It has been a hundred days since I started querying agents for my novel, The Beginning of My End. I’ve queried 76 agents and 4 small publishers so far with no luck. The process is just terrible. I’d say it is 10 times harder than looking for a new job.
First thing is that you need a complete and polished novel. Even though agents can take a long time to respond. About a quarter of the agents I’ve queried have sent no response at all, not even a reject, after more than 75 days.
With a job hunt, the jobs have some expectations and you can generally easily determine whether you are a fit for the job or not. With finding an agent, it is really hard to tell if you and the agent are a match. I started out just blindly querying agents where genres matched. As rejects started coming in, I started getting more choosy. I read MSWLs (Manuscript WishLists), learned the lingo of querying, looked at the books and authors they represent, and started personalizing the queries to the agents with notes on why my book is a good fit for them. Something I’ve avoided even for my resume while applying for jobs.
More rejects started pouring in. In the meantime, with the help of friends and family, I made significant progress in making my book better. I exchanged manuscripts with authors. Rave reviews for my book started pouring in from early readers. My query letter was also gradually getting better with a lot of help from a Facebook group – Sub It Club.
I switched from using a spreadsheet to using Query Tracker. I highly recommend starting with Query Tracker. It is free and easy and you can see the average response times of agents. I started querying agents who only had short response times so I can get quick responses and move on.
More rejects poured in. I started participating in Twitter pitch contests. I got some interest in the book from two agents from two different Twitter pitch contests. Both turned out to be agents who had already previously rejected my book. While frustrating, between those and the reviews, it made me confident that the concept of the book is viable. And I had picked the right agents. So the problem might be my query letter. So I continued refining it.
The more I researched it, the more I realized that finding an agent is a numbers game. Everybody who wanted to write a book but hadn’t before seems to have used the pandemic to write. Agents seem to be inundated with queries. Far more than before.
A typical query letter contains stats about the book like the word count, genre, etc. Then a blurb, an author bio, and the hardest part – comps. Comps are comparable books. When I read agent bios and MSWLs, generally I had heard of none of the books that they like or represent. And I’m sure agents would be in the same situation with my comps. If they haven’t heard of the books I’m comparing mine with, would they bother to research them or do I automatically go to a reject pile?
Some agents ask for a synopsis. Some agents ask for the potential audience in addition to comps. I’m still not entirely sure what the difference is. Some agents ask for touchy-feely things like – why are you the person to write this book? There is no real standard. There’s no “resume” that I can just email. I have a document with tons of different paragraphs that I copy-paste from and build custom query letters based on a lot of reading of instructions.
I’ve been spending so much time querying, that I’ve made no progress on the sequel. So now I’ve slowed my querying to a crawl and started preparing for self-publishing.
Here’s my draft cover design:
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