How many rejections does one need to have before they have a serious rethink? I did take a reputable course and polished my submission package, but I have already had 8 rejections. (A)
What is bothering me is people talking about how they sent out 10 queries and received request from 5 of them. (B) Some say keep querying till someone says yes, others say if you send out fifteen and are not getting the fabled 20% request rate, something is wrong. (C)
I guess this is all speculative, but is there an answer somewhere in the middle?
(B) I don't always believe people who say they have a 50% request rate UNLESS it's something like #PitMad where a lot of agents are seeing something at the same time.
People put the best spin on things, or outright prevaricate, to help them deal with the cold hard reality of rejection. I don't blame them for this coping strategy. I use rose-colored glasses to look at the world most days too.
But YOU should not take this as some kind of benchmark or guideline. It absolutely is not.
(A) Eight rejections isn't even a good start. You need 100 before you get to drink bourbon for breakfast and contemplate waiting tables at a truck stop in Alaska as your next career move.
I've signed and SOLD books that had 70+ rejections when I saw the query. While 70 isn't the norm, it can and does happen.
(C) Any kind of "stop if you haven't hit this percentage" misses a very cold slurp of reality soup: Sometimes you're writing in a category I know I can't sell. At ThrillerFest I had two VERY painful conversations with fiercely talented writers who heard exactly that: good writing, dead category. Yes, we were serving bourbon for breakfast that day.
The existential question here is How Long Do I Have to Do This before I can throw in the towel, start over again and NOT HAVE TO QUERY for a while? The answer is you never get to stop.
Rejection never goes away in publishing. Not for you. Not for me. Not for publishers who have high hopes for next smash bestseller only to see copies pouring back to the warehouse, unsold and unloved.
If you have a nagging doubt that maybe your query isn't as strong as you think, get pro eyeballs on it.
And by pro I mean an agent with a track record who's sold more than five things in your category. An agent is better for this than an editor. An editor knows good work; an agent knows what she can sell.
But also remember that agents, like all readers, have different tastes and preferences. Try to connect with one who has sold books you like.
Agents at conferences (like T/fest) often meet with writers; agents auction off this kind of thing all the time.
That's what I was doing at ThrillerFest; they lassooed me; tied me to a chair, and allowed writers to quiz me ruthlessly about their work. It was terrifying I assure you.