We've all been told (by who EXACTLY, I'm not sure) that we are never, EVER supposed to discuss our querying statistics or how many rejections we've received.
We're supposed to be hush-hush about it.
But not today, folks, not today.
My reason for breaking the silence is because I really need to find out what the heck is going on?
When I first started querying my YA manuscript Desert Rice back about a year ago, things we're happening on the agent front--I polished my query, sent it out, and within days (no kidding) I had a partial request and a full manuscript request. A few other requests came trickling in a little while later too. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), I was thrilled. More than trilled.
Then, when that partial request turned into a full request and then the agent called me to discuss terms of her representing me, I was beyond excited. You couldn't wipe the smile off my face for days.
Well, as is my life, things took a turn and it all went downhill from there. My agent submitted my manuscript to a few publishers who quickly rejected it. No one wanted it. Such depression. But on the bright side, so I kept telling myself, I still had an agent, right? Maybe she would be willing to take a look at a couple of other novels I had written and possibly represent those instead. Also, there was still one editor we hadn't heard back from. So maybe, just maybe.
I quickly emailed her with high hopes, willing to take a chance. My fingers were crossed.
The next day I received a devastating, yet lovely and encouraging at the same time, email back from her. This is what she said:
I haven't heard from the last editor yet. (We never did either--how rude)
My news: I'm getting out of the literary agency business. It's just
impossible to sell anything these days -- and will be getting worse as
more bookstores close.
So, I won't be accepting any new submissions. I want you to know,
though, that I believe your work is exceptional and should be
published. The business is in freefall, which is why so many terrific
authors aren't getting offers.
Ummm . . . that's not good. Not good at all. So after eight or so months working with this agent, she decided to quit. I was back to square one. What the heck was I supposed to do now?
After a bout of depression, I dusted off my wounded soul and started querying once again--the same query letter that received bites and requests.
I started that requerying process back in May, and as of to date, I've received zero requests. Zero. Nothing. Na-da. Zilch.
But it isn't so much that I'm being rejected (I've received some, don't get me wrong), but I'm hearing NOTHING back. Not a word. I've heard from roughly 30% of the queries I've sent out. But the other 70% is complete silence. That is very weird in my opinion. Very weird.
I'm not the only one either to experience this weirdness. Check out Creepy Query Girl, she discusses this same thing.
What the heck is going on?
If my query is simply not working, so be it. I can tweak it and move on. BUT the problem is that I know it works. It worked in the past. It worked to get me requests. It worked to get me an agent. It worked to get me through the first round in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. It worked.
So my question is this: Is it me? Or is it them? What's going on on the agent front?
What about you guys, how has your querying experience been? Are you hearing back? Have you heard of anyone being picked up by an agent recently? Or is it time for me to hang up my querying hat until the publishing industry figures out how to fix the mess they're in?
7/18/2011 06:32:41 am
The economy is bad and so they figure less books are going to sell. (It's proven this hasn't quite been the case...) but what happened when that idea originated, is that publishers were taking on less books. Agents were forced to become more picky. Now it's near impossible. You have to catch the right agent on the right day in the right mood AND have everything exactly as they *individually* want it. It's largely luck. Even more so now than it was before.
7/18/2011 12:09:19 pm
I don't think you're hitting the big 'no-no' bringing this topic up. In fact, I felt the whole subject is being handled pretty professionally. No name calling or pointing out specific folks, just in general observations.
7/18/2011 12:10:58 pm
7/18/2011 02:10:10 pm
When did you start sending out the latest round of queries? I'm just wondering if it's a timing thing? I understand a lot of agents slow down / take a hiatus in summer.
7/18/2011 03:03:19 pm
No data, Angela. Just virtual cookies for you. You're doing so well. Never give up, even whe the system is falling apart.
7/18/2011 10:24:40 pm
I wish I had something smart and witty to say, but alas . . . I don't. Aimee may be right -- the publishing industry does slow down a bit in the summer, but still I think you should at least be getting replies of some form -- whether it be a yes send me a partial, or no the project isn't right for my list. I wish you well and am keeping my fingers crossed for you.
7/20/2011 10:15:02 am
Wait, your agent submitted your book only to "a few" editors and then gave up? You had a bad agent. Most of them are bad nowadays though.
7/20/2011 11:46:03 pm
I haven't started querying yet. I tell myself it's because I'm just happy writing, but it's most likely because I'm a chicken and straight up don't want to have to deal with the query-nonesense of not hearing back.
