Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Friday, May 22, 2015

Developmental question: conflicting feedback



I am getting some conflicting feedback.  I'll keep it simple with this example - my opening is "composed and intriguing" (from a literary agent who taught a class on the first 10 pages) and that the opening was "forced" (from a submission competition with editors that promised feedback).  I have submitted to agents and when I have received a custom rejection, it's been all positive (great concept, not for me).  My CP's all love the book as well.
I'm completely new to this industry and have been targeting my queries to specific agents that have expressed interest in a book like mine.  While everyone says "Query Widely", if it's a good book that simply won't sell, I'd like to change my focus to my other work. Worse, if I'm doing something wrong, I don't want to waste anyone's time** or have to put away this book forever because I queried all my top choice agents with it already before realizing my Big Mistake.  The largely positive feedback is encouraging but the the conflicting feedback has thrown me for a loop.  What's a girl to do?  

Ignore it.

It's entirely possible they're wrong.

You're giving this feedback too much importance. For whatever reason this book doesn't resonate with those readers.

Find more readers ie query widely.

Your top choice agents might not be the right agent for this book.

Feedback is important for getting a second set of eyes on a manuscript, and maybe seeing something you missed, or helping you find where the story begins.

I've had a LOT of positive response from the Chum Bucket even when the queries were not for books I'd take on because of just those things.

BUT even I am only right 97.23 percent of the time. Books I have passed on have gone on to sell and win awards. 

Have confidence in your work.  Query widely.






**do you REALLY need me to repeat the rant on wasting an agent's time?? I am more than happy to stand on my soapbox and give loud voice to this as often as it takes. 

67 comments:

REJourneys said...

"What's a girl to do?"

Like Janet said, query widely. Query until every agent in the world has seen it. Never give up the fight! Like a captain, go down with your ship.

Have faith in your book (and writing). If you don't, who will?

I haven't had breakfast yet. ReCaptcha, feed me.

Ice Cream, yes. Hot chocolate and parfaits don't count though. But those were the right answers.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

You have three things to do right now.
Make you agent list long.
Query all of them and more.
Work on your next novel.
Oh wait, there's a fourth.
Avoid lima beans and kale, they kill inspiration and poison the mind.
Have a nice day.

Kitty said...

What does "CP" mean? It's not in the blog glossary. Thanks.

mhleader said...

I'm pretty sure "CP" means "Critique Partners"--IOW the writer's critique group.

But seriously? QOTKU is right only 97.23% of the time?

There's something seriously wrong with the Universe! Action is needed! Rise Up ye shy woodland creatures! We need to make sure that number is higher!!

S.D.King said...

Sounds like you have been doing the right things. And it sounds like you are humble enough to listen and learn.

Good job. We are all swimming upstream together and it is nice to have you in our school.

Susan Bonifant said...

I have the same problem with noise control. What to let in, what to keep out. What hurts the book, what helps it breathe?

When you think there's an agent "out there somewhere" but maybe not, but maybe, ask yourself: will you find that agent if you have a book that only an author could love? Maybe. But will you find an agent with a photo-shopped book that you've fallen out of love with? No.

Changing a book doesn't improve it. Loving your book enough to poke at it and make it better - in your eyes - will.

Love your book hard.




Susan Bonifant said...

I'll amend that to say: changing a book won't ALWAYS improve it.

Obv, as my millennials would say.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Kitty: CPs are groups or various individuals that you agree to exchange your manuscript with to offer mutual critique.

To the questioner: what 2Ns wrote--a long list of agents to query and work on your next project while querying. And since publishing, at this time, seems to be an ever-evolving, ever-changing industry, if you end up putting your manuscript away for awhile, that doesn't mean it's dead. It's just not the time for it yet in its present state.

2Ns: I have to kindly disagree with you about kale. That's some pretty wonderful stuff when cooked the right way with olive oil and garlic, add bacon, parmesan, walnuts, or served with your favorite flavored vinegar. Yum. It is a treat!

Linda Strader said...

It took me a year and a half to realize my critique group (and the editor I hired, and some comments from agents I queried) were leading me the wrong direction. I've learned to have faith in my own work.

I will continue to query until I find the one that loves my book.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Congratulations for the feedback.

If you have received more than a form rejection then it sounds like you are on the right track. It's common, from what I've read that a writer may receive up to 50 rejections before finding an agent.

I haven't queried yet but look forward to it.

