Posts Tagged ‘querying’

Troubleshooting: How Many Rejections are Too Many?

All right, Squiders! Let’s get into the troubleshooting portion of submission and publication, which will be the last section included here on the blog. Please let me know if this book blogging thing is working for you, and if you’d like me to continue with the other books.

Today we’re going to talk about how many rejections are too many. Rejections fall into the following categories:

  • No response
  • Form rejection
  • Personal rejection/Send others
  • Revise and resubmit

As a quick recap,  no response means exactly what it sounds like–you send your story/query off to a publisher or agent, and never hear anything again. Emails to follow up go similarly unanswered. A form rejection is a basic rejection that agents/publishers send out when it’s a definite no. These two kinds can be very discouraging, because they give you, the author, no information. Was your query/story bad? Was it good but not a good fit? Did they like aspects of it, but they’re too busy to send feedback along with the rejection?

A personal rejection means the publisher/agent took the time to go off-script from their form rejection to give you some feedback. This can be things like aspects they liked about your story along with things they didn’t, it can be a note that they liked the story but do not have room for it in their current line-up, etc. In some cases, the agent/publisher may ask you to consider them in the future for other stories.

A revise and resubmit means that the agent/publisher will seriously consider picking up your story if you make some specific changes to it. This is very promising–it means you’re close–but you will have decide if you’re willing to make the changes asked for, especially since this isn’t a guarantee of representation or publication.

So perhaps the question shouldn’t be “How many is too many?” but “What kind of rejections are you getting?”

For a short story, if you’re regularly getting personal rejections or requests to send other stories, that’s a good sign. You may just need to keep trying. For novels, if your query is regularly getting partial requests, that’s also a good sign, because it means that your query letter is working.

With a novel, you can often tell where, if anywhere, the process is falling apart. If you get partial requests with a query but not with a query plus five pages, then your beginning may need tightening. If your partials are spawning fulls regularly, then your writing is probably fine, but your plotting may be off. Many agents/publishers will send feedback if they’re rejecting a full, however, so this can be helpful.

If you’re routinely getting the same comments, that might be something to consider updating.

But if you’re getting no responses or form rejections, you may need to consider that something might be wrong with either your querying materials or your story itself. If you haven’t had the story critiqued or beta read, you should consider doing so. Critiquers or beta readers can be invaluable for helping figure out if there’s problems with a manuscript. If it’s the querying material that’s getting you rejected, many writing forums have areas where you can get help and feedback on queries and synopses. Going to a local writers’ conference can also be helpful for that, as oftentimes these offer the opportunity to meet with agents or editors one on one.

So, let’s say you’re getting fairly regularly personal rejections/partial requests, have had your manuscript looked at by someone else and have vetted your querying materials run by other people. Then, how many rejections are too many? Well, on some level, this is a personal decision. Some people are lucky enough to have a story picked up after a few tries, but others have successfully sold a story after 100+ rejections.

But never wait on a story selling. Work on the next one, and if the current one doesn’t sell now, it might later when you have some publishing credits under your name. Or you might find that, as you learn as an author, you figure out an awesome way to fix the story.

Tuesday we’ll talk about issues with selling, for both self and traditionally published stories.

