The Daily Rejection, Vol. 3

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Woollybear

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I've entered pitchwars numerous times, including with a manuscript that was not only polished but had been through paid developmental editing and several paid copy editors and 16 beta readers.

I've never gotten a single request. So no, polishing is not the key, although a first draft will not survive slush. One pitchwars mentor a few years back flat out said, on twitter, they would never pick a book that highlights climate change... because it doesn't sell.

It's true, we like to see the end of the world in our fiction but not if it actually aims to help save the real world. Because that's depressing and doesn't sell. <eyeroll> <insert rant about capitalism and climate here>

Tamlyn, I'd recommend that you look through the past showcases--which are kept online. I've done all sorts of analyses, three or four years running, on what sorts of manuscripts get picked, and which get the most requests from agents in the showcase. You can get a feel for this stuff by browsing the showcase. And some of the entries are so good you wonder how the hell these authors aren't agented yet. Others feel like pet projects. It's all interesting to browse.

A few AWers have been in pitchwars. I can think of two off the top of my head.
 

be frank

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I got into PitchWars a couple of years ago, and I'm always happy to discuss the process and the experience. Feel free to DM* me if (generic) you have any questions!

*DM? PM? Conversation? Whatever it's called now... :p
 

Tamlyn

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Thanks, all. I did enter once, no requests, but the current book I have is better, I think, for this (the first book was a typical urban fantasy with western-style vampires, etc, so what everyone except me is sick of :p). So... I still don't know lol.

be frank - I'm just not sure what questions to ask or I would definitely take you up on that!
 
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Belle_91

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Hey gang, I'm back with my pitcher of margaritas.

I've held off posting in here for a while, but after a panic attack tonight I thought I might post here to get some perspective.

I started querying my MS and out of fourteen rejections only got one request (which got moved up to a full, so maybe two requests?). Anyways, I also heard back from a beta reader on a different manuscript and she had a very negative reaction to it.

I just feel like I keep spinning my wheels and working really hard and it's all for nothing. Even when I do write something that my beta readers love, I don't get the response I want from agents. My husband thinks that you need some sort of in to get published, and I used to just brush it off, but now I don't know. I've even been afraid posting about my request because I'm afraid I'll somehow jinx it. Anyways, I've just been super dejected about my writing lately.
 

Woollybear

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Hang in there.

I've heard back on the full request I was so hopeful for--A form pass. Also heard back on a (semi-prestigious) contest which had advanced me to the next stage--also a form pass in the end. That one was funny, because they passed on me several weeks back, which was disappointing, then again yesterday they sent me the same form rejection as previously. Receiving the same rejection (verbatim) a second time approached maddening.

Most of my queries go nowhere. I knew the trenches would grind me down to a quivering mess if I sent them piecemeal, so actually I sent all the queries in one fell swoop. It was much better for my mental health this way, and likely the same result in the end.

A few of the passes are personalized, which is nice-ish I guess.

I started reading Stein on Writing (based on Lakey's rec (I think)) and it's a good craft book. Craft books are a good way to think about writing with a little distance. The first fifty pages is good if you aren't getting requests, Manuscript Makeover is good if you are not getting requests, etc etc. Since these are older titles they may be in your library.

You are a good writer. I'll have time in a few months to beta read something for you. I'm still grinding out these manuscripts for self publishing, which at least we authors have some control over. :)
 
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TeresaRose

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Hey gang, I'm back with my pitcher of margaritas.

I've held off posting in here for a while, but after a panic attack tonight I thought I might post here to get some perspective.

I started querying my MS and out of fourteen rejections only got one request (which got moved up to a full, so maybe two requests?). Anyways, I also heard back from a beta reader on a different manuscript and she had a very negative reaction to it.

I just feel like I keep spinning my wheels and working really hard and it's all for nothing. Even when I do write something that my beta readers love, I don't get the response I want from agents. My husband thinks that you need some sort of in to get published, and I used to just brush it off, but now I don't know. I've even been afraid posting about my request because I'm afraid I'll somehow jinx it. Anyways, I've just been super dejected about my writing lately.
Can relate. Since posting here last, (Or in the other one, ie Hell), I've got a couple more rejections. We just have to keep moving forward. One request from 15 queries is really good, Belle. You can't please all the people all the time; maybe your beta reader was an anomaly. When I have a crappy day, I tell myself not to worry, it always gets better, and it does. :) Sending you hugs and good vibes.
 
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Alan Yee

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Another rejection just came in on the same story, this time with a comment on a particular aspect that the first reader enjoyed. This story was the first one I had completed in years, so any comments that show I’m not completely wasting my time have made it easier to keep writing. Haven’t gotten many words in since my baby was born, but I’m starting to have a little more energy and focus now that he’s letting us sleep a little more.
 

Nether

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Hmm, I was reminded Pitchwars is coming up now. Has anyone ever entered? I think it's for more polished manuscripts, yeah? So my has had an editing pass but only one wouldn't really be a fit?

I've never tried it -- because I wasn't writing last September -- but I might give it a shot this year. I'm going to probably wait until I get back a beta read on one of my books before I decide what to try. If I have to do an extensive rewrite, I'll pitch the re-write. If not, I'll pitch a newer project. And if I see a pro I like, I might just pitch whatever seems closest to something that could interest them.