To all Carkoonites. I've got 80 paintings to finish by October, found out yesterday. Think 80 flash fictions. And I just painted a shadow that looks like a hole in the canvas. Just saying, I may be away from Carkoon. I want to finish final rewrite and the paintings. Like you all care. I'm already jonesing. QOTKU and ya'll make my day.

AJ Blythe said...

As everyone is saying query until your ms hits the right desk at the right time.

If you need more agents to add to your list, try Query Tracker as a starting point.

(Aww, I was obviously only ice-cream worthy the once, back to ticking the box today)

Colin Smith said...

This and yesterday's (?) article seem to be around the same theme: HAVE CONFIDENCE! You know your book better than anyone. You know what it's about, what inspired it, what's at the heart of it, what's important, what's not important. Good advice is golden, but it's just advice. It's not THE LAW. You're not a bad writer if you weigh opinions and decide to stick to your guns, regardless of whose opinion that is. Great writers love books I don't like. I'm sure even Janet loves books that do not appeal to everyone here (though I think she needs to adjust her percentage to 98.73). Have confidence in your novel. And if you don't have confidence in it, spend some time asking yourself what you love about it and what you don't love. Change what you don't love. When you love your novel, have your CPs (Chum Partakers, or Creature Pals) look at it. If they don't love it, find out why and WEIGH their comments. Do they all agree on something? Maybe take a look at that. Are you getting a lot of different feedback? Consider each comment and decide for yourself how important it is. They could all be wrong. But only YOU know that.

Be BOLD, my friend! :)

brianrschwarz said...

If QOTKU is right 97.23% of the time, that means I'm right about her being wrong 2.77% of the time. ;)

To the OP - It sounds like you're getting caught up in all the wrong things. And you should absolutely follow 2n's/Janet's advice to query widely.

We all have felt and do feel the way you feel. It's part of writing books. And of all the things you said, the only one that really causes me to fear for your woodland soul was this one -

"if it's a good book that simply won't sell, I'd like to change my focus to my other work."

I would highly recommend you do some soul searching on this thought. Speaking from a position of having switched artforms from music to writing, and mind you this is after I made a decent living off music alone, let me just say this: If you don't really like writing, don't write. If you like painting more, go paint. If you like music more, go play music. If you like doing interprative dance on the back of semi trucks while driving down the highway, do that.

Life is too short to do something you don't really like doing. Especially writing books. Because lets be honest, here... being a writer is a horrible idea. I'm talking terrible. I mean consider this -

1) You spend mountains of time finishing a book.
2) You get rejected constantly.
3) Even famous writers who made it get ridiculed (think E.L James or Stephenie Meyer)
4) You're goal is essentially to implant your brain into someone elses without surgery. So it's basically a magic trick.
5) A large percentage of agented writers need another job. Why? Because they don't make enough money.

My point is not to dissuade you. I write books despite these factoids saying confidently eff the odds, I'm going to be the next Stephen King but that's because I'm both crazy and in love with writing. And I mean in love with writing. Need-it-like-I-need-to-breathe or can't-go-5-days-without-it love writing.

My advice to you is do some soul searching. If you feel that way, that you want to write because writing makes you love life and you feel you have a voice and a message and nothing can stop you from screaming into the void -- and you couldn't care less if anyone listens or cares -- then grab a little of that gusto you've been hiding away in your heart and use it to tell doubt to take a friggin hike.

We all need a little boost once in a while. :)

Matt Adams said...

Angie, 50 is a small number. Mine was 73, and I felt like I got off easy.

For a lot of people, the query total gets over a hundred, easy. I've met some who got more than 200 rejections before they were offered representation.

I don't think most people realize until they get into the query process that in all likelihood, it's going to take a long, long time and a lot of rejection before you move forward, and after that there's more rejection to come. We think that writing the book is the hard part (and it is, but it's just one of the hard parts) so we're not ready for the hard part that comes with trying to gain acceptance.

Writing, like any creative art, comes with a lot of rejection because once you've achieved competence, the results are always subjective. So there's probably nothing wring with your query or your MS. It'll just, in all likelihood, take some time to find the right agent. And then it'll take some time to fine the right publisher.

So to the OP, hang tough, The whole English channel lies in front of you, and right know you're just up to your knees. But the other side is waiting for it, it just might take while to get there.

I feel sort of left out, because all CAPCHA ever wants form me are house numbers. Not a cake or sushi in sight.

Colin Smith said...

Angie: If painting can give you an escape from Carkoon, then I need to take up painting! :D

Don't be too much of a stranger... ;)

Tony Clavelli said...

