Saturday, June 6, 2015

The truth about agent queries

When I got my first book, Monsoon Season, published in 2012, I thought I'd made it. Really, it was just the beginning. After a lackluster release of my second novel, I got out of that contract and rereleased A Long Thaw on my own. Both books have kick ass reviews on Amazon, by the way. Meanwhile, I've been sending agent queries for Finding Charlie and getting the nicest rejections ever.

In fact, I've sent more than fifty queries for this book and I've gotten a really promising response. I've had requests for full reads from about a third of those, many from top agencies, like Writer's House, Trident, ICM, Levine Greenburg, etc. One of those agents called me on the phone to discuss my book.

I keep getting the same response. Here's the remix:
"We’ve determined that this particular project isn’t the right fit for our agency at this time.  As I’m sure you know, the publishing industry changes swiftly now, as do readers’ tastes and trends."
"Given how competitive the market is, I worry I'd have difficulty placing it. I'm going to step aside so you can work with an agent who will give your work the full enthusiasm it deserves."
"Do query others; you deserve an agent who will really fall in love with this, and who has the vision for your work that will help you achieve the career you want."
"We would like to encourage you to consider querying us with future projects as you may deem appropriate."
My debut novel sold over 10,000 copies. Finding Charlie is ranked #12 on Authonomy and is top rated on Book Country. I'm running out of ideas. The other great writers I know, even those with publishing history, are hitting a similar wall. So I think I'll reply to the latest agency rejection. What do I have to lose? Something like this:
"I appreciate your getting back to me. Your response echos the one I've gotten from more than a dozen agents who asked to read the full and then passed. I'm at the end of my list of agents to submit to.
 I have a super thick skin and would love an honest answer to this question: Do you think Finding Charlie is not ready for publication or is it just not right for your list? I'm sorry to put you on the spot but would really be grateful for your insight.
How's that? If I get some clarity, I'll pass it on. 


  1. Katie, maybe, agents (as well as publishers) consider the reading of submissions as work for junior grade staff. Staff who, maybe, have a University degree in Creative writing. And they KNOW your book must follow the rules. Do your books follow the rules?

    1. david, interesting point, though usually the reply will make clear whether you're hearing from the agent or their assistant. as for 'the rules', i follow some and not others. i don't really believe in rules beyond spelling and grammar. even commas are negotiable... but i don't know if this is what's holding me back...

    2. Hi Katie - maybe it's just the 'risk averse' mentality that permeates these 'gatekeepers' - wonder what would happen if you submitted a script under an assumed name- a 'famous' name? Far too often the 'name' gets accepted to the detriment of good writing. Just a thought.

    3. i often complain that my parents aren't celebrities. it is perhaps the greatest stumbling block...

  2. Hah, yes - I'm fairly confident if you did havecelebrity parents, there'd be a whole lot more room in the 'fit'! But back to replying to those (very nice) rejections: why go only half-way? You're almost providing them the answer "not the right fit". You've nothing to lose (?) by asking WHAT is it specifically about the book that they deem makes it the wrong least you'll see if they're willing to lay out what it is they think would actually fit them. Ugh- too many fits in that sentence!

    1. very good point. unfortunately, i never did hear back anyway, so... maybe next time?