My Query Stats

One of the questions people ask me when I shout humbly tell them the good news that I’ve just signed with a literary agent is:

How many times were you rejected?

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this question. Seriously, I’m not being sarcastic. Because not long after I signed with my agent, I actually sat down and went through emails, spreadsheets, and query tracker and figured out just how many rejections I did receive. It’s kind of complicated, because this is the second book I’ve queried. Because not all rejections were as dramatic as non-writers may think. A lot were just non-responses. And because with my first book, after I did a major overhaul I queried some of the same agents twice (to no success).

So I’ve broken it down below:

First Book: The Road Unraveled

First Query: June 14, 2012
Last Query: June 23, 2014
Total Query Length: 2 years (this doesn’t include time off I took to revise. Several months in this two year span were spent on revision)

Responded with Rejection from Query: 71
Closed – No Response: 39
Partial Requests (later rejected): 4
Full Requests (later rejected): 3
Total TRU Rejections: 117

There are a lot more rejections for this one because, as I mentioned, I submitted to some of the same agents more than once. Still got a “nah.”

Second Book: Less to Carry

Pitched at conference (a wee bit before it was ready for querying): July 19, 2014
First Query: October 13, 2014
Last Query: September 1, 2015
Total Query Length: 1 year, 1 month

Rejections from Query: 34
Closed – No Response: 27
Partial Requests (later rejected): 4
Full Requests (later rejected): 5
No Response after a Full Request (yeah, that happened. Fun.): 1
Revise and Resubmit: 1
Total LTC Rejections: 72

Combined Total Rejections for Both Books: 189

Offers of Representation: 1

And that’s all I needed!

(Hidden moral of the post – Keep. Going.)

How I Got My Agent

SIGNED, sealed, delivered….

I’m yours! That’s what I essentially said to Stephanie Kip Rostan of the Levine Greenberg Rostan Agency when I sent in my literary agency agreement. Yes, I mean what you think I mean – I signed with a literary agent today!

Let me back up.

In late August, I received an email from Shelby, Stephanie’s assistant, who told me that she and Stephanie were both reading and LOVING (I’m not taking any creative liberty here, she actually used all caps) my book. She asked me to keep her posted if the availability changes, and that they would try to get back to me in the next week or so.

So naturally, I cried.

I’ve been querying my book, Less to Carry, for quite some time now. I started pitching it an a conference in July of 2014, and besides the two or three times I had to take a break for major revisions I was sending queries, requested partials and fulls that whole time. Before this book, I queried my first book, The Road Unraveled for two years before shelving it.

So yeah, I was NOT used to hearing that anyone loved my book except for my mother, my boyfriend, and my closest friends. Just hearing that actual professionals in my desired industry were loving my words was this huge, important moment in my life. I also knew, instinctively, that an offer was coming. In my head, I adjusted the “week or so” to two weeks, as I know that the industry rarely moves as quickly as you think it will and current clients always take priority.

I tried to put it out of my mind, but I was floating. Nine days after I got the email, I got engaged. That helped distract me. In fact, it bought me an extra week (so three weeks since the original email) before I followed up with Shelby. She told me Stephanie was getting caught up with some stuff but was still reading my manuscript. A month later, I hadn’t heard back. I followed up again and got a similar response. I waited two months through the holidays this time, knowing that most agencies (and the entire literary world, from what I’ve gathered), shuts down at this time.

As most writers who have crawled through the querying trenches can understand, after you get rejected so many times (So. Many. Times.) you develop a pretty negative self-narrative. You come to expect rejection. And more than not wanting to be a pest during the holiday season, I didn’t follow up because I wanted to delay the rejection. I wanted to hold onto that glimmer of hope.

Nevertheless, the shine had dulled. I prepared myself for the day I would check my inbox and get an email like “Hey, sorry, we meant to send that original mail to someone else. Your book was meh,” or “Sorry we jumped the gun on that email, we read the ending and it completely ruined the book for us. And there’s no way you can fix it. It’s just too terrible.”

As much as I tried to think positively, I couldn’t imagine the situation turning out any differently for me. Having only ever been rejected, I slowly started to believe all the negative voices in my head, that this would be another disappointment, in fact the largest one I’d experienced because I had been so close. I busied myself finishing the first draft of my next project, but I had to do a little soul searching: was this the right path for me? It inspired this post, about deciding to just going to keep right on going, to keep on climbing that tree no matter what obstacles I encountered.

So after the New Year, I decided to bite the bullet and follow up with Shelby. And again a few weeks later. I came thisclose to adding a more professional version of “If she’s going to reject me, can we just get it over with?” But I refrained. I didn’t want to screw up the juju. But I braced myself. If I was going to get rejected, it would be okay. I still had a few agents left to query, and if God forbid, I had to give up on this manuscript, I had another one in the hopper ready to work on. It would break my heart, but I had done it before, and I would keep doing it until I got it right.

A week after my last follow-up, as my (now) fiance and I were driving down to the tasting at our wedding venue, I got an email from Stephanie herself. She said A.MAZE.ING. things about my book and told me she was very interested in representing it. She asked to set up a time Monday for us to talk on the phone.

And I cried again. Big, fat, happy crocodile tears.

I couldn’t even read the email to my fiance for several minutes I was so blubbery. I was shocked. Speechless. I would have an agent. This was happening. To me. This happened almost three weeks ago; I’ve since spoken with her and a few of her clients, told all the people closest to me, and signed an actual agreement, and I still can’t believe it. The amount of times I’ve done a crazy little happy dance in a bathroom stall or in my office while I thought no one was looking is countless.

Now I know this is just the first step. The road ahead of me is still going to be hard. I still face more revisions, rejection from publishers, and harsh reality checks. It’s going to be hard. I know only enough to be a little scared of not knowing how hard it’s going to be, if that makes any sense. There are no guarantees in life, and certainly not in this business. I’m not quitting my day job or burning any bridges. But it’s a step. An honest to God step, and if I hadn’t kept going, kept pursuing, kept writing even on the days when I honestly couldn’t see the point, I never would have gotten here.