Janet answered a question of mine like this a few months ago, and it has helped me so much. It's not that I've landed an agent--far from it (I can't even get someone to request the full manuscript). But I no longer panic (as much) and I try to keep my doubts to myself (and fight them off long enough to press the send button). You just need enough confidence to keep going.

If you've heard the feedback, made your choices, and you love your book, then you're set. Find the person it's right for.

And like the other commenters said--this is the place for that extra push, that boost. Come back and read all the comments and get all the cheer. I love this blog.

Craig said...

I am not a fan of this emphasis on the first line, first or first ten pages. I Know such crap is a necessary evil but I'm am going to query for 95,7 hundred and some words. It is not a short story and the scene needs more time to be set up.

If you go in one direction you tend to not flesh out your characters well enough. If you have well grounded characters you get short on the build up you need for the story. Set it up the way you want, roll the dice and query. Someone will figure out what you are doing and give you the 'call'.

If that wasn't true then the libraries and bookstore would be seriously short on books. Very few have explosive first chapters.

It must be a subliminal message for Memorial Day. I got ice cream too.

McDonalds is going to put Kale on their menu.

Dena Pawling said...

I hope this comment isn't wasting your time.

Lots of folks like your book. Awesome. Keep querying.

I've received mostly form rejections for my manuscript, altho sometimes it's a personal rejection and one was a request for a partial. One of the form rejections said something like, and I'm paraphrasing here but the content was similar, “I'm just not excited about it enough to waste my time on it.”

Yeah, that one was fun. To be fair, she probably didn't realize how it came across, so I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt, but still...... I wanted to reply with “Sorry I wasted your time” but I didn't.

I sent a letter bomb instead.

No, just kidding. I acted like the professional I want to be someday when I grow up, and just archived that email in my “agents” folder, noted the date on my spreadsheet, and changed that agent's name to red font color.

While you're querying, work on something else, like your next book, painting, semester finals, car repairs, your spring cleaning and the gardening since it's spring for those of us standing on the right side of the world =)

Good luck.

Sorry if this comment wasted your time.

LynnRodz said...

Angie, that's insane! That's like 4 paintings a week, but I'm sure you can do it if you've already committed yourself to it. As you said, some are already in the works and you just need to finish them, but still it's crazy.

To the OP, how many agents have you queried? I get the feeling (and of course I could be wrong) you haven't queried many because you're afraid that you've made a "Big Mistake" somewhere in your novel and you want to correct it before querying all your "top choice agents."

If neither you nor your CPs have found that big mistake, maybe it's because there isn't one. Listen to your instinct, if you're asking yourself, "I know it's right, but why does it feel so wrong?" then maybe something is wrong. Seek out more beta readers, or put it away for a few months and then read it again. You'll be able to see it with new eyes and just maybe you'll realize the only thing wrong is you haven't found the right agent yet. As Janet said, you have to have confidence in your work. When you reach agent #100 who tells you "no," then you can close the trunk and put it to rest.

LynnRodz said...

Matt, 200, that's crazy! Were they continuously tweaking their ms while they queried 200 agents? I can't imagine, not. So, maybe by the time they reached 200, their novel was so much better than when they had queried agent #1. Still, talk about not giving up and believing in your story. (I'll have to remember that when I start to query. Like Angie, I haven't yet but I'm looking forward to it.)

Craig said...

I could see getting to 200 if you wrote a manuscript for a genre that was on the declining side of its cycle. By the time you get to the 200th Mercury will have quit going backwards and a different genre might be ascendant. Timing is sometimes important in querying.

Donnaeve said...

Angie - it sounds like you've got your work cut out for you - in a good way though!

I agree with Lisa about KALE.

To the OP, when any one feels discouraged or like they've somehow gone "off track" it really does help to read about the rejections racked up by well known authors.

And..., folks talk about changes in publishing industry all the time, and like any major business, yes, it may adjust/change, but there are two things you can count on: 1) agents, editors, and the general public LOVE a good book. 2)the business is wholly subjective.

Move forward with your querying. What you've had so far sounds encouraging. It really does help to work on a new project. With each new work, there is hope.


Matt Adams said...

Lynn, I think the record for someone who eventually got rep at Absolute Write is 473.

If you want your book to be traditionally published, it's what you have to do -- you keep going and going.

There are a lot of agents out there but there are a lot more writers. If you look at the math, and you end up with 200 queries out, then a 10 percent request rate (which I think is pretty high) still only equates to 20 wanting to see more. If you then figure of those 20, maybe half want to see full, then your book needs to connect with one in 10 agents who read/request the whole thing. Depending on tone/genre/voice/the New York weather, that doesn't feel like it's underestimating potential to me.

