The Dreaded Query

Last week I sent out 7 queries, to test the waters so to speak: 4 required query letter only, 2, the first 10 pages (in my case that's the entire first chapter), and 1, the first few pages. I haven't heard back from most, other than the standard we received it and will get to it as soon as we can. I actually think that's nice because the agencies I didn't hear that from I will be paranoid about (what if it's lost in web space?) until I do.

So, I get the whole form rejection on the basic query thing. Kind of a bummer since it would be nice to know if it was the query or just not their cuppa tea. However, I can't imagine how long it would take to personally respond to over 100 queries each week. That wouldn't leave a whole lot of room to actually represent any clients, certainly not something I'd look for in an agent.

I did get a response to one this morning. And, I'd love to mention her name since it was so sweet, but I won't. It was the one that only requested a couple pages -- which was also the one I worried most about. How can you tell in 1000ish words? Of course, I know the simple answer to that: the first 1000 words need to be good enough to tell. Simple for the agent at least ;)

My first issue is this: it appeared to be a personal response, but I'm not positive. It could just as easily have been her standard form rejection. I would like to know (but I will not ask -- I've read enough agents opinions on this to know better than to reply in any form to a rejection) so I can have a basis of comparison with any others that respond.

My second issue is in direct relation to the first: If this was personal then I may need to rework the entire first section. And that's where the hard part comes in. I struggled for so long with those first pages. I even added a new beginning of which, admittedly, I was unsure . Now I am wondering if I should have just stuck with the original.

Well no one said this was going to be easy. In fact, I'm pretty sure mostly everyone said it would be hard. Harder than hard -- near impossible. Good thing I don't give up easily.

Unfortunately, out of the 7, this is the one I had hoped would show interest. And after her so nice response, I'm even more sorry it didn't work. But, life goes on, and I will hope for better reactions from others. Not like these are the only 7 agents out there that do genre romance, right? So, I'll keep plugging along.

For those of you that have queried, have you received mostly form rejections, or personal responses? Or could you not tell the difference either?


Shelley Sly said...

I queried a lot for my first book, and it was too much too soon. I was young and stupid. ;) I got a bunch of form rejections on query only (or query + sample pages as per the guidelines, meaning they weren't requested). I also had two partials rejected. One was a form rejection (on a partial, I know) and the other was a very detailed, very helpful rejection that ultimately helped me rewrite the book.
I wish I was smarter with querying in the beginning, but it took me until I got that partial rejection to realize why I was being rejected. I definitely value any rejection that can give me a push in the right direction in terms of editing and fixing the book.

Nicole Ducleroir said...

I haven't queried yet, but know I'm rooting for you from over here in my little corner of cyberspace! I'm glad to hear you got a nice rejection. Even if her's was a template, it's nice to know there are people in the publishing game that remember real people are at the receiving end of their correspondences.

Best of luck with it all, sweetie!
((hugs)) Nicole

roxy said...

After being rejected over 30 times on various projects, I have been turned down a lot. Most of these letters and emails were kind and encouraging. I received the personal response, the partial request the didn't work out, the incompatible voice and so forth. There was even the tiny photocopied 3X3 paper that had been cut from a large sheet of rejections... Anyway, the best advice I'd give is to research who you're querying and read samples of the authors they represent. Like Shelley, I think I often submitted wrongly. I was so excited to get it out there, I didn't prepare properly. Also, if you submit, you will be rejected. Every good author worth their salt has rejection stories. Keep the faith, do your research, work at the craft, and keep submitting. Your agent or publisher is out there.

Tara said...

Shelley - I did that with my first novel as well. Luckily I only sent out a handful of queries (all of which were form rejections). They didn't even get to the novel, so I know the query was just bad. Very bad. Not that the novel wasn't, they just didn't get to see that part ;)

Nicole - Thanks so much. You are always so kind and encouraging :)

Roxy - And that's the thing, I wish I had gotten something more solid like incompatible voice. Perhaps a nice multiple choice at the end of each query letter would work to save time for agents:
A = The writing sucks.
B = Good, but I don't read this.
C = Not a good enough opening hook.
I've done my agent homework pretty well this go round, and have plenty more on the list. I'm just waiting to hear back from more of this batch before I go forward. And, a 3x3 paper, really? Wow.

sarahjayne smythe said...

