#amquerying during Garden Leave

Holding Out For A Hero

Print versus E-book Sales in the US

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Sep 10, 2019
Farnham, Surrey
Okay, so I am in the fortunate position of being between two jobs. Strictly speaking I am on garden leave until Friday September 27th.

[What is Garden leave? Well I was happy in my previous job, and all was well, but then the company was acquired, and a percentage of the staff were made redundant. It just so happns my role was replicated by a team in the US, so adios previous company, hello garden leave. However I did some job hunting, and I am starting a new role on Oct 1st]

I decided to live like a real writer and specifically I #amquerying my new novel #Driverless, a near-future road trip adventure.
The novel is #SFF, but more speculative fiction than space opera, and is set in 2028, when driverless cars have replaced human drivers on our roads, and it tells the story of a family of truckers, who are trying to make a living faced with competition from autonomous trucks and vans.

So the pitch is:
2028. The future is driverless. Lettie hates being ‘England’s Last Trucker’, but when she needs cash to save her grandfather’s life, she is forced to take a dangerous contract to resupply refugees trapped in the AI wars of Ukraine.
When the #driverless network is hacked, Paps, Lettie's last relative, survives a HGV collision thanks to x-military Nursebot: Becca. As payback, Paps, Lettie and Becca, team up with an enigmatic tech terrorist to tackle a deadly mission to save fugitives from Euro-Russian #AI wars. #mswl

BTW[I posted both of these during the most recent Sept 5th #PitMad, and got 3 agents for version 1: 2028. The future is... and 1 agent for the other one.]

In the UK, I started pitching at Winchester Writers Festival in June, and so far I have pitched/submitted to about half of the 'usual suspects' - SF authors in the UK, know there are only about 12 agents in the UK who actually count when it comes to SFF - and unless your novel is taken by one of these agents you probably will not get a book deal, because they are seen as the 'experts' and therefore extremely valuable and experienced gatekeepers.

For now I am perfecting my pitch on the much larger number of US agents. I have reasons to be hopeful because I saw a US Agent was open to queries on Twitter, I sent her a query using Query Manager, and she requested the full mss. (This was on August 8th 2019, when my personal life was in flux due to aforementionned redundancy, but it did give me hope for the new novel.) I had noticed that this year when pitching Driverless, a lot more agents are using QueryManager, which was not the case when I was pitching my last novel in 2016/2017.

So I took a membership of QueryTracker ($25pa) which is not the same platform as QueryManager but it does include all of the QueryManager links to agents where they use QueryManager. Query tracker has a searcheable database of 2164 ( as of14 Sept 2019 )agents, and I decided to search for 'Science Fiction' agents who used 'Query Manager', and came up with a short list of 34.

Over the period of three days, I worked through the list. I did some serious research of the agents profiles, twitter feeds, #mswl, blogs, interviews and youtube videos. Of the 34, some only accepted MG, YA or Fantasy. A couple were only looking for hard military SF.

Eventually I made 15 personalised submissions. (On average it took me about 45 - 90 minutes per submission - BUT I have a 20 page document where I have 4 different cover letters, 6 different synopsises, 2 biographies, a 200 word summary on who this book will appeal too and a list of my most recent reading, plus about 8 different elevator pitches.)

And now I wait.

Query Tracker provides you with stats on agents response times ( which I wish I found earlier.) This table provides anonymised data on ten of the agents I submitted to.

agency codetotal submissionspositive responses% positiverejections% rejectionReply Ratetime to positivetime to negativeaverage response time (days)
So looking at this table 10 of the 15 agents I wrote to do respond with 3-15 days.

And on average:

70% of the responses are rejections,
8% of responses are requests for either a full or partial mss.

As 8% of 15 is more than 1, and I am being optimistic, then statistically speaking, I should get 2 requests for Full or Partial Mss in the next 15 days.

So I will be posting my responses over the next two weeks.

