PDA

View Full Version : How many form rejections do you receive before you...



Atlanta
01-24-2012, 06:08 AM
...re-think your query and/or manuscript?

Do any of you have a certain number in your head? I'm not at mine yet (4 so far) but I'm not sure at what point I should be revising things. Fifteen? Twenty? I'm talking form rejections, nothing encouraging at all. ;)

My manuscript has been through about 5 revisions, and several readings through my writer's group. My query has been through several revisions also, the latest one knocking it down to 215 words (it's a MG novel). I lurk on several writing and query boards, including Query Shark.

About 10 years ago I sent queries for my picture book and got requests for all of them, but maybe that's because picture books are a faster read (the manuscript itself was never accepted).

Just wondering how you all decide...

Drachen Jager
01-24-2012, 06:16 AM
On both of my manuscripts I queried 40-50 agents between rewrites. If response was lackluster I tried to figure out what was wrong and improved my writing skills, query etc. The first one was in the middling 200s when I threw in the towel. The second one went through several rounds of revisions before I landed an agent.

Now I'm revising again... whee!

Suffice to say, if I ever meet someone at a cocktail party in the future and his response to finding out that I'm a writer is, "Oh that's a pretty easy job isn't it?" I'm going to pop him right in the nose.

PeteDutcher
01-24-2012, 08:33 AM
Frankly, I don't have time for rejections or the emotions of rejection.

Years ago, I went to commercial art school, and later I owned an agent and also worked in the comic industry.

The biggest lesson I learned back then is this:

Rejections don't mean squat. Too many agents and publishers have to limit their work so much that they don't look at potential...and in some cases I doubt they even read much of what they request.

However...

...I do look to see if they offer advice...and if they do, I always thank them and attempt to keep the possibility of further communication open.

On my first book, I had a top agent request the full manuscript. She rejected, but took the time to tell me its strengths and weaknesses in the rejection. She said she like it enough to want to see more of my work.

Now, I can send her entire manuscripts without doing a query.

But back to the time issue...I have about 6 book concepts I'm fleshing out, and 4 others that I'm writing. That same agent wants to see my current fantasy project, and I committed to a May deadline to send her a first draft (it will be a revised draft, really).

I just don't have time to go back and make more improvements to earlier work. If an agent or publisher contacts me and says they would be interested in the work if I made certain changes, then I would make the changes (within reason). But unless that happens, I'm on to the next project.

But there is a reason for that...the lesson I learned in the comic book industry and commercial art school...practice makes improvement. By doing revisions, you can improve a single work. By writing more books, you can improve your writing skills.

Revisions have a place...especially if a work isn't ready to show, but once it is, move on. Do more work that is not on the same book, otherwise your brain becomes bored.

Of my four current book projects, I have:


An Epic Fantasy novel with a complete story, but one that can lead into more books (almost 700 pages)
An Action fiction novel involving a female soldier whose family is killed back home in a terrorist attack, and she declares a personal war on all terrorists.
A Classic Fiction novel my grandmother started years ago about a boy and his horse. I'm doing a rewrite and expanding on the story as a 100th birthday gift to her.
A Superhuman fiction novel where a world is ravaged by a virus that turns out to be the worlds salvation.



So my current projects involve four different genres...although my main genre is fantasy. It keeps my brain from being blocked.

I write one large book every 9 months...and usually 3 of those months I spend jumping from project to project before getting serious about one book.

It's important to note that I am writing full time at home, and because of my health, it's all I can do for a living now.

Quickbread
01-24-2012, 06:39 PM
Suffice to say, if I ever meet someone at a cocktail party in the future and his response to finding out that I'm a writer is, "Oh that's a pretty easy job isn't it?" I'm going to pop him right in the nose.

Yeah, I'm right there with you. Writing my novel (many times over) is the hardest thing I've ever done.

Linds
01-25-2012, 08:01 AM
I think it depends on what kind of rejections you get. I've submitted a relative few, but when I only received form rejections, I changed the query after 5 'no'. I finally have a draft that is good.

On another note, before I started the query process, I didn't think I'd ever be happy to see a rejection. I finally got a rejection with my newest query that offered a critique and not just "no thank you". I take it as progress, and back to more revisions while I also write the next story.

Ed Panther
01-26-2012, 08:39 AM
Frankly, I don't have time for rejections or the emotions of rejection.

Years ago, I went to commercial art school, and later I owned an agent and also worked in the comic industry.

The biggest lesson I learned back then is this:

Rejections don't mean squat. Too many agents and publishers have to limit their work so much that they don't look at potential...and in some cases I doubt they even read much of what they request.

However...

...I do look to see if they offer advice...and if they do, I always thank them and attempt to keep the possibility of further communication open.

On my first book, I had a top agent request the full manuscript. She rejected, but took the time to tell me its strengths and weaknesses in the rejection. She said she like it enough to want to see more of my work.

Now, I can send her entire manuscripts without doing a query.

But back to the time issue...I have about 6 book concepts I'm fleshing out, and 4 others that I'm writing. That same agent wants to see my current fantasy project, and I committed to a May deadline to send her a first draft (it will be a revised draft, really).

I just don't have time to go back and make more improvements to earlier work. If an agent or publisher contacts me and says they would be interested in the work if I made certain changes, then I would make the changes (within reason). But unless that happens, I'm on to the next project.

But there is a reason for that...the lesson I learned in the comic book industry and commercial art school...practice makes improvement. By doing revisions, you can improve a single work. By writing more books, you can improve your writing skills.

