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How do you stay sane while querying agents?

(645 Posts)
CakeRage Thu 09-May-19 20:03:30

I finished my first book earlier this year (after saying for years I was going to write it), and started submitting to agents 3 weeks ago.

I’ve had a couple of replies, both really encouraging, but ultimately both rejections, and I feel like I’m losing my marbles. How do you keep it together while waiting? Not sure I can take the emotional rollercoaster confused

The first agent replied within hours to ask for the full manuscript, emailed again the following day to say she was halfway through and absolutely blown away by it, then a few days later to say she did love it, but thought it needed a few changes making. I revised the whole thing (10,000 extra words of work), then she replied just to say it wasn’t working, and she wouldn’t be taking it further.

To be honest I’ve been pretty gutted by it. How do you stop the little judgy voice in your head which tells you you were an idiot for getting your hopes up?

The second agent replied to say she was really impressed by my writing, but didn’t feel I was a good fit for her list at the moment, and recommended another agent (different agency) who she thought would like it. I handled that one much better, even though I guess it was more of an abrupt no.

Please tell me how you cope with this stage - or come commiserate with me at its horribleness!

(Sorry for my crazed rambling - feeling all my feelings this week!)

Kiltartan Thu 09-May-19 20:45:09

Honestly, OP, you’ve had two very encouraging responses so far — many people would give years off their life for that! You should be congratulating yourself. You were seriously considered and had useful feedback. How many more are you waiting to hear from?

CakeRage Thu 09-May-19 21:08:53

Thank you.

I submitted to six initially, so four of those are still outstanding, and then I submitted this week to the agent recommended in my rejection (it was a great suggestion, she sounds perfect) plus a couple of others I had on my list. So all in all waiting for nine, I think? I have a spreadsheet somewhere. It’s the most organised I’ve ever been in my life, lol.

I do feel encouraged by the responses I’ve had, I guess I just feel particularly thrown by the first one. She was just so enthusiastic in her first responses that I really felt like I had a good chance of being signed, then it fell away to nothing.

I should really find something productive to distract myself with in the meantime, but actually I just find myself checking my email 759 times a day.

Kiltartan Thu 09-May-19 21:11:15

Move on to the next novel!

HollowTalk Thu 09-May-19 21:14:35

One thing that helps is having a friend who's going through the same thing, who understands exactly how you feel.

That agent who made you make changes, then didn't take you on, was behaving very unethically. I had one do that and other agents have since been shocked that it happened.

You've done incredibly well so far. Just thicken that skin a little more and send out to others - be careful who you send to. Some are looking to expand their lists. Some enjoy the editing process. Some will specifically say they are interested in your genre. Don't waste your or their time by sending it to the wrong person.

HollowTalk Thu 09-May-19 21:15:23

The agent who was recommended should respond pretty quickly now. I'm dying to know who it is!

Pollaidh Thu 09-May-19 21:17:26

The best way to stay sane is to start writing novel 2, and fall in love with that one.

CakeRage Thu 09-May-19 21:26:32

I’m trying @Kiltartan - I’m now stuck between two ideas! I had writer’s block for about 20 years before I started writing my first novel so I don’t want to stop too long in case it happens again!

My first idea is set in the same place as my first with a lot of the same characters but with different POVs, so it would be a good commercial decision to write that one, as apparently publishers like the idea of follow up books.

But then I have another idea which I’m probably more excited about, if I’m honest, but it’s very different (same genre, but totally different focus).

I just can’t decide which to throw myself into. And I’ve discovered the only way I can write is by really throwing myself in.

HollowTalk Thu 09-May-19 21:44:20

What I would do is prepare a synopsis (one page) for each and then write an outline (several pages) of what each book would be about. Hopefully you'll get a two-book deal and you can give them a choice!

CakeRage Thu 09-May-19 21:45:06

Thanks @HollowTalk - I don’t really have any writer friends - just one, but he’s very different from me in just about every way you can imagine. I guess lurking on Mumsnet is the closest I get to a support network!

My buddy’s really into writing groups and swears by them, but I did a creative writing degree many moons ago and I’m still haunted by hours of sitting through other people’s awkwardly written action scenes. I’d love to find writing buddies who were actually really good writers and I could learn from them.

