Monday, April 30, 2012

Update from the Query Trenches

So as y'all know, I'm in the process of querying my 2nd novel, LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE. When I first started, I was terrified that I wouldn't get a single request on it, and for a while there, it looked like my nightmare might come true.

To date, my request rate has far exceeded my expectations. Unfortunately, it hasn't stopped me from mourning this project, even with several requests still in play.

Here are my current stats from January - Present:

Total Queries Sent: 58
Total Queries Rejected: 33
Total Unanwered: 19
Total Requests: 9 - (4 partials, 5 fulls)
Total Queries That Were Rejected Once, Then Revised and Turned into a Request: 2
Requests Resulting Directly From Contests: 3
Total Requests Rejected So Far: 3

On paper, these numbers look decent. However, I can't seem to muster a shred of confidence that even one will result in an offer. (Read: I'm a mess)

We all know how astronomical the odds are, and I'm convinced that in a few months I'll be writing a post entitled "Why Request Rate Means Nothing: Rejection in Mass Quantities." (Yes, even after my last post)

So in the mean time, I'm trying to take my mind off things by diligently (well, as diligently as a slow writer such as myself can) working on WiP #3 and counting down the days to Best Vacation Ever: The Sequel, where I will be gloriously unable to check my e-mail every five minutes for an entire week. Because Tom Petty (and me) was not kidding when he said the waiting is the hardest part.

How are the query trenches treating you, peeps? And what do you do to keep your mind off pending submission responses?

Monday, April 23, 2012

For My Peeps in the Trenches

It's been quiet here at Writer's Blog, which I think has a lot to do with the A-Z challenge going on.

So, instead of one of my more contemplative (read: rambling) posts, I decided to use this Monday's blogging space as encouragement for my peeps in the query/submission trenches.

We all know how much it sucks (yes, it does) to have your heart jump into your throat when you see a response to a query, only to open it and zero in on that dreaded "unfortunately..." Or when you make it past that first hurdle only to hear that an agent "didn't connect" with your work, or your characters, or their voice, or what have you. It sucks.

But published authors have been exactly where we are now, and there's no reason that hard work and proper alignment of the stars can't get us to where *they* are someday. Here's proof:

One of my favorite links is this one, where Kimberley Derting (author of The Body Finder series) shares some of the rejections she received from editors.

I also like this one, about a writer who got one of the worst Christmas gifts ever in the form of being dumped by her agent. This one, by the ever-fabulous Brodi Ashton is a similar story.

Then there's this post, that shares snippets of the rude and discouraging comments made to authors who went on to become household names.

So read and enjoy, peeps. And if any of you have your own stories to share, whether they're rejection horror stories or tales of the sun finally breaking through the clouds, please do!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Bulimia

When it comes to books, I'm a binger and a purger.

I go through phases where I can't read enough - devouring books in 2 or 3 days and then looking for my next fix like a desperate junkie. I'll easily tear through 8-15 books when I'm in binge mode.

And then for no apparent reason I just... poop out.

I'll start to read something, and then stop. I'll find myself with free time, but I wrinkle my nose at the thought of sitting down with a book.

Maybe it's burnout? I don't know. But I'm in one of those droughts right now.

 I've been looking at all the books on my bookshelf and itching to clear some out, as I usually do when I'm in a reading dry spell. I'm not the kind who'll re-read a book once I've finished it (unless I really, REALLY love it), and plus, I got a Kindle for Christmas. So if I do feel the need to revisit something, I have the option to upload it - without taking up any already limited space in my house.

Although, truthfully? I'm still a little attached to paper books. So I think subconsciously, purge mode is actually preparation for the next binge.

Do any of you experience book bulimia? Any suggestions for great books that might jump start my next reading binge?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Avoidance by Writing

Ok, be honest. Does anyone else out there avoid writing with... more writing?

I've noticed a bit of a trend when I don't want to start a project, and also when I don't want to finish one.

When I was writing my 2nd manuscript, I already had an idea for a third simmering in my head. I wrote down some basic plot points, but I didn't want to start the actual story until I'd finished #2, and could better wrap my head around a new character with a different voice. Which was fine, because the characters in #3 didn't seem to be talking much.

Then, I hit the home stretch with #2. On the morning of the day I knew I'd probably finish it, something happened.

My mc from #3 wouldn't shut up.

I know now, and probably that day, if I'm being honest, that this happened because I didn't want to finish #2. I adored the characters, I loved my kissing scenes, and I genuinely enjoyed spending time with it.