Revisions have a place...especially if a work isn't ready to show, but once it is, move on. Do more work that is not on the same book, otherwise your brain becomes bored.

Of my four current book projects, I have:


An Epic Fantasy novel with a complete story, but one that can lead into more books (almost 700 pages)
An Action fiction novel involving a female soldier whose family is killed back home in a terrorist attack, and she declares a personal war on all terrorists.
A Classic Fiction novel my grandmother started years ago about a boy and his horse. I'm doing a rewrite and expanding on the story as a 100th birthday gift to her.
A Superhuman fiction novel where a world is ravaged by a virus that turns out to be the worlds salvation.



So my current projects involve four different genres...although my main genre is fantasy. It keeps my brain from being blocked.

I write one large book every 9 months...and usually 3 of those months I spend jumping from project to project before getting serious about one book.

It's important to note that I am writing full time at home, and because of my health, it's all I can do for a living now.


Wow! That is awesome - best present ever.

kaitie
01-26-2012, 10:11 PM
If I didn't have at least a 1 in 10 request rate, I rethought the query. That's a bare minimum, and for me if it wasn't attracting more attention it meant that there was a problem with the query. I did a couple of query rewrites both times.

As for the manuscript, that was more a matter of general feedback. The first one I did a couple of revisions while querying and I never really got much feedback, even on full requests. I knew that meant that it wasn't there yet. Granted, by the time I gave up on it, I had another book in the wings ready to go.

The second book had a huge difference in terms of response. While the first was mostly form rejections, the second got many personalized rejections with feedback, requests to send the next book, etc. I had a couple of people who offered to let me revise and resend (one of whom eventually became my agent) and even when I did get feedback, it was overwhelmingly positive ("This is great but not quite right for my list"). The only revision I even considered there was the one that was asked of me that I agreed with.

The moral of the story is that you can generally tell how the manuscript stacks up based on responses, but I personally think that it's better to move on to the next book than to spend a year rewriting the one you're sending. I'd suggest a revision only if you get good feedback offering problems that you can agree with. Otherwise, the time is better spent working on the next and trying again with that one.

writerGDW
01-28-2012, 01:45 AM
...re-think your query and/or manuscript?

Just wondering how you all decide...

I wondered this myself, but realized that it just depends. I sent out about 25 queries and got 10 form rejections...discouraging, right? I thought maybe I should revise the query and/or first pages. But then I received 4 full requests from my top choice agents. (The rest are no response.)

So, while my query/first pages might not be working for some agents, clearly it's working for others...

I also have to consider my genre (memoir) which is a tough sell to begin with.

Sounds like you've only queried a handful of agents. I'd give it more time and if you don't get ANY positive response, then revise.

Debbie V
01-30-2012, 07:15 PM
When I first started, I stopped at five and revised. But I had no critique group and knew nothing. Those five prompted me to look for Beta Readers. That was fifteen years ago.

Now I get more positive responses than negative ones. I don't revise after I've started submitting unless rejection letter feedback triggers a "that makes sense" response. I'm adding a new first chapter to one of my manuscripts for that reason. That agent requested other work, which I will send with a thank you for the feedback and the information that I have taken her advice should she like to see the revised work in question. (It was not a revise and resend response.)
Take what you can use and leave the rest behind.

I will submit until I have exhausted every agent and afterwards publisher who accepts the genre for each of my pieces.

JSSchley
01-30-2012, 09:39 PM
I like Kaitie's one in ten suggestion. If the query's good, you should get requests from 10% or so at least.

I'm revising my ms. right now, but that was after rejections on three fulls and two partials, most of which were very personalized and gave me good ideas of where my story was weaker. The last full I actually emailed the agent back (as she's someone I'm very interested in working with) and told her that her suggestions really resonated with me--a la Debbie V's. "That makes sense response" above--and I'd love to send her the revision in a few months. She said that would be fine.

There's no rule of thumb, but I agree that you'll kind of get a feel for how well it's going.

Brickcommajason
01-31-2012, 12:24 AM
For my first novel, it wasn't the number of queries but the comments I got on some of them. I sent out 150 queries, of which about 40 asked to see a larger sample. Nobody bit, but nearly everybody who sent a personal note gave me identical feedback.

Pretty clear evidence that a part of the book needed work.

Just my two cents.

Shadow_Ferret
01-31-2012, 12:40 AM
I'm kind of paranoid compulsive. I changed my query after neat every rejection and edited my story every 5 rejections.

Jamesaritchie
01-31-2012, 02:02 AM
Frankly, I don't have time for rejections or the emotions of rejection.

Years ago, I went to commercial art school, and later I owned an agent and also worked in the comic industry.

The biggest lesson I learned back then is this:

Rejections don't mean squat. Too many agents and publishers have to limit their work so much that they don't look at potential...and in some cases I doubt they even read much of what they request.

However...

...I do look to see if they offer advice...and if they do, I always thank them and attempt to keep the possibility of further communication open.

On my first book, I had a top agent request the full manuscript. She rejected, but took the time to tell me its strengths and weaknesses in the rejection. She said she like it enough to want to see more of my work.

Now, I can send her entire manuscripts without doing a query.

But back to the time issue...I have about 6 book concepts I'm fleshing out, and 4 others that I'm writing. That same agent wants to see my current fantasy project, and I committed to a May deadline to send her a first draft (it will be a revised draft, really).

I just don't have time to go back and make more improvements to earlier work. If an agent or publisher contacts me and says they would be interested in the work if I made certain changes, then I would make the changes (within reason). But unless that happens, I'm on to the next project.

