Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Query Question: are you even reading these?

I queried a novel 5 years ago and after 15 no responses, I gave up.

I am now in the process of the dreary queries again (different novel) and tried something crazy, just to test out a theory. Honestly, I don't think my writing career can get any worse at this point.

I sent out a query to an agent and within 3 days had what I knew was a "form" no. I shook it off and hoped that maybe one of the other agents I sent it to would be interested.  One "no" is no big deal. Only I couldn't stop thinking about it. The more I read about agents and writer's good and bad experiences, the more I started to think. 


So this is where the crazy comes in. I sent the exact same query for the exact same book. I literally copied and pasted the original letter in an email and sent it in to the exact same agent. Same thing, 3 days later I got a response from her. The exact same form response.

I can't help, but wonder if my letter and sample were even read. I followed the instructions posted to a T.

I feel like if she read the exact same twice, she would have just ignored the second. Right? I mean why tell me the same thing twice. I clearly wasn't smart enough to understand the first no (I'm thinking this from her perspective here of course).

She could just feel sorry for me and be politely telling me to leave her alone, again, in that same e-mail "form" fashion. I don't know.

It just seems as if an "I don't have time to read this right now" form letter is a better response than, "Your project sounds very interesting, but it's just not for me" email.
Of course this is me assuming that on Wednesday she rejects all of her Monday queries and on Friday rejects all of Wednesdays.

Now that I have typed all of this, I have lost sight of my question. I don't even know if I have a specific question. What do you think about his whole experience and my theory that agents aren't actually reading our letters?
Obviously, all agents aren't the same, and I'm certain that some do take the time to read the queries even if they don't take time to respond. 





In your spare time do you like to beat your head against the wall?


At this point I almost want to read your novel because you have a fevered imagination. Too bad you're using it to torment yourself instead of entice ME.


For starters, let's both of us agree that you don't know a damn thing about how the OTHER side of the query process works. By my count,  you've sent 17 query letters total, and that's over the course of five years. 


I read 17 query letters in 30 minutes a day. Every day. For YEARS now.


And I can tell you that people sending duplicate queries by mistake, or because of bad record keeping, or because they misspelled one word in the closing paragraph, or they failed to add their twitter handle is so common that I don't even notice any more.


I don't investigate. I certainly don't assume the writer is stupid. Or poorly organized. Or anything. I just reply again.

I do this because it's the easiest thing for me to do. And frankly, I'm very invested in keeping things simple.


Now, you're about to become a crazy person here, and you're doing it over something you have ZERO control over.


Do not do that.

Do this: Send more queries.
You can't start to complain or kvetch until you've sent 100.

For ONE book.

And if you don't think your writing career can get worse, let me introduce you to a cold hard truth: you keep sending duplicate queries to torment yourself or prove that agents aren't reading your stuff and you're going to find even agents like me [who respond to ALL queries] ignore you. One fast way to get on my Very Bad Side is to resend the same query endlessly. [Yes, that happens.]

If you're really seriously worried agents aren't reading your work, get to a writing conference. Make some pitch appointments. Take your query. Find out what needs improving.

There is one basic fact you're forgetting here: agents are looking for things to sell.  Finding them is largely a numbers game once your query and pages are in good shape.

Quit making yourself crazy. Go work on your novel. I'm sure there are a few characters in there who could use some skullduggery in their lives.

      

112 comments:

Donnaeve said...

Holy moly! Nobody commented yet? Sleepyheads!

The first thing I thought about here is "skepticism." The OP sounds like they are very skeptical, and I also think they sound like they distrust the honesty/integrity of agents and the work they do. (or to the OP's point - don't do)

This was kind a strange IMO. I guess everyone thinks a different way.

I have more to add, but I'm waiting to see if I am actually FIRST.

Nanner, nanner 2N's!

Donnaeve said...

WHOOT! (borrowed from W.R. and to replace my usual WHOOP!)

Kitty said...

I can empathize with that person. I have not queried agents -- haf'ta write a book first -- but there was a time when I did send out some of my stories. Some of the rejections came back so quickly I swore they passed my stories in the mail.

Kitty said...

Morin', Donnaeve :)

Donnaeve said...

Maybe I should go on and have a conversation with myself here, ala Colin style.

Donnaeve said...

Ah! Mornin' Kitty!

Kitty said...

I see you spelled mornin' correctly, Donnaeve. I was just testing the first vomenter -- yeah, that's the ticket! -- and YOU PASSED! ;~)

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Lovejoy queried 7000 times? Talk about persistence. I've only queried short stories, none published so far.

No wonder they call it the query trenches. The Trenches of Carkoon.

Donnaeve said...

Now, that the "first comment housekeeping" is out of the way, the OTHER thing I'm thinking is..., only 15 queries for the first novel? And OP gave up? I don't know what OP thinks of their first novel TODAY, but it seems they gave up WAY too fast, and may have WASTED all the work that went into it.

On the other hand, OP, good for you in writing a second book! But, like Ms. Janet points out, until you've queried at least 100 agents, don't drift off into Worry World. This would be like whining and moaning about the state of affairs in the US, (or wherever you may live) and you didn't vote.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Sorry to burst your bubble Donna, but I've been checking since 6am my time. : ) I'm not going to say anything about the queen's timing. I eagerly await her words of wisdom and snark regardless of what time they post online. Nothing like keeping us on our toes.

All I can say to Opie is: Wow. I think I'd find better things to do with my time. Of course, I don't like to fret myself. I do that plenty in my regular paying day job. I'd rather enjoy writing, as much as I am able (after comparing my writing to NYT bestsellers? sigh. Lot of work yet. Supportive words from crit partners about what needs shaping up in my MS. Yup, more work.)

(and I wonder how many people have posted since I started this and was interrupted a couple times before I could post my response)

Donnaeve said...

Kitty, I'm making up for the crazy misspellings I had on my comment Monday.

Donnaeve said...

Ah, but Lisa..., how do you prove that? Unless you comment, who knows you've been checking since 6? That's bogus! I call foul! :)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Donna: Call foul all you want. I guess you'll never know!

Angie: I just checked that link about Lovejoy. I'm not enticed to read any further. (shudder)

Colin Smith said...

Donna: I believe the term is w00t! But if you use that around teens, they'll pass you off as being soooo 2000s--a sure-fire way to show your age. :)

Opie: I'm not an agent, just a friend of Sharks. But my understanding is, not all agents read every word of every query. If they're not intrigued by the genre, the first line, the word count--they're form-rejecting and moving on. There are only so many hours in a day, and reading queries is something most of them do during non-office hours, when they're not negotiating contracts, wrestling with editors, and tormenting clients.

I tell ya, that was one of the first concepts I had to disabuse myself of when I started learning about how this whole industry works: Literary Agents don't spend their office hours with their feet up reading books and queries. At least the good ones don't. And if they want to stay on top of their slush pile, they have to hone their skill at spotting stuff that would be a good investment of their time, and stuff that won't.

And don't get all precious about that "good investment of their time"! Yes, your novel is like your first born child to you. But no agent is going to pour the hours of sweat and tears it takes to get it into the hands of a good editor unless they care about it almost as much as you do. Which means a lot of good novels get form rejected at the query stage. Maybe even after only the first line.

