By Vanessa Pesa
Janice has received a handful of responses to our queries for Unleashing the Sun, and unfortunately, they have all been rejections.
She heard such replies as “I just wasn’t completely drawn in by the material as much as I had hoped,” and “I’m not connecting enough with this project.” One agent was encouraging, though, saying “Many best-sellers have been passed on numerous times prior to being successfully published.”
Yet another agent, who responded just this morning, offered some context and information: “Our agency receives over 1,000 queries per month, and we only take on a few new clients per year. With the publishing industry being extremely competitive we need to feel a strong conviction when representing your work. While it is not for us, another agent / agency may well feel differently.”
Janice is not disturbed about the rejections as she is not opposed to self-publishing for a second time, but it got me to wondering what other writers could do when faced with such vague feedback from agents.
In starting my research, I learned it’s not uncommon for agents to offer a “yes” or “no” response only. Many individuals reassured me that agents will only infrequently give feedback on the work itself, that offering a critique is not in their job description. Agents are simply in a position to accept or deny.
So then, I wondered, how does one know what is wrong with the work, and how then to fix it? Here’s what I learned:
If you feel that your work has not been critiqued sufficiently, or that your query and manuscript may be lacking in some areas, enroll in a class! There are tons of writing workshops and conferences out there; it just takes some good, old-fashioned research to find them in your area and choose which groups would suit your writing style best.
There are also actual critique groups you can join, in person or online, so that other writers can take a look at your work. This situation is ideal because everyone is in the same position, likely in different stages of the process. Sharing stories, experiences and gaining knowledge from others is always useful.
There are sites online that can also be fruitful, such as QueryShark and Absolute Write, through which writers can submit their queries and have a professional provide feedback. QueryShark specifically critiques fiction queries in its own blog, so you have to be prepared to publicly accept what they tell you.
Finally, you can take the route Janice takes. If you feel confident about your work and can’t get an agent to buy in, turn to self-publishing. It’s a very viable option.