But there is a reason for that...the lesson I learned in the comic book industry and commercial art school...practice makes improvement. By doing revisions, you can improve a single work. By writing more books, you can improve your writing skills.

Revisions have a place...especially if a work isn't ready to show, but once it is, move on. Do more work that is not on the same book, otherwise your brain becomes bored.

Of my four current book projects, I have:


An Epic Fantasy novel with a complete story, but one that can lead into more books (almost 700 pages)
An Action fiction novel involving a female soldier whose family is killed back home in a terrorist attack, and she declares a personal war on all terrorists.
A Classic Fiction novel my grandmother started years ago about a boy and his horse. I'm doing a rewrite and expanding on the story as a 100th birthday gift to her.
A Superhuman fiction novel where a world is ravaged by a virus that turns out to be the worlds salvation.


So my current projects involve four different genres...although my main genre is fantasy. It keeps my brain from being blocked.

I write one large book every 9 months...and usually 3 of those months I spend jumping from project to project before getting serious about one book.

It's important to note that I am writing full time at home, and because of my health, it's all I can do for a living now.


I don't know about comic books, but pretty much nothing you wrote in this post has even a grain of truth in book publishing.

Brickcommajason
01-31-2012, 02:15 AM
Rejections don't mean squat. Too many agents and publishers have to limit their work so much that they don't look at potential...and in some cases I doubt they even read much of what they request.

However...

...I do look to see if they offer advice...and if they do, I always thank them and attempt to keep the possibility of further communication open.

On my first book, I had a top agent request the full manuscript. She rejected, but took the time to tell me its strengths and weaknesses in the rejection. She said she like it enough to want to see more of my work.

Now, I can send her entire manuscripts without doing a query.

Actually James, this part is right on the money. I'm don't recommend the "abandon it if it's not perfect" attitude -- but I do know a few successful writers who use that method. Seems to me like a waste of good effort.

EMaree
01-31-2012, 03:55 AM
Never give up, never surrender!

Tromboli
01-31-2012, 05:56 AM
I think it greatly depends on your experience level. If this is your first novel then revise as much as you want. After 5 rejections if you want to.

But once you've reached a level of which you are confident with your writing ability than 15-20 seems more reasonable to me (I feel like at 10 you could have just been unlucky with agents who didn't fit). that gives you enough of a base to say that it most likely isn't just the genre or concept not hitting the right chorde with the chosen agents (or them being too full, or busy etc.) .

That's the thing with this industry, it isn't always about your work needing revisions. A lot of times it is about the market at the time. So hitting the perfect number is nearly impossible.

The best rule of thumb is to go with your gut IMO.

Rhoda Nightingale
01-31-2012, 06:31 AM
I like Kaitie's philosophy of the 1 in 10. I find myself rethinking a query after around 5 or 6, but that wasn't really the plan. I had intended to make it to double digits before changing anything when I first started sending stuff out. But after 5 or 6, sometimes less, I always wind up looking at the query/manuscript/whatever and saying, "Can I make this better?" And usually, the answer is "Yes." So I do.

driedraspberry
03-06-2012, 12:51 AM
So far I've gotten three responses from the 13 or so agents I've queried. One asked for ms (who's actually pretty high up according to my research), the other two sent me personal and rather nice rejection letters explaining that while they liked my idea I didn't quite fit their list of clients.

As it is I don't plan to change my query letter. My story is chick lit and I know I'll probably get much more negative responses (or none at all) than positive ones for the reason many of agents I've queried are interested in general women's fiction but not so much chick lit specifically. I understand many will turn me away even if I have a decent enough query letter simply due to disinterest in the subject matter.

If I get some feedback following a rejection from the first agent however, I'll be open to revising my ms.

lauralam
03-07-2012, 01:09 AM
I did an initial round of 20 queries and got nowhere. Spent a couple months heavily revising the manuscript, kicked my queries into shape, and now I've gotten quite a few requests in the first week. I wish I hadn't queried so many before re-assessing and followed my gut: my book wasn't ready yet.

tko
03-07-2012, 01:33 AM
I'm holding up my hand at the back of the classroom.

If your 1st novel fails, and you start right away on a 2nd, without spending much time rewriting the first, aren't you likely to repeat the same mistakes?

Isn't is worth learning all you can from an effort, which means polishing, learning, and rewriting, before you move on?

I really think I learned more from the revision process than I did from the initial writing, so in my opinion it's really worth following it through.

AGragon
03-08-2012, 02:49 AM
I'm at around the 20 form rejections milestone, and only like 2 of them were a bit more personalised and "encouraging" you could say.
I've revised and rewritten my queries several times, and to be honest at this point I'm already rethinking the manuscript.

Mharvey
03-08-2012, 03:15 AM
Rethink your query? 10-20.

Rethink your manuscript? Never.

I don't care how bad your manuscript is, write a good query and you should get partial/full requests.

Once people start rejecting your manuscript after reading partials/fulls, you can worry about your manuscript.

Old Hack
03-08-2012, 11:08 AM
I'm holding up my hand at the back of the classroom.

If your 1st novel fails, and you start right away on a 2nd, without spending much time rewriting the first, aren't you likely to repeat the same mistakes?

Isn't is worth learning all you can from an effort, which means polishing, learning, and rewriting, before you move on?

I really think I learned more from the revision process than I did from the initial writing, so in my opinion it's really worth following it through.

But you should do all your revising before you start querying.

If you start querying and get no requests for fulls or partials, the implication is that there's a problem with your query, not your book.

If you get plenty of requests but the fun stops there, then yep, your book might need work. At that point you can consider revising your book: but unless you get a specific "revise and resubmit" request then you might well be better off working on your next book instead.

