The Daily Rejection, Vol. 3

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

Aiwendil

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Another form rejection today. I know I haven't queried very many agents (13), but the fact that I've gotten nothing but form rejections (or no response at all) is a bit discouraging, even though I knew that the book's cross-genre premise and 117k length make it unlikely to arouse any interest. I'm now thinking I might refrain from sending any more out, and move on from my brief dalliance with the idea of publication.
 

mccardey

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Another form rejection today. I know I haven't queried very many agents (13), but the fact that I've gotten nothing but form rejections (or no response at all) is a bit discouraging, even though I knew that the book's cross-genre premise and 117k length make it unlikely to arouse any interest. I'm now thinking I might refrain from sending any more out, and move on from my brief dalliance with the idea of publication.
If you're getting form rejections on the query only, it just means there's something wrong with your query or that you're querying the wrong people. Depending on your genre, the word-count might be a stopping-point - but a good pair of scissors can fix that.

Don't lose heart. It's a shocking business, most of the time *hug*
 

Aiwendil

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The genre is speculative fiction, so 117k shouldn't be completely prohibitive, but it certainly does make it less sellable. I can think about rewriting the query, but I've had a great deal of trouble figuring out how.

Honestly, I never had any expectation of getting an agent or being published, and I've always been well aware that just based on the numbers the likelihood of getting published is very low. I decided to give querying a try at the urging of a few people who read my draft, but it's not like this is something I had my heart set on.
 

LStein

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2 rejections on queries today. Womp womp. I sent out two new queries today but I'm wondering if I should get some more feedback before continuing.
 
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Diospyros kaki

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2 rejections on queries today. Womp womp. I sent out two new queries today but I'm wondering if I should get some more feedback before continuing.
I've had a couple roll in recently too. And yes, it's super hard to know when the query package is ready to go. Feedback can help, but there's also a limit to how useful feedback is.
 
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Nether

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Thank you so much for the data and advice! I wonder if a hooky premise is more important than great writing.

Well, without the hooky premise, nobody will see the great writing. 🤷‍♂️

That said, one of my not-a-right-fit critique partners supposedly had a strong request rate on her previous manuscript (I can't remember the exact number, but it seemed surprisingly high for YA fantasy -- I think it was the previous one, not the one she was trying to get critiqued) yet nothing came from that, which might've come down to the writing quality or storytelling. The project she was looking to have critiqued certainly sounded pretty interesting, but I couldn't get into it and our writing styles were too different

In general, you can't really count on the quality of the writing because agents can and often do reject purely on the query.
 

Woollybear

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Thank you so much for the data and advice! I wonder if a hooky premise is more important than great writing.

I can't believe how many agencies follow the "no response means no" policy. It makes it extra frustrating to not know for sure if they even saw the query.

I did try to target fast responders but I now realize that a lot of them only respond if they want to see more, so I'm not sure where I stand really.
No, the great writing is more important IMO. But there should be an arrow of directionality in the writing (a hook, a destination, a compulsion or motivation.) Straight out of the gate.

I advise people to read through the pitch wars showcase. Often, it's informative, because we respond to the entries and we can ask ourselves why. It's easy to see if the writing is decent, in a glance.
 

Woollybear

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Just got a form rejection. It took 312 days for the agent to send.

Made me chuckle because another copy of the book sold yesterday, and I'm glad to not be in a situation where I didn't publish and instead was waiting, depressed to get an R, or else giddy to send a full off and wait for a response on *that.* Life's too short.

But I gotta say, when it take on the order of a year to get a form rejection, you have to wonder if they just do a mass form-reject on the whole stack of thousands of queries. Like, it makes me wonder about that slush, about the 'life style' of the backlog queries at that agency. Did they just hire an intern to go through them? Do they pick through them at some point, looking for something specific (like a zombie mashup or whatever) and reject the rest? A year is just a very long time to pass, to then send a form reject.

