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thejenmath
01-26-2016, 07:40 PM
I sent out my first batch of queries in September and systematically did until Christmas when everyone went on break. Now I'm back to it. But throughout the rejections I have some questions I hope someone here can shed some light on for me.

First, most of the rejections I've received have cited the same thing: my manuscript isn't what's popular or won't sell right now. And I'm really confused by that, because every advice article you see says to write what you want and not what's popular, so here I have agents who are rejecting my book because it's not popular in the market. Should I take that at face value or does it mean something different in agent-lingo?

Second, I had an agent who responded excitedly in October (like all caps excitedly), but she asked me to cut the word count down (which I was expecting; the original final draft was at 146,000 and I've cut it down to 109,000) and resubmit to her. So I did just that. And I never heard from her ever again. Do I give up on her?

I hope someone can help me.

mistri
01-26-2016, 08:04 PM
What are you writing, because some things do fall out of fashion quite quickly? And sometimes it is just an excuse.

Perks
01-26-2016, 08:16 PM
First, most of the rejections I've received have cited the same thing: my manuscript isn't what's popular or won't sell right now.

Do these rejections actually say that or is that an inference? Will you give us an example of the language? And how many of these are we talking about that say something to this effect?

mayqueen
01-26-2016, 09:13 PM
What genre are you writing? That is an extremely high word count, in any genre. Also, were these personalized or form rejections? It could be that you're receiving form rejections. "I'm not the right agent," "This is a tough market," etc are all popular phrases in form rejections. If that's the case, drop by Query Letter Hell here for some tips on query-writing.

And yes, the advice is that you should write want you want, but you also have to realize that only things that will gain a wide audience are likely to end up in a trade publishing deal. If your novel is too niche or too unusual, it may be a hard sell. I write historical fiction and know this to be very true. No matter how good a book is, if there isn't a wide audience for it, it's a tough sell for an agent.

thejenmath
01-26-2016, 09:21 PM
My manuscript is a young adult novel and, honestly, I don't know whether to define it as urban fantasy or paranormal romance because it has elements of both and I've been querying agents who rep both (tell me if that's also a problem). It has mainly to do with werewolves and the main character is about the become the leader of a cult of hunters, and I know vampires and werewolves are over after Twilight, but they're Anne Rice-level vampires and werewolves, not the Cullens.

As for the rejections, the wording has been variations of "In today's market, I can't represent something that isn't in demand" and "This industry is incredibly subjective, and most of the time we look for manuscripts that will find an immediate audience." Whatever that last one even means.

EMaree
01-26-2016, 09:27 PM
When did you resubmit to all-caps agent? Going by the timescales you've given us, and the amount of words you cut, it doesn't seem like a 'never heard from her again' type of situation. Guesstimating at your timeline: if you got the revision request in September, cut 40k words over October/November, and resubbed in December, that's only a month (and a lot of holiday season) without a response.

(If you cut all those words in under a month, be aware that there is such a thing as turning around a revision too quickly.)

Check your agent's website, they usually give a timescale for responses on fulls. Two to three months for replies on fulls isn't unusual.

If they don't list a timescale for full responses, has it been oven six weeks (plus an extra week to be kind and consider Christmas/New Years)? If so, send a polite nudge asking if she received it and if she's started reading. There are guides to writing polite nudge e-mails all over the forum, the Google search box at the bottom of the page will help

(A few people in the search results will recommend waiting more than six weeks, which is totally valid. But I don't think a six week nudge will hurt your situation and it might help with your worries.)

EDIT: Quick edit 'cos OP posted as I was composing this.


My manuscript is a young adult novel and, honestly, I don't know whether to define it as urban fantasy or paranormal romance because it has elements of both and I've been querying agents who rep both (tell me if that's also a problem).

Nah, that's fine.


It has mainly to do with werewolves and the main character is about the become the leader of a cult of hunters, and I know vampires and werewolves are over after Twilight, but they're Anne Rice-level vampires and werewolves, not the Cullens.

