Friday, July 2, 2010

No Thanks, but I'll Tell Ya Why

I set off on the mission of querying a couple of months ago. I felt great about the condition of my manuscript, I had two versions of query letters, and was off to find agents that represent my genre. I sent off one or two at a time, spacing them out. I decided to query slowly.
I received a few no’s, but also received a few requests for partials. Let me tell you—that is an exciting yet terrifying experience. Sometimes I don’t know which I was more concerned with – the yes or the no. Am I ready for this?
But one of the most spectacular things happened. I received the mystical helpful rejection. The agent said he would pass, but he was very honest about exactly why. He offered advice to improve the manuscript. In the writing world, this is the next best thing to a yes. Wow!
Now, I will be honest. I read it just like I’ve read all of my initial critiques. The first time with my heart broken, the second time in denial, and then when I was ready – with my mind open.
I began planning the new direction for the book, taking his advice to heart. In my particular case, it involved trimming down the beginning and streamlining the initial plot. I chopped nearly seventeen pages out of the first fifty, adding more strategically placed cliffhangers to help pull the reader forward.
There were some really fun scenes that had to be pulled. It hurt to do so, but I believe it truly helped the story. And with this new beginning, the book reads more like a supernatural romance than the original urban fantasy that I had been trying to sell it as. A slight switch, but the reader can get a feel for what they are getting themselves into much quicker.
So, my fine penned friends, it pays to query slowly. Had I sent out a large chunk of letters, I would have burnt bridges with a version of a book that wasn’t where it needed to be. And like I said – I needed the advice of a professional to get it closer to perfection. Not to mention, I took it as a huge compliment that the agent took his time to give me advice.
If you are querying – query slowly. Give agents the time to review your work. Make changes, keep growing, and above all – don’t give up!
How’s your writing or querying going?


  1. I found this post very helpful and interesting! I'm stumbling around in queryland myself.

  2. I've sent out 6 on my first novel. So far, I've received 3 form rejections. I expect the same out of the other three. After those, I think I may send out another 5 or 10.

    I'm with you on querying slowly. I've spent about 5 years writing this trilogy, and although I love it, I understand it may never mean anything more than "my first writing project". I'm not really in a rush. I want to publish - absolutely - but my day job eats too much of my priorities to rush into querying and possibly burn bridges with a query/partial not up to snuff.

    Yeah, slow and steady sounds good to me. I'm so glad you got good feedback from an agent. Who knows what will happen for you next.


  3. well done you! How great that an agent took the time out to help you, as well!

    I agree that it pays to query slowly, and to think things through. I have a list of agents for my next project, and have decided to target only 2-3 at a time, for this exact same reason. It also makes you do a *lot* of research into individual agents - ie, they might rep your genre, but that doesn't mean they will like your take on it.

    Good luck with any remaining edits and I hope that you get a bite with the next bout of slow queries.

  4. Great plan of attack! I went for the slow method too and so far it's working out nicely. Professional feedback is a very helpful thing.