To sum up: Suck it up my friend. You've only just started querying. And the right agent for you may be #74, or #107. Or the novel may not be ready for showtime this time around.

Just remember: If this was easy, everyone would do it. :)

Donnaeve said...

Colin, trust me, showing how I'm all 2000'ish would be a step in the right direction the way I'm going. I also like what you say about an agent's ability to weed through the materials quickly, b/c they've honed the skills to look quickly for materials that entice them.

When I think about this, it's no different than me, as a reader perusing books. I can look at the cover, read the flap, or maybe the first sentence, and boom! I know if I want to read the book or not. It's a lot like that I think... + sprinkle a bit of industry savvy in there for what's selling or not.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Lisa, so true, those bestsellers.

Linda Strader said...

Wow, giving up after 15 queries? Try over 100...and no, I've not given up. What I did was take a long hard look at a) my query letter and b) my writing. I've found that if an agent wants to see more, you'll hear back pretty quickly. If they pass...take another long hard look at your writing.

Can you learn how to write by taking classes and attending workshops? I don't think so. I think you learn how to write by reading good writing and analyzing why it works. Then write like that.

PL Alston said...

As for early comments - Folks in the southwest use our mornings for the work outside - before AC is needed to resuscitate mind and body. Okay, what I've gleaned thus far:
1) write, then write some more.
2) critically analyze work
3) listen to outside critique (gulp)
4) write some more
5) query 'til the cows come home
Got it! This is the most informative and fun comment section I've found. No snark - genuine appreciation for all the participants. Thank you and keep commenting!

Theresa said...

The advice to attend writing conferences is a good reminder of the value of networking. You can find other writers who might give you some ideas about your WIP so that it can be sharpened for querying. And you usually have the opportunity to pitch to a real live agent (better than an unpredictable zombie one), which is an invaluable experience. These are more profitable ways for OP to use spare time. Besides, we all know that agents read all the queries that come their way, but what they choose to represent depends entirely on their mood and on the alignment of the planets and stars.

Jenny C said...

Giving up after 15 queries? That's like giving up after 15 rounds of golf! And my dad will tell you that after playing for 65 years it is still the most frustrating game on earth.

I you have received 15 rejections, then send out 15 more queries. If you receive 15 more rejections, then it is time to take a serious look at your query letter. I suggest you hire an editing service. Ultimately a query needs to be in your voice so you don't want someone to rewrite it for you, but you want someone to tell you what isn't captivating about it. I used two editing services plus two critiques I won through blog contests. My request rate has been high, though ultimately my rejection rate has been too, but that's a different issue.

And if you get a rejection, move on! I have an excel spreadsheet and when I get a rejection I color the agent's box grey and I send out another query, and I don't look back!

Good luck!

kaitlyn sage said...

Trying to live up to my resolution to be a little less lurky (Don't try and tell me that's not a word, spellcheck, lurky is totally a word.) and a little more interactive around these parts.

According to my records I sent 29 queries for my first novel and in response I received a resounding chorus of "No, thank you." Despite the (ABSURDLY) low number of queries I sent, I stand by the trunking of that book. As I learned about querying and this whole grand world of publishing I realized that the book I wrote (while I still love, love, love it) ain't going to be no debut, and probably doesn't deserve to see eyes beyond my circle of CPs.

My second (shinier! less derivative! twin-filled!) book has had a deal more success in these here query trenches. That said, I'm 39 queries in and still trucking right along. (Currently taking a break at a pit stop, fixing some of the issues that have turned some of the maybes into noes.)

Please excuse my less-than-elegant words. Elegance requires caffeine, and I have not met my quota yet.

LynnRodz said...

The problem is, everyone thinks because they know how to write, they can write a book and that's why more and more people are doing it. And that's why there's such a huge slush pile for agents to wade through. Part of the culprit is the computer. When people had to type a perfect manuscript on a typewriter and send those 400 pages in the mail, there were a lot less people writing novels.

OP, 15 queries isn't even a start if you believe in your novel. It's good you wrote a second book, but this time around you sent out a query and got one rejection and then the craziness began? There's something else going on. I think you may have skipped over certain steps and that's why you don't have enough faith in your writing. Did you work with any CPs? Did you get beta readers to weigh in on your work? Has anyone looked at your novel before you began to query? If you have, well then ignore what I just said, but listen to Janet. Go to conferences and speak to agents directly. You'll find out soon enough if they're rejecting your work because your query is your downfall, or maybe the novel's not ready.

You say your writing career can't get any worse. Why, because 16 agents said no? I've already decided I won't stop querying (I haven't started yet, so it's easy for me to say) until I have queried 201 agents. Then I'll think about going the self-publishing route because I believe in my story.

Donna, Janet is playing around/tormenting (her word) those who wait to be first. Today's post was late, but then again, what is late? She's just keeping everyone on their toes and loving it.

Colin Smith said...

PL: On behalf of the regular vommenters--thank you! We try to play nice. :)

kaitlyn: "Lurky" is totally acceptable around here. Welcome out from the lurkies of lurkdom! :) Keep on truckin' with the queries!!

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and a reminder to vommenters and lurkers alike: I'm still accepting requests to be added to the list of Carkoon's Most Wanted, AKA, the List of Blog Readers and Their Blogs. If you have a blog, Twitter account, Pinterest board, Instagram, whatever, feel free to share it with the rest of us so we can get to know you a little better.

And note Janet's Golden Rule about sharing links: Thou shalt not link to any site whose purpose is to increase someone's bank account or naughty bits.

:)

Karen McCoy said...

If yesterday's writing advice from the masses taught me anything, it's that it's okay to romp around a little and test the waters. This goes for both writing and querying, I think.

Too often we writers get tunnel vision, and limit ourselves unnecessarily. We think about the one interaction that didn't go well, instead of remembering the countless ones that did.

Querying takes guts. Security with one's self. And that builds slowly, over time, using rejections to build a customized armor. And the stronger the armor is, the more easily we can fight next time.

I'm not sure where I heard it, but someone once said, "The art is in the recovery." Pent up energy from rejection can be used to propel us forward. Expand our writing. Grow our process. It can opportunity rather than a shut door.

Colin Smith said...

I forgot to mention: If you want to be added to the list, either post a comment (you might want to call my attention to your comment--a simple "Oi, Colin!" will suffice) with your blog/Istagram/CompuServe/Prodigy/MySpace site location, or you can drop me an email (my email address is on my Blogger profile).

Oh oh oh--another thing! If your Blogger profile doesn't have a way for people to get in touch with you--fix that! Janet may be so blown away with your eloquence and insight, she'll want to drop you an email and tell you how awesome you are. :)

Stephen Parks said...

Somewhat off topic, but been on my mind recently.

Janet - is QueryShark dead? There have been only two posts this year, the last in February.

I, for one, always found it educational, and I know there is a LOT of archived content still there. But I would miss it if it fades away. And I doubt I'm alone in that.

Colin Smith said...

Karen: I'm no fitness expert, but isn't it true that the test of how in-shape you are is not how hard you can work out, but how quickly you recover? I'm sure there's a lesson there. :)

Susan Bonifant said...

