Insecure Writers’ Support Group

Ah! It’s nice to get a chance to share my insecurities with you all today. Although I tend to be really honest when I blog, I do try to tone down on worrying here, since I think it would really annoy you if  I shared my insecurities all the time.

But thanks for Alex, and the Insecure Writers’ Support Group, all of us get to share whatever worries us once a month and everyone supports each other. And today, I get to co-host as well, so welcome one and all!
But now, let me share what’s been bothering me. 
As some of you may know, I have been querying my first ever completed manuscript since September last year. 
I’ve basically been getting “no” ever since. But here’s the thing. I have a sneaking suspicion. Nothing I can prove, but that’s niggling me. 
I’m starting to think no one’s even reading my submission. 
The first few I forgive because, well. My query sucked. Now though, I have a really good one. And my book has been edited to a shine.
I’ve had positive feedback on the book again and again from people who never met me and who are from all walks of life and even different countries, so the safe assumption would be that my story has broad appeal. 
And yet, it took five months before I got a real personal rejection. And that one opened my eyes. Because this is THE agent in my genre. Who took a week extra to decide if he’d ask for more or not. (And no, he wasn’t late in responding because of being very busy. He thanked me for my patience while he decided.) 
The reason why he rejected the novel actually sucks, because what he’d seen as a problem was actually an impression created by the amount of words he’s requested. 
Point being. He looked at my query and saw something. Why hasn’t 40+ agents in two different countries? Yes, I know it’s a subjective business and all that, but if THAT agent saw something and no one else does, I’m thinking there’s something off. 
And basically, I think my problem comes down to two words. 
Portal. 
Fantasy. 
You see, somewhere, someone decided that it’s unpublishable and therefore not sellable. (Not a conspiracy theory.) So the moment someone sees it’s portal fantasy, they just dump the query. 
So that leaves me wondering. Do I lie in the query and take out the bit that starts on earth? Because odds are, they’ll just stop reading the moment my book starts on earth. So yeah. 
I’m starting to think that traditional publishing is out for this book. 
But as much as I know that this is going on, I still can’t help but think that maybe my book just isn’t as good as I think it is. 
So. Here’s my question. Anyone else been getting the feeling lately that agents aren’t really reading your submissions? I’m not talking about only spending a few seconds on a query before reading or dumping. I’m talking about not even giving the author a chance.
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51 thoughts on “Insecure Writers’ Support Group

  1. I just finished the first draft of my first ever novel, so I'm no judge.

    I'm reading a Fantasy series by L. E. Modestit…and I do find the earth bit a little unnecessary. But that's just me.

    I'm sure if you believe in your work, things will begin to happen. They happened to a writer I know well, Sarah Butler, who has taught me in workshops. One day she had two novels in her drawer after years of writing and no agent, the next she had a book with Picador, an agent, and rights sold in 16 different countries. Literally.

    Google her up, and you'll know what I'm talking about. Keep the faith 🙂

  2. Agents are very busy people, but what I gather from the ones whose blogs I read, they do read the queries – it's their job. When I was first submitting, it was very very hard to be published traditionally. And it still is. But with the rise of self-publishing, it seems like it's easier. It isn't. Your query hits the agent's desk at the same time as 20/30/40 others. One day the right person will read it. Maybe go back and look at the query – if you think starting on earth is a problem, take it out for the next batch and see what happens! And don't give up hope. If you don't query, it'll never be published!! Good luck 🙂

  3. The publishing landscape has changed so much recently. Agents are hungrier than before, but to stay solvent, I think they're looking for the blockbusters. (To which I say, good luck with that.)

    I've had two agents contact me, so they are hunting for properties–and one of the books that caught their attention dealt with time travel. (I turned them down since I'm not interested in representation.)

    Don't give up Misha. If nothing else, try a smaller press to get your foot in the door. You can always submit a second book to agents once you have something published elsewhere.

  4. Know how you feel. Mine was said to non marketable because it was a YA Crossover with the MC being 18 and in the eighties. But the peeps who have read it, love it. ***shrugs***

    Good luck.

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

  5. It's been a while since I've traveled down the looking-for-an-agent road, but
    I am vastly familiar with the “maybe this isn't as good as I think it is” quandary. I find it's a cyclical thing and the best way to stay calm and carry on… I'm not always very good at this, but it's what I try to do.

    Hang in there; your book is going to do great.

