Agent, Fiction, Novel, Opinion, Publish, Query, Rejection

Is it all about the writing?

In October, I asked: Can you find an agent by cold-querying? On New Year ’s Day, agent Rachelle Gardner posted her query statistics for 2010, in which she revealed she received over 10,000 query letters, but signed none of those authors. On Monday, Jody Hedlund asked a question on her blog: Is the Query System Dying?

I’m no longer involved in querying, but I read Jody’s post and comments with interest.

Wait! Do I know you?

A few had tales of the cold query system working for them, though most of those acknowledged that was years ago. Some said they got their agent’s attention through referral. Many said they first developed a relationship of sorts with the agent who eventually offered them representation.

To do that, they did things like commenting on the agent’s blog and following and interacting with them on Twitter, but the most often mentioned method was meeting their future agent at conferences and seminars, possibly more than once. The object was to cement your name in that agent’s memory and to garner that “golden ticket” allowing you to send REQUESTED material. But, as the writer of another comment pointed out, that’s not fair to those who can’t attend these conferences and seminars for whatever reason. And it’s not.

Repeatedly, I heard it’s all about the writing. I followed all the agents’ rules, polished my query letter until my fingers bled, selected agents who said they were interested in books like mine—and got nowhere. I was frustrated because I knew my writing was good. I knew readers would enjoy my book. It’s demoralizing to think my query might not have even been considered.

I had believed a lie. Finding an agent to represent your novel is not all about the writing. It’s about what the publishers are buying. It’s not all about the writing. It’s about having a connection with that agent. Yes, in the end you have to write well. Or sort of. You have to have a great story, at least.  But none of those agents I carefully selected knew me from Eve. Was my query even in contention?

Those of you still seeking an agent, take note. If you have no “in” and no ability or opportunity to physically connect with the agents, you may have a very long struggle ahead of you. I wish you well.

Your turn: This is my opinion of the query game system. How do you see it?


[tweetmeme source=”cassidylewis” only_single=false]