It's a given that you'll recalculate route many times on the query road - send, adjust, send new, send with material, send without, all to glean some idea of how/if our work is received.

Wishing to know more about the workings of the "other side" is natural. Thinking it can be deduced through the right spreadsheet analysis or "experimental" querying, then realizing it can't, on top of already feeling (prematurely) like a failed writer is coping with a small problem by creating a bigger one to obsess over.

But worse, and sad, would be for Opie to turn the fear of failure into the truth of it, based on "proof" of his/her own making.

Colin Smith said...

Stephen: I'm amazed this post has been up for nearly 2 hours and we're still mostly on-topic!

Craig said...

Convince yourself that you are a writer. At the moment I see some serious confidence issues. Not just because of tossing in the towel after 15 rejections. Taking five years to screw your courage up high enough to try again will not make you a writer.

Writing isn't an art for most people. It is something that you need to build on. The more you write the better your writing should get. Get there and then get some people to agree with you. An online critique group can be a wonderful thing. Make sure you pick the right group.

Places like QueryTracker will not only give you a cheering section but can help with the management of your queries. It can make you crazy trying to keep track of them.

Good luck and don't forget to write, write and write some more.

Colin Smith said...

Stephen: And to your point, I've noticed that too... and I could be wrong, but there's possibly a link between the decrease in QueryShark activity, and the increase in the number of articles Janet's posting here. Maybe she thought this was a better way to address the vast amount of query issues she's been seeing? Or maybe she decided this is more fun? I'll leave it to her to answer that one. :)

Amanda Capper said...

Poor Opie. I feel so downright bad for you. You have no idea how worse it can get.
I sincerely hope you never find out, but just in case, Google 'bad literary agents' and have a read. Even when you have an agent, the horror isn't necessarily over.

Research, research, research.

kregger said...

Hold on...Let me hit the play button on the old 8-track HiFi. Ah, Patsy Cline, a moldie, but goldie...
I was in a low-end management job (basically, right above the french fry guy) many moons ago. I asked the manager above me (a glorified sandwich-board artist)if he had hired me by accident for my position. He gave me a steely-eyed stare that only a twenty one-year-old with pimples can do, and demoted me. I went home smelling of french fries for the next month before quitting.
Lesson learned:
Only challenge authority when you have nothing to lose and don't piss off people in a position to help.
At school, clueless classmates violated this guideline by abusing nonacademic support staff and suffered the consequences. I made friends with the staff and they didn't kick my behind on my way back down the ladder.
Opie can play games as he assuages and validates his paranoia, but seeing as a query is a business letter asking for partnership...well, I'll draw my own conclusion.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Craig: But building IS an art. Building on, practicing--whether playing a piano or writing a novel, coloring in a book or throwing a clay pot--is all art. It's a matter of how far along an artist is, whether a beginner, an amateur, or a professional.

Laura Mary said...

15 rejections sounds pretty soul crushing, but I think it would take a lot more than that to get me to quit! Never mind that it’s a pretty small selection of agents, was there no revision of the query? No revision of the novel? I know many ‘firsts’ are destined for the drawer, but I would find giving up on it a very difficult thing to do.
It sounds like this writer is a bit stuck in their own head, and created a whole imaginary publishing/agenting world where queries are a plague of mozzies that must be swatted with prompt swatting!

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Good grief.

I know someone like this. "I've already received seven rejections. It's been two weeks since they requested my partials. Should I go ahead and self publish?"

"Yes, you should." Otherwise you're going of drive both of us nuts.

I think when I tell people I've been querying, revising, quitting writing, and starting again for nearly ten years, they just shake their heads and think, "Well, yes, but I'm different, you poor thing." If they were from the south, that's where they'd say, "bless your heart" or "God love ya."

One writer on twitter announced she's written eleven novels so far this year and has three more underway. She has a tough time deciding which one to query so she queries all of them.

So we go from one extreme to the other.

When I was in labor with Will my youngest I opted not to do any pain drugs or an epidural. I'd had a lot of problems carrying him. There were some medical problem with the way I was carrying and the doctor had already told the nurses I wasn't to be left alone whatsoever because he was afraid I was going to stroke. My best friend happened to be one of the ob nurses.

I didn't want to be drugged like they had with my daughter so if something went wrong I wasn't aware of what was happening. The nurse came in after several hours of hard labor and checked me. "Oh, honey. It's going to be hours still."

I told her she was wrong, but she didn't believe me and they hadn't followed the doctor's orders so no nurse was with me.

A little while after that I started disconnecting wires and tubes. My horrified husband said, "What are you doing?"

"That's it. I'm done. I'm going home."

I'm not sure what my addled brain thought I could do at home that I couldn't do there. A few minutes after that I told Don to go get a nurse because the baby was coming. No one believed him. He finally stormed into a delivery room and dragged someone out. Sure enough. The doctor barely got there in time.

Writers talk all the time about how writing a book is like birthing a baby, but three breaths later they're ready to give up. How poetic. Trust me, you can't just quit in the middle of having a baby. So, suck it up buttercup and settle in for the long haul.

I remember that guy when he was harassing agents. He flat out told them he would keep querying them until someone gave up and signed him. They'd send a rejection and he'd reject their rejection and query them again. It was amazing to watch. It was kind of an, "Hey Earl, get your R O C Cola and come watch this." kind of disaster.

Anyone remember Ernest T. Bass on the Andy Griffin Show? Yeah, it was kind of like that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJUmIuc1X5s

Colin Smith said...

Laura Mary: I think most people get at least 15 rejections. I mean, statistically, if you're querying widely, you're bound to get at least that many no-thank-yous. The exceptions are those rare few who snag an agent with the first few queries.

Laura Mary said...

Doh! *rejections* that is. Not swatting with swatting. That would just be silly.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey Donna, blah, blah, blah :)
I was up at 5, no post, coffee, news, 5:30, no post, dressed,(sort of),6am, no post, breakfast, made lunch for work,6:30 no post. So off to work and on my break now and I see the post went up at 8. This proves two things. I have to be at work too damn early and I am obsessed.
Oh, regarding the topic, was there a topic? Break over, will read the comments at lunch. As if anyone cares.
Somebody, take a nap this afternoon and think of me. Thanks.

Colin Smith said...

Julie's Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJUmIuc1X5s

I think it was FourthBorn that the doctor actually missed, she came so quickly. The nurse was literally holding the baby's head in utero, paging the doctor: "You'd better come now!" The doctor's response of "I'll be there in a minute" was met with, "I don't think we've got a minute!" Sure enough, the doctor arrived in time for clean-up. I think it was that nurse's first delivery too. She did a fine job in crisis.

There's a lesson there somewhere, I'm sure... I just thought I'd share since we're onto baby stories now. :)

Craig said...

Lisa: There is art in everything. To make the art work there is a craft basis. What you have to hone is the craft that holds up the art and makes it shine.

Stephen Parks said...

Hey Colin, I agree, Janet is putting a lot more time and effort into this site right now. The Week in Review alone is a lot of effort to commit to, and is also obviously popular.

But, I just want Janet to know that there are people out there that miss Query Shark just in case she’s wondering.