This sounds like it's going to be a difficult sell. There are already lots of vicious, definitely-not-the-Cullens vampire and werewolf books in YA, so you're fighting for space on a crowded shelf. More traditional, violent monsters are not enough to make your manuscript stand out, so you might want to highlight additional unique elements in your query.

The query trenches won't be easy for this story, but stay determined. You can do it.


As for the rejections, the wording has been variations of "In today's market, I can't represent something that isn't in demand" and "This industry is incredibly subjective, and most of the time we look for manuscripts that will find an immediate audience." Whatever that last one even means.

These sound like form rejections -- there's nothing personal to your story here. I would discount them as too generic to mean anything.

Cyia
01-26-2016, 09:31 PM
My manuscript is a young adult novel and, honestly, I don't know whether to define it as urban fantasy or paranormal romance because it has elements of both and I've been querying agents who rep both (tell me if that's also a problem).

These are both EXTREMELY oversaturated markets right now. Unless you're an established author in the genre or happen to have written the best book in the genre(s) ever penned, then it's going to be an uphill run for you or an agent to sell. Not impossible, but difficult.

It has mainly to do with werewolves and the main character is about the become the leader of a cult of hunters, and I know vampires and werewolves are over after Twilight, but they're Anne Rice-level vampires and werewolves, not the Cullens.

It's still weres and vamps, the rest really doesn't matter to most people. (Sadly) There were a lot of novels that came out before and after Twilight, and not all of them were of the sparkle-pire, so hot I want to smoosh faces variety.

As for the rejections, the wording has been variations of "In today's market, I can't represent something that isn't in demand" and "This industry is incredibly subjective, and most of the time we look for manuscripts that will find an immediate audience." Whatever that last one even means.
It means, they're looking for something more on-trend, or something that's potentially a trend-setter. At the moment, paranormal and urban fantasy are behind the curve in YA. As soon as another hit comes through, the curve will build again.


It's not really about writing to trend, but you do need to be aware of what the trends are. Contemporary sells well, no matter the trends. Speculative ebbs and flows with greater variation.

Twilight was published nine years ago. It sold thirteen years ago. Don't base your knowledge of the market on decade-old data. You need to know what's selling now.

thejenmath
01-26-2016, 09:48 PM
When did you resubmit to all-caps agent? Going by the timescales you've given us, and the amount of words you cut, it doesn't seem like a 'never heard from her again' type of situation. Guesstimating at your timeline: if you got the revision request in September, cut 40k words over October/November, and resubbed in December, that's only a month (and a lot of holiday season) without a response.

Yeah, I resubmitted a week before Thanksgiving, so maybe it has been too early.

And, Cyia, I'm very aware of what's selling and trending right now. Twilight was just a reference.

mayqueen
01-26-2016, 11:31 PM
Those sounds like form rejections to me.

For a YA novel, that is an extremely high word count, even at 109k. So that could be one issue. The other issue, like Cyia said, is that aranormal romance and urban fantasy are extremely difficult to sell right now. Extremely. And vampires and werewolves especially. I've seen many agents on twitter and elsewhere explicitly say no vampires or werewolves. So it's a tough market. Your book could be the most amazing urban fantasy with vampires and werewolves the world has ever seen, but it's still going to be an uphill battle, unfortunately.

My advice is to visit Query Letter Hell, get your post count up to the required fifty by critiquing queries, and then post your own. We can help you there figure out the fresh, new, original angle that got at least one agent excited, and then polish that query until it's so great agents don't even notice the word count and genre saturation (we hope -- I might be overselling this a bit).

My advice is also to write your next book, your next better book, while you're querying this one.

DoNoKharms
01-26-2016, 11:53 PM
And I'm really confused by that, because every advice article you see says to write what you want and not what's popular, so here I have agents who are rejecting my book because it's not popular in the market. Should I take that at face value or does it mean something different in agent-lingo?


I think this advice is largely meant to discourage people from chasing trends and to encourage writers to pursue their artistic visions. Which is in a lot of ways good advice; given the long lags in publishing, pursuing trends is really hard unless you're a very fast writer, and in terms of growing your talent and skill, you first need to master how to writing your own stories before you can even consider pushing yourself to chase after something else.

