The truth about agent queries

When I got my first book published in 2012, I thought I’d made it. Really, it was just the beginning. After a lackluster release of my second novel, I got out of that contract and re-released it on my own. (Both books have kick ass reviews on Amazon, by the way.) Meanwhile, I’ve been sending agent queries for my third book and getting the nicest rejections ever.

In fact, I’ve sent more than fifty queries for this book and I’ve gotten a really promising response. I’ve had requests for full reads from about a third of those, many from top agencies, like Writer’s House, Trident, ICM, Levine Greenburg, etc. One of those agents called me on the phone to discuss my book.

I keep getting the same response. Here’s the remix:

“We’ve determined that this particular project isn’t the right fit for our agency at this time.  As I’m sure you know, the publishing industry changes swiftly now, as do readers’ tastes and trends.”

“Given how competitive the market is, I worry I’d have difficulty placing it. I’m going to step aside so you can work with an agent who will give your work the full enthusiasm it deserves.”

“Do query others; you deserve an agent who will really fall in love with this, and who has the vision for your work that will help you achieve the career you want.”

“We would like to encourage you to consider querying us with future projects as you may deem appropriate.”

My debut novel sold over 10,000 copies. I’m getting warm responses from beta readers. The other great writers I know, even those with publishing history, are hitting a similar wall. It’s really hard to tell whether agents just aren’t taking on new writers or whether the book just isn’t ready.

So with a mentality of “what do I have to lose?”, I wrote those agents back to ask them to be more blunt… I didn’t get any responses. And I’m left wondering, how do you know when your book is ready for publication? I used to have faith in the “gatekeepers”, but if they’ve stopped taking chances on new writers, how do we know when it’s time to go around them?

To all the self-pubbers out there, how did you know?

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5 thoughts on “The truth about agent queries

  1. Something tells me agents may be just as confused about the state of the publishing industry as writers are.

  2. I think we have the same agent list. I’ve heard all those. Entertaining article, Katie. How did I know? Whenever I reach 497 edits on a book, I know I’m done. In so many ways.

    • Hi! As a newbie in this field I been just publishing articles for free. I struggle between working on my book and writing for money. I’m so confused. Now I read you who know what you’re doing are hitting a wall. I feel like hitting a wall myself. With my head, lol

  3. I am just entering that space with my cancer poetry book. The manuscript is nearly done with the editing phase and I am thinking about what to do with it. Do I try to get a traditional press to publish it or do I just invest in myself and self publish. It’s a dilemma. I know the book has a very narrow market at best and wonder how long it would take to get someone to look at it verses, logging into Amazon or Smash words and have the book on my blog in a couple of months. It’s a tough call.

  4. Querying is a separate industry from writing yet must be done by the same person. If you’ve gotten agents to read your work, you’ve accomplished much. Over and over I read the state of traditional publishing is lackluster and unresponsive. It still has the cachet we all want – I want it.
    But I’m the wrong demographic – old, not attractive, not just graduated from a great writing program, and certainly not an established writer. The odds are stacked against me, no matter the quality of my writing, and I’ll probably self pub.
    Given your background, I’m surprised none of the agents has taken on your book. They’re chewing on old fodder. Too bad – seems like they’re missing a great opportunity.

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