Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Query Question: revising after rejections and how long to wait

You've suggested revising submission material after receiving either no response or rejections from agents and I'm good with that. 
However, as so many agents invite queries with pages/chapters in the submission, I'm unsure which to revise when that time comes. How to know where the "no" happened?
As for no response, if an agent is reading the query and pages/chapters, but doesn't offer a response window in the submission guidelines, is it reasonable to wait longer before closing it out? 

I'm not sure when I advised revising during the query process, but I'd like to see the source, since I think this might be out of context.

I think it's out of context for just the reason you mention in paragraph two. You don't know why/when/where there's a problem. Absent concrete suggestions for revisions, you run the very real risk of revising BADLY.

By badly I mean you don't know if an agent rejected your work (or failed to respond, nowadays the more likely situation -grrrrrrrrr) for something that had nothing to do with the quality or caliber of your work.

Take a look at the Chum Bucket post from last week. Fully EIGHT of the queries were for good books but just not books right for me. 

Look at the Chum Bucket results before that:  it's 14 good projects.

That's a substantial portion of the queries I get, and normally those receive ONLY a form reply.

If you're not getting the results you're looking for in the query process, that's when you invest some of your hard-earned dough in an editor, or a conference.  Get your pages in front of brutal, critical eyeballs.

Don't assume something is wrong with you if you're not hearing back; find out first.

As for timing, here's the definitive time table on dealing with scallywag agents who fail to reply to queries:

1. Send query.

2 A: IF agent auto-responds that query is received, wait prescribed amount of time plus 50% of prescribed time. Thus if they say they respond in 30 days, you give them 45. If they say six weeks, you give them nine.

2 B: IF agent does NOT have auto-responder, wait prescribed amount of time, then RE-SEND if no reply.

3. IF you are querying me, and you do not hear back follow 2B.

4. IF you are querying me, and you do not hear back after #3, email me or tweet to me. I respond to ALL queries that follow the general guidelines (Query Letter Diagnostics can help with that)

If you've tried twice, and not heard back, time to move on.

I find that incredibly rude and condescending in most instances, but so far I have yet to change the adoption of this course of action by many otherwise quite nice and polite agents whom I call my friends.



Anonymous said...

A friend posted on the Compuserve LitForum a bit ago about querying. Someone else advised her not to query until after January since chances are better she'd get a quicker reply then.

I'd think agents would just respond to queries in the order they came in even if they've been stacking up over the holidays. What are your thoughts?

Curious in the frozen north.

Craig F said...

How long should you wait before you resend with no auto-responder?

I feel a particular to a certain agent and want to give her first shot at my manuscript. I think that she may have auto-responder but don't know because Microsoft played me a dirty trick when I replaced my computer. The new email doesn't talk to the old email so I can't check.

I sent a query and less the the total amount of lies that her website said to send. This is because my pop server refused to send it. That was a couple of days ago.

Craig F said...

it should be a particular debt.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ya know, the more and more I get into this, the more and more I read about the process, I have come to the conclusion that it's all a crap-shoot.
Your work may be stellar, your query perfect but circumstances regarding how human the agent, how connected your computer and how carefully you follow directions are directly linked to your tenacity, belief in yourself and the all mighty writing gods.
If it's going to happen, if it's meant to happen, it will. Even with missteps by the writer and slip-ups by the agent, you will be published, you will make it.
That is, of course, if your writing is better than merely good, you are open to learning and act on suggestions. Kitties, cupcakes and Karma help too.

Susan Bonifant said...

This was my question. I'm clear now, but here is the post that left me conflicted:


I think I may have panicked at "known universe."

Today's response helped a lot. The issues of timing on revising (with critique) and follow up to "no response" are hard to approach systematically, but this comes close.

Anonymous said...

Diana Gabaldon got a personal referral to Perry Knowlton because she'd been haning around the Compuserve Lit Forum a few years. AOL back then. She was asking about how people found their agents. She didn't have a completed novel then. She was just working on Outlander. John asked her if she'd like an introduction to his agent, Knowlton. She, of course, jumped on it even though she didn't have a completed manuscript. He sent her a typed letter of recommendation based on the bits of writing of hers he'd seen on the forums.

She, being the fearless type, sent the letter along with a query letter describing a very long historical novel and would he like to read excerpts from it?

Knowlton called her and said he'd love to read her book.

She sent a single-spaced 26-page synopsis and bits and pieces of the novel, since she's a chunk writer. She marked the synopsis where the chunks fit in.

He signed her.