A Break from the Madness

Woo, I feel like this week’s gone at a breakneck pace, Squiders. Aside from getting The Short of It out, here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • I’m in a musical! I think I’ve talked in the past about trying out for a local community theater, and this time they let everybody in. (I’m not joking–they really did cast everyone who tried out.) We’re doing Godspell, and there was an expectation that a good majority of us would be operating as a chorus, just singing in the back on bigger numbers and not doing much else. Ha. Haha. Oh no. Let’s just say I got over 5000 steps at rehearsal last night. Between the music (a harder version than the original), the choreography, learning to sign a whole song (my “solo,” as it were), and dialogue, this is taking up a lot of my time. We open in a little over a month.
  • I’m still working on my query letter for my YA paranormal. Well, I’m on a break, because I feel like each progressive version was getting worse instead of better. So right now I’m re-reading the book again with the plan to work on the synopsis. And then we’ll go back to the query.
  • I am working on the rewrite of Book One, but it is going really really slowly. I think I’m at ~2500 words after two weeks? The beginning felt really terrible but I read back over it and it’s not actually that bad. One of the things on my To Do list for today is to make a definite plan about when to work on it, which will probably consist of setting a specific time each day and figuring out how to distract the children during that time.
  • My Lovecraft story for the anthology goes pretty well. I’m on the feedback stage, and then I hope to do a final revision and turn it in early next week. I even have a title more or less picked out, which is sometimes the hardest part.
  • I continue to work on my serial, though I’m not posting it up at Wattpad quite as often anymore. It seems really hard to get visibility over there, and it’s just not something I can spend a lot of time on right now. Anyone have any tips for using Wattpad or reaching more people?
  • I wrote a short story for publication over at Turtleduck Press. It’s in review right now, and barring rejection, it should go up on March 1st.

And, of course, we’ve been working on the nonfiction book series here at the blog. How has that been feeling, Squiders? On my end, it feels nice to be getting some progress done on that front (especially because I started in January of 2015!) though it does kind of feel like it’s eaten the blog. And I am a bit worried about writing the parts that I’m not blogging, and getting everything organized, but we’ll worry about that when we come to it.

How are you doing, Squiders? Anything new and/or fun on your end?

Publishing Novels Traditionally: The Submission Process

Continuing on from Monday’s post about the ways to have a novel traditionally published, and Wednesday’s post about agents. If you haven’t read those and also aren’t familiar with those topics, you might want to start there.

So, let’s say you’ve decided whether you’re going to approach publishers directly or work on getting an agent (or a mixture of both), that you’ve made a list of publishers/agents who you think will be a good fit for your novel and that you know are reputable, you’ve done your research so you know what material each publisher/agent wants with your query, and you’ve put together your query, synopsis, sample pages, and whatever else you might need.

NOTE: You may find it helpful to run your query letters/synopses by other writers. Many writing communities offer forums for this purpose. In exchange for looking at your materials, you’re expected to look at other authors’ and help them out as well. This can be especially helpful if you are new to querying. These forums also often include a place for other members to post their queries when they get an agent and/or a book deal so you can see what’s working.

After you have everything ready to go, you can start sending out queries, making sure you are following the literary agencies/publishing house’s submission guidelines as to where to send it and what to send.

Many authors wonder how many queries they should be sending at a time. This is a personal decision. It can run the gamut from a single query at a time to an author’s entire list, but many authors like to send out 5 to 10 at a time so they can gauge how their query letter is performing and whether they need to change anything before sending things out to the next batch.

WARNING: Make sure you personalize each query to the agent/publisher! Mass emails to several people at a time are an almost certain way to get yourself rejected. Besides, since many agencies and publishers have different submission guidelines, it can be near impossible to match things up properly. Each agent/publisher gets their own email, and make sure you’re spelling people’s names right, and that you have the right gender. (No one likes to get an email for Mr. Smith if they’re a Ms. Smith, for example.)

NOTE: Response times for queries can vary wildly. Some agents will get back to you within a week or so; others may take months. Some agents/publishers never respond if they’re not interested. You can send an email asking for status if it’s been a reasonable amount of time (often several months–agencies’/publishers’ websites might include how long their response times are, and if you’re past that, you’re generally safe to ask) but this is why many people prefer to send out a few queries at a time.

If an agent or publisher is interested in your novel, they’ll generally ask for either a “partial” or a “full” manuscript. A partial is generally the first three chapters or the first 50 pages, though this depends and the agent/publisher will generally tell you what exactly to send. In some cases, if they haven’t asked for it already, they’ll ask for a partial plus the synopsis. A full is exactly what it sounds like–you send the entire thing.