But finishing means the honeymoon is over. It means it's time for your betas to point out all the flaws, time for agents to tell you sorry, it's not for me. Time to revise and edit and wonder what you saw in the damn thing in the first place.

So I let myself get lost in #3, if only to avoid the giant pink unfinished elephant in the room.

The same thing happened yesterday. I was off from work, and had every intention of writing #3 like a mofo. But after only 300 words, what did I wind up doing instead? Editing and querying #2 some more. (Which paid off with a couple requests, so woohoo!)

Does this happen to anyone else? Or when you're trying to avoid a project, do you run screaming from the computer altogether?

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Great Intro Fakeout: Further Musings on Queries & Openings

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who weighed in on my post about whether or not queries get their due in an agent's inbox.

The consensus from last Monday's post seemed to be that sometimes, you're going to get rejected no matter what you've done right - and that other people may not, even when they've made silly mistakes.

Still, I've been wondering if maybe MY problem is not my query, but my opening.

I mentioned in that last post that almost all of my requests have come from pitch contests. And here's the thing:

The opening I use for contests is not the actual opening of my manuscript.

My "contest opening" is actually an excerpt from page 4 of the ms. I didn't feel my real opening was "grabbing" enough for competitions. And wouldn't you know, as soon as I started using Opening 2.0, I started getting requests.

And somehow... it's never occurred to me until now that maybe my fake opening should be my real opening.

This weekend, an agent who is currently closed to queries e-mailed me saying she'd seen my (fake) opening posted in a contest and would like to see my first 10 pages. Naturally, I was thrilled to have an agent stalking - er - seeking me out, and sent the pages right off - with the real opening. But I haven't heard back, and now I'm wondering if that was a mistake.

The reason I've kept my real opening is because I think it sets up the scene and the characters and the action a lot better than the portion I use in contests, which jumps into the action almost immediately.

But to reference my last post again, remember how I'd bitched about the badly written query getting requests up the wazoo in a certain contest? I wondered if the agents had even read the query. And now I'm realizing... they very well might not have. Maybe they skipped right over the query, and read the intro.

And maybe that's what they're doing when they read the queries in their inbox, too. Hmmm....

So, give me your honest opinion, peeps. Should I make my fake opening my real opening? Or does it really not matter, and I'm desperately grasping at straws here?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Fact or Fiction: Querying is the Best Way to Get an Agent's Attention?

Let me preface this post by saying I am well aware that agents have a hell of a task before them when they take on an inbox full of queries. Even my eyes start to glaze over when I read the 25-50 queries posted in contests such as Miss Snark's First Victim or Cupid's Literary Connection, so I can't imagine combing through queries on a daily basis.

I know it makes sense for an agent to judge your writing based on a sample of your writing. But I also know it's daunting.

And it's for this exact reason that I have to wonder if queries are really the best way to get an agent's attention. I'll tell you why:

I recently participated in Brenda Drake's Pitch Madness contest, where 5 different agents put in bids on pages from my LYM manuscript.
- One of them bid after already rejecting my query.
- Another had my query in her inbox, but hadn't responded yet. She requested my full manuscript from the contest. And a week or so later, sent me a form rejection on the query I'd sent weeks earlier.

I'll be the first to admit, the pitch Marieke wrote for me was pretty freaking awesome. But it's basically a 35-word summation of the same events agents would read in my query letter. And while I am EXTREMELY grateful for my requests, I have to wonder: why would they reject the query, and not the pitch?

Were they just sick of reading queries on the particular day they read mine?

Did they actually not see the query at all, and an assistant rejected it? (In which case, should they really be letting other people screen their queries, since everyone's taste is obviously different?)

Had they been requesting romance up the wazoo before they read my query, and rejected based on that alone?

Were they playing eenie meenie mynie moe?

There's any number of possibilities. But the question all these possibilities raise is this: Does every query really get the attention it deserves?

Lately, I feel like the answer is no.

I recently trolled through entries in a contest I entered, but ultimately did not get chosen for. So you can probably imagine my indignation when one of the entries I read - an entry supposedly screened and hand-selected by a panel of readers - had glaring spelling and grammatical errors.

And you can imagine my outright horror when multiple agents requested on it.

So I have to ask - Did anyone really read the damn thing? Or did eenie meenie mynie moe strike again?

All of this tells me that there really is no rhyme or reason to this querying biz. An agent can reject a query one day, and then request pages from a pitch on the same project the next day. One day they're on Blogger or Twitter putting queriers on blast for silly mistakes, and the next they're overlooking them.

So is the query letter really as important as everyone makes it out to be? Or is good luck what you actually need the most? Have any of you had similar experiences?