Sunday, August 05, 2012

8/4 Chum Bucket results

Tonight I got 43 queries in the Chum Bucket. Here's the breakdown of what the responses looked like:

Just not for me/didn't grab me: 14
By far and away the biggest category.  What you should take away from this is all those form rejections do not mean your writing sucks. It means you're just writing something that's not
my cup of tea.  This is why you query widely. This is why you don't set your heart on one agent and think the world will end if s/he doesn't take you on.
The non-Chum Bucket reply would have been: form rejections

Not my category: 10
I get a lot of things that aren't my categories cause I've sold things that aren't categories I seek out or sign people for.  This is why you look at what the agent is looking for in addition to what s/he has sold.
The non-Chum Bucket reply would have been: form rejections

Can't sell this: 4
I'm getting a little paranoid about how often I'm saying this cause I have this image of people saying "Janet Reid said she can't sell this" and about a zillion people thinking it means I can't sell anything.  I'm not good at selling some kinds of books. Other agents are.
The non-Chum Bucket reply would have been: form rejections

Query improvement suggestions: 4 
I made suggestions for improving queries to four people. I'm hoping they don't form a mob and come after me.  This is where I often get in to trouble with authors. Unasked for advice isn't always received the way I hope. 
The non-Chum Bucket reply would have been:  most likely form rejections

Didn't want to read this: 3
Some of you are writing stuff that is so depressing it just makes me wonder how you got through the entire novel.  I really really think characters have to be interesting and compelling, and depressed sad characters aren't that.
The non-Chum Bucket reply would have been: form rejections

Writing: 2 
The writing just wasn't up to publication standards.
The non-Chum Bucket reply would have been: form rejections

Asked for more info: 2
A couple of queriers are repeat visitors and I needed more info.  
The non-Chum Bucket reply would have been: NOT form rejections

Referral: 1
Not for me, but one of my colleagues should hear from you.
The non-Chum Bucket reply would have been: NOT form rejections

What is the book about?: 2
If you don't tell me what the book is about it's a rejection.
The non-Chum Bucket reply would have been: form rejections

This query is a mess to the point I said No: 1
These usually involve a plea to read the QueryShark blog.
The non-Chum Bucket reply would have been: form rejections sometimes bolding the link to QueryShark.

too short for category: 1
Novels generally need to run more than 60K and less than 120K. Anything outside
those guidelines gets a quizzical read. Most often I can see from the query or pages that the length is a problem in the writing, not the story.
The non-Chum Bucket reply would have been: form rejections

Marked up pages/revised query welcome: 1
 Lousy query, pages in need of revision, GREAT concept.
I marked up the first 3 pages in track changes and sent them to the author.
This is where the "don't reply with invective rule" comes in.
I'm hoping it will be received as useful info. Fingers crossed.
The non-Chum Bucket reply would have been: form rejection

oops, I forgot to post this: REQUESTED FULL:2
The non-Chum Bucket reply would have been: request for full!
(this was 1 until noon today when a querier responded to my email asking for more info, and
I replied with a request for a full)

And before all you clever readers do the math, yes I know it adds up to more than 43. Some queries got help and a "not my cup of tea" reply.


Bethany C Morrow said...

Totally meant to take part this time. Whoops. Next week.

tlbodine said...

Far and away, the most interesting part (for me) is the "Can't sell this" category. I imagine it looks different from your side of the shark tank, but for us queriers it's really easy to think, "The agent said she can't sell this. Nobody can sell this! This is unsalable! The world is over!"

I don't know if it ever really occurs to/sinks in for all of us that different agents might have different strengths when it comes to selling things.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

How the hell do you do that...all on a Saturday night?

Jim McClellan said...

I don't have a novel and have never submitted a query, but I have learned a ton from your site. This is outstanding insight -- and even encouragement, despite the odds -- for those of us who are considering giving it a shot.

Bill Plante said...

Chum Bucket - my take.
1. Janet Reid trying her best to be helpful.
2. Form Rejections meaningless.
3. Blunt truth meaningful.
4. Now that I know,is persistence permissible?