Laura Mary said...

I was very weirded out by the Lovejoy link - aren't those 'about the author' pages usually written by the author themselves, despite being in the third person? If so, he seems strangely self aware that mass querying multiple agents would do nothing but alienate them, but surely you'd have to be oblivious to the consequences to carry on in that manner?!?!
Normally I'd browse the website a bit more, but I was scared to click on anything else after reading the words 'mother-daughter abuse and molestation'...

*shudder*

Kitten videos now please

Susan Bonifant said...

"Hey Earl, get your R O C Cola and come watch this."

You are the best, Julie Weathers.

Megan V said...

Getting rejected is depressing, but it is not the be-all end-all of a writer's quest.

Opie, I can sympathize. Even better, I can empathize.
During 2014-2015, I queried 4 different books.I won't go into all the stats here , but I'll tell you about book 1. Book 1: YA issue book- received approximately 107 rejections. The query had about a 1 in 10 request rate for more material. The first request appeared after I sent the second batch of queries. In the end all the requests turned into rejections. Most were form rejections (including one on a full that agent had for a little over a year) and some were personalized and helpful. I have shelved the project for now to get a fresh eye and see how I can revise. It's difficult because I had over 15 betas and about 5 CPs look the sucker over and who'd loved the "final" draft I sent to agents.

But, as a writer, you've got to have perspective. You have to be able to look at your writing and ask why. Why is my MS not enticing agents? Is it the market? Is it the writing? Do they even really like the genre you're writing in?

Then and only then, should you come back and ask..."is my query being read at all."

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: How long does it take you to get to work? Up three hours before work seems insane to me! Of course, it takes me 15 mins to drive to work, so getting up at 7 or 7:15 gives me plenty of time. Unless I'm working from home, in which case I can get up at 7:45.

Of course, 8 am is too darned early period, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. I ask people not to schedule meetings with me before 10, so I can at least look alert. :)

Colin Smith said...

Laura Mary: My guess is he knew what a big turn-off the subject matter was likely to be, so he was passed caring about methodology.

Susan: There are a number of people in this here Shark Tank that ought to be published. I don't think I'm speaking out of turn to say that for most of us, Julie is top of that list.

Colin Smith said...

OK, I'm leaving the topic in the dust, but I want to share a thought about writing and storytelling.

Anyone with good motor skills and intelligence can learn to play an instrument, and even become quite proficient without much if any musical talent. There are many competent musicians in the world who have good technical ability, and can play most things you put in front of them. But the ones you want to sit for hours listening to are the ones who have musical talent. They're the ones who don't just play the music, but play it in a way that makes the music sing, that draws you in and holds your attention. There may be nothing you could put into words as different between the talented performance and the non-talented performance, but you know it when you hear it. Generally speaking, the talented musician is the one you'll go home talking about. The one you'll tell your friends, "Oh I just love listening to her play!"

Likewise with writing. Anyone with a basic grasp of grammar, a good vocabulary, and intelligence can learn how to write, and write with competence, even with no, or next-to-no, talent. But you can tell a talented writer when you read them. Something about the way they craft language, maybe even something you can't define, makes that chasm of difference between good, competent--even publishable--and talented. The truly talented writer will often hear people say, "I just love to read her stories."

You hear what I'm saying, Julie? :)

LynnRodz said...

Opie, that first paragraph I wrote wasn't for you. I was commenting on what Colin wrote: Just remember: If this was easy, everyone would do it. My response was: The problem is, everyone thinks because they know how to write, they can write a book.... Reading back, I realized I should've made that clearer.

Stephen, I've wondered about that too. I check Query Shark about once a week. Maybe Janet threw in the towel when she got my query. (Geeze, didn't they learn anything here? Am I wasting my time?) I'm sure that's what she thought when she read it. I plan on sending a revised query soon to try and make up for it. LOL.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

fun-filled-fact: I believe w00t came from the players of the video game Unreal Tournament (a competitive first person shooter); it's the noise your character makes when you jump.

I kinda like a quick turnaround, even if it is a rejection. That way, you're not waiting interminably. There are a few scifi/fantasy markets I submit to which reply fairly quickly, like Clarkesworld and Apex Digest. And others (Tor.com, Asimov's, Analog) which take muuuuuch longer. I tend to use a Clarkesworld R as a palate cleanser after a long wait ^^

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Craig, there is art in everything but someone has to recognize it's presence. Not everyone will see it's there. Not everyone will care OR they're looking in a different direction for what makes their heart sing.

I love a beautifully decorated table but the taste of the food on my plate is much more enticing.

Agents tastebuds must differ like the rest of us. Some of them probably like lettuce.

Reminds me of when I sold some paintings to a blind couple when I was out painting in the country side. They bought it for their daughter. The lady who walked with them was astounded. I was too and took a photograph of them. They couldn't see it but thought it was good enough to buy. I wasn't waiting there all my life for the blind couple to walk by but yes, miracles do happen.

Colin Smith said...

Just to finish up my thought on writing/storytelling:

I think--no I know--there are talented writers swimming amongst us here in the Shark Tank. We have some truly creative weavers of words in our midst here, and it's a delight to read all of you. But the number of times people have said how much they enjoy Julie's stories (and I'm right there with them)--to me the highest complement a fiction writer can be paid is to be told what a great storyteller they are.

Julie: Write Janet a novel she can represent. Let's make this thing happen, okay? :)

Colin Smith said...

OK... I've been wanting to get that off my chest for a while. I'm good now. Carry on. :)

Tony Clavelli said...

When I had similar feelings, it helped to see the people here commiserating. So, looking at my query-tracking documents, my first and only requests for full manuscripts came 6 months after I started, on queries #56 and #61. They arrived within 3 hours of each other on the same day. And while one rejected and the other is still ____ing it (waiting on, reading, considering, pondering, nothinging... best not to speculate), I'm still working at it. More queries. More rejections, more nothing, more tries.

The numbers don't matter much. You just find an agent who fits your thing, and give it whirl. You just need to remember the agent isn't going to contact you. She doesn't know you have a book yet! Go on and show her, and at least see what she says. It IS a lot of work, but it's still a lot of cut and pasting. It will be fine.

I wrote Janet a similar despairing question after query thirty or so. She responded that I needed to stop waiting and just do something about it--a swift kick in the form of a blog. So I acted. I got an editor to help with my query (through links found in these comments), and tried more. In the end, just seeing the comments section from that post--that everyone is all in the same boat--was enough to jumpstart me to try again. Scroll up from here--we all fail constantly.

Speaking of failure, I'm heading down south in the morning to the great city of Gwangju (not my favorite place) to work in an animation studio for the summer. My boss there has the tendency to look at my work, smile, nod, and then tell me to do it again. There have been times when he didn't even look at it--just made a face that said, "If you think I'm going to say, 'Do it again,' how about we skip that and you just sulk your way back to that set and try again." (He has a very expressive face.) In the end, working with him has made failure feel good. The frustration means you're going for it. And when I'm in a despair-spiral, that sounds like a platitude, but if I manage to remember it when I'm feeling good, it's a revelation. Fail away! This got long. Good thing it's 50 comments in.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

It's not the number of rejections. You'll know when it's time to stop (but a hint, 15 isn't it.)