  6. That's unfortunate that portal fantasy is viewed as unpublishable. I personally really like portal books and getting to see the characters taken completely out of their element and forced to cope in an extreme situation is very interesting!
    Definitely keep querying and remember, fifty no's and a yes, means yes

  7. Hmmm…I'm not really sure. Since signing with my agent, I've stepped back from the querying arena. But what I do know is that some agents are mega busy, lately, with all the changes in the industry. Now, with saying that, I'd hope no agent would just blow an author's query off.

  8. Hi Misha!

    Thanks for co-hosting IWSG day – it's great to find your blog in the great big blogoshpere and I'm going to check out your other posts after this.

    I'm now an indie author, but before I went indie I had a similar experience. In fact, the first ever agent I sent my ms to asked to see the whole thing, and really liked it! She suggested changes, I made them, but it didn't go any further. But then – and this is where I get you totally – I sent the same query and partial out to over 20 more carefully selected agents and no one else even asked to see the whole thing! Now, if it was total garbage, why did the first agent like it? I also came to the conclusion that they weren't reading it, for whatever reason, and I just gave up.

    That's not to say you should give up, though! But you should know you're not on your own.

    Jo x

  9. I've never tried to submit so I am probably the less indicated to speak but I'll tell you this. If the formula you're using is not giving you the result you seek, change the formula for different results.

  10. At least you tried, I haven't sent out one query yet. Nope, not a one. I'm still working on my edits and revisions, but I've been saying that for far too long now.

    Keep your chin up and keep on plugging along. All it takes is that one yes. Just one. 🙂

  11. Great question. I stopped querying agents around 2006 because I decided they're nuts. I had an agent work with me for 2 weeks, tell me to go off to a quiet place, fix the ms as per his instructions, then send it back. The process took me a month. I returned the ms with the changes he desired. Six weeks later I queried to see how he liked the changes. He emailed back that he wasn't taking on new clients at this time. I then replied that I'd sent the changes he required. He emailed back to say he wasn't taking on new clients at this time.

    Holy IWSG! That was the last straw. I'd divorceed my last agent just prior to beginning this marathon with him, so I decided to quit querying agents. It's probably something I should rethink, but honestly Misha, do I want to go through that again? I dunno.

    Happy IWSG!

  12. Oh Misha, I feel your pain. Portal fantasy is a super hard sell. I don't know if they're just writing you off, but agents can be difficult to catch the eye of. It's a big deal that you got a personalized rejection from someone though. Especially since he really considered. It's possible there were a lot of others who hmmmed and hawed a bit too.

    I don't think any agent just gives the old heave-ho unless they've really been burned by it in the past.

  13. I'm not up to that point…yet…but I can empathize. Yeah, it doesn't sound like some are even reading it given the responses you've been getting.

    All it takes is one, though…and I'm sure you'll get it.

    Thanks for co-hosting this month's IWSG!

  14. Uh, yup. 🙂 I'm currently writing portal fantasy. Harry Potter is portal fantasy. (No blockbuster there.) O.o

    Traditional publishing – IMHO – is seeking out the blockbuster. I mean, Sookie from Jersey Shores (or whatever it is)? Really? Reality TV?

    I think real readers will read anything that's a great story. Period. The problem boils down to getting it published, not that your book isn't good enough. Keep the faith. As others said, try smaller indie publishers. As for me, I decided to become an indie author and I love having control of all aspects of my writing – story line, cover, price.

  15. Oh, Misha, I can so relate to this. Since some agents have gone to the 'if you don't hear from me by XX, consider it a no' it makes it even easier to doubt that the agents are actually reading the queries.

    However, I've read agent blogs/tweets and have spoke with agents at conferences who've told me they actually do read the queries.

    I've heard it can take 100+ queries to land an agent. That's A LOT of rejection. The way I cope with it…I have a list of books I want to read (even though my TBR is stocked). Every time I get a rejection, I get a new book (thanks to eBooks, some of these are free). It takes a heaping of bravery to send out a query and I find this method takes some of the sting out of rejection.

    Wish you the best of luck, Misha!

  16. That can be a most difficult choice to make. I want to see my book traditionally published and yet do it all myself at the same time. In this instance, one can really not have it both ways. But personally, I don't see how agents can possibly read even a portion of what they apparently ask for in terms of fulls or partials.

  17. I'm fairly sure you're right and this is based on experience with an organization that vets mss. and then subs those we feel have the best chance of getting requests for partials or fulls. These go to a panel of agents who have agreed to read those vetted mss. The readers (I'm one) feel that agents just aren't reading the subs anymore.

    My guess is that the volume has increased so much, agents can't get to most mail in their inboxes. They're only human! I know my mailboxes are always overflowing and I'm not an agent–just a reader/reviewer/critiquer.

