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?