Ellis Goodwyn

writer. farmer. mother. teacher

Yes, it’s another how I got my agent post. As soon as I made my announcement, I had people asking when I would be writing mine. “Do I have to?” I asked. Does anyone really want to hear another one of these? But here we are.

I really wish I had discovered some magical querying formula that I could share with everyone to help all my friends still in the trenches, but what I’ve discovered is simply that there isn’t one. Publishing is subjective and fickle and just because something works for one person it doesn’t mean it will work for anyone else.

That said, there is one piece of advice I can share: just because you keep getting rejected, it doesn’t mean your work isn’t good enough. I have met so many excellent writers who are querying manuscripts I would love to see on the shelves, but they just keep getting rejected. I honestly believe whether or not you land an agent really comes down to chance. No one really wants to hear that. You want to believe that if you write the perfect query letter and your pages are the best you can make them, then the querying gods will shine down and the requests will come pouring in along with an offer. We want to believe this because these are things we can control. But unfortunately it comes down to each agent’s personal preferences. If they’re only signing a few new clients each year, they want writing that that really resonates with them.

And speaking of query letters…There are no hard and fast rules here either. Some people would have you believe your query must conform to certain arbitrary standards, or it will be ignored. Many of these come from looking at previously successful queries and are certainly good suggestions, but just because you follow them exactly, doesn’t guarantee anything. Take personalization: lots of people make a big deal about making sure to personalize every letter they send out.

I didn’t.

I read plenty about query letters when I was writing, rewriting, and rewriting mine some more, and the overall gist I got was that unless you have a very specific connection to the agent (met/heard them speak at a conference, listen to all their podcasts, etc…) then you are better off just getting on with telling them about your manuscript. That’s what I did.

I heard people say never use tv shows or movies as comps.

I did.

Now, before you go throwing out the time it takes to search for good, recent book comps, understand that I did also include two recently published books that I believed my manuscript would fit nicely between. But the movie and show I comped to explained what my story was better than any of the book comps I could find. It worked for me. Does that mean it will work for you? Who knows? It just means that everything is subjective. What peaks one agent’s interest could offend someone else.

So what did my journey look like? Well, I’m not going to mention how long it took me to write my manuscript, or how long I was querying. I don’t think it’s helpful for everyone to compare themselves. No one’s experience is the same. I also started querying before my letter or my manuscript we’re ready.

But here are my stats:

  • Queries sent: 83
  • Rejections: 65
  • Requests: 8
  • Offers of rep: 2

Again, I wish I had more sage advice to offer, but in the end all I’ve got is this: you need a query letter that shows off what makes your story special, you need to edit your manuscript to the best of your ability and have mutuals help you to make it as good as possible, and you need to get it in front of the right person.

To all those in the trenches, Good Luck!

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *