The Query Process | Writing
Ironically as writers, we authors tend to add numbers to everything. The number of rejections we got, the number of drafts we’ve written, the number of books we’ve completed, and the number of agents we’ve submitted to. Today I thought I would share my insight into the query process of writing.
Where I Began
As a writer, I started submitting to agents at the age of 16 years old. I was not a good writer at 16 years old, but I had chutzpah and unending self-confidence and determination with regards to my writing.
However, whilst I submitted to many agents regarding my first novel – never to see the light of day again! – I only ever got rejections. At the time I didn’t take note of it, as I was an unorganised teenager. But, by the time I got around to submitting my next novel – technically the third one I wrote – I kept track of these sorts of things.
My Mr Keats and the Query Process
When I was twenty years old I completed my third historical fiction novel: My Mr Keats. I’d written it whilst at University studying history and creative writing degree, and by that point, my writing had come on leaps and bounds since writing practically Romeo & Juliet fanfiction in my teenage bedroom.
I decided to be methodical in the Query Process this time. I got a copy of the Writers & Artists Yearbook and went through the agent’s section page by page, highlighting the agents I thought most suitable for my work. I then did deeper research into these selected agencies via Google, until I had whittled the number down to 20 agencies I wanted to submit to.
The next stage was adding all of this data to a spreadsheet, separating it out into:
- Agency Name
- Date Submitted
- Response Date
And if I got a request for a full book or, an R&R – revise and resubmit – I added a further section:
- Full Manuscript
- Response #2
I began submitting My Mr Keats to agents on the 10th April 2016. A bit of a mistake as this was smack-bang during London Book Fair! But you live and learn.
The Query Results: My Mr Keats
I submitted the manuscript to:
- 25 agencies
- 2 publishers
- 10 rejections – 1 of which was personalised with full details and feedbacks
- 13 no-replies
- 3 requests for the full manuscript
Out of the three agents that read my full manuscript, one of them was actually my boss at the time – as I was interning at a literary agency – who I’m pretty sure read it out of politeness, but that was really lovely of her.
The responses from the other two agents went as such:
So sorry to take so long to get back to you!
I actually shared your manuscript with another agent here
as I thought it might be a good fit for her. She got back to
me today to say she enjoyed it, but just didn’t love it the way
she needed to be a good agent to you, and I’m afraid I feel similarly.
Thanks so much for thinking of us, and best of luck with your submission.
I’m afraid the news from XXX isn’t as good as it could be, and MY MR KEATS isn’t something for us. Please do see this as a sign of how few new clients we take on rather than a reflection on your writing. I hope another of the agents currently reading your manuscript will fall in love with it and snap you up, but if not we would be very happy to read whatever you write next. Sorry not to be writing a more cheery email, And all my good wishes,
You win some and you lose some. And I moved away from agenting at that point to crowdfunding. But that’s another story, which can be read here!
Book 4: God Help the Girl
A year later I had left university and was working full-time in London as an Administrator and during my lunch breaks I wrote a novel. A full year after completing it and going over it with a fine-tooth comb, I decided to brave the querying process once again.
My Mr Keats had knocked my confidence somewhat, especially after I failed to crowdfund its publication. But now I was working in the publishing industry and I had more of a sense of the market and how to pitch. Or I thought I did.
I made the decision to submit my work under a pseudonym, as at this point I was working as a Marketing and Publicity Executive at a publishing house, who regularly dealt with agents. I also want to re-submit my work to previous agents, including my old boss, without anyone re-considering my previous work as a means to skip over this one. You can say I was paranoid!
The Query Process: God Help the Girl
I began the process as I did before, going through the latest Writers & Artists Yearbook and selecting my agents carefully. Reviewing their websites and putting together a personalised pitch. And then came the actual querying.
I began submitting on the 8th May 2018.
I submitted the manuscript to:
- 28 literary agencies
- 14 rejections – three of which included detailed feedback
- 3 requests for the full manuscript – one of whom never got back to me
All in all both of the agents that requested the full manuscript passed (or never replied), once again.
What to do when you’re rejected a second time?
I decided to send my manuscript to one more agent and if they passed to put it in a drawer and move on. However, this agent suggested I submit it to the Simon & Schuster One Day Submissions that were open until midnight that night.
That took me on a whole different journey which led me to get my agent Hannah Weatherill at Northbank Talent Agency! For the full story on how I got my agent during this process, you can read my post on How I Got a Literary Agent.
The reason I wanted to share this post about the query process is simple: to remind writers that it takes perseverance and does not happen overnight.
You could say that it took me nine years to get an agent! But ultimately it really took me three books and a lot of emails.
My sixth book – What Planet Can I Blame This On? – is actually the first one to be getting published. And the submission process, once you have an agent, is a whole different kettle of fish! Something I’ll write a post about another day.
I hope this was helpful in clearing away the glamour of ‘getting published’. We writers need a thick skin, and often a calculator to deal with the amount of numbers we acquire in our careers!
But don’t be disheartened. It happens to all of us. Just keep trying, and you never know what agent or which connection is going to lead to which success.