I think you need to be prepared to send out 200 or so before you abandon the first shred of hope.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

I'm making another round of revisions based on some suggestions, but they will not be massive ones. I'm just house cleaning. After that the focus goes strictly on querying and the new novel.

As yesterday's conversation proved, you need to get to the point you're confident in your work and realize which advice helps and which doesn't.

I submitted the query to a well known site for some feed back before I started querying. Not this one. I had workshopped it on Books and Writers, but it still felt a little off to me and this was an industry professional.

The industry professional ripped it up and picked out one line particularly and asked me what on earth made me thing that was even a good sentence? Did they need me to teach me how to write properly?

By that time the minions had tasted blood and were busily tearing things apart and joining in the joke fest to see who could be more biting.

I was irked.

I said, well, perhaps you can teach Diana Gabaldon to write correctly because that line is one she came up with and I like it. I thanked them all for their time and departed.

I've had feedback on FAR RIDER that agents loved the tight writing and it from others that it needs to be tightened. It's all perspective.

Here's why you don't give up.

I've said before I'm giving FAR RIDER a year. I'm not going into numbers as I think that's poor business, but I queried this in a former life long before it was ready and burned a lot of bridges with it. Now, years later with a viable project, I'm trying again and I think it has a good chance.

I think the OP has just started querying if I read this correctly. You have to learn which advice helps. We had this discussion yesterday. But, you can't keep rewriting your book ad nauseum without just cause.

I think you'll do fine. Just keep trying.

When my oldest son was rodeoing in high school he competed in all the rough stock events, bullriding, saddle broncs, and barebacks. He went through a spell where he kept hanging up to his bareback horses and had some terrible wrecks and I do mean bad.

Bareback riding was first. Then saddle bronc, Bullriding was the final event.

At one rodeo his bareback horse reared up in the chute and mashed him against the rail. He got off and reset his rigging. Got back on rode his horse, but then hung up, which means he's dragging off the side of the horse on the off side so they can't knock his hand loose. He finally gets loose after three laps around the arena getting kicked by the horse and dangling by his arm.

He gets on his saddle bronc and it flips in the chute with him. They give him a new horse and it rams him against the gate and knocks him off. They give him another horse. That horse hits the gate too. The stock contractor is running some bad horses, which they really aren't allowed to do for high school rodeos. The judges give Brandon a pass on the mark out rule since the horse rammed him on the gate.

I talked to him when he came back and he was obviously miserable. "Brandon, if you want to quit after you get through this rough patch, no one would blame you."

He looked at me like I'd grown two heads. "Why would I quit then, Mom? That's when it would get fun. I just need to keep on keeping on."

And he did. He won the Reserve Champion All Around Cowboy buckle that year.

Don't give up.

Jenz said...

I'm going to make a different suggestion: stop querying and start writing short stories.

You say you're completely new, so I assume you haven't done this yet. Writing shorts will improve your skills. They'll help you learn the difference between when something is working and polished and when it's not. Subbing short stories will teach you a lot, too. And all of that will give you the confidence of genuine experience.

What this boils down to is, if just having faith in your work isn't enough, give yourself some solid proof that you can get published.

Jenny C said...

There's a YA book out there now that got a starred review from Kirkus and is getting great reviews everywhere. I checked it out of the library, enjoyed the first chapter and then started falling asleep after reading for five minutes. As far as I could tell the plot brought nothing new to the table, and the characters just weren't very interesting.

I took it back to the library without finishing.

I read very widely in this genre and have a lot of enthusiasm for YA books. But I didn't care for this one even though a lot of other people did.

That must be why agents are always saying "Query widely". What what person doesn't care for, someone else might love.

So far I've had one agent turn down my work because she didn't connect with the voice and another say she loved the voice but thought some of my plot points were unrealistic. What to do, except query on! Right?

Here is one of my favorite quotes about books:

“In literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others.” Andre Maurois

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Completely off topic.

What a delicate bunch we writers are. One of the Surrey organizers is making sure the host hotel has food kiosks set up for mid morning snacks lest we faint.

I hope they have fainting couches. I love fainting couches.

Julia said...

Go with your gut; go with your passion; do the best you can; and in the end, make it yours and realize it's yours and not theirs.

Hey, y'all - it's my internal deadline day!!!