  18. I think if you believe in your story and have really made it into what you want it to be, just get it out there through self-publishing and let the readers decide. 🙂

  19. The fastest rejection I ever got was about 60 seconds after pressing send! Now I KNOW it couldn't have been looked at in that time so I'm guessing they had some sort of automatic rejection in place but it did make me think how do different agencies manage their slush pile? As other's have already said here, I think you have to hope it lands on the right desk/screen at the right time. If only we had some way of knowing when and where that was! Keep going, it might just be around the corner for you 🙂

  20. Have you attended any conferences and spoken with agents personally? If not that would be my advice and also I would scrap the query and start over, perhaps a video or book trailer?
    Are you writing something else?

  21. Maybe it's just not the right time for your book? Which genre sells is partly down to fashion and that's something that can change quite quickly.

  22. I had a similar experience and even had one rejection come back 5 minutes after I sent the query. I was actually kind of impressed with that one. The form rejections suck, but I think they're still better than getting no response at all. Are you querying only to agents, or directly to small publishers, too? That may be another avenue.

  23. I think it's also a matter of catching them on the right day, in the right mood. I don't think they really know what they're looking for, just hoping something will jump out at them.

    mood

  24. I'm not at this stage in my writing journey so all I can do is show my support. But I think that if you believe in your book, then don't give up. Try changing your query around a tad if you think that will help. You just need to find that one agent and I think if you keep trying you'll find them.

  25. I don't speak from experience, having never sought or used an agent, but I'm skeptical of them in the first place. It seems like a really good sign, though, that an agent was very thoughtful about whether or not to take you on. The whole thing is so challenging. Keep faith.
    (I self published, and I don't regret it for a minute.)

    PS Thanks for co-hosting the IWSG!

  26. First off, Jolene, I love your comment!

    Misha, have I told you this before? My CP's name is Nisha. 🙂 Anyways, I sympathize with you. I don't think you should give up. So many agents blog, have you thought about asking them your question? Try Twitter. Some are nice, others, not so nice, but it's worth a try.

    Agents are busy, and most of what I've read, they generally care. But on the flip side, I also think that some just breeze through their inboxes looking for the next big thing to jump out at them.

    This is a wild / crazy time for writers. The publishing world changes every day. There are so many options out there. Why don't you try your luck with a smaller press? Oooh, check out Curiosity Quills submission page http://curiosityquills.com/submission-guidelines/author-submissions/ (sorry, not a whiz at posting links!)

    Best of luck to you!!

  27. This just sucks. I truly feel your pain. And I often wonder the same thing- did they even read it?! What's more, I've gotten a couple of requests which were then requested on each of the books I've sent out ( not telling how many that is:) and not a single flipping one gave me anything I could use to improve the manuscript. If you're gonna leave me in suspense for six dang months, the least you could do is tell me WHY you rejected it! I know there are valid reasons they don't do this but still…throw a girl a bone ( or a chocolate or something)!
    But, at some point I think you just have to shrug and move on. Maybe its the next one that will land you an agent, and then they'll actually read your portal fantasy and love it too.
    Also, I just recently read a list of thing's “we'd like to see more authors do” ( I don't remember if this was by an agent or publisher..) and one thing on the list was portal fantasy!

  28. This is just my opinion…I don't think leaving parts out of your query is lying. The query is the hook. If the important parts of your book have nothing to do w/ starting out on Earth and then leaving Earth, then don't put it in. Put in more about the characters or their conflicts. That's what they want to know about.

    Also, I tend to agree with you, and here is why. I sent my query to Agent X after reading their submission guidelines incredibly carefully. They demand that you send to a specific agent from their list. So, I did. Then I get a generic rejection letter (they used that word in the letter) and said they 'carefully read' my query but no thanks. Then I see on Twitter the 'agent' that I sent to is away on a trip. The chances of that agent seeing my query were slim to none.

    We will prevail.
    Keep trying.
    Heather

  29. I haven't started querying yet, so can't say, but maybe pick a conference you can afford/get to and do a pitch there. Having a send from an agent might make them actually read your query.

    Other than that, like others have said, if you believe in your book, and I'm sure you do, keep at it. Find someone else who is querying and get into a competition for who gets the most rejections. I know people who frame them. I know people who file them. I know people who use them as wallpaper. I have a friend who loves to tell people that she got rejected by every agent out there at least once and knows exactly how many rejections she got.

    In other words, it WILL happen for you. But maybe you're right. Maybe right now they're avoiding the topic. I wouldn't recommend being misleading in your query, because that could bite you in the arse. But if you've submitted to everyone you'd like to, maybe set it aside for a little while then start querying again. The trends move through pretty quickly, and portals might come back in.