The data's in the spreadsheet now. Some agents and agencies are on top of their games. Others don't seem to be.
 
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I'm like 0 for 30 in submissions the last few years. One magazine though always leaves a note that helps. A recent note read, "Didn't like conclusion." Right away, I saw a better ending by adding a character and then after a brief wrestling match between my two hemisphere's, an additional twist arrived.
 
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Benny Molto

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I'm like 0 for 30 in submissions the last few years. One magazine though always leaves a note that helps. A recent note read, "Didn't like conclusion." Right away, I saw a better ending by adding a character and then after a brief wrestling match between my two hemisphere's, an additional twist arrived.
On the wrestling, I awakened that morning and instantly thought, let's grease that ending. My brain went nuts--highly uncomfortable, yet I kept salting ideas into my mind. The two halves wrestled and then whammo! A fine magical finish arrived in my mind.
 
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Benny Molto

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On the wrestling, I awakened that morning and instantly thought, let's grease that ending. My brain went nuts--highly uncomfortable, yet I kept salting ideas into my mind. The two halves wrestled and then whammo! A fine magical finish arrived in my mind.
Here's the new finish--the story is about country people in the big city.

Ratiocination continued, glances around found a coherence of thought—the three of them began thinking as one. Looking down the street, past the crowd, beyond the taxis and cars, and above a couple of double-parked limousines, a visage revealed itself. In the mist, hubbub had melted into a view of an entrance to Central Park where dairy cows were being unloaded from a truck into a grassy, tree-lined expanse. The cows mooed and leaves of maples chattered in the breeze.

The three listened.

Their eyes closed.

Their hands held.

Silence found a moment.

Or two.

A car horn honked.


fin
 

CheesecakeMe

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I've only just started querying my book and I already hate it. Of my five submissions I've already gotten 2 quick form rejections and 3 no responses so far. I can see why writers hate this stage. Every stage before this I felt like I had some semblance of control, but this one I'm at the mercy of strangers, hoping someone I know only as a headshot and a brief personal blurb has enough faith in my thing to try to sell it for money.
Guess I'll send another one out today, and maybe get my query workshopped again.
 

Woollybear

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Querying is the absolute opposite of writing.

Writing is freeing, querying is constraining.
Writing is about expressing oneself, querying is about figuring out where your work fits
Writing is personal and private, querying is hawking the product from a streetcorner.
Writing allows us to evaluate our work, querying prioritizes other people's opinions about it.

No writer ever said "I always wanted to be a querier, ever since I was five and picked up my first book." And there's a reason no writer ever said that.
 

Woollybear

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... hoping someone I know only as a headshot and a brief personal blurb has enough faith in my thing to try to sell it for money.
For what it's worth, the more you get to know a few of these agents, the easier it gets to not be overly bothered by their rejections.

One agent, on twitter, complained about the queries she was receiving like this:

I don't need another genius! Just give me a graphic novelist!

Oh, ouch, at so many levels. I had queried her at the time, and after that tweet I was not at all bothered that she got away!
 
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CheesecakeMe

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For what it's worth, the more you get to know a few of these agents, the easier it gets to not be overly bothered by their rejections.

One agent, on twitter, complained about the queries she was receiving like this:

I don't need another genius! Just give me a graphic novelist!

Oh, ouch, at so many levels. I had queried her at the time, and after that tweet I was not at all bothered that she got away!
Haha, I've passed over a few agents because of their Twitter posts. I don't want anyone who's careless with their words on a profile that's attached to their business. It eventually leads to a bad time.

Actually I guess that's a new way to see it. I'm rejecting agents just as much as they're rejecting me, they just don't see when I do it.

Sent out two more queries last night. I'm staying strong!

edit: One of those two queries became a form rejection in under 12 hours oof!
 