Pleeeeease throw me Woodland Creature Prayers that it doesn't get away from me today, because next week is all about queries, and the MS goes to the back burner to rest and settle. Tell those durn characters to behave and do what I tell them to do and not what they want to do and we'll all get out of here on time tonight.

I'm feeling a little bit like Milo in Bloom County...

Just like Milo, here.

Cheers!

Badger Fish

Katie Loves Coffee said...

Good luck Julia! You've got this!

OP here. First, thank you all for your encouragement and advice!

Second, let me shed some light/answer follow up questions. I have queried around 35 agents (ducking now to avoid tomatoes thrown my direction, since this seemed like a lot to me and I stand corrected). Hopefully I get a newbie pass on this one and do not get exiled to Carkoon.

Where I have landed is that I'm stepping away from the finished work for a few months before making any more changes. Not because I'm giving up, but because I want to work on something else to keep honing my skills. And because writing is fun for me, especially without the pressure of waiting for a response to my query.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...


Of course I can't stay away, but work day is over.

I was wondering if "quesion" is QOTKU testing us to see when we'll see the typo.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Katie,

I'm so burned out on revisions I grow to hate Far Rider and I actually love the story, if that makes any sense.

I started seriously writing the Civil War piece and forgot how much I love just writing without all the drudge of getting up each morning and pondering every sentence in a search and destroy mission.

I think you're on exactly the right track. Step away for a bit. Working on something else will allow you to come back later with fresh eyes. That doesn't mean you're giving up. It just means you're redeploying your energy for now.

Katie Loves Coffee said...

Thank you Julie! That's exactly how I'm thinking about it and I love the idea of "redeploying energy". Redeploying energy with the idea that it will give my work the best possible chance to succeed.

Karen McCoy said...

Angie: I also wondered what a quesion might be--a festering wondering? A questionable lesion?

I'm glad Julia brought up gut. Not only to signify guts (confidence, like Colin said, not like
Masochism Tango guts), but also signifying heart (rather than head).

There are head decisions, and there are gut decisions. Head decisions are usually governed by fear. Whereas the gut (or heart), while more subtle than the head, is usually more on the right track.

When taking feedback, I often determine whether it involves a head decision or a gut decision. Usually the gut decisions feel better--even if they take a bit longer to figure out.

And yes. Let's not worry about what's selling (or not selling) this early in the process. I attended a workshop from Donald Maass, and he nailed it on the head. Someone expressed concern that "portal fiction doesn't sell" and Maass called "bulls&!t". Literally. He said (heavily paraphrased), "A good story will find an audience eventually. It just might not happen in the way (or timeframe) you expect."

So keep on, dear querier. Do what you gut tells you. And most of all, trust it.

LynnRodz said...

Katie, I stand corrected (thanks Matt) you can trunk your ms after you've queried 473 agents. Oh, hell, round the number and query 475 or 500. I didn't think there were that many agents.

Julie, Julie, Julie, you, my dear, and your sons are some pretty strong characters right out of a western! Wow!!! And yes, those exclamation points are well deserved, so I'm not apologizing for them. I was going to comment yesterday and tell you (but I fell asleep) I also read the beginning of FR (where or when I don't remember, but it must have been on your blog). What I do remember is I wasn't bothered in the least by (I think it was) a dead uncle riding in on a dead horse. Or am I mistaken? Anyway, like everyone else, we believe you'll eventually find that agent you're looking for.

Btw, thanks for that link. I loved reading about all those famous authors/novels getting rejected. I have 45 of those books in my personal library. It gives us all hope to keep at it.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Lynn,

I always thought my ex was the toughest man I ever met and he is. He's something out of a Rambo movie, but Brandon is tougher yet. I'm not sure that's a good thing. It's led to some harrowing drives to the hospital where surgical teams are waiting, running red lights, and me praying for cops to see us to run escort.

Life in the wild west.

Yes, FR starts out with the dead uncle riding in on the dead horse to extract a promise from the MC. I'm glad it worked for you. Yep, it's on the blog for a contest. Me and my contests. sigh.

brianrschwarz said...

Hm. I thought I posted this already but apparently not...

That long comment by Julie Weathers summarized everything that makes me love comments by Julie Weathers.

I felt her pain. I felt thatspark of hope. I felt encouraged and driven by her closing. She told a story that was vivid, amazing, and inspiring as always. AND she posted a link.

Well done Julie Weathers. Well done. I don't say it enough, but you're fantastic!

bjmuntain said...

