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Query Status ~ Week 1

Over the course of three days last week, I sent queries to 36 literary agencies. I am happy to report pretend that most of them are still seriously considering my latest book. Sadly, nine others must have illiterate monkeys with absolutely no taste monitoring their emails because they almost immediately sent back rejection letters (one within only a few hours of me sending the query).

Okay, that’s unfair. Perhaps they’re not actually monkeys, but they clearly don’t realize what a unique opportunity they’ve just denied themselves. (Listen, lying to yourself is something an author has to do in order to keep writing, so it’s either disparage the good taste and wisdom of some unknown interns at a few obscure literary agencies or curl up into a fetal position, drool into my bellybutton, and admit that I’ve wasted the last seven years of my life.) Regardless of who or what caused those rejections, I am sure that my latest manuscript could find a large and appreciative audience, if given a chance. It’s good. I mean, really good. It had me laughing and nodding my head when I proofread it, and I knew what would happen next.

Which makes me wonder….

We’ve all heard stories about how many agents and/or publishers rejected queries for books that later went on to being bestsellers and were sometimes even mangled into blockbuster movies. The current favorite anecdote is about how J.K. Rowling received ‘loads of’ rejections before she finally found a publisher for her Harry Potter books, and she is far from the only writer with a story like this.

A moment on Google led me to this site, which lists several:  http://www.litrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/ It’s not the only one like this out there, and it mainly focuses on rejections from editors, but the point remains valid. Now, you may not agree that all of the listed books are good or even readable, but the fact is that each and every one of them did find an appreciative audience. The agents and publishers who rejected them missed out on amazing opportunities.

So I have to wonder. Are there consequences? There are for the authors, obviously. The snap decisions made by agents and editors can substantially change their lives. But what about for the people who made those decisions? Did those who rejected Rowling’s queries all keep their jobs? Do they still sleep well? Do their peers make fun of them? Do they look in the mirror every morning and see an idiot?

I don’t know. They may not even remember whose queries they’ve rejected among the thousands they get each year. I have a feeling, and I’m not sure I’m right, that agents are more afraid of taking on a book they can’t sell than they are of rejecting one that later goes on to be immensely popular. There are consequences for the first. If nothing else, they’ve wasted their time. But rejections might be safe. If the author doesn’t keep a record of these and disclose it afterward, who is going to know?

Somehow, this just doesn’t seem fair.

But, for now, 27 agents still have a chance to appreciate the opportunity I’ve given them. I do hope they don’t screw up.

Submissions are Futile

I write something every day. Most of it is work on my next novel, but I also write ten or so (normally short) book reviews for Goodreads every month. What I don’t often write are blog posts. After all, why should anyone care about the idle prattle of an unknown indie writer? Other indie writers might, I suppose, but even then, I can’t offer them any advice about how to achieve fame and fortune. I haven’t.

Still, there’s no point in having a blog if I don’t write something for it, so here’s an update on my attempt to turn my writing hobby into a vocation. In my last blog post, I told you that I submitted queries for my ninth novel to 28 agents. Ten of them have replied. I don’t expect any more will. All the responses were generic rejects. None of those 28 agents, not even the ten who had the courtesy to respond, ever read my manuscript. I doubt they even read any sample chapters. They based their rejections entirely on my query. (I’ll put a generic version of the query letter at the end of this post as an example of how NOT to write one. I’d loved to tell you what’s wrong with it, but I can’t. I don’t have a clue.)

I sought an agent first because very few traditional publishers accept unagented submissions. Some do, and I submitted queries to two of them. I waited six months. Neither of them responded.

So, my ninth novel will be indie published like all my others. That’s not so bad. According to reports from Amazon, downloads of Kindle editions of my books have been increasing steadily. They’re now up to 500 per month worldwide. That may seem a lot, but most of those are freebies. My books are also available from Apple iTunes. As best I can tell, they add another 30 or so downloads per month. Since most of my ebooks that aren’t free retail for 99¢, my monthly royalties seldom total over $10. That would be depressing if I was doing this for the money.

Of course I haven’t just been waiting around this year, hoping for agents and publishers to notice me. I’ve been working on my tenth novel. The protagonist of this one is an indie writer. I figure I know something about them.

~*~

*This is the query that did not work*

Dear AGENT (get the name right, and tailor the introduction and concluding paragraphs for each agent),

I hope you will consider representing my latest unpublished novel, The Elsewhere Gate, which combines elements of contemporary science fiction in an urban fantasy setting with likable young characters and a unique magic system. An underlying theme of wealth disparity provides real-world relevance. The novel is complete at 90,000 words.

Hurled from a private laboratory in Florida to a world where magic is money and airships fill the sky, a young man with dreams of college, together with the sensible daughter of a quirky professor, must flee a covetous moneylender who is convinced they hold the key that will open new worlds for him to exploit. Tom and Amanda don’t know where they are. It’s definitely not Florida. It’s not even Earth. It’s a place of magic, which is dangerous to use if you don’t know what you’re doing. Tom’s first attempt lands him in the care of three witches who run a soup kitchen. They help him recover and then hide him and Amanda from Lord Wilcraft, grandmaster of the moneylenders’ cartel and leader of the Syndicate, the closest thing to government this place has. Its sole purpose is to promote business and increase profits. Under Wilcraft’s direction, the Syndicate is building its own Elsewhere Gate. Wilcraft believes Tom holds the secret that will finally make it work and sends his enforcers to capture him. Failing to do so quickly, Wilcraft turns his unwelcome attention to those who have helped him and Amanda. Tom is determined to save his new friends, but the leader of the Syndicate has extreme wealth, unrivaled influence, and powerful magic. What can a poor college freshman from Elsewhere do?

I am the author of eight independently published novels, which have had several thousand readers across all books and outlets. These stories continue to receive excellent reviews, enjoying average ratings well above four stars on Goodreads as well as on U.S. and U.K. Amazon sites. My writing style is distinctive, but the tone and mood are similar to that of John Scalzi with considerable influence from Sir Terry Pratchett. It appeals to readers who appreciate Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation and Redshirts, the work of Jasper Fforde, or the last twenty or so Discworld novels.

I am providing … (Some agents allow you to provide sample pages or a synopsis, which I invariably did whenever permitted.) Thank you for taking the time to read my query.

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