Tag Archives: literary agents

Quandary about Querying

22 Feb

I should have gone back over Hauntings of Claverton Castle and The Vanquished and the Surviving and drastically cut down the word count after only about ten literary agent rejections, rather than after about thirty such rejections. Looking at information about literary agents, I find that they’ve already rejected one or both of those manuscripts, or at least that someone from their agency has, which is close enough (because if one agent of a specific agency rejects a manuscript, it’s normal for them to pass it on to other agents in the same office).

I had fooled myself that surely since some books, such as Twilight, were published despite their long word count, surely it was okay for each of these novels to be over 110,000 words. But no, I finally decided (while reading a book by a literary agent that reminded me of word count limits) that I should play it safe and cut down these two books. Each has at least one less chapter and quite a few removed scenes. I suspect that the word count was why some agents rejected them.

Today, after only a few hours of researching agents, I’m considering putting aside those two novels and waiting until an agent accepts another novel before I make another stab at Claverton Castle and Vanquished. After all, if you already have an agent, naturally that agent will be interested in some of your other work. True, if you jump around different genres like I do, you might need more than one agent…but that’s not an immediate issue for me. What’s immediate in my situation is this: do I go ahead and continue searching for agents for these two novels, or one of them, or do I set them aside for now and instead wait to contact an agent after my critique group has gone over the entirety of the WIP that I’m sharing with them? Or do I revise a certain novel I wrote during National Novel Writing Month that I think has a lot of publishing potential, and query agents about that novel (although I’d better share it with my critique group before I do that).

I think I’ll do this: continue revising a couple of WIPs, including the one I’m currently sharing with my critique group…and continue researching literary agents and pick out agents whom I haven’t queried yet about Claverton Castle or Vanquished, because surely there are still a few agents out there I haven’t queried but who are into supernatural and gothic historic fantasy. Or queer and supernatural gothic fiction. Surely I haven’t queried every such agent yet.

Adventures in Querying Agents

1 Sep
Jeff Hermann’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents (Oxford comma added by me) features this question for literary agents:
“How would you describe ‘the writer from hell’?”
One agent, Gordon Warnock of Fuse Literary, answered:
“Hunched, moaning, pungent, with an incessant hunger for brains (p. 323).”
I can certainly reassure myself with the knowledge that I don’t fit that description.
It took me three hours just to query two agents. Sometimes that’s normal; some of the agents I’ve researched aren’t currently taking queries. Some just don’t sound like a good fit for this particular novel, after I’ve looked more thoroughly over their website.
Reading the descriptions of what some agents wish for, I sometimes find myself thinking, “I should hurry up and finish writing/revising (such and such novel)!” It can be inspiring but also a little frustrating, since I’m looking for agents for two novels I’ve completed, shared with my critique group, and revised and proofread many times.


4 Feb

Yesterday I came across rejection letters for my dark fantasy novel, The Vanquished and the Surviving. I opened the Word document “Submissions for Vanquished” and updated it. For this one novel, I’ve queried thirty-two literary agents, and all have either sent rejection letters (some only form letters) or not responded (which is often a rejection).

Counting so many rejections, I sank into self-doubt and melancholy. Maybe no agent or publisher will ever accept this novel. Maybe it’s not as wonderful as I thought.

When I created the world of Vanquished (in which other novels and short stories are set) back in the late 1990s, all the characters were white. It’s set in a slightly different (and very supernatural) early nineteenth-century England, with mostly aristocratic characters. I call this reality “Margot’s universe,” after one of the most major characters.

Originally, I wished to take a break from neurotic and slightly autobiographical, brooding literary short stories and write something fun and escapist. These stories are often somewhat brooding, but they’re fun and escapist nonetheless and with characters who bear no resemblance to me or to people I know in this reality.

I suspect one of the causes for this novel’s rejections is that, because of current demand, I’ve queried agents who take Young Adult Fantasy but not Adult Fantasy, and for them I’ve labeled it YA. Although the protagonist is a teenager in this novel, I’ve otherwise written about him in his twenties (ditto his cousins, Margot and Roland). I just read a series of YA Regency comparable titles written in simpler and more modern language, and I’ve realized that Vanquished is more complex and mature than YA fiction. I see adults reading it more than teens.

As for the language: the first draft of another novel set in Margot’s universe was accidentally written in a style reminiscent of Anne Radcliffe, who wrote gothic novels in the 1790s. That reflects what I’d been reading when I started that draft; it was not a deliberate or conscious decision—it just…happened. I have since revised it, but like in Vanquished, I’ve retained period language in all the dialog. It’s possible that this turns off agents—some, anyway—especially if they want YA fantasy.

There’s no glut of fantasy fiction set in the Regency era or the early nineteenth century, so that can’t be causing rejection. If it were high fantasy in a medieval or semi-medieval setting, that would make sense.

Vanquished is full of action and conflict and never a dull moment, which the synopsis indicates, so that’s no cause for rejecting it.

Perhaps agents perceive this novel as not having enough diversity. Most characters in Vanquished are white, British, and aristocratic. While revising Vanquished, I incorporated working-class characters, including two Romani young women and, very briefly, a black woman. The Romani characters have scenes from their perspectives, and I’d like to write a story about at least one of them. Vanquished (and the stories and novels generally) does have a variety of sexual orientations, including an asexual protagonist but not any transgender characters (although there’s one in the sequel).

It’s possible I’m delusional and have fooled myself into believing I have writing talent. However, the frenemy who made that accusation was a manipulative narcissist who made sure I had absolutely no self-esteem. In contrast, real friends, instructors, and critique partners who are good and reliable people have given me very positive feedback and think I do have writing talent. It’s obvious whose opinions are worth minding.

Perhaps after The Vanquished and the Surviving has received fifty rejection letters, I’ll temporarily stop querying for it. A “front burner” fantasy novel set in an Asian country requires much research, mulling, and revising, but it’s possible an agent/publisher might accept it before Vanquished. If that happens, Vanquished and the gothic novel that chronologically follows it may seem like abandoned children.