All you “numbers people” are doubtlessly wondering: “For a site titled ‘How’s Your Book Coming’ we don’t really have a good handle on…like…how your book is actually coming.
Fair enough. My first book, Beautiful, is done. Has been done for a while, actually. Of course, if a literary agent requested revisions so that they could sell it better, they’d get their revisions. I’m easy, just so long as the agent and I share a vision for my work. My editor, Julia, would tell you I’m perfectly willing to kill my darlings to make the manuscript stronger.
Following Beautiful, I had two ideas: a sequel to Beautiful that I’ve given the provisional title Beautifully Made, and an unrelated novel, also contemporary YA with elements of magical realism, with the provisional title Out of Sight. For a while, I tried to work on both simultaneously but for me that didn’t work. Therefore, I made the call to complete Beautifully Made first. The first draft was completed in August 2020 and is currently out to the second beta reader. I’m about 15,000 words into Out of Sight. I actually wrote an outline for it, which is a new thing for a “pantser.”
The reason I decided to finish the sequel to Beautiful first is because I’m proud of it and I have no doubt it will sell…if I can find a literary agent who will advocate for it. If I cannot find an agent, then I’m not sure how people will read my first two novels.
Which brings us back to the numbers. To date I’ve queried 70 literary agents, of which 25 were polite form letters saying essentially “Thanks for querying me but no.” The remainder have not yet responded. After four months without a response, I close the query on QueryTracker. That leaves 20 or so that are still open. I’ll send another batch in the next couple of weeks to make sure they’re out to agents well before Thanksgiving. From what I’ve read, the holiday season is a poor time to query.
Have I changed anything based on my results? Hell yeah! It takes a while to get actionable data since most queries are sent out into the void and disappear without response, but last fall I paid for a query and first five pages review through Writer’s Digest that I didn’t find helpful (told me my query was fine as is but I should tell the story from Cara’s perspective rather than Adam’s, which didn’t make sense to me and she provided no explanation). I tried again this past August with a “First 10 pages Bootcamp,” again through Writer’s Digest. This time the agent connected with my characters, understood what I was trying to accomplish, and gave me actionable advice. When this agent explained why she didn’t like my first chapter (that I had believed was a very strong start to the novel), her explanation made sense and I was pleased to kill another darling. Note for non-writers or new writers: “kill your darlings” means to get rid of something you wrote that you were really proud of. She liked my revisions and asked me to resubmit to her once I’d made those revisions throughout the entire novel. Done and done! I hope she likes what I did because she’d be great to work with.