This is more a nagging feeling that the system is rigged. That there has to be some reason that the query is being rejected that doesn't have something to do with the query or the book.

The game isn't rigged.

And it's not necessarily your book. Your query isn't enticing for whatever reason, and those reasons range from business to personal taste (the famous "cat named Fred.") And the agent you queried twice? Why should she write you a special rejection instead of cut/paste or auto-respond? She is giving you the benefit of the doubt that it was an accident. Trust me, if you got a personalized response, you probably wouldn't like it.

The game isn't rigged.

I also learned that there is not right or wrong way to query. During my journey, I ended up in correspondence with the president of a venerated agency. The guy with his name on the door who handles the literary estates. It happened after I accidentally cut/pasted his email rather than the associate I had intended to query. He was cordial and delightful and very generous with his time as we went back and forth several times about the state of the market and debut novelists.

He also excoriated my carefully honed 250-word query letter that he said, "was so spare that it was too easy to say "no"." He eventually passed after reading a generous partial, but was very clear in his reasons and it was strictly business.

I treasure that email.

The game isn't rigged. It is tough to be sure. The odds are probably about the same as making the NFL (where the draft is akin to getting an agent and making it through training camp is getting published.)

Now are there agents who don't read queries? I'm sure there are some who are having a bad day or a bad time who occasionally take a look at their inbox, decide they just. can't. even. and hit "delete all." If that happens, you'll never know. I'm also sure that any agent who opens an email, even if in a foul rejecting mood, is not going to be able to resist taking a peek to make sure it's not the next Divergent. If it's not, the form reject will be swift and sure.

You have three choices:

Revise the query and keep querying widely,
Self-publish,
Quit.

All three are legit options. Notice that "Obsess and make rash choices that result in unprofessional behavior," isn't one of the choices.

Choose one of the three choices and pursue it the same way you would a tackling dummy if your goal was to make the NFL.

Terri

Terri Lynn Coop said...

An addendum to my previous post.

I am an antique and collectibles dealer. A purveyor of pop culture.

When I walk into your shop, your auction, your garage sale, I am looking for something that I can sell. Something that makes me happy enough that I'm willing to invest time and money in it.

When I walk into your sale, I'm carrying the weight of the entire day/week/month. I know my budget, my inventory, my experience of the market, and my mood. Maybe I've already knocked a hole in my cash for the day or maybe I'm hungry for a buy. You have no way of knowing that. All you can do is price and present your wares for my perusal. If the enjoyment of living with it in the time it will take to sell it converges with my budget, it will leave with me. If not, I'll pass. It's nothing personal (unless you're a jerk, then it is absolutely personal.)

Just about a month ago I passed on something I shouldn't have. I was tired and had a case of the cheaps. I looked it up and could have made 5X the purchase price without breaking a sweat. I lost. Another dealer won. Other days I can't sell it no matter how hard I try, even if the same thing sold well last week. I have to cut my losses and move on. That's how it works.

The game's not rigged. Terri

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Colin,

I don't doubt your baby story. My doctor keeps notes in my file. "Goes quick!" The nurses apparently don't comprehend what that means. They pooh pooh me when I say it isn't going to be long, please don't go far. Three times I've had to send don scrambling for nurses who then scream "call the doctor, call the doctor, the baby's here!" after Don finally gets mad enough to force them to come. Fortunately, his office is across the street from the hospital.

"Julie: Write Janet a novel she can represent. Let's make this thing happen, okay? :)"

ermagosh you make me laugh.

You have to write what you love. Arranged marriages are so seventh century.

I'm sure FR will find a home sooner or later and in the meantime I work on the other project and research one other.

As testified to by the excellent entries in the flash fiction here, there is no shortage of talent among the minions. I full well expect to see many published names.

Colin Smith said...

Terri: You mean, you don't go to auctions, shops, garage sales looking for things to reject? Huh. And here I was thinking the game was rigged... ;)

Colin Smith said...

Julie: As the father of five daughters, the concept of arranged marriages looks more than reasonable to me... ;)

j/k--I know what you mean. :D

Lizzie said...

Hang in there, OP. The query process can be tough. That's why it's nice to have this blog.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Terri,

It makes me think a bit of horse trading. The best horse traders have a line of bull a mile long. I used to love horse sales just to listen to horse traders.

Auctioneer: "Horse looks a little long in the tooth, Joe."

"Now, Bob. Who wants to buy a young horse that's going to act stupid every time you saddle him when you can have a nice horse like this with two years of stupid and thirteen years of experience?"

"You'll notice he one has one eye, but it doesn't bother him a bit." Trader takes horse through all his paces. "The nice thing about a one-eyed horse is they never spook when something unexpected happens on that side."

(This is true. We used to own a one-eyed rope horse we called Jack.)

The horse trader will crawl under the horse's belly, pick up all his feet, stand on his saddle, stand on the horse's butt, and then sit on the horse's but while the bidding goes on and when it slows down launch into another story and the bidding will go on a bit longer.

The auctioneer might say, "Joe, is there anything this horse doesn't do?"

"Well, he doesn't read the paper, but that's because I never sent him to school."

"Hell, I'll give $1,200 just to get him out of the ring."

"Done."

An agent wants something they want to make money on, but I think it helps if you're also the kind of person they can genuinely see themselves enjoying working with.

When we were trading horses, there were some people I dealt with and some people I didn't. Attitude has a whole lot to do with who I want to deal with. I'm sure the same goes for agents.

Karen McCoy said...

Colin: Yes, I think you're right! Perhaps "muscular endurance through resilience"?

LynnRodz said...

TLC,

That was my problem, I was trying so hard to keep my query at 250 words, I didn't give the story a chance. I've seen plenty of successful queries on agents blogs that go well over the 250 words and not a peep out of them saying, "It was more than 250 words, so I passed." No, instead they raved about how the story captured their attention. That's why if my query is closer to 300 and it tells a better story, so be it.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Nope Colin, I want it all . . . but, that cotton-pickin' pragmatism rears its ugly head.

And the people I deal with are nowhere nearly as amusing as Storage Wars.

I have used my superior height and reach more than once. Hey, that 12-year-old had no clue what that doll is.

Always looking "for the score." Luck is with you when you make your own luck.

One of my best was at a garage sale. There was a box of dolls with a sign "$1 each." I saw a foot sticking out of the pile. I grabbed it and as the doll emerged, angels began to sing. About as rare as rare gets. I grabbed her and sandwiched her between two grubby teddy bears as I looked around. On the way to check out, I grabbed a doll dress I knew was worth about $5 as an after-thought.

As I coolly and calmly laid my pile on the check-out table, a woman said, "Oh no, there's been a mistake, that's not for sale!" My heart cratered. Then she grabbed the doll dress and said, "That's really old and valuable." (yeah, about $5.) I smiled meekly as if I was busted and paid my $3 and then RAN down the driveway clutching my bag.

Then I went home and sold the doll for $500. Hey, I paid market price. All's fair in love, war, and garage sales.

It's those days that keep you back out pounding the pavement.