You learn an awful lot about how to write books from actually writing books.

MKrys
03-10-2012, 02:13 AM
Here's my experience, for what it's worth:

First novel-queried 30 agents total, having edited the query letter after around the first 15 rejections. The new query earned me one partial (which later became a rejection). I could have queried more widely but knew the novel just wasn't 'it'. It wasn't a problem with the query letter so much as the novel, in that it wasn't unique enough from what was already out there.

Second novel-LOVED my query. Therefore it was pretty disappointing to get 15 rejections in a row. Still, I LOVED the query and couldn't dream of changing anything. So I didn't and just kept sending. All of a sudden the fulls and partials started rolling in. So I guess there's something to be said for trusting your gut.

KookyKat
03-15-2012, 06:48 PM
This is really interesting. I think it's simpler when it comes to when you need to change your query letter. IMO, if you query 20 agents but don't get one request for a partial / full, it's time to tweak that letter, maybe the opening chapter if you're sending samples of your writing. Certainly don't change the entire MS. Sure, it could be the writing but then IMO, you shouldn't be querying if your writing isn't at a certain level anyway (eg, you're a natural talent or you've done your research / courses to hone your writing).

But it's what to do once the requests start rolling in. At what point do you realise your MS needs changing? So how many rejections on fulls? I always worry I'll revise based on one agent's comments or a general revision based on, say, two form / vague rejections of a full but I change the novel in a way that might not appeal to other agents. I guess it's like others have said: revise if a comment really resonates.

I like Drachen Jager's suggesting of re-assessing every 50 agents or so. But then is it advisable to query that many agents before you think about revising again because what if amongst those agents there was someone who'd have liked your revised MS?

Arghhhhhhhhh, so difficult! KK

AlishaS
03-17-2012, 03:19 AM
Rethink your query? 10-20.

Rethink your manuscript? Never.

I don't care how bad your manuscript is, write a good query and you should get partial/full requests.

Once people start rejecting your manuscript after reading partials/fulls, you can worry about your manuscript.


This!

Colossus
03-17-2012, 08:14 AM
I wouldn't put a number on it. You have to realize that there's a good chance that 80%+ of your query letters are never being read by the agent. Either an assistant is scanning through them or the agent doesn't recognize the name (or see a sign of a referral) and <INSTANT FORM REPLY>.

My latest attempt has a RWR (rejection without read) of over 100 and I stopped counting. I've begun a second wave with a new query letter as I await the 2 agents that are actually reading the MS to give me their feedback (and hopefully approval from one).

Old Hack
03-17-2012, 11:54 AM
I wouldn't put a number on it. You have to realize that there's a good chance that 80%+ of your query letters are never being read by the agent. Either an assistant is scanning through them or the agent doesn't recognize the name (or see a sign of a referral) and <INSTANT FORM REPLY>.

Just because the agent doesn't read your query doesn't mean it was rejected unfairly.

Interns and assistants are given very clear instructions before they're let loose on the slush pile. They automatically reject everything written in a genre the agent doesn't represent and everything which is poorly-written (and by this I mean stuff which is incomprehensible, dull, or written by crazy folk with scary agendas). That probably accounts for at least 90% of the slush pile.

What's left gets looked at closely. Very closely. Most of it will be rejected, because it's too similar to books the agent already represents, or it's in a genre which has already been over-exposed, for example. Anything which looks promising is handed over to the agents, though, and will get read by them.

Not that this has any reflection on how many queries a writer has to send out before hitting the big-time. As has already been said, if you have written a great query and a brilliant book, you'll probably get picked up and published quickly. If you've written a weak query or a substandard book you can send out thousands of queries and you'll get nowhere. It's the writing that counts, not the numbers.

John Shepard
03-17-2012, 12:08 PM
Numbers mean nothing.

If YOU send an amazing query (add point)

If YOU send an amazing synopsis/first three chapters/whatever the agent looks for... (add point)

If YOU send a highly polished, amazing MS... (add point)

You get my drift... right? Numbers mean nothing, just because I write fantasy does not mean I can be compared to Piers Anthony, Anne McCaffery, Anne Rice ect. I am not as good as they are. I may not be as good as you. (Assuming you write fantasy.) Every agent (or agents assistant) Is looking for something. A spark, if you will, a heavenly choir to sing as they read you, a beam of sunlight at your words... whatever. It is hard to quantify it, impossible to compare it.

Write the best MS you can, write the best query you can, the best synapses you can... take every tiny bit of relevant advice and hope. Good luck.

pavtbr
04-05-2012, 05:45 AM
I have been thinking about this same topic for the past couple of weeks, so I'm glad I found this thread. I finished my first novel last May and started querying in August and have sent 48 so far. My response rate is exactly 50% and every response has been a rejection, with all but a couple being form letters.

I've modified my query letter twice after posting it and receiving feedback here (so I am on version 3.x). Most agents are only asking for the first couple of chapters with the query, with the exception of a one or two who asked for the first 10k words. So I have concluded that there must either be something wrong with my query, because no agent has read much of my ms, or there isn't much demand for a baseball-themed historical fiction.

When I started querying, I for some reason told myself I wouldn't get discouraged until I had at least 40 rejections, and I am closing in on that number. The problem I am encountering, though, is that I've already queried and been rejected by the agents I thought would be the best fit. I'm finding it more and more difficult to find agents to submit to. Am I being too finicky? Should I broaden my criteria in searching for agents (I usually look for someone specifically interested in historical fiction vs. commercial fiction). What are your thoughts?

