Day 16 – The Odds
I think I have a higher probability of winning money in Las Vegas.
So far I have a 0% success rate (0 out of 19) for my agent queries. I know that the odds in Vegas aren’t very high, but they have to higher than 0%. And yes, all it takes is one successful agent query, but it gets very frustrating. Gamblers would stop gambling of they won less than 5% of the time.
Why am I so unsuccessful?
Is it my writing? I don’t think so. My novel is first-person narrated in a voice that is authentic. My story is semi-autobiographical, so I’m speaking from my own experiences. And I was a teen once, and I have a teen now. I know how I spoke and reacted, and things aren’t much different today, so I got the dialogue down. I’d like to think I grasp the concept of the comma and semi-colon, so I don’t think I’m writing gibberish.
Is it the story? No. I’ll admit, my story is a little complex–not simply a boy-meets-girl, or teen goes over the deep end and does something crazy that freaks out her friends–but it falls together and seamlessly flows from conflict to resolution. It’s factual, contemporary, and believable. It’s been critique-reviewed twice and edited based on these reviews. It was once 500 pages, but has been trimmed down to something like 360, so I’ve slashed and burned and edited and tightened.
Is it my query letter? This is where I get most frustrated. Why? Because there is so much subjectivity in the querying process and so little feedback that it’s hard to tell if a pitch letter is ideal for the target agent. The same letter may pique one agent’s interest while turning another off. Or it could not be right for either. I only have a handful of queries out at a time. When I send another (after a rejection or two), I usually tweak the letter and the synopsis, hoping the small change will be the few words that the agent wants to read. But since there is NO constructive feedback in a rejection, the author has no idea why the agent passed. Yes, I can pay to have my query letters critiqued, and I have–so I know it’s pretty good, but every agent is different. There is no one single query that will hook every agent.
So that leaves the cumulative pitch: the writing, the story, and the query. There are at least three variables that have to spark interest for an agent within the few minutes they sit down and read the query, synopsis and sample pages. And every agent is different. Not every agent is going to be inspired by a pitch, even if there are no typos, the synopsis is succinct, and the writing is tight. The concept just may not be right for most agents.
I have control over the variables that go into a query and can understand why there’s a query success rate of less than 5%–which is probably high even for accepted authors/novels–but the lack of feedback from agents doesn’t help me know which of the variables to adjust after each rejection. That is what is most frustrating.
Oh well, I’ll keep querying until either (a) I get so fed up that I lose interest or (b) I run out of agents to query.