And, I'm sure that's what keeps the agents opening the queries. The knowledge that the next Divergent is . . . out there . . .

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Colin - buy me a drink at BCon and I'm liable to launch into the tale of the International Santa figurine score. Then there's the saga of the Franciscan Starburst china. Both tales of serendipity and steely nerves.

Julie, I love the horse story. Been there, but usually not so amusing.

Terri

REJourneys said...

Back in high school, I had a classmate question if the teacher actually read our daily assignments. They were short assignments, really, no more than four sentences. Yeah, we'd have papers too, but by some miracle, he'd read everyone's daily assignments every night.

It was the end of the year and everyone had been studying long and hard for AP (Advanced Placement) tests that their minds weren't where you'd expect (you'd guess their minds weren't in their heads, but they weren't really there to begin with). Anyway, one of the guy's sentences in his assignment was "I don't know if you read these, so this is my fourth point."

He got a 4/4, while I stared at a 3 on my paper.

Sometimes the wise-cracks get you points, but no matter what, someone will always be giving you the stink eye.

Oops, I vommented.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I came home early because I have a summer cold and feel like s***. So I show up here and be-Jesus we’re already almost 70 comments in. I’ve read a few, skimmed a few and I feel a rant coming on. My apologies if I repeat what’s already been thrown out there.

I have a question for ya.

Why do writers, (not all but many), feel like there’s a vast conspiracy against us. And, that the conspiracy heads are agents, the gate keepers, hiding the big keys to our achievements? Let’s get real here. The relationship between agent and writer is symbiotic, we need each other - us to get there and them to show and plow the way to wherever ‘there’ is. Success, we want it, they need it.
Quitting after 15 queries is like trying to get pregnant after 15 minutes of smooching. It ain’t gonna happen honey, unless, you’re already famous or very, very, fertile.

You want an agent, then write the best book you can, then rewrite it until you can’t stand reading the whole damn thing again…and again. Write the best query you can, edit and rewrite that until it becomes the follow-up to your Lord’s Prayer every night. Then find the perfect agents, the best agents, the most interesting agents, the funniest, smartest, most desperate newbies and oldsters and send your query, rewritten dozens of times and maybe, just maybe, ONE of them might want to read a few pages.

My dream was to become a columnist and three years ago I became a local, overnight success. It only took me 25 years. I have written literally millions of words, have been published hundreds of times. It takes more than a village to get your baby read, accepted and published, it takes a universe. (And we all know who the queen of that is.)

5 years and 15 queries, that’s like spitting in the ocean and expecting it to create a tsunami.
Opie, hang in, hang on and don’t let go. You’ll get there if you allow yourself to continue to learn.

Okay, I’m done, I feel like crap, I’m hitting the couch.
Have a nice day.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

One more thing.
Colin, to answer your question of 10:47.
Up at 5 and punch in at 7.
It's hard work to get these wrinkles and gray hair looking decent, and my drive, not so bad.

Kate Larkindale said...

15 queries is a tiny drop in the ocean. I sent close to 100 queries each for 5 different books before I got my agent. You have to be persistent…. And write great stories. But if you don't believe enough in those stories to keep pushing them out there, you're not going to get anywhere.

Theresa said...

Carolynn, I think it's all part of this assumption (or dream): I get an idea for a story, write the best book I can, rewrite it, send it to beta readers, rewrite, send it again, rewrite. Then I work on the query, read Query Shark, go to a few conferences, make a few practice pitches, target my top ten agents, send off said sparkling query for killer novel. Then this is supposed to happen: All ten agents request fulls. All offer representation. Anointed agent then immediately sells the novel at auction for millions of dollars while simultaneously securing movie rights. Isn't that the way it's supposed to happen? Aren't those the stories we read about? If it doesn't happen, there must be some sort of conspiracy afoot.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Those boilerplate rejections, yep they just invoke the notion that your effort was a message in a bottle. The crazy part, resending the same letter, didn't seem that crazy to me, more like the first, angst driven bout of quiet desperation, beating your head against the wall, that comes later. Skip that part, it's really awkward trying to explain away the patch of cracked plaster. Best of luck with the new effort, the question evoked, despondent with some subtlety, so you must be doing something right.

bjmuntain said...

There was a story either Gordon Van Gelder (editor at Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction until recently) or his first reader at the time, JJ Adams, told.

They had a very good record for fast responses. Even though they only accepted postal mail submissions, I still got my rejections within a week - here in Canada. Considering the international post, that was very fast.

I guess in the US, people could very possibly get a response in 3 days.

One writer did get such a very quick response. He responded to that rejection letter with a scathing attack, saying they didn't even bother to read his wonderful story. How dare they!

Gordon's (or JJ's, I forget - this was a decade or so ago on a now-defunct forum) response was utter bewilderment that someone would complain about a speedy response. All the writers reading this story were ready to bash a certain author (whose name we never learned) over the head with a hard-covered, large-print copy of Lord of the Rings, then feed it to him word by word. Because we LIKED the speedy responses. It meant we could send our work on to the next market lickety-split!

As for queries - they're much shorter than short stories. And if an agent is going through them at 17 in 30 minutes, they're not going to pause for long if something doesn't grab them right away.

I do think it's important to attend conferences and workshops. Networking, yes. Speaking to industry professionals, yes. But also to simply learn craft. I think there's only so much we can learn on our own - there will always be something outside of our experience that we may not realize we need to know.

Julie: I remember that guy, too. He would post everything he could about an agent who rejected him - phone numbers, everything. These days, I believe that would be called doxing. He used to get requests from agents to please take down their information (like their own phone number at work, instead of the office number), and he would gleefully post those requests, as well. *passes on the R O C Cola, takes a sweet tea instead* Didn't remember his name until reading Janet's link.

Laura May: 'Swatted with prompt swatting' made very good sense. I approved.

bjmuntain said...

Part 2, because I just had too much to say today:

Re: w00t

Urban Dictionary definition

w00t's definition goes back to the '80s.

Regarding conspiracies:

Publishing is a hard game. Let's think of it like hockey (because Canadian).

Anyone who follows hockey, even a bit (like me), knows that the more shots at the net, the more likely a shot is to get past the goalie. There's even official stats on 'shots on net' vs 'goals'.

In the National Hockey League, goalies are damned good. They have to be. Until frighteningly recently, they didn't even have to wear helmets, so they had to be damn good to make sure they didn't lose their heads. I saw one game where a goalie - who was wearing a helmet - got a shot so perfectly on point of head that it knocked him right on his back and unconscious.

Now, say you're making a ton of shots on net, and the goalie is stopping every one of those. Naturally, you're going to blame the goalie, and rightly so. Let's call the goalie 'the publishing market." And the publishing market can be a bear.

But then you get the superstitious players, the ones who refuse to cut their hair or shave until they've won the playoffs. That's like saying: it can't be the goalies. There's got to be a higher power stopping my shots, because my shots are too good. So I'm going to appeal to a higher power by neglecting my personal hygiene. These are the writers who say, "It can't be the publishing market blocking my shots. My work is too darn good. There must be a conspiracy against me!"

In other words, the writers who believe the conspiracies are the ones who think they are too good to lose. If they lose, it's the 'gatekeeper's' fault. It can't possibly be because their work isn't publishable at this time.

