests for partials which were all sent out in September. It took almost six months but I eventually heard back from all three agents. All passed but were kind enough to give feedback.

But what bothered me is that all the feedback was different!! What one agent said was a drawback, another loved!


This happens a lot, whether it's a friend, a beta or an agent, you will often end up with conflicting feedback. If everyone is saying something different, you can ignore it all. However, if they all say, for example, that have a problem with passive verbs or your ending, then you should really consider it.

And don't forget, sometimes they just reject it because its not working for them, and because its a partial they need to think of something as the "reason".

I queried this novel for 18 months, on and off, and I don't regret it because the novel has gone through several revisions, and is infinitely better. I would have regretted it if I had self-published the first draft.

If you decided to query further, I would strongly recommend sending out more queries than this. It takes some writers 200 queries before they snag an agent. At this rate, you will be ten thousand years old. Three partial requests from eight queries (especially if its your first eight) is a great request rate.

Good to see you are keeping faith in your writing despite these frustrating setbacks.

BarbaraKE
04-10-2011, 12:58 AM
This happens a lot, whether it's a friend, a beta or an agent, you will often end up with conflicting feedback. If everyone is saying something different, you can ignore it all. However, if they all say, for example, that have a problem with passive verbs or your ending, then you should really consider it.


I agree that it's not uncommon to end up with conflicting feedback but to have three well-regarded agents give directly contradictory feedback is frustrating.

(I'm not talking grammer and poor sentence structure, I don't have a problem with that. I'm speaking of characterization, plot, pacing, etc.)

But what really bothered me is that I've spent lots of time writing (and rewriting and rewriting) in order to try and attract an agent when they can't agree what is 'right' or 'wrong'!!!

What's really sad is that in my attempts to attract an agent, I've gotten away from my original story. My latest version is dramatically different from the first version but I don't think it's better. (Actually, I don't like it as well.)

Julie Worth
04-10-2011, 01:08 AM
I agree that it's not uncommon to end up with conflicting feedback but to have three well-regarded agents give directly contradictory feedback is frustrating.

(I'm not talking grammer and poor sentence structure, I don't have a problem with that. I'm speaking of characterization, plot, pacing, etc.)

But what really bothered me is that I've spent lots of time writing (and rewriting and rewriting) in order to try and attract an agent when they can't agree what is 'right' or 'wrong'!!!

What's really sad is that in my attempts to attract an agent, I've gotten away from my original story. My latest version is dramatically different from the first version but I don't think it's better. (Actually, I don't like it as well.)


If you look at the reviews of any bestseller on Amazon, you see a wide range of contradictory assessments. Agents aren't any different, except they give out a lot of 1's. On my present book I've received a few comments that are so stupid and misguided that I can't imagine they came from somebody in the business. And a number of others who said they liked the book but didn't think they could sell it. Which is an obvious lie. Very likely they could sell it all right, but they probably thought they couldn't sell it for enough.

dgaughran
04-10-2011, 04:48 PM
Very likely they could sell it all right, but they probably thought they couldn't sell it for enough.

And this is the problem isn't it? We take rejection (when we get enough of it) to mean that our writing is not of publishable quality, that we aren't good enough or our manuscript isn't good enough. When in fact, the agent could well be looking at something and thinking that they could only sell it for a sub-$5,000 advance, so it's probably not worth their time. Unfortunately, the writer never knows this.

Prawn
04-10-2011, 06:33 PM
I read your first chapter, and I really enjoyed it. I sent out 220 queries before landing an agent. I think you should keep sending them out!

turningpoint
04-10-2011, 06:44 PM
dgaughran,
I'm curious about how publishing your shorts works out. It must be nice to get the lift of just having something out there for the public. Maybe it will help generate interest from agents.

popmuze
04-11-2011, 07:30 AM
If you look at the reviews of any bestseller on Amazon, you see a wide range of contradictory assessments. Agents aren't any different, except they give out a lot of 1's. On my present book I've received a few comments that are so stupid and misguided that I can't imagine they came from somebody in the business. .