    Above all else, don't doubt your work. Don't let them do that to you.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  30. The fact that there are agents in your genre proves that book has a market.
    Maybe, you should just mention the fantasy part and let the agents discover the portals and other aspects of the book on their own.

    I am no one to give you advice regarding agents but I'd say, keeping querying but write something else in the meantime. Very often, a first book never sees the light of the day or does much latter after other books have been written and/or published.

  31. This is exactly why I chose to go straight to self-publishing. I couldn't deal with the unfairness of it all. It sounds so unbalanced in their favour. They hold all the cards, to the point that you're thinking of sacrificing some story element, or lying (omitting) on a form, just to get them to READ the book. Awful, I feel for you Misha. But because you so desperately want to go the traditional route, try the face-to-face conferences – pitch it there. Maybe set a time-scale. After that, if nothing comes of it, please don't doubt your abilities or your book. Self-publish. I don't have to list how many awesome author classically did this because of the very same predicament. Wishing you all the luck in the world Misha. X

    Shah (http://bit.ly/10637Ft)

  32. It's so hard to pin-point why an agent doesn't request for more. If you hadn't done this already, I would go to a bookstore, find a book like yours and see which publisher published that book. Then look inside and see if the author thanked their agent and or editor. Find those people and submit to them. They obviously took the chance no one else did. Good luck. (I didn't read all the comments above, so hopefully I'm not repeating someone. lol)

  33. As I read this, I was thinking that you might want to self-publish. Your book is probably awesome, but agents always say they won't touch a book that feels un-sellable, even if the writing is spot on. That doesn't mean you won't rock the self-pubbed world and later get an agent/publishing deal. Kristin Nelson talked about this in one of her recent PubRants posts.

  34. The thing that annoys me about agents and publishers is that they act like they're doing US a favour, when, actually, it's the other way round. Without writers, their jobs wouldn't exist! 😦

    Good luck honey, don't let them get you down! 🙂

    Xx

  35. Agents definitely do not read every query. For one thing, they have assistants and slush readers, for another, they often pass on queries very quickly, after seeing one thing that tells them they can't sell the book, regardless of how good it is.

  36. I agree with Matthew, interns and assistants are reading the slush pile and I'm sure many of the queries never make it to the agent. And if the query is for a book they don't think they can sell, they will pass no matter how strong the writing is. But it is a subjective business. What one person passes on another may love.

  37. Ahh, my IWSG post is so similar to yours. I feel you. I'm in the exact same place!

    The querying/slush process is SO SO subjective. Case in point? I just received a full request in a contest from an agent who had REJECTED that same query back in November. Just goes to show.

    I'm not going to give up on traditional publishing. Frankly, I just don't want to be that much of a self-marketer to self-pub. I want to write and I want someone else to guide me through the marketing process.

    I love to write. I'm going to keep on writing, keep on subbing. I have to!

    Plus, all these novels we write that don't land us the book deal? Well they're just things we can publish after the debut, when we've gained an audience right?

  38. Oh man, so sorry to hear what you've been going through. I have no idea if agents are reading your query or not, but I do think the publishing industry suffers from group mentality. It seems like a very small collection of people get to decide what people like to read. I think there is a huge market for portal fantasy. Don't give up. If you can't find an agent, you can always publish it yourself. Readers and writers no longer have to rely on gatekeepers to tell us what to write and what to read.

  39. You know what, Misha…. Now that you mention it, I feel the same way. FIrst I think the assistants who are actually doing the dumping. They are judging out work, NOT THE AGENT.

    My novel should bring tons of interest. It's an edgy y/a with a seventeen year old male POV. Aren't they ALWAYS looking for a male voice. The y/a market is inundated with whiny female teens. I also had a small publisher very interested but ended up passing because it wasn't romantic enough for their lineup. She even finished the novel knowing by the third chapter it wasn't right. She sent me an amazing letter.

    I also had a full request from an agent and NOTHING. Never heard from her again. So it is NUTS.

    I think your premise sounds intriguing. Do a sample run and leave out the portal. See what happens. You really have nothing to lose.

  40. Misha, I read somewhere that if you could read every word ever written, your favorite book would have come as dusty pages out of someone's desk drawer, having never been published. We've all shared your frustration.

    You'r making the right decision by turning back to your writing. Before you know it, you'll have two completed manuscripts, which doubles your chances of finding an agent interested in one, and of course they'll read the other if they liked the first.

    Writers write. KEEP WRITING! 🙂

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