Okay, I have no numbers to back this up, but my opinion it is--it's them. This just takes forever. I have no idea why. Even agents who give approximate times to hear back from them as far out as 3 months seem to take that twice that. I just think it's a maddening process.
7/27/2011 12:20:49 am
I've never had the patience for querying, but stuck with it just long enough to find a publisher.
8/9/2011 11:56:49 am
I honestly think that, with the advent of the ebook and ereaders, agents have seen the writing on the wall. This technology has eliminated the need for such middlemen, I really do. I wouldn't want to be an agent in this day and age because I honestly feel that their services are not only redundant, but are on the verge of becoming completely unnecessary.
8/13/2011 12:59:39 am
Thanks so much for writing this. I sent out a bunch of queries and only received one answer. (an 'I'm not interested') It was depressing. At least now I know it isn't just me.
8/13/2011 01:00:03 am
Well I queried 100 agents last year before I was ready and I flopped. This year I've queried 20 of the agents I resonate with, and stalk of course. I've received 7 rejections from them. I currently have something weird going on with one agent where she doesn't rep me but she critiqued my book and I got an editor interested after that... So I think publishing is just in flux right now andwe need to pull out whatever personal guns we've got... Good luck with Desert Rice,I'm interested in the blurb, if you decide to put it out there. :)
8/13/2011 01:22:16 am
So many writers have had the same problem - they are turning to e-publishing their work on their own.
8/15/2011 01:13:01 am
I think the publishing industry is really in flux at the moment. I've been to writer's events where I've heard reps from big publishers change the subject when ebooks are mentioned, and talk about not taking on new writers until things have "calmed down". It feels sometimes like the industry is changing and those who have traditionally been in the power positions really haven't always got a vision of how things will work in the future.
8/16/2011 11:03:30 pm
I haven't queried my WIP yet, so can't speak from experience, but I have heard similar stories from other writers. Wish you the best with the adventure. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
8/17/2011 02:34:47 am
In 2007 I contacted about sixty agents. Half asked for a synopsis and 3 chapters. One agent asked for a re-write. Another top agent agreed to read it again after the re-write. I never got an agent and put the novel on the shelf and turned my efforts to my second novel. I think it's a page turner. I started by sending it to agents who liked my first novel--most responded with lovely rejections. Others have NO interest.I send out one a week as I am delaying another total funk. Things have changed dramatically in four years!
8/17/2011 03:27:12 am
Wow--this is rather disheartening. I don't have anything to query, but hope to soon. These are times for creative approaches in all business. Difficult economic times call for innovative thinking. Everything seems to be changing so much and I for one find it difficult to keep up with it all. Good luck with your future efforts. I wish you and all of us much success.
Great post,and so very true! This is my problem: agents request fulls - which is great - then time goes by and I hear nothing. When some do deign to respond their most normally this: your writing is great and we love the complex characters and plot twists but I'm afraid were going to have to pass. WTF? So you love the story but you don't want to represent me? Here's my two cents; if an agent requests a full it would only be polite to give the author a bit mire feedback. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to hear the same thing over and over again. Wait, of course you can!
Part of the problem is that there are more and more people writing all the time. People have gotten used to writing blogs and are trying their hand at getting published seriously. There's a lot more competition than there was in the past. I think it's hard for anyone that accepts submissions from unknown authors to keep up with the mail.
8/18/2011 07:07:19 am
wow! what a story!
8/18/2011 11:19:11 am
Angela, my heart goes out to you! It is no wonder that more and more writers are going independent. There is so much talent out there. :( I wish you all the success. *hugs*
8/24/2011 01:00:16 am
That is disheartening. I just started querying a project again after an eight month break (re-wrote the first chapter, and am marketing it to a different age group) so I don't have much to tell you on that front, but I know I went to a Writers' Conference at the end of April and everyone I knew there that pitched to an agent walked out of there with a partial request (although I don't know if those went anywhere).
8/24/2011 01:06:13 am
Not very encouraging for someone who's just now getting into writing. I understand the frustration though and glad you wrote about it.
8/31/2011 05:29:15 am
I agree with you that there is a cone of silence over querying and submissions, and I can understand why, but it's tough to go through it "alone". I have tried querying, but found it was almost as difficult for my loved ones as it was for me. I guess because they had to hear about it.
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