Tag Archives: querying

Writing: What Your Writing Teacher Never Told You About Querying

Alright, buckle in folks, time to pour some tea and make a salt circle that is probably going to get me in loads of trouble later. But there’s some things that current professors don’t know about the querying process, because most of them have had agents for at least the last five to ten years, and thus aren’t aware of some of the new quirks. Let me tell you the myth as I heard it. Be prepared for lots of rejections, insert Stephen King story about the railroad spike here. Feel lucky to get even one agent’s attention, and then you can shop later once you have proven your books sell. Your relationship with your agent should be like finding a spouse, so feel free to be a little choosey and patience.

Let’s tackle this bit by bit. Let’s start with the rejections. I am going to say 60 to 75% of the time, you aren’t going to get a response at all. The silence is meant to be a rejection, but for those with outrageously long wait times, that can be painful as all get out. Sometimes, you’ll at least get an auto-response saying that your query was received and here’s how long you’ll have to wait, but don’t bet on it being accurate. The only part that is accurate is expect lots of either returned or ignored type rejections. There’s even more agents now than ever, so you’ll have a huge field to go through. You definitely need to verify every agent that you run across–there are a lot of predators out there taking advantage of the high numbers of agents.

As for lucky getting an agent… Okay, here’s a weird trend I noticed. Very rarely did anyone I hear squealing on Twitter or QueryTracker say they got one agent. Because the next step after one positive reaction…is tell everyone else that you got an offer. It became clear to me that agents rushed to anything anyone smelled at being decent. All it took was one offer, and you could end up with nine or ten offers because one person took the time to decide your book was worth something. It’s a lot like the pitch events on Twitter, with all the agents flocking to whatever someone else liked. It seems like a lot less investment in one person and a lot more following the pack. But because of this, and publishers only putting out a few new books a year and trusting too much in their best sellers and putting all their money in one basket, it’s a lot harder for good books to get read at all.

As for being choosey and patient, well, I agree with the patient part. I was perhaps overly patient. But choosey? That depends. As part of getting your query letter, synopsis, and first fifty pages prepped, you definitely also need to really boil down what you need from an agent. In my case, I had to have someone who enjoyed some element of fantasy. Everything else, I was a lot more flexible on, but I was aware of the “tags” in case it was on someone’s no list: LGBTA+ friendly, romance could go either way, female protagonist, young adult. Know what an agent absolutely has to have an interest in, and then be aware of the other aspects of your book in case it will turn an agent off. I would also look at other writers’ critique of querying an agent on Twitter or QueryTracker. Writers will usually post warnings, such as people never getting back to you even after you give them a full, or warnings of stuff going on in agent’s personal life so have extra patience. But after that? Keep the field as broad as you can. Once you are out of agents, you are out.

Back to me being too patient. I figured out in my process where my line in the sand was, and that was communication. I would wait and wait and wait, as long as the agent kept in touch with me and told me that they weren’t going to meet the deadline they gave me, but here was the updated one. I would wait for months if not a year if you kept in contact with me. Why? Because I understand that life happens. I’ve had the flu twice this year already, and I lost every pet but one last year. I know it dearly. As long as you are talking to me, I will give you the time you need. But ignoring me when I ask for updates after you’ve missed the deadline is now my newest pet peeve ever. I highly recommend that you figure out where your line is, so you can approach queries without it being a frustrating process. As soon as your line is crossed, withdraw your submission and move on.

I’m not really bitter about the querying process. Do I think it’s antiquated? Yes. Do I think it could be a lot better managed? Yes. Will I do it again for White Dragon, Black Lark? …Eh. It’s going to depend on if it is long enough to actually be considered by agents as a book, since most don’t represent novellas. It stands a better chance than Ten, which is the stepping stone of a series and it appears that agents aren’t playing with series anymore. But I will definitely be approaching querying from a different stand point, now that I know how things have changed. I’ll probably do the pitch events first for an initial interest, and then start combing Query Tracker.

Look, getting published is hard. It’s a constantly evolving game. I’m not mad at my professors for not preparing me–they are out of that game, and have been for a while. They all have agents, and can even play against them if they need to because they have the experience and contacts to do so. But someone starting out in this business doesn’t have that, and everywhere you go digging, you’ll find people looking to charge you hundreds of dollars to prep your book for agents, and that’s just crap. Unless your grammar or plot structure is just awful, it isn’t going to do anything except slap a coat of paint over a barn that your agent (if you do get one) will ask you to rebuild anyway.

