I’ve been avoiding writing about my querying process in hopes that I’d have something positive to tell you. But, I can’t keep avoiding it.
So, here’s the short of it.
I’ve been rejected by every agent I’ve contacted.
The longer story is I started querying agents to represent my suspense novel, Doc and the Seven, on September 10, 2018 and stopped querying on November 9, 2018. Over the last five months, I’ve received 37 rejections: 16 emailed rejections from 15 agents (one agent rejected me twice*), and no response from 21 agents. Since it’s been more than 12 weeks since I queried the last agent, it’s safe to say those 21 agents have rejected me as well.
Percentage wise, I heard back from 43% of the agents and heard nothing from 67%.
Only two rejections were personalized. 35 were form letters (emails).
Those are pretty crappy stats.
Querying is not for the weak.
I spent two and a half years writing and revising my suspense novel. Ten beta readers gave me feedback. I hired a professional editor to line edit and copyedit it. I hired three people in the publishing business to critique my query letters. In the end, I felt good about all the things I did to get my novel ready to submit.
Still, I was rejected…over and over again.
Querying is not for the weak.
When I started querying last fall, I stated that I would either get 100 rejections or find an agent, whichever came first. Now, it’s five months later, 37 rejections later, and I have no desire to keep querying.
Does this mean I’ve given up on having an agent?
No, I haven’t. But, I don’t feel I’m going to find an agent through the traditional route of cold querying.
So, what am I going to do?
First, I’m going to keep writing.
Those of you who subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on Twitter know that I’ve completed a pilot script for an animated kids TV show. The script is currently in Los Angeles and a friend of a friend is getting ready to pitch it to a major streaming service. Fingers crossed that it will lead to good things. Next, I’m adapting my first novel, The Contenders, into a feature-length screenplay.
Second, I’m going to keep reading.
This year, I’m focusing on novels published by indie publishers. I want to find small presses that are publishing books in the same vein as my novel, Doc and the Seven. I’m going to take my time reading novels, researching publishers, and staying open to the possibility of being published by an indie publisher.
Third, I’m going to keep getting out there.
I write because I have stories to tell and because I want people to read them. That’s what stories are for–for sharing with other people. I will keep getting out in the world through writing my own blog posts, writing posts for other blogs and outlets, sending out my newsletter, being active (but not too active!) on social media and marketing my novel and course on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. I’ll also keep meeting other authors, creatives, and members of the publishing world.
Querying is not for the weak. Writing and marketing are not for the weak either.
There are times like this when I feel weak, but deep down, I know that I’m not. I know this feeling is only temporary. It just sucks when you’re going through it.
Still, I will keep going. And, I will keep being honest with you about how it’s going.
Hopefully next time, I’ll have happier news to share.
* I queried J.M. during my first week of querying. He emailed a rejection within 48 hours. Then, I entered a Twitter pitching event called #DVPit and J.M. liked my pitch. I was thrilled. I sent a revised query letter and 50 sample pages. He took longer this time to decide but alas, he rejected me again. So, my friends, that’s how I ended up getting rejected twice by one agent.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel that asks, can enemies become friends? She is currently querying a novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle. Peg is also the creator of Fear & Writing, a workshop for procrastinating writers from all walks of life.
Photo: Kick boxers at eVOLV by Marcus Donner.
Those are tough stats. But you’re tough, too–you’re hanging in, returning punches, observing what your opponent is throwing at you, and adjusting your strategy. Besides, if Rocky knocked out Apollo in the first round, what kind of movie would that be? (Plus, you got Marcus in your corner, who is much better looking than Burgess Meredith!)
Seriously, you’re doing a hard thing, and I wish you the best. You’re not one take the easy road. One valuable thing you do is experiment with life: like your journey from goals, to habits-not-goals, and then to desire–and you’re very honest (and entertaining) in reporting your results. I applaud you for that.
Peg Cheng says
Ha ha! That would be a seriously boring movie wouldn’t it? You’re right. Gotta keep training, fighting, going for it. As the old saying goes, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” Thanks always for the support and encouragement, Edgy, and for understanding that my life and my writing are all one big experiment.
In the roughly 2 weeks since the above post, I decided to try some life experimenting myself. I don’t want to talk about the content of what I’m doing–it’s the delicate early stage–but just to say that I find your idea of experimenting useful, even liberating.
In trying to change something about myself, it’s often had an old testament-like judginess to it: There is something wrong with you. You must change. Fail, and burn (if not in hell, then at least the hell of shame).
Experimenting is cooler: if things go pear-shaped, well, the experiment failed, not me. And there’s also the scientific expectation that something about the experiment will almost certainly fail–after all, Edison didn’t get the light bulb on the first try. So you adjust the experiment, or the hypothesis, and give it another shot. Anyway, so far, so good.
Thanks for the inspiration.
Peg Cheng says
This is so cool, Edgy! I LOVE hearing that my last post inspired you to experiment more. I’ve experimented for most of my life. It wasn’t until I was an adult and working full time that I realized many people do not experiment. It made me wonder how people learned anything??? Do they just pick things up fast and memorize them? I’m not a memorizer. I have to do it, try it, experiment with it to truly learn it.
I won’t pry as to what you’re working on because I know that the early stages of anything can be fragile and precarious, but please know that I am rooting you on from the sidelines. Keep doing what you’re doing, Edgy. Keep tweaking. Keep experimenting. Failure is your friend. I look forward to hearing more in the future!