Monday, December 10, 2007

Q & A 124

How many rejections should I collect before I shelve my current novel and move on? My polished query has received 31 rejections with no requests to see the manuscript. How much more abuse should I take?

If, by "move on" you mean start working on a new book, you should do that as soon as you are no longer working on the current book. Sending queries doesn't count as working on it.

If your polished query isn't getting people who publish your type of book excited about your book, it might need a stronger hook, or it might need something removed, something that you think is important, but that's convincing editors your plot is ridiculous. You don't think Dan Brown's query for The Da Vinci Code mentioned that amidst all the intrigue surrounding Robert Langdon's quest for the truth, he was also being chased by a giant albino, do you?

Most successful writers have books they never sold, and many successful books were rejected by 31 editors. You may fall into one of these categories.


Phoenix Sullivan said...

Of course, the first question is have WE seen your polished query on this blog?

Also, are you submitting a few sample pages with your query? If I may use Goblin's example from one of Nathan Bransford's recent posts, it may not be the fault of the query at all. Have we seen your New Beginning on this blog??

Perhaps, too, your query is TOO polished. Maybe it has all the requisite pieces, but it lacks flair or voice or some little oomph that will catapult it above the other nice, solid queries that represent maybe only 10% of agents' slush. But remember, those agents are only requesting partials and fulls from the top 1% or so!

A great query that has a unique spin on an old idea or intriguing voice or a a simple confidence that shouts "Read me!" should garner at least a few requests for partials out of 30 submissions. After that, of course, you have to have the follow-through of great writing.

So let's see that query and New Beginning (again)!

From eras when it really was easier to get pub'd, look at the following number of times great works have been rejected before getting an acceptance (and I think these numbers are rejections from editors/publishers, not agents!):

45 - A Time to Kill, John Grisham
30 - Carrie, Stephen King
29 - A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engle
27 - To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, Dr. Seuss
21 - Lord of the Flies, William Golding

PJD said...

You don't think Dan Brown's query for The Da Vinci Code mentioned that amidst all the intrigue surrounding Robert Langdon's quest for the truth, he was also being chased by a giant albino, do you?

Had it been a midget albino, particularly one with a speech impediment, it would have been an instant hit. Without doubt.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes...My query was actually rejected many MORE than 31 times, and now that same book is a bestseller with Bantam. I wrote a blog on my agent's site, called "Luck, Talent and Perseverance," which you might want to read. (Just do a search on those 3 words and the agency "BookEnds" and you'll find it.) The gist is that you keep at it, especially if they're rejecting you at the query stage. (If they reject you after reading a partial and/or full, then your book might need work. But just because they're rejecting queries doesn't mean squat, except that you may need to fix your query.)

And definitely, start working on something new immediately! You want to have something to keep you busy while you're getting the rejections, and it's nice when you finally do get an offer to be able to tell your agent that you're working on something else.

talpianna said...

Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time was repeatedly rejected for ten years! She finally made up her mind that if it came back one more time, she'd give up on being a writer. It did; and she did. Then she found herself plotting out a novel about a writer who gave up writing...

Fortunately for the readers of the world, she changed her mind. And of course,the book went on to win a Newbery Medal, Sequoyah Book Award, and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and was runner-up for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.

Nancy Beck said...

What Phoenix said; why don't you post your query here and let us have a whack at it?

As soon as you start sending out queries is when you start writing your next novel, not when an agent or publisher comes back with a Yes.