BUT... I do think in an increasingly narrow, competitive, risk-averse and blockbuster-chasing space like trade publishing (especially YA), it's a little naive, maybe even irresponsible, to encourage new writers to *totally* ignore the market. Yes, books of all subgenres sell, but some subgenres are much, much easier to sell than others. Even worse, a few subgenres are actively very difficult to sell in, due to market saturation and fatigue, and unfortunately, those are often the subgenres newer writers are drawn to, because those are the subgenres they're actively reading.

Really, I think it comes down to a question of what your goals are. If your goal is "I have an awesome story and I want to write it and share it with readers!", then you should definitely write whatever you want and everything else be damned. If, on the other hand, your goal is "I want to sell my book in a good deal to a Big 5 publisher", I don't see anything wrong with approaching it in a much more business-like manner, studying what's selling* (and, perhaps more importantly, what's NOT selling), and planning your novel accordingly.

* It's worth noting that one very common mistake writers make is to study trends by looking at what's selling to readers, i.e. NYT best-seller lists. This is actually a very dangerous approach because those books were likely bought by editors years ago, and the 'trend' there may well be dead. The best place to see the current editorial landscape is by reading sales in things like Publisher's Weekly.

Jeff C. Stevenson
01-27-2016, 12:00 AM
Hi thejenmath:

I had a question about what you posted:

Second, I had an agent who responded excitedly in October (like all caps excitedly), but she asked me to cut the word count down...

Did you talk to her on the phone or communicate by email regarding "her intentions"? I ask because that's a lot of work for her to ask you to do (even if you agree with it), if she did not have serious intentions of representing you.

Also, do you know if she even read any of what you sent her, or did she like the premise but eyeballed the length and said it was too long? In other words, did she ask for a sample, read it and say, "I love your writing and would like to read more but the manuscript is too long, etc."

And as you know at this point, if you "know" it's too long, it's best to cut it and revise it before you query because then you're doing what YOU want to do based on your guy and not someone else's opinion, valid though it may be.

Good luck and of course, keep querying other agents with the book content you want to sell!

thejenmath
01-27-2016, 02:22 AM
Did you talk to her on the phone or communicate by email regarding "her intentions"? I ask because that's a lot of work for her to ask you to do (even if you agree with it), if she did not have serious intentions of representing you.

Also, do you know if she even read any of what you sent her, or did she like the premise but eyeballed the length and said it was too long? In other words, did she ask for a sample, read it and say, "I love your writing and would like to read more but the manuscript is too long, etc."


Our communication was through several emails. Her exact words were if I cut the word count down to close to 100k she'd love to look at representing me. And then all her replying emails were in all caps.

WeaselFire
01-27-2016, 05:08 AM
Our communication was through several emails. Her exact words were if I cut the word count down to close to 100k she'd love to look at representing me.

And when you cut the length to something she might read, what was her response?

Jeff

christopherdschmitz
01-27-2016, 07:20 AM
its more than "whats selling now," too... its also about what will be selling in two years. by the time it gets sold and goes to print it might be 18-24 months from the time its represented.

blacbird
01-27-2016, 09:39 AM
You need to know what's selling now.

It's worse than that. It can take a couple of years or more to go from acceptance to actual publication. So you need to know what's selling two years from now.

caw

EMaree
01-27-2016, 01:19 PM
Our communication was through several emails. Her exact words were if I cut the word count down to close to 100k she'd love to look at representing me. And then all her replying emails were in all caps.

Oh man. An agent going from hot to cold like this is incredibly hard behavior to deal with as a writer, and my first instinct here would be to check the agent is reputable. But I've experienced similar from very reputable agents with strong sales. One agent sent me excited e-mails about representation and *phoned me* to discuss rep after reading the 50 page partial of an old project, only to go radio silent after I sent her the full (2+ years ago). My assumption is that agents who get that excited about a project don't like delivering the news that they've changed their minds. It was a lesson in writing better middles.