I've had several which have led me to believe they didn't even read the manuscript. One agent thought the ten pages I sent her contained three chapters not one. Another had some complaints that were totally and clearly addressed in the first chapter. A couple of others sent back rejections so fast I know they couldn't have read more than a page. And the rest have been sitting on the manuscript for four or five months. The previous agent I signed with sat on the manuscript for four or five months, too, before giving me any comments. And those comments were the total opposite of the letter I was sent that convinced me to sign.
No wonder self-publishing appeals to people.

dgaughran
04-11-2011, 01:37 PM
My personal favourite was when I shelled out $20 to send five chapters to New York, only to get a rejection two months later. For someone else's book. When I emailed to point out the error, I was told "they didn't provide feedback on rejections". That was nearly a 'laptop across the room' moment.

popmuze
04-11-2011, 04:03 PM
A little off the topic but, how is it living in Sweden anyway?

dgaughran
04-11-2011, 04:23 PM
Terrible weather, expensive beer, and difficult to make friends or find a job.

In short, great for writing.

Anne Lyle
04-11-2011, 06:49 PM
My personal favourite was when I shelled out $20 to send five chapters to New York, only to get a rejection two months later. For someone else's book. When I emailed to point out the error, I was told "they didn't provide feedback on rejections". That was nearly a 'laptop across the room' moment.

If that's a good example of their communication, maybe you wouldn't want them as agents anyway?

Fortunately the only person who gave me detailed feedback picked up the manuscript, so I didn't have to deal with conflicting advice. But I wouldn't follow any advice that took my book away from what I want it to be.

One thing we learnt on the writing course I did last year was to define our "hill to die on" - what are you willing to change, and what are you not? I've made substantial changes to some aspects of my book, but there are others I would rather tear up the contract over...

Julie Worth
04-11-2011, 07:43 PM
My personal favourite was when I shelled out $20 to send five chapters to New York, only to get a rejection two months later. For someone else's book.

Perhaps the other author received a positive response on your book.

dgaughran
04-11-2011, 08:10 PM
Perhaps the other author received a positive response on your book.

Wouldn't that be something?

Picture it: a writer slaving away for years, only ever receiving rejection, finally has their genius recognised and receives an offer of representation from a top New York agent. Only, during their call, he realises they are talking about someone else's book.

Oh, the horror!

popmuze
04-11-2011, 10:55 PM
Wouldn't that be something?

Picture it: a writer slaving away for years, only ever receiving rejection, finally has their genius recognised and receives an offer of representation from a top New York agent. Only, during their call, he realises they are talking about someone else's book.

Oh, the horror!

On the contrary, I think it's a great idea for a novel!

dgaughran
04-11-2011, 10:59 PM
Yes yes, a horror novel.

As the crazed author who sees his manuscript stolen due to a clerical error decides to track his "replacement" down, and make him suffer.

popmuze
04-11-2011, 11:40 PM
Actually, now that I think about it, I remember a book called About the Author by John Colapinto that may have had a similar premise.

writegirl
04-12-2011, 12:27 AM
I'm finding it very interesting, reading what everyone is struggling through in the query process. I'm just getting started on wrangling with this beast for my first novel. (I've been in journalism prior to trying this self-torture.) I'm looking for advice on how to go about doing this. I spent 3 weeks going through various agent lists (Query Tracker and Writers' Market) and categorizing them into (a), (b), (c), groups with (a) being dream agents and (c) being agents I think might be interested but am unsure. I have a total of 94 agents on the list. I sent out 7 queries four weeks ago from the (a) list and received 2 rejections. This week I sent out 7 more from (a) and (b) lists. Should I be sending out more at a time and with greater frequency? I certainly don't want to burn bridges with potential agents until I start getting an idea on whether it needs more work. But I'm getting very little feedback so far other than agents saying they didn't feel like the book was right for them. I even had one who said she thought it had merit and maybe another agent would be interested. But that is it so far.

I also noticed that a few have mentioned beta readers. How do you go about finding a trustworthy beta reader, one you know will give good advice and not try to steal your ideas?