So just go in with open eyes, and try to see what is trending or starting to trend for agents. I’m not saying write to trend, that’s near impossible. But it will at least let you know if you need to sit on a manuscript until series are big again (or give up and go self-published with that bit), or if fantasy has gone down a weird path you can’t follow and you need to wait for it to swing around your way again…or maybe the weird path is your way and you need to hurry and finish! Keeping your thumb on how the query game is changing is the biggest piece of advice I can give you. Otherwise, you are going to come in confused from the start like I did.


News: Ten’s Future, Feedback, and Fair!

Hey everyone, I promise you’ll get some RP shenanigan-type posts this weekend, with fair rehearsal over with, I should be able to start posting then again, when it’s easier for me to post something without being completely brain dead. Speaking of fair, I survived! There are like no decent pictures (at least that I have found yet), but I’ll try to post a couple when I can. It was hard, because this year was butt-ugly cold. We made chessboard history of the unpleasant kind, our stage froze solid Friday night/Saturday morning! Thankfully, we still managed to put on a good show when fair was open.

Sun’s Guard: Ten is still being queried. I’ve got about 25 still outstanding queries, though some of those are about to hit their four-to-six-week, you ¬†haven’t heard from us it’s a rejection, notice. Of course, some of those have please follow up at four-to-six-weeks, so I may be poking people, wee! I’ve also got a bunch of open tabs right this second in my browser to screen for more queries. I’m on page 4 of 12 lists in Query Tracker, so hopefully I’ll hit the end of possible people to query by the end of this month or next, so then I’ll finally either have rejection from all possible sources or an agent.

What happened with the full manuscript offer? Well, after six months of nudging, I finally got a response. It was just a feedback letter, no notes on my manuscript and obviously no request for a revise and resubmit. That right there makes me…leery, considering how long she had the full book. The things inside the letter also confused me, but I won’t debate them in-depth here. I did double-check my readability levels (which are at 9th-10th grade per the Dale-Chell readability scale, at least the first chapter and the last which tells me the middle will be about the same), and considering none of my professors ever said anything sounded too young, I’m going to ignore that critique for right now. I also think the market is over-saturated in first-person POV, which is causing some perception issues of third-person. So at this point, I’m not going to do a bunch of edits. I might change my mind if I get more critiques in the same theme.

…and I feel better having written that all out, huh.

Anywho, like I said, I’m going to continue to query. If I run out of agents, I do have a very tentative self-publishing plan in place, or at least the basic framework. I don’t think I’d go down that road until I have a buffer in place though, so I’d write the second and third books and then start it. Maybe my friend Melissa Storm and I could share ¬†booth space at SoonerCon, she’s an artist and I’d be pushing the books. Hell, maybe I’ll push Ginny’s too, maybe that will just be my thing. (I’m joking, please don’t let this become a thing, oh please…)

In the meantime, I’m still working on the game between me and Ginny. Right now I’m getting the story-script written for the demo week in different starting areas, which is also forcing us to make some final character decisions, yay, and we are always finalizing little details in mechanics. Once those are done, I need to do some town-lay-out mapping and plotting. I’m also getting rough drafts for potential blog posts scribbled down, since we’ve got the idea to stir up interest with a blog, have a tip-jar for funds to commission artwork for the pitch while I’m finishing up story, probably after I get the initial version done and am working on the alternate versions.

As for the blog, I’m going to do something exciting. I’m going to go buy three or four traditionally published books, and grab some indie published things, and those will be what I review, alternating around. I’ll probably honestly get everything on my Kindle unless I fall in love with it and want a physical copy to lug around. So you know, indie writers, if you want a review, let me know! I will be cross posting to both here and Amazon to make sure it’s fair with those, since I know indie books really could use the reviews. (I’m also working on making my reviews nicer.)

Update: Oh look, someone managed to snag a good photo on Friday before it became so cold I had to huddle under my cloak or wear a turtleneck and the smoke irritated my eyes to where glasses were required! BEHOLD THE MAGNIFICENT MOON HAT!

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Writing: Thoughts on Querying…

I feel like preemptively labeling this part one, I’m sure I’ll have more as the process continues for me. For those curious, yes, I am still querying. I sent my full draft to an interested agent, but seeing as how staying in contact with her over the last six months became…difficult…I am actively seeking other options. Query Tracker, btw, is a great tool. I was reluctant to use it because I wasn’t sure it was verifying the agents, but nope! It’s safe!

So some funny (or annoying) things that have happened or I’ve seen, and my reactions.

One agent actually had a note on submissions: “No more vampires, sorry.” That made me laugh, and it also made sense? I wish more agents did that. Like rather than giving us broad genres, they specifically said, “I am sick of seeing this, I want to see this.” And no, telling me you want “strong storytelling” and “books I can’t put down” doesn’t tell me anything. That’s super subjective. If you are sick of first person narratives, say so.