NOTE: An agent or publisher may ask for an “exclusive”–meaning that they want to be the only person looking at your manuscript until they make a decision. It’s up to you whether or not you want to grant this; if you’re getting a lot of interest in your manuscript, it might not be worth it. Whatever your decision is, make sure you let the agent/publisher know. Most won’t reject a manuscript just because you wouldn’t go exclusive with them.

If an agent/publisher likes your partial, they will generally ask for a full. Decisions are then made off of the full manuscript. An agent/publisher may reject at this point, usually with the inclusion of details of why, which can be useful to the author for revising the manuscript if they deem it necessary. They might offer what’s called a “revise and resubmit (R&R)” where they’re interested in the book, but would need some revisions done before they offer representation/a book deal. The author can make the decision about whether or not to do so–if the changes seem like they would be beneficial to the story, it usually doesn’t hurt to make them. However, if you’re getting interest from other agents without the changes, it may be best to leave the story alone.

Representation/a book deal may also be offered at this point. You may have a single offer, or you may get many. It’s important to make sure that the agent/publisher is someone you are comfortable working with. Several websites and books offer lists of questions to ask potential agents/publishers to make sure you’re making a good choice.

Tuesday we’ll go over what happens after you’ve got an agent/publisher. Questions, squiders? Comments? Cheez-Its for the Landsquid?

Traditionally Publishing Novels: Two Paths

Okay, moving on to novels! (If you have any suggestions or questions on short stories, please let me know!)

There are two routes one can take when publishing a novel traditionally. The first method is to get an agent, and the second is to deal directly with a publisher.

NOTE: Not all publishers will take submissions from an unagented author. It may be a good idea to look at major publishers in your area and see what seems to be the norm.

A publisher will note in their guidelines whether or not they accept “unsolicited” submissions. It is more common among smaller presses, or those that specialize in nonfiction, but some larger publishers also accept them.

The initial process for submitting a novel to either an agent or a publisher is essentially the same–you will need a query letter to introduce your work to the agent/publisher. Some agents/publishers will also ask for additional materials, such as a synopsis (which could be between 1 and 4 pages, depending on preference, so some experts recommend having multiple versions of yours available of varying lengths), the beginning pages of your manuscript, or, in rarer cases, a marketing plan.

WARNING: There are several “publishers” out there that might not be legitimate. A good thing to remember for traditional publishing is that the money flows to the writer. If an agent or publisher asks you for money up front, such as a “reading fee,” they may just be a scammer. There are websites where you can check to see if an agent/publisher is legitimate, such as the forums at Absolute Write or Preditors and Editors. (Note to self: P&E is currently down, looking for a new caretaker, so do not include if it doesn’t go back up.)

There are several books, websites, and articles available on the proper way to put together a query letter and/or a synopsis, so we’ll just touch on the basics here. A query letter is a short letter of 200-300 words that acts a lot like a cover letter for a job application. If you have a specific reason for querying the agent/editor (you talked to them at a con and they asked you to send them something, you looked at their wishlist and your story will be a good fit, etc.), you start your query with that. Then you spend a few paragraphs hooking your story (it shouldn’t be a summary, and it shouldn’t reveal the ending), and you finalize with a short, relevant bio (which includes previous publications, if any, awards won, life experience that might show that you’re qualified to write this particular story). You also include the title, word count, and genre of your story.

A synopsis can be of varying lengths and is a recital of the events of your story from beginning to end. Depending on the length you’re trying to hit, you may have to leave out some characters or subplots. You do include your ending in the synopsis–agents/publishers that ask for them are often using them to make sure the story makes logical sense all the way through.

If an agent/publisher asks for pages to be included, you send the beginning of the book. Some people consider sending what they consider the “best” pages for this, but this is frowned upon for a few reasons:

  • Agents/publishers may be unable to get into the pages because they lack the context for them
  • Agents/publishers may assume that you didn’t send the beginning because it isn’t good

The main point of your query letter is to garner enough attention that the agent/publisher is willing to look at more. The rest of your work will need to stand on its own, so make sure you’re only querying a finished, edited, and polished manuscript.

