…and Still Got a Contract
(Another Myth Busting Post)
Guest Blogger: Tim Sinclair
In January I read Rachelle’s 2010 Stats in amazement. According to the blog, WordServe Literary received about 10,000 unsolicited queries last year but Rachelle signed exactly zero authors from queries alone. Not one out of a hundred. Not one out of a million. Zero. (She clarified that she did sign authors for whom she’d received referrals or connected with in some other way besides just a query.)
I am an eternal optimist. I can see the bright side of a burnt marshmallow. But statistics like those are hard to spin. Zero is zero, whichever way you slice it.
If you feel somewhat defeated by that thought, consider me your voice of hope. Not because I’m so great or anything. Quite the opposite.
I single-handedly did everything wrong – and still managed to defy the odds.
I tend to be a “ready, fire, aim” kind of guy, and that tendency couldn’t have been more evident than during my own query process. After writing a few blog-length chapters of a book, I quickly emailed a handful of agents with my ideas…spending just enough time on each website to get their contact information, but not enough time to read their query guidelines.
For example, here were the rules on WordServe Literary’s page:
1. Send all queries to their dedicated query email address.
2. Do not include attachments.
3. They are closed to queries during the month of December.
Here is what I did instead:
1. Sent my query to Greg’s email address instead of the query address.
2. Included two attachments.
3. Send my query on December 22nd.
Except for the life-changing phone call I got from Greg six days later. A first-time, unsolicited writer got a top-notch agent…with a dreadfully awful query.
I’m not suggesting that you ignore the rules. I’m not saying that you fly by the seat of your pants. I’m not implying that you annoy agents with a slew of unprofessional emails. But I am encouraging you to concentrate more on writing an amazing book than perfecting the literary gymnastics that sometimes feel required in order to get your foot in the door.
Becoming an agented or published author obviously takes work. But nearly all of that work should go into the craft – into the product itself – instead of the minutia involved in getting the craft recognized. Most agents are smart enough not to throw away a compelling manuscript solely due to a few technicalities.
And keep in mind it’s not just about the writing, but also about the market. Especially for non-fiction, which is what I write—study the market. Figure out what’s missing. Find where your expertise meets a need. Then write it, and write it great.
For whatever reason, my pathetic query started a discussion with WordServe in December of 2009, and I signed my contract with them in January of 2010. Which means that of those 10,000 queries, at least one author was eventually signed. Me.
Which means that there is hope for you. For your dreams to be realized. For your carefully crafted piece of writing to be finally be recognized – imperfect query and all.
The chances may be slim but, trust me, a one in 10,000 chance is all you need.
P.S. Rachelle tells me that in the first couple months of 2011, she signed a few more clients from those 10,000 queries. See – more hope!
Tim Sinclair has a passion to engage the culture in real and relevant discussions about faith, and he’s using his background as a radio personality, marketer, and pastor’s kid to do just that.
His first book, Branded: Sharing Jesus With a Consumer Culture, is now available for pre-order at Amazon.
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