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CheesecakeMe

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I sent my shiny new query to 5 responsive agents to test their reactions, and according to Query Tracker they all seem to have stopped reading their queries just before mine. One stopped within 2 of mine, one did the queries just before and after mine but skipped me. At this point I just want the dang form rejections so I can move on to my next batch already.
 
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LStein

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@CheesecakeMe I empathize.

Can we log lack of responses here too?

I've CNR'd 5 based on the guidelines on their websites. I have one other that's been out for 80 days and I think is a No.
 

Woollybear

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In my experience, about half of queries get some sort of response and the other half do not. Recording CNRs are fine.

FWIW, I've been in about 15-20 critique groups since I started writing five years ago. Some weren't for me, others folded, there was a pandemic, I like casting a wide net, etc.

I think that means I've interacted in person with hundreds of writers. I know maybe three (tops) who've found an agent. None of them have sold.

About a dozen of the writers I've met through these groups are really, really good.

All of the writers I've met are creative. All of them are looking for feedback, looking to improve. All of them are working on their craft and whatnot. They're serious writers.

And, many of these stories are fine, I mean, they're readable, they're fine, but they aren't profoundly good. (I've seen plenty of stories, too, which are bad, really bad, like the one that was a thinly veiled fantasy about pedophilia... but these bad ones are usually due to a flawed premise and/or rookie errors, which can be corrected.)

I find it's good to interact with dozens and dozens of writers. A person starts to 'get' what's out there, to internalize the fact that those are the stories filling agent inboxes. It's amazing to critique a story that should already be sitting on a Barnes and Noble bookshelf . My favorite critique group is filled with astoundingly good writers. Astonishingly good writers. But none are agented. Several of us have queried, and it hurts to see the really good writers not getting the requests they should get. Their stories are so good.

So, the passes from agents get contextualized. I know there are fantastic stories getting passed over all the time. I've seen them. They're really really good.
 

Woollybear

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Why the wow?

I hope something in that was helpful to someone.
 

Aiwendil

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I hope something in that was helpful to someone.

Helpful, but discouraging.

With another form rejection tonight, I think I've finally decided to give up. The chances - especially for a 117k cross-genre thing like mine - are so small that it's just not a rational way to use my time. Three friends have read and enjoyed my book, which is three more people than I ever expected would read it, and I can just be satisifed with that.
 
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CheesecakeMe

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Oh yeah, I've been in my fair share of writing groups myself, and in them I've only met one published author, one who got an agent but the book died on sub, another who got an agent but who later dropped her for being a pain in the ass, and one who's book got some agent nibbles but none took it on. (And a few self-published authors, but none of their books were very good unfortunately) And that was before the pandemic made querying so much worse.

I've got faith in my book. It's fun, it's marketable, beta readers say it's hilarious. It's a great feeling seeing someone doubled over laughing so hard they're crying from a joke you wrote. But I also understand even with all that that I still might not grab an agent. I've got a plan to pivot if this book doesn't find a home so I'm ok with the rejections, but goddamn does it suck waiting. I'm having trouble focusing on my next book because I'm obsessing over querying. Whether it's yes or no I just want to move on.
 

Woollybear

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@Aiwendil and @Janine R ... In fairness, I don't keep in touch with them all, so the numbers may not be as bad as all that. :) But there are excellent stories out there that are failing to get an agent's notice.

Oh, and last night I did recall one guy I met at LAWriters who sold a mystery thriller through his agent.
 

LStein

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Helpful, but discouraging.

With another form rejection tonight, I think I've finally decided to give up. The chances - especially for a 117k cross-genre thing like mine - are so small that it's just not a rational way to use my time. Three friends have read and enjoyed my book, which is three more people than I ever expected would read it, and I can just be satisifed with that.
Have you tried small presses? I think I might if I can't get an agent for this book.
 

Aiwendil

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Have you tried small presses? I think I might if I can't get an agent for this book.

I haven't really considered that. I wonder what the statistics are like for that vs. getting an agent.