On Wednesday we’ll look at the querying process, as well as the rest of the submission process. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments on the basic set-up of the querying process for novels, or if you feel like I’m leaving anything out!

Some Websites Writers Might Want to Know About

Good morning, Squiders, I hope you’re all doing well. I haven’t been sleeping so well lately, so I’m a bit sleepy.

I’ve come across a couple of websites lately that I feel could be of interest to other writers and authors, so I thought I’d share them with you all in case you’re unaware of them.

The first is The Grinder, which I found randomly yesterday while I was submitting some short stories to various markets and looking at different anthology calls. Everyone remembers Duotrope, right? Duotrope was (is) a site that kept track of short story markets and allowed you to track your submissions. It had (has) stats for each market based on user input, including likelihood of being accepted. But a while ago it went paid, $50 a year or something. Well, the Grinder aims to do what Duotrope used to do–allow writers to track short story submissions and provide user-based input on markets. It’s still in beta, but if you miss Duotrope, definitely give it a look.

The second is WriterPitch.com, which looks like an interesting concept, but I do not claim any first hand knowledge as I have not personally participated. WriterPitch allows both writers and agents to make accounts, and the idea is that writers can post pitches for their books, and then agents can go through and see if anything interests them. Alternately, agents can post wishlists, and writers can query if they have a story that’s a good match. I have no idea what the writer to agent ratio is (it looks about 10:1 based on number of profiles), whether any agents are seriously looking at the website, and whether anyone has found any sort of success. But if you’re actively looking for an agent, you might give it a look and see if you think it will meet your needs.

Have you noted any interesting websites lately, Squiders? I got an interesting survey from Goodreads some months back, asking about new author features, but to my knowledge, none of those have gone into effect yet.

The Frustration of Submission

I’m working on fixing up a book so I can continue submitting to agents with it.

The process has gone a little like this:

Step 1.  Write Book.
Step 2.  Edit Book.
Step 3.  Write Query Letter/Synopsis.
Step 4.  Submit Book.
Step 5.  Edit Book again.
Step 6.  Submit Book again.
Step 7.  Edit Book again.

I’ve gotten to the point where I know it’s different but I am not sure if it’s better.  I may just be splitting hairs at this point.

Let’s face it, squiders.  Submission is not fun.  Writing?  Fun.  Editing?  Fun, especially that first real edit, where you take the raw material of your first draft and reshape it into something coherent and awesome.  Planning and research?  Still fun.  Submission?  Not fun. 

Maybe there comes a point where you are so awesome that even submission becomes fun, probably because you don’t really have to worry about rejection.

For most people, writing the query and the synopsis tends to add onto the pain.  I don’t have that problem.  Whatever else may be said about my writing, I can write a damn good query.   Now, the prose…

Sometimes I wonder if I’m going about this wrong.  In the last year, I have sent out nine queries.  Two were no-responses, two were partial requests, five were rejects, though admittedly all of those had some pages attached.  I am aware that this is an embarrassingly small amount to have done in said time period.  Also, seeing how this is my second edit since I started querying, one could argue that I have some sort of weird perfectionism thing going that I need to get over.

I’m also starting to ponder if I’ve got my age range wrong, if it wouldn’t be easier to sell it as a MG than a YA, even though the main characters are 17.  I know YA tends to be dark and gritty these days, and this is neither.  Is there even a market for off-world YA fantasy?  What’s the difference between MG and YA anyway?

I’m beginning to think that I’m sabotaging myself.  I know this is a hard,  slow process, but I don’t have much to show for my work.  I know I have confidence issues, so perhaps I am afraid of success, and that’s why I keep rewriting instead of submitting?

Come and share your submission woes and successes with me, friends.   (Feel free to psycho-analyze my submission habits too.  Whatevs.)