You may have noticed that I took Bob’s pitch and query down several weeks ago and replaced them with Steve’s. (Or maybe you haven’t noticed, since you probably don’t scour my sidebar as thoroughly as I do every time I stop by the blog.) I officially stopped querying Bob and started querying Steve in the middle of this month.
I’ve thought about doing a big statistics post like the one I did when I finished querying Bob’s predecessor, but my heart hasn’t been in it. Quite frankly, it takes some doing to crunch the numbers and make the graphs look as pretty and uniform as I want them to look, and I just haven’t wanted to invest the time. (Besides, a lot of those numbers are nearly a year old now, so I’m not sure how useful they would be.)
Instead, I decided to blog about something that really sums up my whole Bob-querying experience, and that’s the fickle market. But first, a little--okay, a lot of--background. (For those of you who’ve been around the blog for a while, a lot of this will be old news, but bear with me.)
I started querying Bob last fall, in late October. He was the third manuscript I’d queried, so I felt like I knew what I was doing. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the response that Bob received. My first three query replies were all partial requests, and one of those partial requests turned into a full request literally overnight. I was ecstatic. I was impatient. I was certain I would have an agent within a week or two.
But then that full request came back as an invitation to revise and resubmit. I told myself this was a victory--not quite the victory I’d been hoping for, but a victory, nonetheless--and buckled down. The agent had some good ideas, and I knew the manuscript would be stronger if I incorporated them. Besides, I could work on the changes through the holidays, when it probably wasn’t wisest to send out fresh queries, anyway, and not lose a lot of time. I didn’t want to lose momentum, after all.
I finished the revision in mid-January and e-mailed it to the agent. A week and a half later, I received her reply. It was kind and complimentary, but she still wasn’t in love enough with the manuscript to take it on. At the time, I was devastated. Now, I look back and realize that agent’s tastes and mine probably wouldn’t have been very compatible over the long haul, anyway.
After drowning my sorrows in a good cup of hot chocolate, I took my stronger manuscript and sent out a fresh batch of queries. I also sent it to the agents who’d requested more material during the weeks I’d spent revising it. Once again, the response was pretty positive. My request rate was over fifty percent, and I pulled in several more partial-turned-full requests.
Then more R&Rs appeared. I picked up my second one in mid-February; by the first week in March, I had three more. I looked at everything they said and decided to undertake a massive revision: flip-flop the narrative responsibilities for my two POV characters and make Adair, the female lead, the more prominent one. I knew it would be a lot of work, but I felt good about it, really good. So good, in fact, that I believe I said something like, “I think this is the story I’ve been trying to tell all along,” in one of my query updates during that time.
This revision--although, in all fairness, it was really more of a rewrite--took me three months. And when I finished, I knew it was the best thing I’d ever written. It really was the story I’d been trying to tell all along.
By this time, I had something like eight agents waiting to read the revision, so I sent it to them straightaway. I tried not to get my hopes up, but deep down, I let my imagination get away from me. Surely at least one of these agents would love the manuscript enough to offer. Surely this was a done deal. And as the days stretched into weeks, then months, and the rejections piled up, I realized it was--but not the kind of “done” I’d hoped for.
The rejections were all eerily similar. They started out by praising various aspects of the manuscript, then finished with some variation of one of these two lines: “But I just didn’t fall in love,” or “Unfortunately, though, the market has really softened up in the last couple of months.” Whereas six or even three months earlier, every agent and her pet
been trying to sign the next THE HUNGER GAMES, no one wanted a YA dystopian
anymore. Editors were no longer biting. The market was saturated.
Did this market saturation account for all of Bob’s rejection? Of course not. If an agent had really loved the manuscript, the market probably wouldn’t have prevented her from offering representation, and I can think of a few YA dystopians, including Mindy McGinnis’s, that recently sold for good money. But the fact remains that during those months when I was working on the revision, something changed. The market shifted. What had been a hot commodity was now barely a lukewarm one. I sent out a few new queries, but my request rate was nowhere near what it had been before.
Moral of the story: The market is a living, breathing thing, and none of us will ever be able to control it. So instead of worrying about the things we can’t change, we’d do better to worry about the things we can. And sometimes, we just have to know when to let go of a manuscript, especially a trendy one, and get to work on the next project.