Anyone who follows my Facebook and/or Twitter feed knows that I keep a running tally of the rejections I receive for my current novel. Right now I am querying literary agents (that is, sending out a query letter detailing the novel and asking them to read it).
As of this writing, it’s Agents: 22 Me: 0.
There are several reasons that I post publicly about my rejections. One, I have lots of writer, actor, and standup comic friends that are right there in the trenches with me. They know what it’s like to get kicked to the ground – repeatedly. Relentlessly. I post my rejections as a reminder to them that whatever they’re going through, they’re not alone. Two, I post my rejections because I’m proud of every damn last one of them. Every one of them means I TRIED. Third, I’m even more proud of the fact that even if I get ten rejections in one day, I’ll be up at 5am the next day sending out more queries and working on my next novel. That’s what true Wannabes do. We don’t take no for a final answer. Ever.
Okay. All that being said, here’s what’s pissing me off about agents and querying right now:
- Conventional wisdom says you must research each and every agency carefully before you query. Read up on all the agents, Google their names, find interviews with them, find something, ANYTHING you have in common with them, and personalize the letter as much as you can. I’ve tried this tack, and I hereby call Shenanigans. My advice, based on extensive experience in the field of rejections, is that ALL that matters is the quality of your query and whether or not the agent is interested in your idea – and your writing – enough to ask to read some or all of the full manuscript. Even though agents themselves claim they like to see personalized letters, I find that spending a lot of time personalizing the letter is a waste of time. The reality is that agents don’t really seem to care how long it took you to research him/her. They reject you just as fast- and usually with a standard, NON personalized query – as if you sent them a form query (that being said, ALWAYS read the agents descriptions of what kind of material they represent, address your query to an individual name, and CAREFULLY read and follow any stated submission guidelines. To do otherwise is amateurish and wastes everyone’s time).
- Many agents work by referral only or only through people they have met in person at conferences. That’s great – IF you can afford to go a conference. I am currently unemployed and, even before that, was struggling greatly financially. Conferences are not an option right now. Poor people can’t afford that luxury, and it’s not fair to count us out because of it.
- Just like most nice, cute guys are married and/or gay, many of the “good” agents are closed to queries. I cannot TELL you how many times I have found an agent who represents just my kind of quirky novel (as opposed to heavier literary fiction), only to find that they are closed to queries. Or work only by referral. Or only with people they’ve met at conferences. Or are married. Or gay. Which would actually be perfect for the gay romance I’m currently shopping…
- More “conventional query wisdom” says to only send maybe 1-2 queries a week and see what happens. Seeing as many agents specifically state that you can expect to hear back from them in 2-4 weeks, perhaps by the year 3000 I can hope to have an agent. This is particularly ludicrous when you consider that agents reject 99% of the queries they are sent. My advice is to query early and often. The rejections will flood in quickly – often barely giving you time to mentally recover from the last one – but at least you are making some progress. Every NO brings you closer to a YES. Right?!
Okay, so let’s be fair. Many agents aren’t evil. In fact, I’d venture to say that most of them are actually pretty cool. Here’s some nice things I can say about them:
- The rejections I have gotten are actually very nice. Even the form letters are quite kind. Some of them pretty much come right out and say I know that I am ripping out your heart, crushing your dreams, and spitting on your soul but I’m actually not thrilled about it. Most of the letters contain some kind of variation on “remember, publishing is very subjective, and just because this isn’t my thing doesn’t mean somebody else won’t go nuts over it.”
- Many agents are just too damn busy to respond and, believe it or not, writers like me totally get that. Sometimes no answer at all is actually a NO. Though I prefer to get some kind of response, I understand that agents get hundreds of queries a week and, believe it or not, they have other things they have to do in addition to responding to wannabe writers.
- Ummm, I’m sure there’s more than two nice things about agents, but right now that’s all I got. Maybe if I could get an agent to represent me, I could think of some more…
What about you? What do you need to vent about this week?