Wait a wee bit longer, then nudge. If she doesn't respond, nudge again six weeks later. While doing this, keep on querying elsewhere, and don't forget to work on a fresh project to keep your mind distracted from querying.

It's possible she's going through some stress and will be back soon with full excitement intact, and I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for that. But for now, keep querying.

thejenmath
01-28-2016, 07:37 PM
And when you cut the length to something she might read, what was her response?



That's it; I haven't gotten a response. Which is why I'm confused.

Vanayssa
01-28-2016, 07:40 PM
Have you got the newsletter Freedom of Writing coming to you? It helps a lot.

thejenmath
01-28-2016, 07:50 PM
Have you got the newsletter Freedom of Writing coming to you? It helps a lot.

No, but I'll definitely go look for that. Thanks.

hikarinotsubasa
01-29-2016, 03:10 AM
I have had two agents. One offered rep after less than a month, but the other took three or four months to get back to me. Some offers take longer than that. She may just be busy!

On the other hand, sometimes you get radio silence. Even when I had an offer of rep, two agents responded with "Never found the time to read"ish emails, and one just disappeared. The one who disappeared is completely legit, and had emailed me about the book several times. I worry that something in it was offensive to the agent? But I guess I'll never know.

Best advice I have is just to keep querying! Maybe see if you can trim the word count a bit more. Work on your query. Good luck!

JHFC
01-29-2016, 03:21 AM
I had an agent who was responded very favorably and told me to resubmit with some changes he requested. I sent him the changes about a week later. Almost 9 months after that, he offered to represent me.

Now, it could be that they have moved on, but as others have indicated, publishing is a slow game. I wouldn't get too down yet after only 4 months. Though 4 months is enough time to send a nudge (I nudged my agent and he sent me an email telling me to give him a few more months. I'm glad I did).

Oh, and to help you feel better about 5 months-- from final draft of book and first query sent out to offer of representation took 15 months.

Lonegungrrly
01-29-2016, 04:24 PM
You've already got so much sound advice, I just wanted to add that youve only just begun querying, really. It's great to have positive response early on, but keep going forwards until there is a solid offer. Four months really is nothing in publishing, though I'm all sure we wish things could be different!

From my R&Rs I had one reply at the 12 month mark (we had had two phone convos and excited emails etc early on) with an R, one referral at the 6 month mark, and one literal no response. And then with the next project (the one that got me an agent - yay!) I sent the full in September, and got The Call in Feb. So there's still loads of time left for a positive response still. But still... Write the next project anyway

thejenmath
01-31-2016, 08:34 PM
I heard back from that one agent; I didn't get the word count down where she wanted so she declined representing me. It's a bummer, but oh well.

fitzdiaz
02-01-2016, 11:25 PM
sorry she said no.

The whole process is discouragingly lengthy, isn't it? I'm also 5 months into querying and am just about to complete substantial revisions for revise/resubmit request. I keep reminding myself it's not the same as having an offer of representation, and even if I get an offer from an agent, it's not sold, and an editor will likely want revisions, and then may still turn it down. Instead of lather, rinse repeat, it's endure, persist, repeat.

mayqueen
02-01-2016, 11:42 PM
The advice I always got when I was doing my PhD was to think of it like a marathon, not a sprint. And I think it's the same thing in publishing. Five months is nothing. I've been actively writing, editing, and submitting for four or five years now. I've queried four manuscripts in that time. I've gotten close with R&Rs (hell, once I did two R&Rs for the same agent), but have not yet gotten an offer. And compared to some folks I know, four years is nothing.

