Okay my friends, it’s time to get real about query letters again. I just got my latest query “no” for my novel, THE CUBE. This brings me up to 21 “no’s.”
The “no’s” have run the gamut. Some were no response whatsover. Some were clearly form/template responses. Some were generally nice, but also the standard “it’s not for me.” I think the “it’s not you it’s me” responses come off the worst, but are probably the most honest. I genuinely try and put myself in the agent’s shoes. They don’t make money unless they sell the book. They can’t sell the book unless they absolutely love the book. Do you know how hard it is to fall in love? Remember dating? Or are you still dating? Because it’s just like that.
But, I’ve also gotten a handful of very thoughtful replies. One agent sent me two bullet pointed lists, one of the lists had the things she liked about it and one had a few suggestions for how I could make improvements (I made every improvement she suggested). I was happy the first list was longer than the latter too. One agent explained her approach to her book list choices (which I found very informative and helpful). The one I got most recently said I was an “accomplished writer” but that it just didn’t pull her in the way she wanted. But she told me to keep going. That my agent was out there.
I thought that was the best kind of response. It wasn’t the “good luck finding an agent” response. And it wasn’t only “it’s not you it’s me” response. It was much more than that. It was a vote of confidence that I just had to find the right match.
Of course, the best "no" would be a ‘revise and resubmit’ but I’m convinced that’s the white whale of query responses. The Bigfoot of the query experience. Some say it’s real, but I doubt it. Also, I feel like it would be really risky to do a lot of revision before a commitment of representation, right? (again, I’m still very new to this… insights are welcome!)
Overall, I keep telling people finding an agent is like catching lightning in a bottle - you need to pitch the right agent, at the right time, looking for exactly what you are offering, with an opening on their book list. It’s about mood and timing and chemistry.
And, I have to say, in my life I have already defeated all the odds by hoodwinking my husband into marrying me 12+ years ago. And by some miracle he seems to love me more now that when we first met. What are the odds that I find a different kind of love now? That book kind of love? :)
What I can tell you now is this: I have a list of about ten more agents that I want to try. And then I’m going to reassess my options. I recently read a blog post from Chuck Sambuchino that said you shouldn’t give up until you’ve queried 80 agents or more. While that sounds absolutely physically and emotionally exhausting, I get his point. Even if you just play the odds, that’s a low percentage of attempts.
I can’t say that I have 80 query letters in me, but I owe it to myself to keep trying for a little longer. My future blog post may veer into the world of hybrid publishing, but for now, I’m still going to ‘just keep swimming’ because I have this bottle. All I need is some lightning in it.