Thanks all!
Bryan

kaitie
04-05-2012, 07:12 AM
I hate to say it, but it's also possible that it's the manuscript (especially if it's a first novel). If you're sending chapters with the query and the query is good (problem could still be the query), it might be that there are writing problems that could be addressed.

Have you gotten a critique and beta reads? It could even be that your manuscript is good overall but just has a weak beginning.

Smiley0501
05-06-2012, 08:17 AM
I rethought my query after 3 queries sent out and rejected right away. I tweaked it slightly and sent it out immediately and got a full request right away...and kept getting them. (And some...a lot, a lot rejections too) :D

dmickey
05-07-2012, 06:43 AM
I loved my first query and just sent it out to two people, one rejection, one that never replied. Looking back at my query I realized it wasn't as clear as it could be so I'm starting over. We'll see how it goes.

Colossus
05-07-2012, 07:27 AM
After getting so many form rejections myself, I have just about decided to avoid the query process entirely. I have a friend who signed her agent after meeting them at a writer's conference and speaking to them one-on-one. That seems to be a better approach if you're serious... it's definitely the way I'm going to try next.

HoneyBadger
05-07-2012, 07:53 AM
I'm getting fulls, partials, and rejections. Many rejections. All but one has been form, and that one might have just been a weird form.

It really, really doesn't mean anything other than "I cannot, for whatever reason, sell this book right now." You'll drive yourself insane overthinking it.

Undercover
05-07-2012, 03:47 PM
I haven't read your comments yet, so if someone said this, please forgive. I just wanted to remember before I forgot. Maybe IF after you receive form rejections or no response at all, think about going back to picture book writing. Getting requests on them all is a terrific thing. Picture books is one of the hardest markets to get into. Find your voice and write what you know best.

Becca C.
05-11-2012, 09:24 PM
I queried only 19 agents for the first novel I queried (which was the 14th novel I'd written), over a period of more than a year. I didn't query all 19 -- one or two noticed me in blog contests and requested, one saw my query on a forum and PM'd me asking me to submit to her. 7/19 requested, which is I think a 36% request rate. I think I got a handful of form rejects, but mostly personalized "this isn't for me, but someone will snap it up."

That agent who saw my query on a forum ended up R&Ring me, but ultimately rejecting. I still have a partial out on this MS, but I've more or less given up. It was a good learning manuscript, but the one I'm revising now will be a much stronger book that I can't wait to put forward.

kaitie
05-11-2012, 09:31 PM
You are kidding me. You gave up on a 36% request rate after 20 people? On a book people were hunting you down for? *Faints*

I'm only somewhat kidding. I have no doubt that you would have gotten an agent. I sent to a couple of hundred before I considered myself done. If you think the new book is stronger that's awesome, but seriously, the last one probably would have done it for you if you'd stuck with it. I think everyone should go for at least 100 before they quit.

Taylor
05-13-2012, 07:58 AM
If it says your name in the email, like "dear _____", does that make it a personalized rejection letter, or a form rejection? I mean, how do you delimit between the two?

Old Hack
05-13-2012, 11:55 AM
If the rejection mentions your plot-points, characters or anything else which is specific to your novel then it's personalised. If it's just addressed to you, it's a form rejection.

paqart
05-14-2012, 02:40 AM
It seems to me that the most important thing is to get the right agent for the book, whether it is the first agent you query or the hundred and first. My first book got an immediate request for the full MS, literally within about ten hours of sending the query. This was in my first batch of about 10 queries. Within the week, I had a contract in hand from a top agent in New York. Not only that, but she was fantastic about providing advice on the MS, and even sent me a carefully hand-annotated version of it with suggested edits. The only problem was, she didn't sell it. After about a year or so, I wrote to say that I wanted the book back and we parted ways.

Several years later, after publishing a couple of books through a UK publisher I met at a convention (and thus no agent was involved), I had completely re-written the first book. That one got several requests for partials and full manuscripts. Somewhere around the time I had several dozen rejections, most of which were nice, I had an agent and then a publisher. The book that got a well-known agent nearly instantly fizzled out, but the one that took more time worked out fine.

The key with the second one came with advice I got from one of the publishers who received the full ms. He was surprised it was "really" 116,000 words. He said he liked it, but couldn't justify the word count. I cut 26,000 words, which actually improved it quite a bit, and it was sold shortly afterward, though to a different publisher.

More recently I wrote my first novel (the other three are non-fiction). My daughter talked me into writing it. She's been asking me to write fiction since she was about 6 years old. Now that she is almost 20, I figured "okay, I'll do it," and got it done. It was loads of fun to write, so I hope it works out.

AP

paqart
05-14-2012, 03:17 AM
If you've written a weak query or a substandard book you can send out thousands of queries and you'll get nowhere. It's the writing that counts, not the numbers.

Now this is scary. For some reason I hadn't noticed the similarity between the literary slush pile discussed here and the demo reel submissions pile I dealt with when I worked as an art director in Hollywood. Back then, I would find 5-10 reels out of every 400 that would make me curious enough to interview the artist. Out of those, there were usually 5 that were qualified to work in the industry but I'd be lucky if even one of them was right for the jobs I needed to fill.

Because so much work was drastically under par, it was very easy to spot the good ones. I'd plug it into the VCR, DVD player, or CD-ROM drive and know in a few frames (a second or so) that I didn't like it and would pull it out and throw it away. At Universal Studios and Sony, I did not send rejection letters, we just trashed anything we didn't like. Despite the speediness of this procedure, it still took a long time to get through all the reels because there were so many. When we were hiring, it was important to find good people, so it was nearly an occasion to rejoice every time I found something that was halfway decent.

