This is a guest post by Lis Angus.
I finished the fifth draft of my novel in October 2019. I sent it to beta readers in November and used their input to produce draft 5A by January. I sent it to my editor in February. By March 2020 I thought it was time to take my baby out into the world.
I had written my query letter and my synopsis. I road-tested them both with other writers. I had a list of agents who represented suspense novels like mine.
I was ready to start querying.
In my first two days of querying, I sent queries to the top seven agents on my list. That same day one of them requested a synopsis and my full manuscript. I was sailing!
But a week later I received her rejection. Ah, well. It was too much to expect that the first agent requesting my manuscript would make me an offer.
Meanwhile, I’d heard nothing from my other six queries. I decided to sort my list to prioritize those who typically responded most quickly: I didn’t want to wait months for rejections. I continued sending out queries, a few at a time.
By mid-April, I’d had three more requests for my full manuscript, and I was feeling very encouraged. But one by one, they turned me down. By May 2, I’d sent out 21 queries. Besides the four agents who’d asked for my manuscript, eight sent email rejections and the others didn’t respond at all (and still haven’t).
A Fork in the Road
I faced a choice: I hadn’t been querying long, but should I simply keep going, or was it time to take stock?
Advice from Chuck Sambuchino, a longtime editor at Writer’s Digest: don’t pitch every agent on your list at once. If you’re getting rejection after rejection, there’s a chance that your query letter or the novel itself needs more work. So don’t burn all your chances—if you end up revising your query or manuscript, you want to still have agents you haven’t approached.
I was pretty sure my query letter was doing its job since it had prompted four agents in a row to request my manuscript. But when they read it, they weren’t “falling in love.” In other words, it just wasn’t grabbing them; they weren’t convinced they could sell it to a publisher.
Maybe it was time to have another look at it myself I decided to pause querying. I arranged to exchange manuscripts with another writer. Based on her feedback, and my own re-read. I could see ways to improve my novel—hopefully in ways that an agent could get enthusiastic about.
I’ve now spent the summer rewriting. I’ve removed a couple of minor storylines, have tightened and revamped, and there’s now a completely different ending. I’m still fine-tuning, but I hope to restart my agent search shortly.
I’ll have my fingers crossed. Stay tuned!
Lis Angus is a suspense writer living in Eastern Ontario. She grew up in Alberta, then lived in Germany for two years before moving to Ottawa to study journalism and social sciences.
She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada and Capital Crime Writers, and is an active participant in the North Grenville Writers Circle. She and her husband have two daughters and two grandchildren, and live in a small town south of Ottawa.
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