Crisis averted. Blood sugars normal. No hospital trip necessary. Thank you all for taking my little rant about my health to heart. You're awesome!
I've been thinking lately about the early process of publishing... getting the agent to read and love the book we've so carefully crafted. And I came to this conclusion:
If I'm not getting offers it's because of at least one of these three things:
1. The query isn't good enough
2. The writing in the manuscript isn't good enough
3. The subject/plot isn't appealing to the readers
Maybe this all seems like common sense, but I found it so helpful mentally to lay this out, because it helps me to know how to proceed, and it's encouraging. And I like lists. :)
I think my query is fine. I've gotten at least 12 requests (I stopped counting at some point, when the process starting really dragging out), which may not be 50% request rate, but is still fair enough to mean it isn't awful. I've also had at least 5 referrals from agents who got my query but just aren't taking on new clients or thought someone they knew would be a better fit.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say I don't think it's my writing. I only say this because my mother and husband have read my book and say I'm a fantastic writer.
No, really, aside from people I know (including my writing group, whose job it is to critique and yet are such good friends now they probably have some bias too), the personal responses from agents are all very positive about the writing. I've gotten more complimentary rejections than I care to count! And I've gotten quite a few fulls requested from partials, which can't mean I'm an awful writer, right?
So the only option left is the story.
And the more I think about it, the more I understand how this is often the big stumbling block for writers. You may write a kick-butt query, and write like a dream, but if the agent just isn't that into your topic, doesn't connect, has seen too many similar, it's going to be a no.
While I thought my topic - a child dying, a mom finding a cure in stem cell therapy - would be timely and dramatic, I've had several agents say they just aren't interested in repping books where children are in danger or someone is dying or where there is some political agenda in the story (which I promise there is not!). It doesn't matter how good the writing, they just aren't interested. I suspect some of the form letters came from agents who read the pitch and thought the same thing: it's just not my thing.
This isn't entirely a bad thing. Once an agent really took time to write a lengthy email to me about the book, and why she couldn't represent it even though she loved my writing and the story, I got it. She told me to send it to Christian agents who would be able to find a place in the market for it.
And so I did. And now I have some serious interest. Maybe all that time I was trying to appeal to the wrong people. Maybe it wasn't the story, it was the audience.
But as I'm moving forward in writing my next project, I look at that list and think, if I'm going to have to start all over, scrapping my hope for the last book and querying based on a new book, am I covering all the bases? In other words, if I can write a query, if I can write well, then my focus needs to be on writing an amazing, unique story that will capture the attention of agents and readers alike.
Not that it's easy to do that. But it helps me focus on what I need to do this time around, should the last time around not work out (although I'm still keeping my fingers crossed - or saying my prayers - that MOCKINGBIRD will find it's home at one of the four agencies still holding the full). You can't rub a crystal ball and see what agents are going to want, but you can work really hard to make your idea interesting and unique. I admit, I tend to be lazy that way and so my stories have been less Wow! and more, yeah, that's life.
If you are in this place like me, querying, waiting, figuring out what your next steps are, just remember: you can't please all the people all the time. Not every agent is going to love your book. If you know your query is good, and you know your writing is good, then rest in the knowledge that all you need is the right agent to connect with it. And when you move on to write something else, work hard to make it unique and different and appealing. Try to think objectively: is this the kind of book I'd read about on another blog and have to go out and get based on the blurb?