I'm honestly not sure how much difference polish will make with something like that because there's an expectation that your manuscript needs at least some work and the pros are probably going to be more interested in the story itself.
 

Tamlyn

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I've just realised if I enter Pitchwars I'm going to have to think of an actual title for my book and not just use the protagonist's name. I hate this part >>
 

Nether

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I'm coming up on two months since my last batch of agent queries (which is when most of my queries went out).

Is it generally worth sending follow-up emails for the ones you don't hear from? Because I kinda assume that if you don't hear back, it's a rejection.
 

zmethos

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I'm coming up on two months since my last batch of agent queries (which is when most of my queries went out).

Is it generally worth sending follow-up emails for the ones you don't hear from? Because I kinda assume that if you don't hear back, it's a rejection.
I typically only follow up on page/manuscript requests. If I don't get an answer to an initial query, I don't bother to chase it (unless the submission guidelines say something like, "If you haven't heard back in x number of weeks, please send a follow-up").
 

Woollybear

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Try Querytracker, and look under comments on individual agents. You will see a few cases where a nudge on an unanswered query led somewhere. In my recollection, this happens more often (only?) when the writer has an offer of representation in hand from another agent.

Some agents, the majority of QT users list as CNRs, and no, there'd be no real value in nudging those ones (unless, perhaps, if you have an offer of representation in hand.)

On my spreadsheet, as I looked through comments on QT, I added a column for 'nudge'/'expect CNR.' The nudge on those queries would only have come into play, for me, if I had an offer of rep, which I do not.
 
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Marian Perera

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I've entered pitchwars numerous times, including with a manuscript that was not only polished but had been through paid developmental editing and several paid copy editors and 16 beta readers.

I wish I could find even a tiny fraction of that number of beta readers. I've sent manuscripts for beta reading to three people with experience in my genre. One I never heard from again. One finally responded five months later after I asked her about the manuscript (so I didn't take the risk of sending her any others). The third I sent a manuscript to three months ago but since then, she's had enough going on that I don't expect to hear back before the end of the year, by which time I'll have sent the manuscript out.
 
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Woollybear

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I wish I could find even a tiny fraction of that number of beta readers. I've sent manuscripts for beta reading to three people with experience in my genre. One I never heard from again. One finally responded five months later after I asked her about the manuscript (so I didn't take the risk of sending her any others). The third I sent a manuscript to three months ago but since then, she's had enough going on that I don't expect to hear back before the end of the year, by which time I'll have sent the manuscript out.
FWIW, when it comes to finding beta readers, I'm having a more difficult time on my current manuscript. In part because I'm more selective (as it sounds like you are) and in part because now that I've been through that grind (42 revisions on Aerovoyant, which I thought could only be improved by MORE FEEDBACK!), I now see the downside of too much feedback.

I'm not being nearly as pushy about it this time around, and I'm not being nearly as indiscriminate in who I approach. (Oh, and plenty of folks last time did NOT get back to me--I probably approached 40 people.)

In other words, in my opinion, you're going about the process smartly. The one thing that does seem to help get feedback more reliably is to offer to swap services.

Reading and assessing books I enjoy as I write has 'replaced' some of the revision-space I previously apportioned to beta readers. And I bet you do that. :) You read. :) I've also found a few really great critique groups, whereas previously I had a few great critique partners within groups that were not so great. So I don't feel a need for beta readers in the same way as I did. I don't know how common this sort of evolution in thinking is.

On TELOMERIC, which is now with the editor, I've probably had a handful of beta readers--maybe five? Three friendly, one who read Aerovoyant, and one who had not. Those last two were the important ones, and both are swaps.

I hear some authors with a good record of publication, like you have, look to their fans for beta readers. I don't know what I think about that, but it's (almost) a moot point for me. :)
 
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Marian Perera

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I'm not being nearly as pushy about it this time around, and I'm not being nearly as indiscriminate in who I approach. (Oh, and plenty of folks last time did NOT get back to me--I probably approached 40 people.)

Wow. I don't even know half that number of people whom I'd approach.

I do swap services with my current beta reader, but her last email to me said she was struggling to write another chapter, so I don't expect she'll be able to beta read my manuscript before I send it out.

Most of my difficulty is that I'd really like a beta read from someone who's familiar with romance, and who won't apply preconceptions about historical characters to the story. As in, feedback such as, "This figure of speech wasn't used until about 1920 but the story is set in 1860" would be fine. Not so much, "A woman in 1850 would never choose to be childfree because children were expected as part of marriage and no man of that time would agree to such a thing."

Reading and assessing books I enjoy as I write has 'replaced' some of the revision-space I previously apportioned to beta readers. And I bet you do that. :) You read. :) I've also found a few really great critique groups, whereas previously I had a few great critique partners within groups that were not so great.

Maybe I should look for such critique groups as well. Thanks for the idea!
 
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Woollybear

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I asked strangers on FB groups, (such as on, for example, Beta Readers and Critique Partners) or else replied to such requests, there.

