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First Round of Agent Searches
Michael R Underwood
Posted: Friday, March 4, 2011 6:55 PM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 74

I'm now sixty-six queries into an agent search for my New Weird Superhero novel (Shield & Crocus).  I admit that my initial query letter wasn't great, and wish now that I'd taken longer refining my query letter to make sure that it served the novel better.

I've had seven partial manuscript requests, which have now all come back as rejections, with various levels and types of response.  I've attempted to address the primary concern expressed (that being that some agents didn't feel like they had connected with the characters) and made notable revisions, especially in the beginning of the manuscript.

I'm now continuing to scour the internet for agents that I've somehow missed, and keeping tabs on those who aren't currently accepting queries to see if they'll open up again.  It's been a very informative process, and I feel much more confident for when I finish my current novel and get it to the point of being able to query, even if the current round doesn't result in an offer of representation.


Jill Myles
Posted: Saturday, March 5, 2011 1:49 AM
Joined: 2/26/2011
Posts: 13

Hang in there - the agent search can be brutal. If you've only had 7 partial requests (and no fulls) in 66 letters, I definitely think a lot of it is your query. If a lot of them are coming back with the same 'can't connect to the characters' comments, have you thought about putting the main character into a situation at the beginning that will automatically establish likability? It's discussed in SAVE THE CAT (which is a brilliant book).
Michael R Underwood
Posted: Saturday, March 5, 2011 3:44 AM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 74

Jill, I recently did some edits recently that were designed to bring out the lead's character. My lead is a very analytical sort, which means he has a tendency to be removed from things as he's recounting them -- I'd tried to have the characterization conveyed through his description and interpretation, but readers have told me that they still feel distant from the action. Therefore. I've tried to go back in and insert more moments of emotional breakthrough to show his emotional investment,
Michael R Underwood
Posted: Saturday, March 5, 2011 3:48 AM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 74

(Note -- I wasn't able to make a longer-than-one-paragraph response -- looks like a character limit issue.) But now what I really want is the ability to go back and re-query agents with my better letter and revised manuscript. I guess the big takeaway here is to do more revision (manuscript and query both) before submitting next time.
Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Saturday, March 5, 2011 1:34 PM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356

Michael - Perhaps you'd be willing to share your query here in the Discussions forum? We set up a special Discussions Topic in the Business of Writing section called Workshop Your Query. Get some feedback from the community over there! I agree that if you've only had a handful of requests out of sixty-six tries, your query simply isn't working. Understand too that the number of agents who rep SF/F as well as the number of editors who acquire it are shrinking all the time, so you'll have a muc
Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Saturday, March 5, 2011 1:36 PM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356

Ack! Typo! I meant to say you'll have a much tough time breaking in if your writing ISN'T stellar. But do move over to the Workshop Your Query area and see if you can't get some helpful feedback.
Michael R Underwood
Posted: Saturday, March 5, 2011 5:10 PM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 74

Per your suggestion, Colleen, I've started a query critique thread here: http://www.bookcountry.com/Community/StartDiscussion.aspx?c=4&t=28
Beth Williamson
Posted: Sunday, March 6, 2011 1:28 AM
Joined: 3/4/2011
Posts: 2

Hi Michael. Finding an agent can definitely be one of the toughest tasks as a writer. If you don't already, you should start reading agent blogs to get some great tips on your query and approach. Some good ones are Book Ends, http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/, Pub Rants http://pubrants.blogspot.com/, and Query Shark http://queryshark.blogspot.com/. Good luck!
Ellie Isis
Posted: Sunday, March 6, 2011 3:34 PM
Joined: 3/4/2011
Posts: 60

Hang in there! I had many rejections before getting my first agent, and when she moved on to a different field, I had to go through the entire process again. That time, though, I ended up with seven offers! I highly recommend querytracker.net for finding agents who represent what you write.
Michael R Underwood
Posted: Monday, March 7, 2011 3:33 PM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 74

Thank you all for the encouragement and suggestions. I've been using querytracker and following most of the links/blogs mentioned here. Trying to figure out the best way to frame and pitch a New Weird Superhero novel is proving to be as difficult as you'd expect, but I still think it's marketable given the right take. To incitata's point, I do feel that the revisions I've made in the last six months are substantial, so I may go back through the queries I sent and see where it'd be appropriate
Judi Fennell
Posted: Saturday, March 12, 2011 1:09 AM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 9

Michael, work on your query. It should be, at most, 3 or 4 paragraphs and consist of: opening (hook, genre, word count, the fact that it's completed and any built-in audiences you have for it). Next paragraph should be an expansion on the hook with [BRIEF] character descriptions (think of the most intriguing aspect of the characters), and the premise of the story. Next paragraph (if necessary) should discuss the black moment and the ending hook (NOT "if you want to see how this ends, request my manuscript"). The query is an expanded elevator pitch. The last paragraph should be something about you that relates to the writing, not that you're an architect if you're writing about sci-fi. If, however, you're an archaeologist and your story is about a lost city, you could mention that. But you want to include writing-related things: contest finalist/winner, etc. Include contact information and a "thank you" and let it go at that. This is the first look at your writing so make that elevator pitch shine.
Michael R Underwood
Posted: Saturday, March 12, 2011 2:27 PM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 74

If anyone has the time and inclination, I'd love some more feedback on my query letter over in this thread:


ken miller
Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2011 3:14 AM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 1

hmmm...maybe it's me, but having several agents offer specific critiques should be encouraging...not as much as a contract, but still...
Vikram Karve
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 8:32 AM
Joined: 5/3/2011
Posts: 4

A very informative discussion.
Thanks Beth Williamson for the links to agent blogs.
Well, here in India there are hardly any literary agents and a writer has to approach publishers directly and sometimes it is a very frustrating experience.
Marc Poliquin
Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2012 12:52 PM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 67

Great thread.  I've just started going down that road myself with my thriller Dead Switch.  Judi, I'm wondering if you could expand a little further on what you mean by "ending hook".  Are you referring to the ending of your book, or crafting an ending to the query that will make an agent want to read more.  Thanks.

Michael R Hagan
Posted: Friday, March 15, 2013 9:08 PM
Joined: 10/14/2012
Posts: 229

Yea... Its a year old question, but if you're out there Judi, I was hoping you could expand on this too.
LaClaire Nzerem
Posted: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 3:19 PM
Joined: 5/29/2013
Posts: 1

I have a question...is there a market for literary agents? Do they really do what you pay them to do? Or can anyone tell me an agent who has successfully helped them out, got them a book deal? Maybe one of us should write a book or draft up a cartoon about agents who ask for money so they can read ...."Okay for 100.00 more bucks I can tell you what to do next. Or is reading and rejection a growing market, and are the things they read really good, but as a literary agent, the critic in one comes out, and its not as good as "I" could have written....
Also, does anyone know of a publishing company who really is looking for a completely finished manuscript like in the old days....? Claire


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