Update- Queried 35 agents
- Received 8 rejections, including 1 agent who requested and read the full manuscript and then rejected it.
- One agent currently reading the full manuscript.
- No responses yet from remaining agents. (10 agents have had my query for less than a week; average response time is supposed to be a month to 6 weeks. What, Me worry?)
Last week, I paid $700 to attend a writers' conference and meet with two agents ($300 for a day of lectures, plus $200 per agent.) The agents read my query, synopsis, and my first 20 pages. Each agent met with me for 20 minutes.
Here's what I learned:
The good news:- my query letter is solid.
- the first 20 pages of my novel are solid and reflect the tone of the query letter.
- it can take 6 weeks for an agent to respond to a query.
- it's ok to query agents over the summer. (I read somewhere that agents take the summers off. The agents I spoke with at the conference said that's not the case anymore: agents check email even when on vacation.)
- agents do check their slush piles.
The bad news:- my novel is going to be a tough sell to agents and publishers because it features a male protagonist, meaning the audience will be predominantly male, and guys don't buy many novels. (by some estimates, women buy 75 percent of all novels. But I've had women read my manuscript -- some liked it.)
- I should seek out male agents, preferably in their 20s and 30s -- most agents are middle-aged women. (Not sure I agree with this advice. One of the agents who requested the full manuscript was an older woman -- my query makes it clear that the book includes scenes in which the narrator has sex with prostitutes and the agent still wanted to see the book. Here is a video of me acting out one of the prostitution sex scenes in front of a live audience. Warning: do not watch video if you are offended by this kind of thing!)
- fiction is highly subjective: one agent loved my writing, said it was very funny. The other agent found it very offensive: One character uses the word "fag" when referring to someone in his company's human resources department. The protagonist hates uptight Massachusetts liberals. He's also a middle-class, middle-aged white male who whines that he's a victim because women no longer want him because of his age and skin color. (poor guy...)
- I should pitch at least 120 agents before giving up. (One agent said one of his clients had to pitch 120 agents before he found one.)
- I need to tweak my query letter: I referred to my book as a "a satiric novel." I should use "comedic novel" instead. Apparently, the term "satire" is the kiss of death. I had already sent my novel to about 15 agents using the term satire. New version of query letter.
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