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Rejection Letters as Wallpaper: My Search for a Literary Agent
Six drafts, 1.5 years, and 45 beta readers later...
I finished my book.
3 alpha readers.
3 critique partners.
45 beta readers.
By now, I'm sick of reading my own words. But that's when they say it's time to put it out into the world!
In this newsletter:
The dreaded querying process
Beta reading bonanza
Want to write a book with me in November? (NaNoWriMo)
Drink wine with me
The Dreaded Querying Process
Unfortunately, once you finish a book, you can't just print it out, walk into Barnes & Noble, shove all the other books off the front display table, and put yours there. I know...right?!
Instead, you need an agent.
Then a publisher.
It's complicated, so I drew an infographic:
I'm on Step #2: Find an Agent
You write an entire manuscript, and all you send to agents is a one-page pitch letter and your first chapter. That's it! Then you wait 1-6 months for a response.
I've been silent on social media about the querying process because:
1) selfishly- no one likes to talk about being rejected,
2) practically- I don't want agents to see how long I've been querying
But I think it's important to show the real behind-the-scenes, not just the good stuff, so here comes vulnerability!
So far, I've queried 24 agents:
- 7 rejections
- 17 pending submissions
- 0 mega-million offers (yet)
Of those 7 rejections, 3 weren't the best fit (I shouldn't have queried them, but I was looking for a confidence boost...HA. FAIL), and one I sent too early with weak materials. The other 3 rejections semi-hurt. (This batch is my C-Tier of agents). But still, I think my book is great. How dare they disagree!!
What's worse than the generic "it's not you, it's me" form rejections is the WAITING. And the GUESSING. Instead of rejecting, some agents never respond! You devolve into guesswork...Are they still considering me? Did they hate me instantly? Most of my submissions have been out for ~45+ days, and I just don't know! It's enough to drive a girl to wine. *sips wine as she writes this*
Luckily, there's a query-tracking software (called QueryTracker, crazy I know) where authors self-report their submissions and responses. So for agents who do reject, I can watch my Judgement Day creep closer. Of my 17 pending submissions, at least 3 agents have skipped over me in the queue, which I like to believe means I'm being considered!
Below is the past 90 days' submissions for an agent who passed over my submission (highlighted in yellow):
My excitement over being in the Maybe Pile has melted into angsty ennui
Yeah, that list is long. Some agents receive over 150 submissions per DAY! Seems like I wasn't the only one to write a book during COVID. Sigh.
For now, I'm trying to adopt healthy coping mechanisms like not checking the QueryTracker website every day and not rapidly refreshing my email just in case a manuscript request came through in the last 5 minutes. *Sips wine again*
But because I'm a masochist, I require myself to go for a run after every rejection and then hang the rejection on the wall.
Do you like my new wallpaper?
If you're a super-sleuth with microscope eyeballs, you might've noticed--my last rejection was August 18th. Almost a month ago! I've paused querying until I hear back from the 3 agents who I know have Maybe Pile-ed me. (I can make up words, I'm an author). If those end up also being rejections, I might need to rewrite my first chapter! Yuck.
Fear not, I'm not terribly sad. Mostly impatient. This batch of agents was mainly meant to assess my query materials' quality...which hasn't been as ego-boosting as I desired. Nevertheless, I still have ~30 A/B-Tier agents to query, so the party (and running / wall-papering) has just begun!
Beta Reading Bonanza
If you follow my Instagram, you might've seen I posted a "Call for Beta Readers" there a while back. Well, it went astoundingly well! The amount of people willing and eager to read my book warmed my wine-filled heart.
Having had a low completion rate with my Alpha Readers (only 1 out of 3, albeit with a much rougher draft), I decided to invite a larger list of 51 beta readers, expecting most of them would drop out...
Yep, we all knew the graphs were coming
Not the case! 41% of invited beta readers finished the entire book! Keep in mind, I wasn't asking these people to leisurely read. This was a massive favor. I asked them to read a 53-chapter, 106,000 word novel on clunky beta-reading software (Betareader.io) and add comments/feedback within a 3-week timeframe. And 21 people did exactly that!
...Now I HAVE to get it published, since I promised signed copies to those who finished...
Joking aside, I've lived in this story for over a year, developing characters and plot twists that I didn't speak about with anyone, waiting patiently for my book to be ready enough (in my eyes) to share, for a reader to finally read my ending and say, "it worked."
And they did.
Having people read and critique something you created, a story you pulled from your own mind...it's scary.
But it's also an honor.
Thank you, my glorious beta readers! Though I am still digging through your comments (and procrastinating with this newsletter instead), I am already so grateful for your support. Your feedback has made this book stronger!
Yes, I lied. I' not technicallllyyy done with Draft 6. I got feedback overload and had to take a break. Luckily, those agents are so darn slow, I have time to polish :)
Let's write a book!
Every November, (National Novel Writing Month), people commit to sprint-writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. This was how I wrote the very first draft of my book! Now, I'm itching to start a new one.
Want to join an accountability group? Let's gather the book-writing troops and hang out in silence as we spew garbage onto our keyboards. Let me know if you're interested!
Wow, Caroline, that sounds (and looks) so...FUN!
Drink wine with me!
Did you know I've been a virtual wine tasting host for In Good Taste wines since March? Nothing pairs better with writing & revising than a glass (bottle?) of wine! I've hosted everything from bachelor parties to 100+ person corporate events.
If you order 6+ wine flights, a tasting with Yours Truly comes free. Reach out for more details!
Thanks for reading!
That's all for now! Hopefully, I'll have more exciting news for you in the coming months. Or, I'll become a professional runner and wall-paper-er. 🌊
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