I'm not saying this to be discouraging. I'm saying it because if you want to have a career in publishing, you have to be prepared for the long haul. You have to just keep writing the next, better thing.

kenpochick
02-04-2016, 08:13 PM
You may want to hold off on querying just now and have another set of eyes on your manuscript, or take an editing class. Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance are REALLY hard sells right now, especially when you have it for the YA audience and then you add werewolves and vampires. Definitely an uphill battle. BUT, not impossible. You just want to make sure your MS is perfect and it sounds like your word count is still too high and you rushed your revisions. Take a breath, and look at it again. I actually signed on with my agent with a vampire book. I was so wary of querying it that I didn't even use the word vampire in the query. :-) Hang in there. It's a slog. (And then it continues with submissions after!)

fitzdiaz
02-05-2016, 06:08 AM
kenpochick - I hope it's not intrusive to ask, but I am SO CURIOUS. How did you go about querying a vampire novel without mentioning vampires/bloodsucking/vampire-y habits? Or was it only the word "vampire" that did not get used?

Quickbread
02-05-2016, 09:38 AM
I heard back from that one agent; I didn't get the word count down where she wanted so she declined representing me. It's a bummer, but oh well.

You should give yourself a pat on the back for getting responses and interest in the first place.

I agree with the advice to stop querying for right now and get your manuscript where it needs to be and make sure your story is as unique as it can be.

If your word count is so high, you might consider that what faces you is not merely trimming words or even scenes but tightening the story and structure. Is the narrative as efficient as it could be? Does it slow down or lack tension anywhere? Is every scene unique or can similar ones be combined? Do you really need all the backstory? Do the characters and story advance in every single scene and chapter? If not, be ruthless. Could you merge two supporting characters into one more memorable one?... you get the idea.

Hang in there. Five months is early days. Take your time. No need to rush. Agents will be there when your MS is ready. Don't blow all your golden agents on the first sweep of queries. Save some for later on. Your manuscript is sure to get better—and have better changes with agents—as you revise based on new input and distance. And good luck!

Jeff C. Stevenson
02-06-2016, 11:20 PM
thejenmath, at least "that" agent encounter is over and you can continue the search for the right agent who will have a passion for your project and a respect for your talents, regardless of "the word count."

All the best to you--onward!

kenpochick
02-09-2016, 12:12 AM
I did mention fangs, but I just focused on the plot of the book without using the word "vampire." I wanted agents to give it a chance instead of shutting down at seeing the word.

The_Ink_Goddess
02-09-2016, 03:52 PM
I heard back from that one agent; I didn't get the word count down where she wanted so she declined representing me. It's a bummer, but oh well.

1. To the people saying it's a form: it very well isn't. Right now, vampires are beyond the dead land for most agents. I know of one who has on it on her #mswl, but she specifically mentions 'fresh' and it was kind of an 'oh my god' for everyone when she said it because ever since I've been seriously looking into querying (2-3 years?), agents have had 'NO werewolves/vampires' on their list. This shows you that they're still getting a lot of queries on this topic (no doubt of varying quality, some, undoubtedly, of very high quality) and, frankly, that it's not selling. 'Vampires' have become a kind of joke for non-YA readers outside the YA community, as well, which probably won't help the intended audience to pick up the book. The problem is it's become one of those words people have a "visceral" reaction to.

2. thejenmath, I was wondering about the word count thing. Because, y'know, the word count is the word count. If you got as far as her reading the full (?) or at least a partial, word count matters less. Word count is, essentially, practical - as someone who frequents QLH a lot, I would say my main concern about WC is - making sure the author knows their stuff, and making sure the agent won't have a knee-jerk 'automatic no' because a word count of 100,000+ is a red flag.

But you got past that first hurdle, as far as an R+R. So it makes me think that you weren't necessarily rejected because your word count was baseline too high, because the agent wasn't concerned about the practicalities when she requested you.

So I'm thinking that you got onto the other way in which word count is a problem: when it's indicative of your style. So either thinks you have an overwriting problem (so do many writers), or she rejected you because your word count is too long for your book. Like, as someone who reads a lot of contemporary YA and also frequents Pitch Wars etc, I'm always surprised when the word count is over 80,000. I've even seen 90,000 word contemporary novels and that makes me a bit like :Wha: because...that's a lot of words for something with not much world building!

Do you have any insight into that? I'm only asking because I would hate for you to carry on querying because you took this at face value.

you can tell that I, too, am an overwriter.