I hope you will all follow, light candles, stroke your lucky rabbit paw, cross fingers and toes, and anything else that might send luck my way.
Let's see what actually happens
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First Rejection. 12/9/2019
So I am not going to give the name of the Agent, but this is what her profile says:

Agent Profile
She gravitates toward high-concept fantasy, science fiction, horror, and narrative nonfiction on offbeat topics, but will pick up just about anything with strong prose and compelling characters.
Second Rejection 13/09/19.

Agent profile:
Her love of science and reading merged when she began penning her first novel in the midst of her studies. In true scientific fashion, V**** researched all there was to know about publishing. She connected with agents, editors, and other writers
Third Rejection 16/09/19

Agent Profile:
interested in well-drawn female characters, fresh story-telling techniques (unreliable narrators, lists, emails, charts, texts, etc.), and voices that are unexpected for the genre the book is in (literary, lyrical YA, for instance).

My reaction : *Ouch* This agent has a podcast, and I had listened to over three hours and felt like I was starting to have a connection. very charismatic. Pity it would have been fun to work with her!
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Fourth Rejection 16/09/2019

Helpful Reply:
I've gone over your query and sample pages and though I love certain elements, others aren't quite working for me. This is a subjective reaction based on my preferences and current wishlist, and as this is a subjective industry, I encourage you to keep looking for your agent match. I'm sorry I cannot be more specific at this time, but I encourage you to stay positive and keep at it - following major writing blogs and Twitter hashtags, or local critique groups and writing events can provide some excellent networking and direction.

Thank you for querying me. I wish you the best with this project and hope you'll keep me in mind in the future - I welcome you to query me with other projects when they are ready!

Agent profile: is currently looking for dynamic, character-driven adult titles in fantasy, science fiction, and romance. In science fiction, Naomi seeks stories that let the character development take priority over tech.

My thoughts: Okay that probably means there are some typos/grammer things to iron out / Maybe the opening section is not 'wow' enough.
So 4 rejections out of 15 - Statistically we are bang on target, but it still hurts like mad to see them popping up in my in-box every day.

Statistics Expectations
16 submissions in starting August 28th
10 will respond with 10-15 days
Expected responses: 11-12
Expected Rejections: 10-11
Expected Requests for full or partial mss: 1-2
Fifth rejection 17/09/2019

Agent Profile: gravitates toward the gorgeously written, the weirdly idiosyncratic, and the refreshingly unexpected. The common threads in the diverse range of projects Laura represents are conflicted, dynamic characters; a fresh, strong voice; an unusual point of view; and vivid world-building. She loves works that draw on literary traditions and reimagine them as something completely, captivatingly new. She has a special fondness for books that play with commercial tropes, but give them surprising emotional depth.
Rejection # 6

Helpful: I have passed you to a colleague.

Profile: specializes in the areas of fantasy, science fiction, romance, mystery/suspense, and young adult fiction.
Rejection # 7

Agent Profile: In science fiction, give me technology-rich stories that explore how societies evolve and change on a grand scale: think Ancillary Justice, An Unkindness of Ghosts, Seveneves, and Yoon Ha Lee’s Hexarchate novels.
7 rejections
2 were helpful
  • helpful 1 'keep trying - send me your next novel'
  • helpful 2 ' I am passing this to a colleague'
Statistically we are still on track - nothing to worry about.

What do you think should I trust to statistics, or should I be selling by laptop on Ebay and looking for a new hobby?
7 rejections
2 were helpful
  • helpful 1 'keep trying - send me your next novel'
  • helpful 2 ' I am passing this to a colleague'
Statistically we are still on track - nothing to worry about.

What do you think should I trust to statistics, or should I be selling by laptop on Ebay and looking for a new hobby?

I think you are doing better than most who are querying and these types of positive responses early on is a great sign. My guess is you will have a full request by query 20 or so. But in the end, the only stat that matters is 1. The one agent who says, sign with me. :)
Remember ever JK Rowling was rejected 12 times. Writing is about persevering and doing what you love. If you love it, definitely keep going. Vice versa, if you don't, life is too short (stroke almost ended mine at 41), so find what you love :)
Okay. I sent off the full mss, and am waiting on a reply.

in the mean while more rejections are coming thick and fast.