I really wanted everything to be great, and always went in with the attitude that I was going to like what I saw, but the weak material was too strong for my optimism and I'd revert to almost a mechanical sorting of the awful reels from the ones that were so amazingly bad that I wanted to show them to colleagues. Usually it took quite a while (weeks to months) to get the good ones. The truly good ones always shone out like a mystical experience on a moonlit mountaintop.

With all that said, if it is the same for books, then a lot of rejections would indicate to me that one should go back to the drawing board. If professional agents are anything like professional art directors, they can spot something with promise just as easily as any other agent/editor and would tend to react the same way. In computer graphics, it is a rare artist who only appeals to a small subset of hiring managers. If they are good enough for one, they are good enough for all. Writing however, has another condition to satisfy beyond quality of writing: it is a product and must have a market. Because rejections do often come at the query phase, it seems at least possible that agents are looking at marketability more than quality of writing, at least, after they've tossed the truly atrocious examples.

If marketability is the issue, then this is a lot different from my experience with artists, because opinions on marketability are bound to vary more widely than a professional assessment of skill. This also means that the query letter is the place to start making changes, not the ms. Is it possible that the query has been written in such a way that it doesn't represent your material in an appealing way? Or is it missing key words that identify your genre?

In 1999, a comic book I made with a friend was made into a TV series. At the same time, I wrote several screenplays. Because the producer on the series was a very hot property, it was very easy to get those screenplays read, and I even got so far as lunch at a fancy restaurant in Hollywood with a couple agents from William Morris. I wasn't expecting the place to be so fancy so I got a bit of a surprise when I saw how many suits were sitting at the tables there. I sat down in shorts, flip-flops, and Hawaiian shirt and tried to get comfortable, but it didn't work. The food was so strange-looking that I wasn't willing to try it, but I would love to have had a chance to paint it. The project we discussed never happened, and the TV series was cancelled a little while later. That experience taught me how changeable opinions on marketability are. At that time, I was semi-hot because of my connection to a well-known producer. Later, when that great agent went for my first book, I think it may have had something to do with a very popular movie that had just come out and seemed to have a similar subject. My book was actually meant for a different market, but on the surface, if the genre wasn't fully understood, it looked like it went with the movie quite well. The point is that when agents liked my queries, it was because of solid connections to an easily identified demographic.

The books I sold all had to do with my extensive knowledge of the subjects (computer graphics and parapsychology.) The quality of writing is an important hurdle to overcome, but making something appropriate for your market is, I think, the hurdle that anyone who is serious about their writing needs to struggle with. Unlike the artists who submitted to me, where quality of craftsmanship was the only issue, for books, appropriateness for the market is even more important.

AP

blacbird
05-14-2012, 05:42 AM
When you lose count.

And I'm not too good with math.

Eventually, you get to the issue of how many form rejections do you get until you just give up submitting stuff.

That math I understand completely.

caw

ThunderBoots
05-18-2012, 09:49 AM
I sent to a couple of hundred before I considered myself done. If you think the new book is stronger that's awesome, but seriously, the last one probably would have done it for you if you'd stuck with it. I think everyone should go for at least 100 before they quit.

A hundred? Wow.

I don't even think I could find 100 legit/good agents for my work (historical fiction).

And all the work that goes into checking out an agent's bona fides via the agency's website, Absolute Write forums, etc ...

I am not planning on querying more than 50 agents, but that's just me ... not an incurable optimist, for one, and partly because I've already started work on another book to keep from going mad while waiting for agents to respond to my queries.

Hopeful writer
05-19-2012, 10:48 PM
I wrote a novel last summer. Queried by email between 400 and 600 agents.

Received hundreds of rejections. Received about 10 interested responses that went no where.

6 months later, got my 11th interested response and within 3 days had been offered a contract by an agent.

All it takes is one. Never give up.

writer_laurie
05-21-2012, 02:17 AM
I am brand new to querying and am doing the send 10 at a time thing. I got all rejections on the first round, so now I'm revising my query and plan on resending it. I don't plan on revising my MS until I get to the point where agents are actually requesting it.

JJLindsell
05-25-2012, 12:22 AM
I guess it's a kind of rolling process for me. I'm happy with my template-query, synopsis and chapters, and I've sent say eight, had four rejections and counting. But each new one I send, I reread the query (because it will be slightly different in saying how you might fit into an agent's list etc), and tweak the query. Most instances I reread the synopsis too - it's amazing how letting it lie for two weeks will reveal little inflections or word-order changes that just help to perfect it.
I've not changed the MS yet because of rejections, but I'm always discussing it, thinking about parts (esp first 3 chaps) and swapping it to beta with my friends, so there's always scope for improvement. I'm sure someone will Ping me on this, but I cannot imagine my whole MS being 100% perfect, ever. Even after 100 edits, if I'm in a certain mood or whatever, I will think a line or para could do better. That said, it's currently at a place where I'm almost entirely happy with it almost all the time.

Fuchsia Groan
05-29-2012, 03:53 AM
Paqart, thanks. I also evaluate submissions in my job (story pitches), and we always consider both quality and other factors. If your pitch fits our parameters and market needs, then quality comes into play (and it is very, very hard to find good writers who can also deliver on deadline).