S.D.King said...

You know that commercial "15 minutes on car insurance - EVERYBODY knows that"

That is sort of like most of the other writing blogs out there. It is a rehash of stuff everybody already knows.

Janet's blog however is a spewing geyser of stuff nobody else touches. No wonder we lurk around here wondering what will come flying out next.

Donnaeve said...

"Janet's blog however is a spewing geyser of stuff nobody else touches. No wonder we lurk around here wondering what will come flying out next."

Ain't that the truth. This was dropped like a lead balloon in yesterday's comments and I just read it:

"Miss Donna, I did not say anything about a record. I was only going by my personal knowledge. Since I have been following this blog you have won twice."

Oh. Okay. Retracting all references to any records of which I am nowhere close to holding anyway...

"I thank you for so sublimely rubbing my little rat shit nose in it. I knew there was a troublemaker behind those gee-whiz comments of yours."

Gee whiz.

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: It's that feeling of entitlement we often get when we hear one-too-many-times from well-intentioned loved ones how wonderful we are and how we ought to be the next Tolkien or Rowling. With such high praise, we send our darlings to the agents, expecting an open door and red carpet. When we get rejections, we know they MUST be wrong. And yet if we want the big-time publishers to release our babies into the world and make tons of cash for us, it's these ignorant, short-sighted killjoys that are spoiling our fun!! STOMP!! STOMP!! STOMP!! It must be a conspiracy to keep away the little guys, just because I have a funny accent, or I don't know the right people, or... or... STOMP!! STOMP!! STOMP!!

... after all, it can't be the writing, can it? :)

Colin Smith said...

TLC: I'll see you at the bar! :)

Donnaeve said...

If we all just read that Lovejoy link, we'll all feel better. I promise.

2N's - hope you DO feel better soon!

Colin Smith said...

"Janet's blog however is a spewing geyser of stuff nobody else touches. No wonder we lurk around here wondering what will come flying out next."

Aside from being a serious contender for blog sub-heading of the week, this reminds me of one of the local restaurants here on Carkoon...

Ardenwolfe said...

One-hundred? There's a reality check.

John Frain said...

Sometimes you know before your first query that your manuscript isn't ready. Fifteen queries only confirms what you already knew in that case.

So, pure speculation here, maybe OP needs to heed the wise words of Ray Bradbury and John D. McDonald and Stephen King (the original one, I'm not sure if The Other Stephen King ever said this) and probably several others who advised some form of "write and discard a million words" before you consider yourself a writer.

If you can manage 500 words a day (my goal, your mileage may vary), that's a 5 1/2-year investment. And yes, query letters count toward your million. Good luck to you!

Irene Troy said...

I often wonder if the query process is designed to frustrate and anger want-to-be writers. If you can't stick this out without going nasty on agents, perhaps it's time to try another career. 15 queries and you are ready to stoop to levels that will sink your career before it even gets off the ground? Nope, no, never! Learn the rules, follow the rules, keep the faith.

Colin Smith said...

Irene: Of course, the query process is simply a means by which agents can quickly select the projects they are most interested in pursuing. To characterize it as a means of frustrating authors is, I think, unfair, since we accept similar "winnowing" methods in other areas. What's a resume? Is it not simply a means by which a prospective employer can assess your eligibility for the job she's advertising, and perhaps see qualities or strengths that might, on further interview, prove advantageous for the work you would do? In other words, a resume is nothing more than a business query letter. We understand resumes are necessary because the employer doesn't have the time to interview every candidate that applies for a job. And, indeed, there's a good chance many unqualified candidates will apply for that job--a fact that will be evident from the resume.

It seems like I've used that analogy here before... oh well... either I'm getting old or I've run out of useful things to say... or both... :)

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Colin,

I agree, there's simply no reason to try and drive author's crazy, aside from the amusing aspect.

The query process, for its faults, simply is the best way to put agents and authors together at the moment.

BJ, sweet tea is good for just about any occasion. "Earl, get your R O C Cola and come watch this," is for the Old 97 going down the grade, whistle-screaming events.

bjmuntain said...

Julie, I thought I was doing good with 'sweet tea'. Up here, we just call it iced tea. But I understand that iced tea in the US isn't necessarily sweet... and I don't think we even get R O C Cola here... I am so useless, aren't I?

It made me choose cookies. COOKIES! Now I'm craving cookies.

Tony Clavelli said...

Donnaeve--yes! That Lovejoy link was far more bizarre than I expected. The confusing tone, the pride--all of it. And I'm not an agent, obviously, but that novel blurb is remarkably unappealing. If there were a 9001st rejection.

W.R. Gingell said...

Donnaeve- I yield me. You are the winner :D I would have given you a run for your money, except I was doing a double at work, and I've only JUST got home. Oooof! Now for a long line of cuppas. It's a pity I can't snort 'em to get the effect more quickly. Modern science should try to catch up with that.

Laura May- Yeah, that description freaked me out, too. All I could think was, NOPE NNNNOOOOPPE NOPE NOPE. NOPETTY NOPETTY NOPE.

bj- w00t can be traced back to the 80s?? Me too!

On topic (ish) just 15!!! queries before giving up!!!?? Heeeeeck. I was only part way into my querying process when I began to think that self-publishing was the road for me, but it wasn't because of the querying process. I was fully prepared for it to be long and arduous. I was simply persuaded that another way was the best way for me. I knew it wasn't going to be a twenty/thirty/fourty queries and then give up. I subbed the heck out of my then-novel (at least 50 queries) and I knew I wasn't half done.

So I did giggle a bit at this one.

Donnaeve said...

I'm heeeeeaaaaaarrrrring CRIIIICKEEEETS. All that opining yesterday about I'm up at x, and y and z.

Pfft.

Well, except you W.R. You're "here."

Tony, bizarre and self-serving. That whooshing noise is the collective sigh of all agents STILL happy they said, uh no.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

BJ,

Of course you aren't useless. Yes, there's a difference between iced tea and sweet tea. Real sweet tea is brewed with the sugar. I was in a restaurant once and asked if they had sweet tea. The waiter looked at me like I was insane. "We have iced tea and those sugar packets are for you to sweeten your tea."

Well, yes, I do understand that, but it isn't the same.

Donnaeve said...

Oh, and BJ, it's actually RC Cola. Julie was just channeling the good ole southern boy accent. :) I might have tried it like this,

R-AH C Cola.

Donnaeve said...

Julie - you snuck in over me. :P

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Julie-regarding sweet tea, I agree. It's not the same to just add sugar to a cold glass of plain black tea. It needs to be sweetened while it's hot. AND I've picked up the habit from a southern cuz of making sweetened tea from loose leaves (hm, for some reason 'loose leaves' sounds rather odd this morning). Much more flavor.

W.R. Gingell said...

Donnaeve:

*Chirp chirp*

Ain't no one here but us crickets...

Laura Mary said...

Are you all early birds, or are some folk in other timezones? I'd love to pretends I'm a lark, but truth is it's 11:51am here!

Donnaeve said...

W.R. :p Indeed.

