For the past eight months, I’ve spent most of my writing time researching and querying literary agents. I’ve sent out close to seventy query letters. The results?
Some agents do reply, with a (often form-letter) “lovely but not for me” kind of email. Most don’t reply at all.
I get it. A publishing company is a for-profit business, as is a literary agency. They’re strapped…for time, for money, for staff. And they have to be very selective about what they choose to publish. Not only do they need to select what the public will buy, they also want an author who can build an audience for future (profit-making) novels.
But for writers the process of querying is a soul-sucking, depressing, demoralizing business. You’ve written your best story. You’ve run it past critique partners, beta readers, maybe even had it reviewed. And everything –EVERYTHING!–has been very positive feedback.
Your self-confidence is boosted; imposter syndrome is at bay. “It’s ready!” you think, as you send of a bunch of query letters. These are the agents you really, really want. The ones you feel would work best with you. “Start at the top of your list,” they say.
Ten queries sent. Ten “no thanks” returned.
You query your #2 agents. Nothing. The list of third choices. Nada. How about fourth on the list? Nope. A few months later you’re down to the “what have I got to lose?” list. You’re scrambling to find any agent you missed the first ten times through your list. And you’re left questioning everything about yourself; even things that have nothing to do wirh writing.
My needs are simple: I don’t need to make a lot of money. I don’t need to be on the best seller list or even the kinda best seller list. I don’t need accolades or prizes (although all of the above would be nice).
I want validation.
I want some publishing professional to look at War Sonnets and say, “This is a really good story! This novel–this writer is worth publishing.”
I could self-publish. Many writers do–some successfully. But all that says is that I think my writing is good. That’s not what I want. I know it’s good. Apparently others think it’s good. But the people who matter (if I want my novel published) don’t see whatever it is they need to make me an offer.