I write nonfiction for a living, but I got so many form rejections on my fiction that I really started angsting about my writing. Hell, I still do. I know there are editors who haven't been crazy about my prose and voice. But I do know this: revising my novel for several years made a difference. Learning about the market made a difference. Revising the query made a difference. I collected maybe 75 rejections before I did one small thing to the query that increased my request rate drastically. This is a strange business, and second guessing should be a way of life.

kathleea
06-02-2012, 12:11 AM
If I have a query not generating requests, it's probably the query letter. Revise it. If they request a partial/full and it's a reject then either revise the mss or move on. Always, always have another project you are working on. Takes the sting out of rejection. It's so subjective from one agent to the next. And, "it only takes one" to like your book, right?

Maxx
04-22-2016, 09:01 PM
Yeah, I'm right there with you. Writing my novel (many times over) is the hardest thing I've ever done.

I'm backing you on this too. The difficulty is pretty interesting though. I mean you learn to make yourself more and more flexible about how you
put stories together. For me, learning to give up on certain stories was the hardest thing to learn. I think I was afraid I would not think of new things
or at least could not make myself execute new things. But of course it gets easier, or rather you learn that, yes it is hard, but the difficulties themselves have some rewards built in (such as seeing yourself do new things).

popmuze
04-27-2016, 02:57 AM
If the rejection mentions your plot-points, characters or anything else which is specific to your novel then it's personalised. If it's just addressed to you, it's a form rejection.
How about if it says "I didn't like the narrator's voice" or "I didn't fall in love with the narrator."

Filigree
04-27-2016, 08:41 AM
It's still basically a form letter. That's so vague and subjective a phrase that it could mean everything or nothing. Unless the agent or editor gives you *concrete*, detailed feedback, don't turn yourself inside out to decipher form letters. That way lies madness.

What you might do, faced with several different editorial comments like that, is run the mms by some beta readers to see if they can pick out problems. If the betas' comments come anywhere near the editors', then you might have a clear and fixable issue. But if it's just one agent or editor's comment...meh. Could be a problem, could be some bad lunch ruining their afternoon. There's really no way to tell, with single rejections.

Old Hack
04-27-2016, 10:07 AM
I agree with Filigree.

If the agent says they failed to engage with your main character it's a form rejection. It means they failed to engage with your book, that's all.

J.J.PITTS
04-27-2016, 10:16 AM
All it takes is one. Never give up.
That's what everyone tells me. My problem is I am terrible at writing query letters. Atrocious, really. How do I know? I've finished twelve novels now, averaging perhaps 105,000-110,000 words and have queried three of them. After about (I have them all written down and could look up the exact number and agent) eighty rejections now without a single request for even a partial and only form letters in return, the writing is on the wall. All were form letters with the exception of one. I think. Her response was she loved what I had sent, but she had too many established authors to make room for an unknown. Who know, even that may have been a form letter, I certainly wouldn't be surprised. Well, how do you like that? As a budding novelist, I believe I have already become cynical!

My own problem goes far beyond the query letter and synopsis. I simply love to write. I hate to be taken away from it for the impossible job of trying to figure out what two hundred different agents want. It seems much like herding cats. They only know what they want when they see it. Yet as I'm finding out, if they see it.

I have a friend who was an editor for forty years. She reads my novels and gives me rave reviews. Perhaps the best she gave me was that a book had never made her cry, ever. Yet mine have done it time and again. Her advice? Keep writing, keep querying and eventually that one will pick me up. I eventually asked her to write a query and synopsis for me and she did. The result? A lot more automated rejections. This was a writer for both Fortune 500 and 100 companies, writing and pithiness was her job. At this point, the querying process has left me more than a bit jaded.

Old Hack
04-27-2016, 12:41 PM
Mr Pitts, get yourself to Query Letter Hell. Read the stickies there. Read through as many of the critique threads there. Give your own advice to as many posters as you can. Then, using all that you have learned, write yourself a new query letter and put it up for critique.

Do that soon.

Jamesaritchie
04-27-2016, 02:07 PM
Rejections don't mean squat. Too many agents and publishers have to limit their work so much that they don't look at potential...and in some cases I doubt they even read much of what they request.



I agree with pretty much everything you said except this. Most of what you say could have come straight from Heinlein's Rules, and they spell success. But while I know nothing about agents for art or comics, I know a lot about agents for novels, and rejections, even form rejections, mean a LOT, if they come from a good agent, and there are some wonderful agents out there. I don't know a single good agent who limits anything, or who doesn't have potential first and foremost in mind. This is precisely how the really good agents become what they are, and precisely why they have so much power in the industry.

You're describing lower tier agents who will never be top tier agents. Top tier agents can smell potential, and can see dollar signs in the dark The only limit they place on anything is current quality and future potential.


This said, each genre has only so many top tier agents, and if a writer blows through these few with mass querying, like just got a heck of a lot harder. Rejections from lower tier agents don't mean squat, and neither does representation from these agents.

Filigree
04-27-2016, 04:00 PM
What James said. I won't name the agent or publisher, but I have been saddened a few times recently by the lower tier agents who've sold to lower tier publishers. They aren't doing their authors any favors. Given where these agents trained...I'm not exactly surprised.

Queries are a learned skill. I was horrible at them during my first round of queries 5 years ago. I'm better now. Query Letter Hell and QueryShark helped a lot, as did the pitch contests on Miss Snark's First Victim blog.

J.J.PITTS
04-28-2016, 03:15 AM
Mr Pitts, get yourself to Query Letter Hell. Read the stickies there. Read through as many of the critique threads there. Give your own advice to as many posters as you can. Then, using all that you have learned, write yourself a new query letter and put it up for critique.

Do that soon.
Whew. So much there, it's difficult to even figure out where to start.