Yup. CP is Critique Partner. Another one for the glossary. :)

IOW = In Other Words (just in case)

I, too, sometimes wonder about burning bridges with a manuscript that turns out to have a major flaw. But I've been looking at this long enough to realize that there are always new agents. And if your novel is sufficiently changed, you can probably query the same agent a few years later.

I know some agents say they remember everything they see, but I'm sure most won't remember a query years later for a novel if both the query and the novel have changed significantly.

Yes, I know. I said years. I haven't been the most promiscuous querier (as in, I haven't queried as widely as some might advise), and there have been periods where I would set this novel aside, work on something else, then go back to this one, find the problem with fresh eyes, fix it, and start sending it out again.

And I've noticed that many of the agents I've queried have moved to other offices, and many new agents have come on the scene. Agents change. Agencies change. Publishers change. Trends change. So don't worry too much about burning your agent bridges. There are always more bridges being built.

As for conflicting feedback: we all get it. No matter who we get it from. You can have two critiquers, and one will love a certain wording and one will hate it. And they're both right. And they're both wrong. The only true 'right' is what works for your vision of the novel. Does the beginning feel forced to you? Or does it seem fairly natural? Do you like the beginning? Is there something you don't like? Fix what you don't like.

Have you ever seen archaeologists screening their backdirt? They do that to make sure they didn't miss something very tiny but very important. They'll put a pail of dirt onto the screen, then shake the screen back and forth until all the small particles have gone through. Then they'll go through what's left to see if there is anything valuable (in archaeological terms, that's more likely to be pottery shards or beads than gold).

You can screen critiques the same way, using the screen/filter of your vision for your novel. The ones that don't fit your vision flow right through the screen. The ones that might fit stay in the screen. Then you can pick through those to see if any of them are valuable. Those are the ones you pick out and use.

Also, even if all your critique partners say they don't like one thing, it might not be the 'one thing' that needs to be fixed. It might be something leading up to that one thing. It might be someone's reaction to that one thing. Really consider that one thing, and see if it fits your vision, and if so, what needs to be fixed *around* it.

As for wasting time: an author puts hundreds of hours into a book. Maybe thousands. Maybe more. And you're worried about taking up a few extra minutes of an agent's time?

bjmuntain said...

Blogger made me separate this into two comments. Blah.

Angie: We'll miss you! Come by whenever you can!

Craig: So you're saying kale is going to be junk food? A very interesting thought...

Note agents: When Dena turns your name font to red... be very afraid.

Jenny: Love the quote - so true!

Julie: Really? I hadn't seen that. That's actually wonderful, considering they don't offer breakfast. But there's also a kiosk that's always there anyway. Maybe that kiosk has fled? (I'll be looking further into this.)

Oh, and Julie? Brian's right. You are fantastic.

Julia: I love Bloom County! And that was always one of my favourite cartoons from there. I recently bought a Humble Bundle of ALL the Bloom County books for an insanely inexpensive price. I think that bundle's done now, though...

Katie: You're doing great. Writing *is* a work of love. 35 agents is a lot of agents. It's not quite the average number (I think that's what the '50' was - the average number of agents to query) but it's a lot. Because most people have to query a LOT of agents.

As for setting this aside and working on another: do it. I'm doing that. You can still submit to agents, if you want, though. Just accept that the finished work is as good as it's going to get, and send it out. Working on another project at the same time will help keep your mind off the butterflies in your stomach.

And even if Janet is right only 97.23% of the time... on her blog, that's more like 99.999% of the time. Because it's her blog.

Kate Larkindale said...

50 queries to get an agent? I queried well over 300, with 6 different novels before I got my agent (and I wrote 4 more that I never queried).

It's a long process. And sometimes that first book you write isn't going to be good enough. But you've written a book and you can write another. And another. So just keep going and don't hang all your dreams on that one MS.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

BJ,

They're squeezing in more classes this year so the lunch has been moved from 12:15 to 1:00. It's to stave off hunger and grumbling. Plus, I imagine some people have dietary issues. I wouldn't skip breakfast even if they have a snack available. It's good to get the brain functioning right off the bat. Plus, you can shoot the bull with someone.

bjmuntain said...

Wow. I hadn't seen that, Julie. Yes, I can see why they would want to make sure all the writers are fed before 1.

I have a problem eating before 10 am - my digestive system just doesn't want to work properly. I'll usually have a coffee (with lots of milk) and that will tide me over to noon. But not to 1 p.m. I hope the kiosk will have something gluten-free. The only thing the old one had that I could eat was bananas and maybe some other fruit.