On that sweet tea topic - I was born in the south, have lived here all my life - but there was a little snafu in my upbringing. Mom is from Maine. Lived in Maine till she married Dad. She arrived down here in the mid 50's - been here ever since and she STILL can't make good sweet tea. I had to learn on my own. My dad used to say, "Donna, you're sweet tea reminds me of Mama's." Mom would say "Mine?" Dad, "No, MAMA'S." Oh, the look.

Donnaeve said...

Laura May -11:51? Where are you? You should pin your location on the map, if you haven't. (to the right of QOTKU's blog page)

I'm in NC, so East Coast time.

Donnaeve said...

Um not that other girl Laura May, but Laura Mary. Yeah, that person.

Stephanie said...

It took 71 queries total, 21 combined full and partial requests, 4 intense revisions of both the query letter and the ms before I got my agent. Go on Twitter and check out the hashtag #tenqueries. Agents ARE READING your query. And if you're giving up after only 15 tries, this business isn't for you.
My one complaint is when the agent uses an assistant to read queries. How the hell does a green college kid know what an experienced lit agent is looking for?

Laura Mary said...

I'm in bonny England, South West, Wiltshire (sounds fancier than it is!)
I have indeed pinned myself, and there was only one other pin for the UK! Surely there must be more brits lurking...anyone?

W.R. Gingell said...

I'm in Australia, so it's about 9.30 pm here :D

DLM said...

Laura Mary, Colin is a brit, but he's lurking in North Carolina. :)

DLM said...

Regarding Lovejoy - I read that as a sardonic "This is the dipstick kind of thing I did before I had a clue" judgment of his own folly in a different time. I talk this way about myself during my twenties; while it's possible there were redeeming qualities in that girl, I won't go back and am unforgiving of her. Perhaps I am too forgiving of this guy, but it's actually an intriguing idea - and if he's willing to be an object lesson, hey, free world.

As to query length. I believe mine is 282, and though AX itself is at rest now, the query did get an impressive bite or several when it was going out. I am still persuaded my problem is my product, not my pitch.

So sez unpublished I.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Laura Mary:

You're about 20 minutes from me, that would be in a car not on foot.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

My query letter for THE LAST SONG is 222 words (just checked) and has gotten me 1 chum bucket "query widely, 1 "no reply means no", 6 forms, and 1 full. So far. If the full becomes a "yes", awesome. If not, I'll reassess my first pages, reassess the letter (maybe put it on Absolute Write, which I do not like doing but can't really quantify why because those folks are awesome with the advice they give), and send out the next batch.

Colin Smith said...

You might notice that despite living in NC, I have refrained from comment on the "iced tea" discussion. That's because, as Diane pointed out, I am a Brit by birth, and the whole notion of "iced tea" is blasphemy to me. Tea is a hot drink. Mind you, there's not a lot of good tea over here anyway. I guess y'all chucked the good stuff out at Boston harbor... ;)

Best tea you can buy in the States: Tetley's British Blend. Closest thing to what I grew up with.

Laura Mary said...

Colin, it's Teapigs all the way for me :-) I went to New York on my honeymoon last year - was amazing, except for the lack of a decent cuppa! I did however, discover that I like soy lattes. So, you know, swings and roundabouts.

DSE - in which direction? :-)

bjmuntain said...

WR: The 80s were good years, that's true. Those were my high school/university years. Being young was great then...

Donna and Julie: We don't get RC Cola up here, either - at least, not that I've seen.

Up here, iced tea actually means the canned/bottled/soft drink kind, like Lipton/Brisk, etc. You *can* get real iced tea at the fancy coffee and tea places, but if you order it in a retaurant, 9 times out of 10 you're getting Lipton.

Stephanie: I think the assistants are given enough guidance. No literary agent wants to miss out on a good thing. So the assistants (in my mind, anyway) would probably be going through the fresh queries by genre, wordcount, etc. - the things that agents will often pass on automatically. It's probably really good training for the assistants, as they get to see what is out there and what, out of all that, is *good*.

Diana: If this is the guy I'm thinking of, I somehow don't think he's the type to regret anything he did.

Colin: Ah, but I'm sure the reason 'iced tea' wasn't a thing in Britain is because it doesn't get as hot there as it does in the South of the US. I think, if you were down there in the days before a/c, you would ice pretty much everything you ate...

DeadSpiderEye said...

Laura Mary:

Actually, it's more like 45 minutes, with the speed cameras in place. I'm in Hampshire, carrot cruncher territory, so let me see that's...

East.

Panda in Chief said...

I love it when other people are even more neurotic than I am. Huzzah! (For a change over "whoot" or "whoop")

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

2NNs, to answer your question of 1:54pm,

> "Why do writers, (not all but many), feel like there’s a
> vast conspiracy against us. And, that the conspiracy heads
> are agents, the gate keepers, hiding the big keys to our
> achievements?"

Because many writers can't see how truly bad their writing is.

It's true. Humans have a tendency towards something called illusory superiority, or the belief that one is doing better than one actually is. It's a cognitive bias where people overestimate their abilities, skills, achievements, etc. Happens all the time to all kinds of people, and writers are no different.

Writers wanna write, so they do. They may even get enough words down to comprise a finished novel. When they achieve that momentous task, they look at their work and rejoice that they have achieved something. Their work must be brilliant, they reason, and so they query.

So when they query a handful of times, absolutely convinced that the rest of the world will recognise their perceived brilliance, and get knocked back, they don't question themselves, they question the world. It never occurs to them that if fifteen or fifty or five hundred agents are sending back form letters (or worse, the sound of crickets), then there might be something wrong with their query.

And this is how conspiracies are born.

My fellow authors, especially Opie, if you have sent out a query letter to a hundred agents and not a single one of them bites, it's not that there's a conspiracy against you. It's that you are not as brilliant as you think you are, and your query letter needs revising.

A sample population of oneself is an insufficient sample size to determine literary brilliance.

Steve Stubbs said...

Three comments to add to what Ms. Reid said:

First, I think you should set the querying aside temporarily and work on your writing some more. I read on an agent site that anything as minor as a missed comma can lead to rejection, let alone grammar errors. Read your letter and see if you can spot the mistakes.

Second, whine privately as much as you please, but not publicly. I am not unsympathetic (well, OK, the truth is, I am more callous than Lucifer himself). But the hard fact is, begging letters should never be sent to business contacts, and vice versa. Write about how miserable you feel and send it to the Reverend T.D. Jakes. Don’t send it to anyone in the publishing biz.

Third, you might consider turning the burden around. In your own mind, anyway. Instead of chewing your fingernails all the way down to the elbow wondering if you will get accepted, produce something so good you can imagine they are chewing their fingernails wondering if YOU will accept THEM. The truth is, probably they don’t give a rat’s patootie. This is a game you can play in your head to eliminate non-approach anxiety. You can creatively think up better methods than I ever could for doing the same thing. Ms. Reid’s suggestion to query widely could help. No individual rejection means anything. You are focusing on that one acceptance. Just be sure you have something salable before you start. Unless you are querying Lulu.com or the good agents at Pig In a Poke Literary Agency you need to have the goods and the goods had better be good. Just look at the fine, fine stuff you see in the bookstores. That is what you are competing against.