Why You’re Getting Rejections

Why You’re Getting Rejections Awhile back, Nathan Bransford had a terrific post on “Why You Are Receiving Rejections.” He says if you keep getting rejections, it boils down to two reasons: either your query isn’t strong enough, or your query is fine but your project isn’t resonating with agents. So true! He’s nailed it! He’s absolutely right! But I have one thing to add. (Nathan, you’re awesome, I think you’re the coolest, so don’t take this wrong.) There’s another reality that goes beyond your query and your book. It’s the crowded marketplace. It’s the fact that there are hundreds of writers competing for each slot in traditional print publishing. Your query may need work. Your book may need work. OR… Your query and your book might be...
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Minimize the Obstacles

Minimize the Obstacles I’m blogging at Books & Such today. Here’s a preview: When you’re a debut author trying to break in to traditional publishing, one of the most important things to remember is this: Minimize the obstacles. You already know it’s not going to be easy to break in, so you want to avoid making it even more difficult on yourself. This is why agents give so much advice on their blogs. Not every piece of advice applies across the board to every author, but we’re trying to help you have the best chance of attracting an agent and publisher. Assuming you’ve written a terrific book… What are some possible obstacles to finding an agent and publisher? Read the post at Books & Such to find out. Click Here.   Be Sociable, Share! ...
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Should You Re-Query an Agency?

Should You Re-Query an Agency? One of the most common questions I receive is, “When is is okay to send another query to an agent who previously passed?”Another is, “If an agent passed on my query, can I send the query to another person at the same agency?” There are various scenarios to consider, so here’s an overview. First, whenever you are going to re-query, it’s a good idea to open your letter with a brief mention of your previous interaction with the agent or agency, and an explanation of why you’re writing to them again. (BRIEF.) That way, if your name sounds familiar to the agent, they won’t be sitting their scratching their head trying to figure out why. Let’s look at some different situations. Sending the same query to a different agent at an agency that...
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Why You Should Pitch a Single Book

Why You Should Pitch a Single Book If you’re like most writers, you’re probably not writing just one book. You’ve written multiple books, possibly in different genres. You may have a whole 3 or 6 or 9-book series planned. So the question naturally arises: Should I pitch my whole series to an agent? Should I tell them about my entire body of work? After all, I want an agent to represent all my work, not just one book. Along similar lines, reader Jan wrote on Facebook: Whenever I check an agency’s guidelines, they always talk about pitching a particular book. I already have a book published, and I’m looking for an agent to help me build my career. How do I query/pitch in that situation? The answer is simple and clear: When querying or pitching an agent, always start with just one...
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Query Lines to Make an Agent Sigh

Query Lines to Make an Agent Sigh I was going through my current batch of query letters, and while many of them are very good, it reminded me how difficult it is to write a strong pitch. You have to accomplish so many things in a concise format: introduce your book in a way that the agent wants to read it; give just enough information about yourself to be helpful; convey a bit of your personality; avoid query landmines and clichés. I understand it’s not easy. I never reject writers for making one silly mistake in a query — I sincerely assess whether the book being pitched looks interesting to me. But as I was going through my current batch, I found most of the same kinds of “sigh worthy” lines that I’ve been seeing for years. Try not to say things like this: 1. I’m certain this memoir will...
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Give Them What They Want

Give Them What They Want Back when I was in school, I embraced an important truth: If I wanted to succeed according to someone else’s standards, then I needed to give them what they wanted. It started with my teachers. To get a good grade, I needed to understand exactly what they wanted and give it to them. Using my own creativity and trying to give them something I thought was better wouldn’t always work. If I wanted to be brilliant and creative, fine, but I might sacrifice a good grade. If I wanted the “A” then I needed to give the instructor exactly what was expected. This lesson served me well as I spent a couple of decades in various roles in the corporate and business world. To be considered a good employee and get promotions and raises, I needed to understand exactly what was...
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The Top Ten Query Mistakes

http://www.rachellegardner.com//HLIC/8b42fc4664d80175039899b728bbca8b.jpg I am taking a blog hiatus. This is an encore of a post from 2010. ~Rachelle As I read through the daily deluge of queries, I often become aware of how many times I see the same mistakes over and over. Most of them are not huge errors, but when an agent sees them repeatedly, they become more noticeable. So I’ve come up with a list of the most common querying blunders. None of these are fatal in themselves. There is nothing on this list that makes me automatically reject someone. (Other agents have different approaches.) But each mistake has the potential to make you seem a little bit less professional, a little bit less savvy, a little bit less serious. They can make it seem like you don’t pay attention to detail. It behooves you to make as few mistakes as possible. Please...
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Taking the Mystery Out of Query Letters