Thanks for the heads up!

Julie.M.Weathers said...

I was just going through an email from military.com entitled the 9 biggest lies your deployed loved one tells you.

1. I never go outside the wire or I always go outside the wire.

True. Will used to tell me all the time. Mom, don't worry about me. I never leave the wire. (Never go off the base.)

One day I get a quick email. "Don't worry. I'm ok. email you later."

Later email included pictures of two convoy mraps blown to hell and back.

Yeah, so much for never going outside the wire. Fortunately, the mraps did their jobs and the injuries were not life-threatening.

We still have military people who are in danger and we have many gold star families. Twenty-two veterans commit suicide EVERY SINGLE DAY of EVERY SINGLE YEAR and have for the last several years. Twenty-two is often quoted, but government agencies admit this number may be far higher. Even so, let's go with that. That's One every 65 minutes.

Monday is Memorial Day. It's more than a great sale on linens and barbecue. It's a time to reflect and honor and maybe reach out to someone and make sure the number doesn't go higher.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

BJ,

The conference organizers are regulars on the Books and Writers forum, so there is a discussion going on there about it. Being woodland creatures, everyone is talking about everything.

The schedule, presenters, etc, is available if you haven't seen it.

bjmuntain said...

I've seen the schedule, thanks.

I've tried to get into Books and Writers, but it looks like I already have an account, but I can't access it for some reason (probably something to do with having been created many years ago). One of these days, I'll look further into it.

Thanks again!

Craig said...

Julie, thank your family and friends for their service. I wish there was more I could do but the ideas I have fall on otherwise combative ears.

kdjames.com said...

I suspect the 2.77% of the time when Janet is wrong involves paint.

Katie, I'll just echo what everyone else has said. Let that story rest for a while and write something new. Once you DO get an agent, s/he will want to know what else you're working on anyway. And good grief, if 35 agents seems like a lot to you, then IT IS. There is no magic number of how many agents you need to query before you decide enough is enough. That's an entirely individual decision and another one where you need to trust your gut. If that's the upper limit of rejection you're willing to endure right now, so be it. Focus on the positive encouraging feedback and keep on writing.

Angie, I'll miss your comments. Hope you'll stop by on occasion and let us know how the painting is coming along.

I plan to be mostly offline for the next few days. This week was a difficult one for me, with too many distractions and obligations. So I'm going to pretend I'm at the beach and there's no phone reception or internet connection. And focus on writing.

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend! And yes, as Julie W. so eloquently said, take a moment to reflect on the meaning of the holiday and the lingering consequences of war.

DLM said...

Actually reading all the comments today. And they are wonderful and ending up making me sad.

Confidence is indeed important, and we all support each other here, but ...

Not every one of our novels is going to get published. It's possible not every one of US is going to get published.

If I could have FOUND 473 agents who rep what I write, or were open to receiving genres beyond whatever generally short list most agents have posted somewhere or other - I'd have queried every damned one of them with AX.

As it stands, I probably came much closer to querying 200 agents over time. Some, certainly yes, before the novel was ready. Some whose interests explicitly moved on. Some who were a LONG stretch to take a shot and query at all.

And, though the interest I *did* get on AX was from agents of the highest caliber (seriously, two of them I never imagined I'd hear back from, and those were my R&Rs), here is the truth. MOST of the response I had was form rejection. Very, VERY few agents over the years have provided feedback.

I still have confidence in AX as a *novel*. It's a good one. Confidence is good; but we've all seen examples to teach us: delusion is not.

I haven't stopped looking completely, but I haven't sent an actual query in a long time now. If I could find a wider net to cast, I would have.

But AX is lying fallow. I've been working on another novel, and the query stage for that is ... I honestly have no idea how far away. It's been heartbreaking in the extreme to let AX lie, but I've had to do it. It's reached the point I'd be stupid to keep chasing it around.

http://dianelmajor.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-dull-ache-and-something-else.html

(Julia - love this: "Go with your gut; go with your passion; do the best you can; and in the end, make it yours and realize it's yours and not theirs." And sometimes it may never be anyone's but mine ...)

Julie.M.Weathers said...

BJ

I had to start a new account a couple of times. I was a member back in AOL days and forgot my info. Then my isp server got gobbled up. It's pretty easy to start a new account and the conversations are interesting if nothing else.

Sam Hawke said...

