Query Confusion

Okay, here’s a story about a query. I’d submitted to an agent (we’ll call her Agent A) and eventually been rejected. After looking at the agency’s Web site and seeing nothing about not querying other agents if one passes, I submitted my query to another agent (Agent B). Only to get a response from Agent A saying, “Sure, we’d love to take a look.”

Um, okay, but . . . You’ve already taken a look. Did the query not ring any bells for you at all? Where is Agent B?

Of course, I didn’t answer exactly that way, but I also didn’t resubmit my manuscript. Instead I gently reminded Agent A that she had read it, and told her I’d hate to waste her time if she didn’t want to give it another look. (Though I also pointed out the manuscript has been through a major rewrite since she saw it. It was a rewrite I had offered her before and never heard back on, so . . .)

So far there has been no response. I mean, my rule of thumb is: If the agency’s site doesn’t specifically say that a pass from one agent is a pass from all/the agency, then it’s fair to submit to another agent at that agency. But maybe I’m wrong? Or at least in this case I might be? It is a pretty small agency, so maybe it’s a matter of size. But I do wish agencies would make their processes more transparent. Not because I think they’re hiding something—some alchemical secret they use to determine whether to sign someone—but because it would make it easier for the writers to do things in a way that complements rather than complicates those processes.


There are ups, and there are downs. March was a decent month, and April started out promising as well (despite pneumonia), but now I’ve hit a two-week slump filled with nothing but rejections. It’s looking like I may end up self-publishing Peter as per the original plan. It’s so frustrating, though, having been told by two editors at major publishers that my book sounds like something they’d like to see. “Get an agent to send it to me,” they say. And then the agents all say the book is “well written” and “intriguing” but won’t take it on.

Tomorrow I’ll be at the Tri-Valley Writers Conference. Maybe being around other writers will innervate me, spur me on. But right now it’s difficult to imagine. I keep chipping away at Changers in the meantime. Though days like today, filled with ever more rejection, make me wonder why I bother.

What’s So Good About It?

Holidays mean I won’t hear anything. Not from agents, not from producers—everything goes silent. And I’m supposed to enjoy that, spend time with my family or whatever, but I’m the impatient type. I’ll need to find something really diverting to do this weekend, something above and beyond the usual egg hunts.

Speaking of hunts, I’ve been looking for an agent for Peter, but . . . I think I’m running out of options. It’s a bit disheartening how many agents on places like the Manuscript Wish List want YA. So few seem to want adult books, and then if they do want adult books, they don’t want the kind I’ve written. People don’t read that kind of stuff any more, I guess. Or too few people do, anyway, not enough for an agent or publisher to make any money. I’m feeling a bit discouraged.

I suppose I should be glad, at least, that the book I’m writing now is YA. I’ve sort of stalled out on it, though, what with being sick and then having all these screenwriting projects. Maybe I’ll get back to it next week. Or maybe never. Some days I think I won’t bother finishing.

Seriously, though, happy Good Friday to those who observe, and happy Passover as well. I hope you all have lovely weekends.


I seem to have a lot of irons in the fire at the moment. I’ve got agents reading Peter—some have the original manuscript, and some have the revised version. It’s tough having to wait to hear anything back . . . All communication seems to have dried up in the last week or so. (Maybe they’re all basketball fans?)

In the meantime, to keep myself busy, I’ve started poking at Changers again. It’s about 40% done. I do still like the story and hope to finish the draft relatively soon.

But I have a more pressing deadline: a film treatment due this Friday. I’ve started on it and submitted it to my writing partners for feedback. We’ll see what they have to say, but they’d better say it soon if it’s going to get done on time!

And we’re still in negotiations for the rom-com, waiting to hear from the attorney on that. Lots of waiting going on, really, which isn’t something I’m good at. I feel like this is all a cosmic lesson in patience.

Now and then, I do also hope to continue posting Hamlette, since it gets a lot of hits here on the site. Maybe that will turn into another YA novel?

Well then, time to start hammering away. Here’s hoping at least one of these irons can be pounded into a work of art.

Many Small Steps . . .

. . . make great progress. Or something like that.

