It’s been eleven weeks, and fewer than half of the agents I queried for my latest book have replied. I’ve also heard nothing more from the one who asked to see my full manuscript. I sent it to her over seven weeks ago. A quick search of the repository of all human knowledge (Google) suggests that six weeks to two months is the average wait time for feedback after sending a full manuscript, but in rare cases, it may take much longer. (One comment in a forum mentioned sending fulls to two agents who failed to respond after two years.)
My tentative plan was to start sending out queries to publishers at this point, but I hesitate to do that if some agents are still considering it. I suppose I can wait a few more weeks. I appreciate that agents (like the rest of us) are busy. In the meantime, I’m creating new editions of my Warden’s World series. After that, who knows?
On the seventh week of queries, my email gave to me…
One more rejection.
…Actually, that was it, so I’m not going to try to come up with something cleverly musical. It was a polite rejection, though, possibly not even the agency’s generic default, although it wasn’t quite specific enough to believe it was personalized just for me. Still, any reply is better than none at all.
I still have 19 in that category because the reply I received yesterday was balanced by a new query to an agency I didn’t know existed when I began all of this. I found it mentioned in the Author’s Notes of an unimpressive book I recently read. Honestly, I didn’t care for the book at all (too much hit, not enough wit), but I figured any agent could make a mistake. Based on the fact that my books aren’t getting more enthusiastic replies, many agents do, so I collected the relevant data from the internet and submitted one more query to this newly discovered agent.
And in this short and boring tale lies a question. Why isn’t finding a literary agent easier? You’d think that businesses that need to attract clients would make themselves obvious. But I’d almost swear that some of the agents out there are trying to hide. The most obvious way is behind websites in bad need of a makeover. Some look like they were thrown together 20 years ago by the one person in the office who admitted to knowing a little html. I’ve come across a few that made me seriously wonder if there was a legitimate business behind them. Maybe it’s supposed to some kind of challenge. Only sufficiently motivated authors will prove themselves worthy, discover the agency, and earn the right to query. Or maybe there are so many good stories in need of agents that it doesn’t matter. But then I have to wonder where all these great stories are because I read over 100 books a year, and very few of them pass my “this is one I’d like to reread” standard.
Oh, well. It is what it is. I’m assuming I’ll see more query replies in the upcoming week. Several agencies indicated they have an eight-week window. After that passes, what next? I’ll decide later. Don’t feel like it right now.
(P.S. For those concerned or just curious about my recent bypass surgery, I still feel like I’ve been run over by a truck, but by possibly a slightly smaller truck than last week. I’m still having trouble doing basic things like thinking and typing, but it’s all slowly coming back to me.)
I spent the last two mornings sending out queries. Twenty-seven lucky agents now have the opportunity to ask to ask to see my manuscript, or (more likely) to ignore me. All together, sending those queries took me probably eight hours, not counting the time it took to put together the template for the letters or writing the synopsis. Those took up all my allotted writing time for the last week or so. It’s surprisingly difficult to adequately summarize a 400+-page novel in two double-spaced pages. I know I didn’t, but perhaps I did well enough. I suppose I’ll find out.
As for the letters themselves, they’re not all letters. Forget snail-mail. Hardly anyone demands paper, although a very few will still accept paper as an alternative if you can’t use email. But some now use online forms. Like the requirements for the email submissions, no two of those are identical. All agents want to see something about your previous writing experience and a paragraph about the story you’re pitching to them, but some also want to see a two-page synopsis of the story. Some want to see the first three pages of your manuscript, or the first fifty, or something in between. This means you can’t just write one standard letter that works for everyone. Figuring out what each agent wants takes research and time. Some are even picky about the subject line for the query.
This kind of confuses me. Why is there such a difference? Agents are all in the same business, so shouldn’t they all want to see the same stuff? I especially wonder about those who only want to see a short query. I wouldn’t think you could tell much from just that. My first guess is that these agents aren’t all that interested in finding new clients, or that they are looking for something specific, something there is a known market for, such as fantasy stories about snarky dragons or sexy vampires of zombie detectives or something like that, but I could be wrong. The same goes for those who only want to see a synopsis, or the first three manuscript pages. Very few stories really get going in three double-spaced pages. Yeah, you can do a short story in that length, but the settings and characters for a novel require a bit more development, especially for science fiction and fantasy because the author is pretty much creating an entire new world. It would seem to me that in this digital age, agents might as well ask for at least the first fifty pages. That doesn’t mean they have to read all of them. They can still reject after the first line in the query letter, which I’m sure is not uncommon, but if they want to see more, it’s there.
Oh, well. That’s their job, not mine. I’m sure they know what they’re doing. I just can’t help thinking that they’re probably missing out on some great stuff.
After a long and futile search for an agent to represent my ninth novel, I published it myself last month. I even sold a few copies. (Yay me.) I hope the people who bought it like it. I also hope some of them will write reviews, but that may be asking too much. I see (maybe) one review for every 500 to 1,000 downloads. (I don’t keep stats on this, but I really appreciate each and every review my books get, even if they aren’t 5 stars.)
Researching who to send queries to, creating a synopsis, putting together the letters, and actually submitting the things took time, of course, but once all that was done, it was simply a matter of waiting, hoping an agent or a publisher might call. That didn’t mean I had free time. I wasn’t idle. I was working on my next book. I began the outline for it about a year ago. Now, it’s done. I have a good final draft, anyway. It comes in at a bit over 107,000 words, and I think it’s the best one I’ve done yet (but I always think that).
So, what I am doing now? I’m sending queries again, of course. The first batch went out this morning. Yeah, I know it’s probably pointless, but a writer’s got to do what a writer’s got to do. Banging your head on the great wall of traditional publishing is part of the process.
The ironic thing is, when I began this project, I planned on NOT looking for an agent or a traditional publisher for it. I intended this to be an indie book about an indie writer. No, it’s not an autobiography. It’s science fiction. My chosen title is Troubled Space: The Interstellar Adventures of an Unknown Indie Writer. My one-sentence pitch for it is Indie author Theodor Lester never imagined his books might save the world, but one does, which he discovers when an alien who wants to be his agent abducts him.
Since it’s about an indie author who has some definite opinions about the publishing industry, I figured no agent would want to touch it. But once I completed the manuscript, I figured what the hell. It’s a damn good story. At least I think so, and who could be a better judge? I’m both an indie writer and a fan of lighthearted space operas. This is exactly the kind of book I’d want to read.
So, I did my research and compiled a list of agents who might appreciate something like this. I made note of their individual submission requirements, and today I began the quite possibly pointless process of tailoring and sending query letters. (I know alliteration is juvenile, but I like it.) My agent list is fairly short, but I expect it will be a few more days before I’ve sent the last query. Once I’m done, I plan to work on a short story I’ve had bouncing around in the back of my mind for a while. After that, well, I’m not entirely sure, but I’ll be working on something.