Cindy C said...

I'm nowhere near ready to query, but I really appreciate all of the advice and information you provide. It's always helpful to see behind the curtains. I hope those who query in the Chum Bucket also appreciate your help and send thanks rather than invective.

smnystoriak said...

Once again, this is why I personally love that you are doing this. The clarification of what it all means gives us some sense of where to go next. Thank you!

JeffO said...

I'm curious about "I can't sell this" too. Is it an extension of "not my category"? If it's not rejected based on all the other criteria, is it more a function of something you're not comfortable with, subject-wise?

Anonymous said...

As somebody who has read a lot of slush across a variety of careers, I think this illustrates an important point writers need to consider.

There are a lot of people out there who are very competent writers who can turn out competent prose and a competent story of a professional length in a professional looking format. But it takes something extraordinary to spark the extent of interest needed to get a book through the gauntlet of publication.

This is why it's so important to carefully pick who reads your manuscript and offers career advice. To mothers, casual readers, and old high school friends this kind of average writing seems extraordinary compared to what they themselves have written or feel capable of writing, but is still average compared to the millions of other manuscripts making the rounds

Jane Lebak said...

Thank you so much! I had already written about form rejections for next Monday's QueryTracker blog post, and now I'll link to your breakdown too.

CoreyHaim8myDog said...

I forgot my manuscript pages. Damn. May I re-end next week?

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

So what it boils down to is that we have the same odds of a request for a full as we do of winning a NASCAR race? 1 in 43?

Oh, not to mention the fact that to even get INTO a NASCAR race, you have to already be at the top of your game.

Sorry, I kind of liked the silly racing metaphor. I had to work it in somehow, since it's race day. :)

Janet Reid said...

Cory, yup, we're going again next Saturday night and every Saturday through August. Then we'll assess.

Bukash/ Lyudmyla Mayorska said...

When you say "referral", does that mean you actually contact another agent and tell them about the query you received?

Thank you for taking the time to do this. This kind of information is exactly what a newbie writer wants to know.

Michelle Kollar said...

Looks like fun! Thanks for all the after info. It's like getting the gossip from a party. Love it!

Anonymous said...

I already have an agent and won't be participating, but I think it's a great idea. Here's what surprised me: Only two out of 43 queriers weren't writing up to publishable standard? Or, perhaps, aren't within spitting distance of publishable standard?

This surprised me because I've variously read that 90%, or 95%, or 99.99% of what comes into slushpiles isn't up to publishable standard.

I'm wondering if your much lower stat means

1. people with enough awareness to participate in the exercise are likely to be better writers than the general run of the slushpile

2. the general run of the slushpile has improved a lot over the last few years

3. much of the slushpile is now being siphoned off into self-publishing


4. any combination of the above


Sam Mills said...

Nice! I would think this experiment might give you some nice, semi-pre-filtered chum, because the people who know about the Chum Bucket are the people who theoretically read both your blogs...

Good luck!

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

Chum Bucket specific or not, I always like to see these kinds of stats - very interesting to see what agents are receiving and how they see them. I actually find them quite encouraging.

Unknown said...

I'm curious now -- when you aren't doing the Chum Bucket, what do you ever send a 'non form' no for?

I know it takes more of your time, but it is so awesome to know *why* you got a no instead of just 'sorry, go away'.

Unknown said...

I see that you have one referral from the Chum Bucket. Does this mean we can submit to the Bucket even though we know you are not looking for our type of work or even represent the genre?

Regardless, thanks for everything you do to help those who are trying to get over the fence. I love reading what you write here and at Query Shark!

Janet Reid said...

Trish, there's a post on what referrals means here

Also, you can query on whatever you like but if it's not something I'm looking for, the response is likely to say only that.

Judith Gonda said...

Hi Janet,
I know you like to know when there's a typo and since this is the FAQ post that peeps refer to a lot I figured you'd want to fix the fourth comment (yours). Sixth line "righting" should be "writing."