With my degree, and the fact I’ve been writing professionally for fifteen years (not books), I know a lot of writers, but somehow not any authors. It’s a totally different world!

Thin skin is my biggest weakness, I think, and I’m determined to thicken it. I might just get DH to say some really mean shit to me a few times a day. You know, toughen me up a bit? grin

And I hope I have been pretty selective in finding agents to submit to. There are loads in my genre (I write women’s fiction), so I’ve tried to choose people who are interested in more specific aspects of what my story is about. Also I chose one because I read an essay she wrote about writing for women and it made me cry, and I did mention that in my covering letter, but now I feel like maybe that was a wee bit crazy-stalkery?

CakeRage Thu 09-May-19 21:52:01

Ooh, that’s a solid idea!

Then even if I don’t get an agent for this book, I’ll have a solid base to start writing either of the new books and I can try again next time.

HollowTalk Thu 09-May-19 21:56:54

No, I think you definitely did the right thing in mentioning that. It's always better to have a personal reason why you're approaching an agent. I know what you mean about the workshops but you can learn a lot from other people's mistakes grin. I wouldn't do that now but found it useful at the beginning. This has been a great place for me to make writer friends - I wish it was busier in this section.

CakeRage Thu 09-May-19 22:18:49

Maybe I need to stop lurking and post more?

It’s quite rural where I live, so the writer’s group is limited to say the least, and from what I hear, it’s 50% sci-fi and 50% short stories about country life. I feel like they won’t get my thing at all grin

I did NaNoWriMo this year (how I wrote most of my first draft), and I tried their noticeboards but it just felt like everyone was writing YA and fantasy, and I was over by myself all ‘where the people writing women’s fiction which is classier than chick-lit but not artsy enough to be literary at?’ and receiving only silence in return.

HollowTalk Thu 09-May-19 22:28:50

I think it's important that whoever's reading your work understands the genre. I remember in my writing group (I did an MA) one of the women there was writing sort of Tracey Beaker kind of stuff and it was full of swearing grin. She wouldn't have it that that wasn't allowed. It sounds as though you're really doing something right, though, with the responses you've got so far.

Howtotrainyourhamster Fri 10-May-19 07:49:01

I would say the responses you’ve had so far are hugely encouraging and bode well. I submitted to around 10 agents and got mainly rejections initially! I then got a full request, followed by a no, but suggestion to revise and resubmit this or something else. I then was signed by the next agent who requested the full. She took a couple of weeks to consider it, which was v nerve wracking and also spoke on the phone. However (and this is the agonising bit no one tells you about!) after a long process of revisions and then submitting, expressed interest from publishers it ultimately didn’t get taken on. This was pretty soul destroying. I’m now writing my next novel - because you just have to keep going! However, sounds like you write quickly and in a popular genre (mine was more literary fiction - ie not really in any genre in particular!) so I’d say you have a good chance of getting a deal.

Also wanted to say that I totally empathise with feeling a bit isolated. I live rurally too and have lots of mum friends and friends through work but no writers, and no one really gets it. When I got an agent I was so excited and people would say ‘oh that’s nice’ without any real idea of just what a momentous thing it was for me at the time. I did an MA a few years ago too and most people were writing at fairly high standard but all in different genres so I get what you are saying about writing groups. I’d like to be in one but it is so dependent on people writing at the same kind of standard who are like minded, otherwise I think it wastes a lot of time and you open your work up to lots of conflicting random suggestions from people!
I also wish it was busier over on this thread - I’ve had lots of good advice, in fact I got my agent after posting about my rejections and someone suggested I was submitting to the wrong people and gave me a list of possibilities to try. I check this topic pretty often and get excited when I see a new thread (though I’m guilty of lurking sometimes if I don’t have time to post!)
Good luck anyway, I’d certainly bet on you getting signed.

CakeRage Fri 10-May-19 09:00:02

Thank you both.

Woken up to another rejection this morning - just a form reply this time. It’s getting gradually worse.

Still no reply from the agents I’m most invested in, which I guess means there is still hope, but at the same time I don’t want to get my hopes up.