Thanks for any help any of you could give. I feel a bit like a fish out of water trying to drink from a fire hose.

Thanks

Julie Worth
04-12-2011, 12:49 AM
I'm finding it very interesting, reading what everyone is struggling through in the query process. I'm just getting started on wrangling with this beast for my first novel. (I've been in journalism prior to trying this self-torture.) I'm looking for advice on how to go about doing this. I spent 3 weeks going through various agent lists (Query Tracker and Writers' Market) and categorizing them into (a), (b), (c), groups with (a) being dream agents and (c) being agents I think might be interested but am unsure. I have a total of 94 agents on the list. I sent out 7 queries four weeks ago from the (a) list and received 2 rejections. This week I sent out 7 more from (a) and (b) lists. Should I be sending out more at a time and with greater frequency? I certainly don't want to burn bridges with potential agents until I start getting an idea on whether it needs more work. But I'm getting very little feedback so far other than agents saying they didn't feel like the book was right for them. I even had one who said she thought it had merit and maybe another agent would be interested. But that is it so far.

I also noticed that a few have mentioned beta readers. How do you go about finding a trustworthy beta reader, one you know will give good advice and not try to steal your ideas?

Thanks for any help any of you could give. I feel a bit like a fish out of water trying to drink from a fire hose.

Thanks

You can post your query in the SYW area and get feedback and I would do that if I hadn't queried before. From what I see from my own queries and from others who have been successful, if you're not getting 15% requests for the full, your chances of getting an offer are less than half.

As for categorizing agents, that might be useful if you're writing in several genres, but otherwise, they will be picking you, not the other way around. I would look at their query response times (at querytracker) and initially send to those who are quick. Then you can compare your responses with the typical responses and see how you're doing. Generally, a query will need some adjustments.

Julie Worth
04-12-2011, 01:32 AM
Actually, now that I think about it, I remember a book called About the Author by John Colapinto that may have had a similar premise.

An excellent read. The author's roommate steals the author's life and then the author seals the book.

writegirl
04-12-2011, 02:47 AM
You can post your query in the SYW area and get feedback and I would do that if I hadn't queried before. From what I see from my own queries and from others who have been successful, if you're not getting 15% requests for the full, your chances of getting an offer are less than half.

As for categorizing agents, that might be useful if you're writing in several genres, but otherwise, they will be picking you, not the other way around. I would look at their query response times (at querytracker) and initially send to those who are quick. Then you can compare your responses with the typical responses and see how you're doing. Generally, a query will need some adjustments.
Thanks for the information. I'll give SYW a try with the query. I had an editor friend read it and give pointers on changes to make. I did those before I started submitting it.

What do you think about frequency and number of queries or waiting a few weeks between batches? I read about how people sent out 100 queries and think, surely they didn't do them all at once, but over the course of time.

Sandsurfgirl
04-12-2011, 04:42 AM
Thanks for the information. I'll give SYW a try with the query. I had an editor friend read it and give pointers on changes to make. I did those before I started submitting it.

What do you think about frequency and number of queries or waiting a few weeks between batches? I read about how people sent out 100 queries and think, surely they didn't do them all at once, but over the course of time.

I've done like 30 or more at a time. Not very many give feedback, so at the rate of 7 here and 7 there, with the amount of time it takes agents to answer it could take you forever. Often they don't even bother to respond to queries if they aren't interested so you could be waiting to hear back from 4 or 5 agents who never even intended to contact you.

writegirl
04-12-2011, 04:45 AM
I've done like 30 or more at a time. Not very many give feedback, so at the rate of 7 here and 7 there, with the amount of time it takes agents to answer it could take you forever. Often they don't even bother to respond to queries if they aren't interested so you could be waiting to hear back from 4 or 5 agents who never even intended to contact you.
Thanks, Sandsurfgirl.

