I got an email recently from a fellow MFA grad who was ecstatic that she finally got an agent after sending out over 300 queries over the past three years. No, that’s not an extra zero.
It’s easy to be tempted to give up after ten, twenty, thirty… or 100 rejections. It’s discouraging. Depressing. Why am I doing this? Am I really good enough? Am I just fooling myself? Maybe I should just self-publish… (and maybe you should, but there are pros and cons to that).
I’ve been there myself, trust me. I’ve been fortunate never to get any really mean responses. Sometimes they are just a “no, thank you.” Often they are thoughtful, with the person taking the time to let me know how I might improve my work. It’s always scary to open those emails, because you never know what someone will say. And even if it’s an encouraging rejection… it’s still a rejection.
My advice is:
• Have a long list of agents you want to submit to. Do your research on this. It takes time, but don’t rush it. It’s not going to be a perfect process, but the more work you do up front, the more you can personalize the query, and the more likely it will be looked at favorably.
• Have a tracking system. Make sure you have the agent’s name, the agency, their email, the type of query they want (query + 5 pages? Query only? Query + 10 pages + short synopsis? Follow the instructions on the agency’s website).
• Note the date sent, and how long they anticipate for a response. In most cases, it will say, “If you don’t hear from us in x weeks, assume we’re not interested.”
• When/if you get a response, note it down. If you get more than just a “no,” note what they said that made it not a good fit.
• If you actually get an invitation to resubmit, or submit something else at a later date, note that too, with a big asterisk. This is a relationship you can cultivate.
• If you exhaust that list, keep adding to it. Think of it not as failure, but as “one step closer to acceptance.” Be proud of all the hard work you’re doing to put your writing out there.
And most of all, don’t give up!