Beth, another friend with a long-@ss novel (why do I hang out withthese people?) sent her fantasy to Galen, Gabaldon's current agent, with recommendation and he offered representation if she would divide the book into three different novels focusing on three different characters in each one. It would have been an massive undertaking and destroyed the story, in my opinion. Of course, what do I know?

Beth decided to seek representation elsewhere and the second agent took her with the book as is. They just decided the book could be divided into a series.

Another friend queried four agents. Got four rejections and self published. I'm glad she's published, but I think she sold herself short. It's her choice and she has a book in her hands and I don't, so who knows?

Luck certainly plays a part in it, but I think stellar writing will usually find a home if the writer is like a honey badger and just doesn't give up, never, ever, not for anything.

Or, you could be like Gary Corby and write a great query letter and then drop off the face of the earth so the agent has to send out a global search for the author.

Amy Schaefer said...

Just to clarify, I assume your instructions do not apply to agents who clearly state on their website: "No response after x weeks means no." I am not going to prod these people. I don´t like their policy, but it is up to them to set their own rules. I do wish agents like this would either auto-respond or at least post on twitter: "Queries answered up until 26 Nov 2014. If you have not received a response, then thank you but I´m passing."

This post hit me hard, as I am deep in the valley of queries and rejections. I have decided to halt for a while then come back to the project in the new year to try to figure out where I have gone wrong. Is it my query letter? My pages? Both? Neither? My concept? Me? It´s me, isn´t it???

The writer´s life: getting knocked down and struggling to your feet again. Repeat ad nauseum.

Susan Bonifant said...

Amy, I had to laugh: "Me? It's me, isn't it??" Do we do this in any other vein of life. Probably not.

But querying makes us mighty, I'll say that.

Colin Smith said...

I have to say, the thing that irks me the most is when a no-response-means-no agent also doesn't have auto-respond on their email. There have been a few times I've shot my precious query off into the void of cyberspace never to hear from it again. I can't see how that's good for either me or the agent.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Colin I can't tell you how many times I've sent one of my columns in and the editor did not receive it. At first I thought it was BS but I've dealt with three editors in two newspaper and it has happened often. My pieces are published on time, so it's not an excuse to delay, and they like just about all I send in. The ones with issues, they tell me, so I send something else or rewrite. My current editor has a hard time getting stuff to me. Maybe everybody playing some kind of, "I didn't get it game" but I don't think so.
Auto response is the only way to go.

Unknown said...

This is an interesting post. I've heard that if you've not gotten a bite from "several" (though unspecified) agents then you should consider revision.

This is why networking is so important, especially with authors in your genre. I am friends with an author who writes in my genre. I asked her if she thought her agent might be interested in my work. She said for me to give it a shot, and thus, a golden ticket for a referral was born. I figured at the very least I would receive a personal reply. Not wanting to waste this golden ticket in case she didn't want to take me on because my work was too similar to her client's, I also included in the query that if this was too similar to any of her clients if she would point me in the direction of an agent who she thought may be interested.

I received a personal rejection with no critique (whew!), but I also got another referral. I thought I was the luckiest guy in the world to get two referrals in a row. Alas, I messaged the other agent and she kindly rejected with some critiques. They weren't related to the query, but to something content wise.

The length of time for these two agents to read and respond to these queries was less than a day. Actually, it was within a few hours. The lesson to draw from here is that every agent has his/her taste, but if you're savvy enough to network with their clients and get referrals, it'll make the agent perk up. Don't just go out and try to get referrals from authors you just met or barely know. Do an author interview on a blog (gotta have that platform, right?), review their book, or something to support that author. If you scratch their back, they may very well scratch yours.

It is worlds easier to get an author's attention than it is an agent, but do so tactfully. If an opportunity comes up and you have time to mull it over, wait! That one referral could turn in to two if you play your cards right.

Amy Schaefer said...

Carolynn, I´ve had that trouble with editors not receiving columns, too. But it is one thing to follow up someone who is expecting your work. I feel much less comfortable prodding someone at the query stage to say: "Did you get this?" I agree: auto-respond, agents. It isn´t that hard.

And as a bonus beef in the non-responder column, I´ve had nice interactions with agents where they asked to see future works. Years down the road I´ve sent said future works, along with a copy of their email inviting me to show something new... and nothing. Even a two-word "no, thanks" would beat that.

Okay, enough grousing. Internet, I hereby banish you for the rest of the day or until I get 750 words done, whichever comes first.

Tam Francis said...

I've been querying for a while and I only edit when I get specific feedback and the SAME feedback from multiple agents. I received that from requested fulls. They loved one story line and were milk toast on the other.

So, now I'm going back in and reworking the other story line with more nails in the road and some other fun stuff for the character.

Hope that helps!

~Tam Francis~