How long is too long for a positive response, do you think? You read all these stories from people who give you the impression that if it’s been longer than a couple of weeks, it’s a no, but how do you know what to believe?

Howtotrainyourhamster Fri 10-May-19 09:09:50

I got replied back over a number of weeks. With the agent I signed with it was a couple of months (she apologised for slow response!) They are really busy and get lots of queries to consider so don’t think you can read much into response times.

Zilla1 Fri 10-May-19 09:49:48

Well done.

I don't know if any of the following will be helpful but I'm not sure whether the issue is having a thin skin or managing expectations.

Did you write a novel that you like and would have wanted to read? Well done.

Have you had a fantastic response from the first agent short of immediate acceptance and being sent on to a publisher? It sounds like it . Were you expecting your first novel to get picked up by an agent and then a publisher straight away? If so, I think you might need to manage your expectations a little until you are (inevitably) successful.

Did what the first agent say they wanted changing make sense to you? Did what they liked and didn't want changing seem sound to you. If so then you've probably learned something really important. Well done.

It's easy to say but you might need to give yourself a slap on the back and a well done.

You've mentioned your second novel so work on that. When you've heard back from the remaining agents or given it a could of months, then take stock and try and improve your first novel if you are able to handle working on your second novel and first novel simultaneously.

CakeRage Fri 10-May-19 11:38:51

Thanks @Zilla1

My expectations were pretty low initially, but rose quickly after the initial responses, and have then been dashed again! It’s in my nature to be hypercritical of everything I do, so this stage was never going to be easy for me. I say that I need to learn to toughen up, but realistically, I never will. That said, the fact that I wrote something that I actually like and feel proud of is an achievement in itself!

I agreed with some of the amends from the agent, but some were more woolly and I didn’t really know what she was getting at. I asked my editor friend who’s been my sounding board through this whole process and she didn’t really know what it meant either. I think the changes I’ve made had made it better, and the people who’ve read it for me agree, so I guess there is always that, even though the agent didn’t like them.

Just gotta keep myself from spiralling into a crisis of self-confidence, no biggie grin

Zilla1 Fri 10-May-19 12:29:44

Sorry, CakeRage, I'd not realised that your initially-realistic legitimate expectations were inflated by agent who then triggered lots of work for no result (genuinely trying to be sympathetic and not sarcastic though realise like David Baddiel in the Mary Whitehouse experience [showing some age, I know], it might not come across that way).

I'm still not sure 'toughening up' is the healthiest way of thinking but trying to be positive, let's hope that of the 6/7 agents you contacted, the busiest, most successful agent(s) haven't had time to look at your work yet and will be blown away when they do.

HollowTalk Fri 10-May-19 13:45:22

Can you give us an example of one of the woolly remarks to see whether we can work out what they mean?

One thing - if an agent asks for the full manuscript, write to the others to tell them. You will never see people move so fast grin

NameChangedNoImagination Fri 10-May-19 13:51:13

I think you need to have more realistic expectations. Often they're looking for something quite specific, and also its about their personal preferences. If I were in your position I'd make a list of 100 agents and query them all, and see the response you get.

Daphnesmate Fri 10-May-19 14:04:09

Hi CakeRage, It sounds like you are getting pretty close with your first couple of responses. Would you consider self publishing? I plan to send my work off to agents in August (first novel) and I am hoping for some constructive feedback which could help me self publish if nothing else.

* I live rurally too and have lots of mum friends and friends through work but no writers, and no one really gets it.*
This.

I do belong to a writing group but it is very small plus I am way ahead at the moment with my writing (in terms of finishing my book). I have received very little feedback really - no constructive criticism but it does keep me motivated - keeping to small deadlines because I need to submit a chapter at a time to the group. Most writers I meet seem to write sci-fi/fantasy and whilst my book does contain a fantasy element, it is predominantly womens literature and I haven't really met anyone who writes similarly to me, so I do feel like I'm ploughing blindly on at times.
Wishing lots of luck, hope you get some positive news soon.

Hallion Fri 10-May-19 14:09:16

As Hollow said, write to all the agents who haven't responded yet, and tell them you've had a request for a full.

Daphnesmate Fri 10-May-19 14:27:34

Keep us posted CakeRage.

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