I haven't queried yet, but I'm over in the corner with Nicole cheering you on. :) If you have to get a rejection, I guess it's better and nicer to get a personal one. Good luck with the rest of your queries.

Piedmont Writer said...

Geez, I've been querying for awhile now, as you must know and I've only gotten form rejections, even on the partial. So you're one up from me in that regard.

As a querier, you really do have to do your homework on which agents rep what you write. It takes a long time navigating the waters of AgentTracker and other websites where they have agents. (I'm sorry I'm having a headachey day today and so can't think but you know what I mean.) I write Regency and there are barely 26 agents out of how many that will even LOOK at it.

So take heart, you have a pool of hundreds to choose from. If I may, however, I will tell you to compile a list of A) the agents you would give your unborn child to work with B) the ones you would invite to dinner and c) the ones who you might call if you got stuck on the side of the road. Query the B's) and C's) first, that way you get to save the A's) for last. IF you're lucky you'll get enough feedback to tell you what you're doing wrong to fix whatever it is and then you'll still have the A's) to query. If you get a request from a partial off the B's & C's, then you might want to send out a few to the A's. Groups of 7-10 is best.

Good Luck! Keep us posted. We're all in this together.

Jemi Fraser said...

There's a thread on the AgentQueryConnect site on form rejection letters. Several people wrote theirs out verbatim, so it would give you an idea of what some of them look like. It's a great site if you haven't been on it yet!

unique FONT said...
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laurel said...

Great advice from all above. I had the same problem with my novel opening and rewrote five completely different chapter 1s, and test marketed to small groups of agents like you're doing. After getting mostly form rejections, I took the ms. to a new crit group. They said I was starting in the wrong place and I ended up going back to the first draft opening. 'Cause my initial idea had been the right one and I'd second-guessed myself too much along the way.

If you're still unsure about the opening and it doesn't feel absolutely right, get some more eyes on your manuscript. That's what I'd advise. You should feel total confidence that "this is my very best".

In an unrelated topic...When you get a moment, could you pop by my blog and let me know where you heard about the Whoops! Blogfest? I'd promised a prize to my best shout-out helper, but I can't figure out who to thank. Gracias!

Nisa said...

I'd say that if you are unsure about the beginning, others probably will be too. If you're comfortable with the original, then do that. Trust your feelings - my two cents. (What they're worth...)

Tara said...

Nisa, I'm inclined to agree, however I've started another rewrite in a different direction and will see how this one turns out ;)

Laurel, I must have at least 7-8 versions of ch 1!

Tara said...

I'll have to check that out, Jemi, thanks.

Anne, that's pretty much the formula I'm following :)

Michael A. Emeritz said...

I share a similar initial experience as Shelly; "too much too soon". I finished my first book while I was still very young and naive, and I immediately sent out mass queries to any publisher I could find. Needless to say, being unsolicited, and failing to follow the basic rules (like including a sase), I didn't even receive a rejection letter from most of them.

Later down the line I rewrote the book. I'm actually sending out letters now as well. I got one response that the agent has received my query, but it was not personal in any way other than the title of my book being included in the paragraph.

I'm hoping to get at least a few rejections back, because I plan to publish them, along with the queries that inspired them, in an episodic blog topic on the process, ie; what Not to do.

Good luck with your queries! If that letter was indeed a personal one, then I'd say you're at least on the right track toward getting accepted.

Tiffany Neal said...

I stink...You came by at blogfest and I am just now coming around to check yours out. Forgive me! :)

Love to read other other author's posts on queries...

I've only sent out one. Got a form rejection. I totally know what you mean by wanting to have some sort of clue as to why you were rejected. I tend to be paranoid.

Was it my query? My first 10 pages? My writing? Already have something like that? I just suck?? :)

Good luck with the rest that are out there...

Tara said...

Tiffany -- "Was it my query? My first 10 pages? My writing? Already have something like that? I just suck??" --exactly! And, if I just suck, tell me now so I can fix it or move on, lol. Thanks for stopping by and joining :)

Thank you, Michael. I'm sure hoping things are moving the right direction. Time will tell.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Palindrome said...

I haven't queried yet but I am sure once I do and receive rejections, it will hurt. I'm okay with rejection/criticism in small amounts. I know I should get a tougher skin but I can't help it. When I write it comes from the heart and is therefore, personal. So I know that when that is rejected, it will feel personal.