http://www.rachellegardner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Shhh-150x150.jpg One of the most common complaints writers have these days is how hard it is to write a query letter. I agree, it’s a difficult task. You may not realize that agents have to write query letters (“pitch letters”) too. Whenever we send a manuscript to an editor for consideration, what do you think accompanies it? You’re right—a letter. A letter we’ve slaved over, making sure every word is just right, making sure we’ve done everything humanly possible to GRAB the attention of that editor, make them sit up in their seat and think, “I’ve GOT to read this!” In other words, I have to do the same thing you do. That manuscript I send to an editor will land on a pile (perhaps a “virtual” pile) of dozens or hundreds more submissions....
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It’s Just Not For Me

It’s Just Not For Me Awhile back I was working on selling a series of books by one of my clients. I received a “pass” letter from an editor, someone I respect and who is very good at their job, but they really didn’t like the book I was pitching. The pass letter said things along the lines of, “It didn’t work,” and “There are no likable characters” and “This just isn’t good.” I appreciate when editors give me feedback, just like you appreciate when an agent gives you feedback on a query or pitch. But this response reminded my why sometimes it’s better to “just say no” without offering an explanation. I had significant publisher interest in that project, and eventually sold it in a very nice deal after fielding multiple...
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Decoding Query Rejections

Decoding Query Rejections In yesterday’s blog comments, Marielena wrote about the responses she was getting to her query letter. She said: I know it’s probably individual to each agent, but what makes a book “not a good fit” — is that a polite way of saying the book still needs work? That’s a good question, Marielena. Yes, it’s specific to the agent. But just so you don’t waste too much time trying to decode query responses, here’s a word to the wise: Query rejections are all about the euphemism. If the agent isn’t going to take the time to give you specific feedback on your work, then you’re going to get some kind of standard platitude, such as: Not a fit at this time. Doesn’t meet our present needs. I don’t have the right connections to sell this. We...
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Simultaneous Submissions

Simultaneous Submissions Writers often ask whether it’s okay to do simultaneous submissions, meaning sending your query to multiple agents at one time. Just to ease your mind, most agents agree that it doesn’t make sense not to do simultaneous submissions. It’s too inefficient to send something to one agent, then wait until they respond before sending to someone else. We expect that you’re simultaneously submitting. If you’re not, and instead you’re submitting to one person and hoping/emailing/begging them to respond, that person may not appreciate the pressure (flattering though it is). I promise, they are getting through their submissions as fast as they can. Since we assume you’re sending to more than one agent at a time, you don’t have to mention in your letter...
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What Not to Say in a Query

What Not to Say in a Query “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a huge fan of candy corn.” Okay, I know you’d never put that in your query (unless your book is about candy corn). It tells me something about you, yes, but it’s not actually relevant to the project you’re pitching me. You know better than to do that. However, here’s one of the most universal kinds of statements we do see in query letters: “I’ve been writing since I fell out of my mother’s womb with a pencil in my hand.” “I’ve been writing fiction since the third grade when I showed my first novel to my teacher Mrs. Zuckerman and she told me it was the best story she’d ever read in her life.” “I’ve loved writing ever since I can remember.” It...
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When No Response Means “No”

When No Response Means “No” Agent Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency wrote a terrific post on her blog on August 30th: Why I Don’t Send Rejection Letters. With a few minor tweaks (i.e. I have 2 kids and she has 3), I totally could have written that post! Please go read it. Our agency has a policy that if you send a query and you don’t hear back from us in 30 days, you can consider it a “pass” and move on. I’m well aware that writers don’t like this and honestly I don’t like it either, but I’ve had to make choices about how to spend my time. Sending rejection letters had to go to the bottom of the priority list. Sometimes when I’m reading queries and I’m actually sitting at my computer, I do send pass letters. But often (like Jill says in her post),...
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Don’t Put Me to Sleep!

Don’t Put Me to Sleep! Hi Rachelle, I’m working on a book proposal, and was wondering if I should interject my personality/humor into it? Or are they usually personality minus? I believe I tend to write better when I can be humorous and use my own voice. Thoughts…? Signed, Don’t Want To Bore You     Dear Don’t Want, Would YOU rather read something that was intentionally dry and boring, or something fun and funny? What would most likely sell YOU on buying a book? It’s CRUCIAL that queries and proposals include your personality… or at least the personality of your book. Draw me in. Make it so that I’m DYING to read your book. Don’t bore me! Sincerely, Boring Agent Does your query or proposal have some personality and life in it? Do you find this...
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