Making Lemonade Out of 100 Query Rejections

Saturday, March 11, 2017
Hi. I’m Beth. Over 100 literary agents rejected my last query letter.

Sharing this takes a great deal of courage. For a long time, I was too ashamed to admit it to anyone. One-hundred is a large number and, since I desperately want to be a successful author, admitting what I saw as an embarrassing defeat has proven difficult.

Two years after the last rejection, however, I’ve come to find the helpful side of that experience.  I hope you can learn from my mistakes.

My first piece of advice is to send out letters in small batches - about ten at a time. This will prove difficult, as you’ll have the intense desire to send the letter to every single agent on the planet, and then plant yourself in front of your inbox to see the requests flow in, but be patient. If you get ten rejections, it’s time to revise your letter. I learned this lesson the hard way after sending out fifty letters and getting fifty rejections. After revising my letter, I started receiving requests; but, sadly, I’d missed my chance with the first fifty agents.

This leads me to my next suggestion: get feedback from a professional. Early. And in any way possible. If you don’t have the money, try entering contests! Agents frequently offer contests to win a free query critique. Going straight to the source is an important lesson to remember. I finally spent a little money to have a professional look over my query, and it paid off with a partial request within the week.

Sending queries can open doors. While I never did get that offer of representation, I had several agents tell me to send them any future work, as they liked my writing style. The more agents who see your letter, the better. Sure, it might result in more rejection, but it could also give you an “in” for your next manuscript.

Now that I’ve sent out over 100 queries, I have an incredible spreadsheet of agents who represent my genre of choice to use for my next novel. Maybe they didn’t pan out initially, but I’ve reduced my workload for the next book, so it wasn’t a total loss. Creating a detailed spreadsheet, with the agent’s names, addresses, emails and query preferences is a great way to make the best out of rejections.

Receiving one-hundred query rejections was a learning experience, and I’ve chosen to make it a good one. Instead of drafting an email back to the agent telling them they’ve missed the next great American novel and then deleting it because you know it will get you nowhere, try finding the rainbow in your rejections. Use them to make a little lemonade. As painful as they are, they can be a tool for learning.

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here.


Margo Dill said...

This is a great post and very helpful to people who are trying to get an agent. I have heard the "send queries out in batches" advice before, and it makes sense. Best of luck to you, Beth!

Sara Codair said...

Very useful advice! A lesson I also just learned the hard way...

Sioux Roslawski said...

Beth--Congratulations. If you've gotten 100 rejections, that means you're sending your work out. A lot. For a writer, if you don't keep knocking on doors, you'll never get one to open.

I love the idea of finding "the rainbow in rejections," and I'm with Margo. I've heard of sending letters out in batches, but you explained the rationale quite clearly.

Good luck with your future batches and projects, Beth.

Angela Mackintosh said...

This is very helpful advice, Beth! It totally makes sense about the batches and then revising your query letter. Now you have me thinking...I wonder if WOW should offer a query consultation service from an agent. I sounds like it was helpful for you, and I know a few agents who might be interested in offering something this service through us. Thanks for your honesty, Beth! :)

Mary Horner said...

Thanks for the helpful information. I honestly never thought about revising the query letter as you move through the process, but it makes a lot of sense.

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