Julie, I wonder if I know the other site you were talking about. If so, I think it used to offer a lot of good feedback but has in recent years fallen into a very snarky pit, with commentators basically just competing with each other to be critical. You can still get helpful comments sometimes but you have to sift through people making sarcastic or patronising assumptions about your plot or your characters.

With your high word count too I imagine you might waste approx 50% of the comments having people tell you anything over 100K won't sell, won't get requested, etc etc. I'm like you, writing fantasy, and my word count is in the same bracket as yours. Watching so many comment sections turn into the same 5 people condescendingly lecture the querier about how no-one will buy a book longer than 100K made me hesitant to sign up to it.

While I am sure there are probably clueless people out there who aren't aware of the Great Wordcount Drama but they'd be in the minority, given how much it's discussed to death on the internet. If you're at the querying stage and you have a decent level of competence and research skills (which clearly, you greatly surpass), I think it's fair to assume you've trimmed or condensed what you can and you've weighed the risks of some agents outright rejecting based on wordcount.

And you've got full requests already, so I think it's safe to say your query works!

kdjames.com said...

Sam and Julie, I read this article the other day-- talks about the VLN (very long novel). Thought you might find it interesting.

http://www.vulture.com/2015/05/year-of-the-very-long-novel.html

(deliberately didn't do a link, so you can see what site you're going to, since I sometimes won't click if I don't know)

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Sam,

I'm pretty sure you know which place it is and it's fine. You have to glean the wheat from the chaff.

A cp just sent back another round of search and destroy and rebelled. She agreed with some cuts, but others are rewriting the story. Well, we made to to chapter 30 before the mutiny.

laughs

Kitty said...

"Don't ever write anything you don't like yourself and if you do like it, don't take anyone's advice about changing it. They just don't know."
— Raymond Chandler

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

To the OP (Katie), you don't really "know" your top-choice agents. All you know is your perception of them. Maybe the "right" agent is waiting to see it. Query widely, query widely. Also know that very successful authors go through this phase of questioning themselves; questioning their work. Don't let others sway YOUR OPINION of what you love, what you've created.

@ Lisa B - homemade kale chips - yumm!

@ Craig - Why the aversion to '0's?'

@ Matt A - I like your advice on preparing to query 200+ agents. That way it'll lessen all the rejections...

@ Kate L - Love this: "But you've written a book and you can write another."

bjmuntain said...

Julie: But I want to be BJMuntain. There is only one BJ Muntain, and that is me. I want my name. (insert whine)

Kitty - wonderful quote. Chandler is one of my favourites.

Sushi. Why is it always sushi?

Julia said...

YEEEEESSSSSSS!!!!!!

bjmuntain said...

You finished, Julia?

Julie.M.Weathers said...

BJ,

I've been Julie-Weathers, Julie_Weathers, Julie.Weathers, JulieWeathers, and JulieOswennopoofWeathers. Long story on the last one.

Trust me, people will figure out you are BJMuntain

bjmuntain said...

Julie: I sent a message to AOL describing my problem, because every time I tried to create an account or find my old one, I kept getting AOL's website.

They responded: Call Compuserv.

Gah.

Maybe later this weekend, when I'm more alive, I'll try to be someone else...

Had to choose pasta/noodles. Good - had that for supper tonight. But OpenID failed. Then I got...

dun dun dunnnnnnnn

Sushi.

Julia said...

YES, I AM!!!
Eleven hours, 11,000 words, closed out Barnes and Noble, but the first draft, as rough and bloody as Janet's last chum remnants, is done.

101K words in a month while I "thought about" Angylaidd and my queries and let them settle and those indy pubs went to Denmark. They're back. MS first draft is done. Queries on Tuesday for Angylaidd, back to edit Kennedy once those are done and out.

YIPPPPPEEEE!!!!!

bjmuntain said...

Yay! Congratulations!

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Julia, wow, congratulations!

Julia said...

Thank youuuuu!!!

Sam Hawke said...

Congrats Julia! Such an achievement. Have a wine or a beer or a glass of cold milk or whatever your beverage of choice may be. You've more than earned it.

LynnRodz said...

Julie, your ex a Rambo cowboy, now there's an image! You're right, though, too much of a good thing is not good. Prayers are definitely needed.

Congratulations, Julia, now the real work begins. Lol. Seriously, 101K words in a month is crazy!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Julia, I bow to your accomplishment.

Julia said...

Thank you all so much. I feel strangely let down and devoid of purpose and a bit hung over. Ah, the Day After. :)

Julia said...

Thank you all so much. I feel strangely let down and devoid of purpose and a bit hung over. Ah, the Day After. :)