So you’ve sent out your queries and you’ve waited with exceeding angst for replies. Then they start to trickle in, the “we wish you all the best but this isn’t right for us” messages or the “we’ve considered your work and graciously decline. Remember, the market is subjective and we hope you find a good fit for your work,” letters. In the beginning you are just excited to get responses from real life agents, however pre-formatted they may be, but after about the 15th to 20th time (maybe the number is different for you) you start to get a little discouraged and ask…
What is wrong with my work?
Is this a fair question to ask of ourselves? After all, the market is subjective and not every agent is going to love our work. When is it time to go back to the drawing board and how much should I change when it is time?
There are two reasons you could be getting repeated rejections.
Number one is your query. I usually give my query another good looking at each time I send out a batch. I send 7-10 out and wait about six weeks or until all have been responded to then send out a new batch. After waiting and reviewing, I have often found that the query could be better or even has errors-GASP. This is one good reason not to blanket the market with your query! I don’t know about you, but by the time I’m done writing it, I have my query memorized and it’s easy to miss small mistakes because my mind substitutes the correct words for the wrong ones or the ones that aren’t even there at all!
Maybe your hang up isn’t an error. Perhaps, your query isn’t a good representation of your work. We know our stories and it’s easy to fall into the pit of assuming other people understand the plot when they read the excerpt in our queries. It’s a good idea to get someone who doesn’t know your story to look at your query. Ask them questions about it and if they have a different idea of your characters and plot than you do then it’s time to revise. I have a formula I’ve developed after working with some published authors on my queries.
- Use a close narrative voice. Don’t fluctuate!
- Show don’t tell.
- Establish the setting.
- Mention genre, word count, and title and use your character’s full name the first time you mention it. (You might even capitalize it.)
- Brief but convincing bio- even if you’re not published say a little something about your platform you’ve been working so hard on and establish the fact that you aren’t a loon.
The next reason for constant rejection would be your synopsis or manuscript sample. Maybe you’ve noticed that you get requests for your manuscript and THEN you get rejected. A few of these are to be expected because again…SUBJECTIVE. But if this becomes a trend, say five or six, then you may consider revisiting the way you’ve summarized your work in your synopsis. Obviously, your query is doing the job but your work isn’t standing on it’s own. Ask yourself if your synopsis captures your style and voice? If you are submitting sample pages then consider a new opening and comb over that baby with fine teeth for errors. Make sure the cadence of your work flows so there are no sentences that have to be re-read in order to understand.
And after all this, if you are still receiving rejections consider revisions of the entire manuscript or pitching from a different approach. Is the dystopian concept of the novel truly the forefront or is the romance the focus? If so, pitch it this way. Sadly, there are times that we need to walk away, work on another project and come back with a new approach. Sometimes, time provides the fresh look we’ve been trying to conjure!
Is there a magic number for you when you feel like it’s time to go back to the drawing board? Has anyone revised successfully and received representation as a result? Do tell!