As to advice, I don't know enough to offer any. It will take time to learn enough to offer anything constructive, I'm sure.

Thank you for pointing out the direction I need to take!

Old Hack
04-28-2016, 09:24 AM
There IS a lot in Query Letter Hell, but you don't have to tackle it all at once.

Read through the stickies. Take your time. You'll pick up a lot.

Then read through a few of the threads and comment when you feel inspired to do so. I bet you'll be surprised by how much you have to offer.

Critiquing the works of others is the best way I know of for writers to learn how to revise their own work. It's safer than working on your own stuff as you're not so emotionally attached to it. It allows you to recognise when you have to be ruthless and delete whole swathes of stuff, so that when you come to your own work you understand why things sometimes have to go. Even when they contain some of your favourite phrases.

You can do this! And it could make the difference between all those rejections, or the one acceptance you need.

be frank
04-28-2016, 10:04 AM
Whew. So much there, it's difficult to even figure out where to start.

As to advice, I don't know enough to offer any. It will take time to learn enough to offer anything constructive, I'm sure.


Hi there, J.J. :hi:

As someone who spends a lot of time over in QLH, I can't tell you how many times I see variations of "but I don't know enough to offer advice". All you need to do is think does this query make me want to read more? If so, why? If not, why not? It really is as simple as that.

I highly recommend reading through quicklime's excellent post (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?255806-Queriers-want-a-shortcut-to-writing-a-good-query-letter) about why critting others is both important and incredibly helpful. Even if you just start out small -- pointing out typos, or too many uses of "that", or things that don't make sense to you (or, conversely, and equally importantly, point out things that catch your attention, or turns of phrase you like), you'll start getting a better sense of what works and what doesn't in queries.

Believe me, by the time you've pointed out the same problem in 50 different queries, you sure won't be making that same mistake in yours :)

Hopefully we'll see you round the QLH traps soon.

*QLH rant over* :gone:

J.J.PITTS
04-29-2016, 12:09 AM
Hi there, J.J. :hi:
Hello!


As someone who spends a lot of time over in QLH, I can't tell you how many times I see variations of "but I don't know enough to offer advice". All you need to do is think does this query make me want to read more? If so, why? If not, why not? It really is as simple as that.
You make a great case, to be frank... :ROFL: I apologize, when I'm out of my element, I tend to search for humor.


I highly recommend reading through quicklime's excellent post (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?255806-Queriers-want-a-shortcut-to-writing-a-good-query-letter) about why critting others is both important and incredibly helpful. Even if you just start out small -- pointing out typos, or too many uses of "that", or things that don't make sense to you (or, conversely, and equally importantly, point out things that catch your attention, or turns of phrase you like), you'll start getting a better sense of what works and what doesn't in queries.

Believe me, by the time you've pointed out the same problem in 50 different queries, you sure won't be making that same mistake in yours :)
Thank you for pointing me in the right direction. I'm more ignorant of all this than you can imagine. Occasionally, I'm surprised I can figure out how to find the 'on' button to start this thing!

Heck, even I can spot typo's. It goes against my nature to point out errors though, unless it's with my breakfast buddies. When one of us makes a verbal gaff, even a small error and the others jump on him and pummel the poor victim to death! Of course, two would have to be English teachers and the other teacher too. :e2smack:


Hopefully we'll see you round the QLH traps soon.
Gulp...y-y-you will..... :scared: :e2drown:

J.J.PITTS
04-29-2016, 08:29 AM
After two more rejections came in today, I thought I'd give a true and accurate count, starting in July of 2015.

I am officially up to 119 rejections with one partial and no fulls, using four separate novels, every one form letters except possibly one. :Jaw:


Now, if that isn't a record, tell me I'm at least on the podium!

Old Hack
04-29-2016, 09:55 AM
You are nowhere near the record. Not even if those rejections were all for one book.

I can't remember the book concerned but I do know that one of our members clocked up over 100 rejections for a book which went on to become a big seller.

Don't feel shy in critiquing. When people post things for critique it's because they want us to point out problems with their work, not because they want us to praise it (at least, that's usually the case...!).

J.J.PITTS
04-29-2016, 10:20 AM
Well, this shows I'm an underachiever. That's it, if I can't even get close to the podium...perhaps I do stand a chance!

Over the next few day I hope to begin my newest career in critique, embarrassing myself and everyone else within the blast radius. :yessmiley

Here, hold my beer and stand back. :e2salute:

Jessica_312
05-10-2016, 04:51 AM
I was wondering this myself. I sort of took a hiatus from writing for a bit but I'm back on the horse and querying like a madwoman. I figure rounds of 10-20 queries at a time sounds pretty reasonable before I start revising....




I can't remember the book concerned but I do know that one of our members clocked up over 100 rejections for a book which went on to become a big seller.

Old Hack, you have no idea how good this makes me feel. Yay, hope!

blacbird
05-10-2016, 09:34 AM
Enough of them. I don't have a number, because I stopped counting. I no longer have any delusions about succeeding with queries or any other submissions, nor do I have any further idea where to send such.

caw

Old Hack
05-10-2016, 10:10 AM
Old Hack, you have no idea how good this makes me feel. Yay, hope!

There are loads of books which were rejected many times but which went on to do well.

However, there are far more which were rejected many times and which were never picked up.

Don't assume that your work is being rejected because agents don't understand it, or don't want to take risks. Do all you can to make your book the very best that it can be, and to submit it appropriately. And then write your next book, and your next, and keep going. Because few writers get their first books published, and if you are good enough to be published you need tenacity to reach that point.