:)
 

goddessofgliese

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Hi everyone, I don't come to the forum often, so you may not know me. I just started querying on 8/22. So far I've sent out 10 queries (5 on 8/22 and 5 on 8/27). Got 1 partial request and 1 rejection. Since it's only been 9 days, I'm (im)patiently waiting for the response (which may never come).

I'm here to support my fellow writers who are trying to survive the query trench, and to be supported.

Do you send out queries in batches? What kind of schedule do you follow? I want to wait until I have more response so I'll know if I need to tweak my query letter and opening pages, but given how slow the publishing industry is now, I'm afraid it will take me years to go through my query list if I take that approach. :)
 

scarywicket

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@goddessofgliese i went back to look at my notes from my query process (YA contemporary) and it looks like i sent out batches of ten about a month apart. i only got maybe 3 responses in the first month—all rejections—and one that i marked as closed due to the three week response window. this was at the height of the first wave and i had been told that everything was slowed down, so i didn't take the lack of response or the rejections in the first round as necessarily a sign against the query or the pages. it didn't feel like enough information to merit a change. and one of the rejections had been a very quick request for the full from a very reputable agent/agency so i figured those parts were doing their job, and it really was down to the manuscript itself.

if the second batch had been received poorly i might have revisited my materials, but there were more bites that time. unfortunately i think it really is down to your gut feeling about your materials, the tenor of the responses you do receive, and the impact of our current context.
 

krawriter

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Question for my fellow rejected folks: am I the only one who often finds it impossible to personalize a query to a specific agent? I've heard time and time again that's the best way to query, but boy is that easier said than done.

I'm querying for YA sci-fi, but even if I find an agent who specifically represents YA sci-fi I usually don't have anything unique to say to them... unless I happen to stumble upon a book they've repped that's similar to mine, which is very unlikely. So, I'm typically left with a non-personalized query, or (perhaps worse) a lame line like "I hear you're on the lookout for bla-bla-bla XYZ."

I spend so much time scouring the internet to get tidbits of info about these literary agents, and more often than not it's a complete waste.
 

Woollybear

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For what it's worth, I personalize about half the time. Half the time I simply can't find a danged thing to personalize with. Requests for more pages don't seem to correlate with personalization. Also, form passes don't seem to correlate.

Clearly personalized passes do correlate, somewhat. On those rare occasions I can point to a true connection (for example, one agent interned as a molecular biologist at a research institute I collaborated with, which has nothing to do with writing but was a real connection), the pass was clearly written in person by the agent.

If I ever find representation, I'll be interested to look at this aspect of the process.

But don't sweat it, that's my opinion anyway.
 

Fuchsia Groan

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Question for my fellow rejected folks: am I the only one who often finds it impossible to personalize a query to a specific agent? I've heard time and time again that's the best way to query, but boy is that easier said than done.

I'm querying for YA sci-fi, but even if I find an agent who specifically represents YA sci-fi I usually don't have anything unique to say to them... unless I happen to stumble upon a book they've repped that's similar to mine, which is very unlikely. So, I'm typically left with a non-personalized query, or (perhaps worse) a lame line like "I hear you're on the lookout for bla-bla-bla XYZ."

I spend so much time scouring the internet to get tidbits of info about these literary agents, and more often than not it's a complete waste.
I hardly ever personalized when I was querying. It takes so long, and it didn’t seem worth my while. I would mention it if they repped a similar book or one I loved, but many agents didn’t post their client lists, and MSWL didn’t exist back then.

Many queriers and some agents insist that personalization is very important, so mileage may vary. Janet Reid is a dissenting voice on that. I didn’t find it made any difference for me whether I did or didn’t personalize a particular query.
 

krawriter

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For what it's worth, I personalize about half the time. Half the time I simply can't find a danged thing to personalize with. Requests for more pages don't seem to correlate with personalization. Also, form passes don't seem to correlate.

Clearly personalized passes do correlate, somewhat. On those rare occasions I can point to a true connection (for example, one agent interned as a molecular biologist at a research institute I collaborated with, which has nothing to do with writing but was a real connection), the pass was clearly written in person by the agent.

If I ever find representation, I'll be interested to look at this aspect of the process.

But don't sweat it, that's my opinion anyway.
I'd say being able to personalize 50% of the time is pretty dang good. I'm at maybe 25%, haha. But you're probably right that it's not worth stressing over. If my book is compelling enough, it won't matter--or at least, that's what I keep telling myself.
 
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krawriter

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Many queriers and some agents insist that personalization is very important, so mileage may vary. Janet Reid is a dissenting voice on that. I didn’t find it made any difference for me whether I did or didn’t personalize a particular query.
Ah, Ms. Query Shark! I've skimmed through her site before, and remember being surprised that none of the queries she reviewed had any personalization in them. I guess that explains that, haha. I've never seen her directly comment on personalizing queries, but I do remember finding it odd that she thought comp titles were absolutely necessary for a query.
 

goddessofgliese

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I personalize my query if I can find relevant information, but otherwise I don't. Agents such as Andrea Somberg and Laura Crockett actually say they prefer the authors to talk about their projects straightaway. So don't sweat over personalization!
 

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