Sandsurfgirl
04-12-2011, 04:51 AM
I had one agent give me what I thought was a silly critique comment, so silly in fact it even made my husband laugh out loud when he read it. Then I went back and read her blog out of curiosity. It was embarrassing and parts made me cringe... sophomoric and just.... bad. It reminded me of when I taught middle school English and you'd have this really smart kid who tried to sound lofty. Cute in a 7th grader. Not so cute in a professional. She is a newer agent but she works for an agency that's small but sells books. I thanked my lucky stars she rejected me and I disregarded her critique. If I had read her blog before I never would have queried her. Funny enough the blog link is not on the agency's site. It was in her signature line on her email. The moral of the story is.... consider the source carefully before you make drastic changes to your manuscript.

I wouldn't make changes to my manuscript based on advice I got on partials or fulls if it changed the nature of my story drastically. Yes they are agents, but this is a subjective business and afterall... it's really their opinion like anybody's opinion. Take what works for you and discard the rest. If you feel that your manuscript has suffered from your changes then go back to an earlier version.

Becca C.
04-12-2011, 05:28 AM
When I was querying last year, I got a two form rejects on fulls and two personalized responses. One of them, the advice/feedback was completely subjective. Nothing that agent suggested really clicked for me. I appreciated her efforts in giving me advice, as she totally didn't have to, but it just wasn't advice I was going to use. The other agent talked to me on the phone for half an hour about the manuscript and then emailed me all her notes and her intern's reader report. I fell in love with the tips this agent gave me. Even as we were talking, I was having huge bursts of inspiration and already planning what I was going to do in a revision.

The first agent's advice was weird and didn't ring true to me, but the second agents's advice made the manuscript 100% better than it was. It really does come down to whether or not the agent "gets" your book.

Anne Lyle
04-12-2011, 09:31 AM
I also noticed that a few have mentioned beta readers. How do you go about finding a trustworthy beta reader, one you know will give good advice and not try to steal your ideas?

My beta-readers are long-time friends - most are members of my offline writing group, one is an online friend from a forum I've belonged to for many years. I would recommend critiquing someone else's work before you ask them to return the favour. Not only is it polite to do so (shows you're not just another freeloader) but it gives you a chance to assess their level of writing so you know what level of critique to expect. Feedback from non-writers about what they liked and didn't like is valuable, but for help with craft problems you need writing buddies who are at least as competent as you are.

As for people stealing your ideas - good writers have too many ideas of their own to care about stealing yours, and bad writers...? Who cares, since they're unlikely to turn it into anything publishable? :)

zander
04-12-2011, 06:25 PM
Agreed. I never worry about someone stealing my ideas. Ideas are cheap - actually turning one into a workable novel is hard.

Jettica
04-13-2011, 08:16 PM
My beta readers are friends and family who are interested in all sorts of genres. I think once I've taken their feedback on board I'd sent it to one or two willing-AWers for some more technical feedback.

DerekJager
05-11-2011, 11:35 PM
David, a while back, you posted:
--
"I want to make a living out of this."
--

Others have probably posted this by now, but it's tough to make a "living" out of being an author. The advance vs. the time spent in writing and so forth make for a meager living for most.

That said, write because you love to write. Many/most of us have "great" manuscripts packed away somewhere. There's joy in the writing and a paycheck in a job.

Good luck!

dgaughran
05-11-2011, 11:42 PM
Hi Derek,

Since this thread was written I decide to self-publish some short stories, to test the water, to see if I enjoyed it, and to get an education.

First one went up a week ago - it's been in and out of the Kindle Top 100 Stories, with some nice reviews.

Second one will go up next week.

More planned for the summer.

Can I make a living off it? Not yet. Ask me in six months. I won't be there at that point either, but I might have a better guess if it's possible.

Novel is still with 3 agents. Over seven months without a peep. Might self-publish that too.

We'll see.

DerekJager
05-12-2011, 04:42 PM
That's great, David--that you've kept writing and getting your "words out there."

Wishing you much continued success and feedback!

Said The Sun
05-12-2011, 05:29 PM
This whole thread does a great novella; I started off feeling really bad for you and pissed off at these agents, then I was hopeless and wondering what is wrong with this world and the people in it, and now at the end, I'm glad I was able to smile. Keep your chin up and keep querying that novel. You owe it to yourself to not give this up. Good luck!