Rejection # 8
Agent profile: She is seeking adult, young adult, and middle grade fiction with emphasis on strong adult narratives, commercial page-turners at any age, and sweet humorous middle grade.

Hmm not sure why I submitted to this agent...

Rejection #9
Agent profile: She specializes in quality commercial fiction including science fiction & fantasy, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and women’s fiction. She also handles certain middle grade and YA authors.

Rejection #10
Agent profile: represent authors who write middle grade novels (all sub-genres), young adult novels (all sub-genres), romance novels (all sub-genres) and science fiction/fantasy novels for the adult market.
So the numbers, an update.

Total submissions since 28th August 2019: 21
Rejections received: 11
of which helpful rejections:2
Full Mss request: 1

Statistically, this is spot on, receive 2 more rejections and with luck 1 more mss request.
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It's interesting that your experience has confirmed the stats, but it can't really work like that entirely. If your mss was no good, presumably you'd get no requests at all. And if they saw mega £££s in it, you'd get more requests. Hmm. Intriguing.
Rejection # 11 - A nice rejection, which I thought I would share

"While there's a lot to like about your submission, it's not quite what we're looking for. We are a small press and only accept a few projects per year, so we can't always take on writers who merit publication. I wish you the best in finding the right publisher for this book!

May the Triforce be with you,"

I love agents who send nice rejections
It's interesting that your experience has confirmed the stats, but it can't really work like that entirely. If your mss was no good, presumably you'd get no requests at all. And if they saw mega £££s in it, you'd get more requests. Hmm. Intriguing.

Hi Leonora, I research every agent I submit to, and it appears that the killer attributes in the current market are LGBTQ and Diversity. I think if I was ticking either of those boxes my response rate would be higher.

Also a friend of mine won a writing competition last year, and she said that one accolade resulted in a doubling of the full mss requests.

But yes, I take comfort from the fact that the response rate alligns with what the statistics project.

Onwards and upwards.
Okay. Keeping it real . I am back at work, so I did not see the inside of my house for the best part of 60 hours this week.
And the rejections keep on coming.

Rejection #12
'I am grateful that you have afforded me this opportunity to find out about you and your project, and wish you the best of success with your current and future creative work.'

Agent profile: (actually I think he recently updated his profile, because when I submitted he was looking for future tech)
'...what I desire most—books that are groundbreaking, genre-defining, and reflect the whole spectrum of human experience.

No matter the genre, I have a strong interest in working with authors who bring fresh and diverse voices to the literary conversation, especially those who come from historically marginalized groups.'

Rejection #13
'I’m sorry, but I’m afraid that your project does not seem like one I could successfully represent at this time. I hope you succeed in your search for enthusiastic representation.'

Agent Profile: long shot - new agent with very few details available anywhere
I don't really have time to run the numbers, as I have a quiet house and want to work on the New novel, but I have discovered that Query Tracker gives you your very own statistics.

So here we are:
My queries sent using QueryTracker
Sent: 26. Still Out: 9 Negative: 15. Positive: 2 (I think the 2 rejections not mentionned above were from submissions in early August - so test runs)
My submissions via QueryTracker
Full mss request 2. Rejected 1. Still Out 1.
Average query stats across all Query Tracker
No reply: 49.5% Rejections 36% Full requests 4.8% Partial request 3.6% No reply 6%

Good news 4.8% of 26 is 1.2, so at 2 Full mss requests, I am still batting above average.

But I think it might be time for some more submissions.

8 of the 9 agents who have not replied have had the query for 21+ days - ho-hum.
Okay one month? six weeks into the new job, and I thought I would return to the field of battle.

just spent 30 minutes looking over my stats. I have not actually had any rejections since we last spoke (which is weird but true) and I have a large number of queries out in the marketplace.
Statistically, these are the agents that never reply, but there are some quality names out there which it seems hard to ignore.
Ok I have to pop out, but later today, I am going to check that I really have had no replies since my last post
Follow up a few big hitters
Send off some new submibission.

Lance, Shine armour and attitude. Let's do this.
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Holding Out For A Hero

Print versus E-book Sales in the US