Musings from the query rollercoaster

As my regular reader knows, I’ve been querying my first manuscript, ISLA’S INHERITANCE, for about six-to-nine months. I’ve blogged about my generic strategy for querying before.

You’ll notice the first of the items in my strategy is from the Miss Snark playbook: exclusives stink. I noted that one of the benefits of having a lot of queries out at once is that a single rejection seems smaller. Think about it: if you’ve got ten queries out there and one agent says no, then the ratio of “no” to “possible yes” is 1:9 in your favour. Those are pretty good odds.

Animated-picture-of-love-rollercoasterI don’t blog about the actual details of querying—who has my query, who said no, who has a partial or a full—because there are some things a writer just shouldn’t share with the (largely indifferent) masses. How many agents or publishers have already said no is one of those things; do I really want to advertise to a potential agent that a number of other agents passed? Especially if it’s a big number?

(As an aside, thoughts on individual rejections—especially if they tend toward vitriol—are another, and top of the list of things not to blog about. Not that I have any vitriol to vent, mind you; the rejections I’ve received have generally been very polite form letters. Sometimes I’ve gotten nice individual feedback, including from an intern who said she was sure I was getting lots of offers. Bless her and her wishful thinking; do you think I should send chocolate?)

However, I think I can say without oversharing that I’ve had a little bit of trouble finding a home for Isla and her friends. I like to imagine it’s not because of the writing—although I may be deluded on that score; every parent thinks their child is the most beautiful and talented, right? I had some problems getting the pacing at the start of the book right, but my beta readers have helped me with that and I think I’ve more-or-less nailed it now. (Again, I may be deluded.)

No, I’m pretty sure my biggest problem is that my book falls somewhere between urban fantasy and paranormal fiction, depending how you look at it. And it seems the big publishing houses aren’t that wild about urban fantasy or paranormal fiction right now. So agents aren’t that wild about it either, because if they can’t sell it to a decent-sized publishing house, what’s the point for them? I’m not judging, mind you; it’s just a financial reality.

I haven’t quite given up hope on getting an agent. I still have faith in Isla’s story, across the first book and the sequel both.  But I’ve stopped sending out new agent queries. The last batch that are out there is my last.

Writers' nervous habits: a case study

Writers’ nervous habits: a case study

This decision means my number of queries in the field has dropped below the magical ten that were keeping me sane. My ratio doesn’t look as cheery anymore. Suddenly I’ve developed a number of nervous habits, mostly around checking my email inbox and spam folder every twenty minutes. I can’t bear not hearing anything. I can’t bear it! Obviously I want to receive a “yes, I love it; here is a purse of monies”, but at this point I’d be satisfied with a “not for us, thanks”, just so I know!

Any tips for me, so I don’t pull all my hair out before my next birthday? (Which is tomorrow, by the way, so yes, it’s serious!)

14 Comments on “Musings from the query rollercoaster”

  1. Stacey Nash says:

    Oh Cass, you’re such a trooper. My biggest piece of advice is; keep yourself distracted with a shiny new project. For me, drafting a new story keeps the up side of the roller coaster higher than the dips.
    Happy Birthday tomorrow!

    PS. I’m famous. There’s a picture of my tweet!

  2. Happy Birthday tomorrow! My advice is not to give up on your MS. Maybe rework your query. Also, are you trying other venues like workshops and pitch contests? Good luck!

    • I haven’t tried workshops but I have done pitch contests. I’ve had a few nibbles from those but nothing that has gone anywhere (yet – at least one is still outstanding).

      I’m pretty sure at this stage that the query is solid. One agent even posted it to their blog as an example of a good one, which was nice.

  3. Julie Israel says:

    Happy early birthday!

    Cassandra, you’re an inspiration to me. I like the odds of the “magical ten” approach you suggest and may very well implement it myself when I get there!

    Just keep on keepin’ on…your train (Isla’s train!) will come! 🙂

  4. sugaropal says:

    You might find there are more agents out there than you thought – another lovely thing about 🙂 Genre is a problem sometimes, though agents/editors always say “if the work is brilliant, genre is irrelevant”. Not sure whether to believe it or not… Also remember VERY FEW writers sell their first book, or even get an agent with their first. It took me 3 books and 4 years. Don’t give up. Ever.

  5. Happy Birthday!
    And like Stacey said, keep yourself busy with a shiny new project…

    But then, if you’re a Fantasy lover like me, a shiny new project means another Fantasy project…and with this new trend of contemporaries, we can only have faith and hope we get lucky 🙂

  6. I COMPLETELY understand. I queried my first book, a historical, for ummm….over a year. I took breaks to do an R&R, but still. Then I wrote a YA and queried that one for over a year. Then all of a sudden things started happening with it. I had been told the creature I wrote about would not sell in this market, so I tweaked it to a different creature, but same story premise. That’s when I started winning awards for the ms, and getting requests. It’s still a YA paranormal type book, but with a unique concept and creature. I’m still waiting on those requests, but I’d never have gotten them if didn’t keep pushing. 🙂 And tips? I’ve got nothing for you. I have yet to find a successful way to erase my crazy-writer-waiting self. As I type this, I glance over to my inbox every few seconds. 😉

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