I ran into two rather curious things, too, that gave me an amused rant to put on Twitter if no where else. I saw a lot of agents listing interest in LGBT fiction. And my immediate thought is, “Errr, you’re missing a letter?” A is important, especially for my books. In addition, romance tended to run through extremes–either EPIC or don’t bring it to me, it has cooties! Which all of that makes me laugh, since my main character is so far down the gray scale of demi-sexuality she is almost ace. (Which is the A.) It definitely shows room for growth, at least in my opinion.

Another thing I’ve noticed is there’s a mixed situation to the flooding of inboxes that agents get. There’s basically three things going on, and all of them have their pros and cons. Though to be honest, one super annoys me more than any of the others.

One solution is the no response means no. Ugh, that’s harrowing. Because of their work schedules, agents can’t guarantee when they will get to a book outside of a pretty long time frame. I get just wanting to hit the delete button and move on to the next, but I wish they would at least have a form they sent back to end the misery. But again, that takes time, and it’s time they may not even have. Others do have a form response that they send, and they guarantee replies within a certain window. Obviously as a writer, I love that, but I wonder how much it pulls away from the writer’s work.

The third solution is the one that cheeses me off if it’s not handled properly. Having an intern help with the slush pile of new submissions. On one hand, if it’s used as a tool, I feel like it’s the perfect solution here. The agent can go through the queries while giving notes out loud to the intern who is keeping track themselves, and then the intern can go generate the responses while the agent moves on. My issue is when its the intern who is going through the slush pile themselves and determining what the agent even sees. (What I have dubbed “intern-gating.”) I know one agent who does it of the ones I’ve done so far and even stuff that she has requested in a contest or conference to see gets turned back. Thankfully those people email her directly and get told to send it to her, but ugh, what a waste of people’s time.

The amounts of material requested also run the friggin’ gambit. Could we not come to a consensus, particularly one that doesn’t handicap the writers involved? The more pages there are, the more the agents have to read, I get that. I just think five pages isn’t enough. Ten, at a minimum, can at least get you to the action…or if it doesn’t, the writer has bigger problems. (There is a reason Sun’s Guard: Ten went through so many drafts, I was desperately trying to get to Moonshine faster.) I mean, I’d prefer the first three chapters, but I know that’s a lot for some to get through too.

I’m on the fence about a synopsis. On one hand, I think it is a handy tool for agents. On the other, I think it also can be very misleading? I tried to keep mine focused, but that was hard. Ginny had to hold me in from going down some of my subplots, partly to save space and partly to keep agents from getting distracted by seeing what isn’t there. I can’t imagine the trouble that other people went through. My professors weren’t much help, I remembered talking to Chester about not knowing what I was doing, and she said no one does when it comes to synopsis.

So there are my funny stories/observations. If you’ve got anything of your own you’d like to share, give a shout. As it stands now, I’m going to keep poking away at things. Hopefully someone will take the bait…


News: Queries, Kitty Weight Problems, and a Wedding

…prefacing this, the wedding was not mine.

So, Ten has gone out to a bunch of agencies now. I had one nibble for more, but I haven’t heard back so I think it might be a bust. They only wanted three chapters, and its been a couple months now, even factoring in August dead month. Between blog posts and dance seminars this weekend, I may try to get some fresh ones sent out. The agents left on my list require a synopsis, and converting my Excel books into a coherent document was a hassle I was trying to avoid.

…Yes, books. Sun’s Guard and the rest of its intended universe requires extensive notes, plus one to keep the big picture sorted out.

Tsuki rather dramatically lost a lot of weight. Not gonna lie, she has been my biggest concern lately (she’s my baby, damn it). Her blood work came back excellent at the vet, and a month and a half later, I think I finally have her diet adjusted. The next few weeks will tell. She’s such a picky eater and has a sensitive stomach and grain allergy, it has been a nightmare.

And the wedding! It was my brother’s, I officially have a sister, a niece, and a nephew. I was technically a bridesmaid, but I mostly kept out of trouble and helped when I could. Now I am prepping for fair season, and you know, being a hermit for a little while.

Part of prep will show up here! I am doing a Nuzlocke run of Pokemon X, and intend to write it for NaNoWriMo. The writing will go up in a weekly post through November, with cute little insert charts of the Pokemon I catch. I should have at least four badges before I start, which I hope will be enough headway. You’ll meet the player analogue and rival before hand, in a Character Study, so look out for it and more posts starting soon!

Update: I WAS WRONG, TECHNOLOGY BIT ME, AGENT WANTED THE FULL MANUSCRIPT!!! Hoping for good news in six weeks.