I’d been working with a literary agent on the Peter manuscript. Since last October, we’d been going back and forth over how to make the story stronger. On 28 February, I emailed him and said the first part of the book—the part this agent felt needed the most work—had been entirely rewritten. Should I send it along? He answered me this past Monday by announcing he’s “leaving agenting.” This week.


All that work . . . And I do believe I have a stronger manuscript now, but still, it’s quite the blow. The agent gave me the name and email of the person at the agency who handles queries, told me to let this guy know the soon-to-be-ex agent had been keen on the manuscript, see if any other agents want to pick it up. Would have been nicer if he’d just recommended another agent directly, but . . . He doesn’t owe me anything. He was being kind in giving me as much of his time and energy as he did.

So, really, I am trying to keep the faith and all that. But I haven’t heard back from the guy who handles queries, and I’m afraid I never will. Back to square one then.

I’ve also received three rejections within the week. But on the flip side, I’ve had one full request and three partial requests. So maybe something will pan out.

Things are looking more promising on the screenwriting side. We’re near a deal for the rom-com script, and I’m working with two other guys on a very cool new project. And my Sherlock spec is a finalist in a competition. Fingers crossed! At this point I’d be happy for any kind of win on any front. I just need a boost.

Slings & Arrows

I’m having a rough week.

No, that’s not exactly true. I’m having a big dipper of a week with lots of downs and then a few ups and then more downs.

On the one hand, bad news (twice over) about one of my scripts. It’s receiving great coverage but can’t get anyone interested. Hrm.

And then, too, a pass from a literary agent who said she really likes Peter but can’t sell it because the first part was self-published as a novella. Well, I’m fixing that with this revision. The first part of the novel is now far different from what was self-published. And the agent did agree to read the revised manuscript when I finish it, so there’s a bit of hope there.

The real high points of the week have had nothing to do with my work. Date night last night was great, though: We went to Bluestem Brasserie and had one of the best meals I think I’ve ever eaten (Boozy Malt FTW), then saw Tom Stoppard’s Indian Ink over at the American Conservatory Theater. Fabulous food + phenomenal play = great night out.

Classed under “middling,” a co-writer and I received some anticipated paperwork regarding our romantic comedy script. I’d be more excited, but the attorney has it, and there’s nothing all that exciting about attorneys. (Sorry, Chuck! I know you’re doing a great job!)

Well, and it’s only Wednesday. We’ll see how the rest of the week plays out. January is giving me whiplash; maybe February will be kinder.

Weekly Stats

I had a somewhat better week than the past couple. No outright rejections this week, though I also have not had that magical offer I’m seeking. But! There has been progress on a number of fronts.

1. The agent who favorited my #pitmad tweet from last week requested my full manuscript.

2. There was a similar exercise on Twitter called #PitchMAS, and even though I hadn’t planned to be pitching, I got a couple more partial requests from it.

3. A producer requested to read 20 August.

4. I applied for an unpaid internship with a literary agent—I think it would be a great learning experience, and also a lot of fun—and she’s sent me a manuscript to evaluate as part of her screening process. Hey, even if I don’t get the job, it’s nice to be considered. And I’m enjoying the feeling of having options. Of not being stuck with just one project or outlet or possible path to . . . Wherever I’m headed.

Of course all this means I’m a tad behind on my word count for Changers. But it’s very exciting to be in demand.

Random Notes

I hope everyone [in the U.S.] had a nice Thanksgiving Holiday. Ours was good, with family visiting (so at least we weren’t driving or flying anywhere). I even got in a nice Thanksgiving Day walk:

1. “Sister Golden Hair” by America
2. “Love Is the Seventh Wave” by Sting
3. “Hands Are Tied” by Gin Blossoms
4. “Falling Farther In” by October Project
5. “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” by Paul Simon
6. “Natural” by Rob Thomas
7. “Not Over You” by Gavin DeGraw
8. “The Burn” by Matchbox Twenty
9. “Never Seen Anything ‘Quite Like You'” by The Script
10. “Disease” by Matchbox Twenty
11. “Here Comes Horses” by Tabitha’s Secret

As for submission stats for the week, well, I received 4 rejections, 1 request, and continued some e-mail correspondence with one agent who has been giving me great (read: useful) feedback on making the manuscript a bit stronger. Progress.

#PitMad is coming on Thursday, too, over on Twitter. So fellow writers looking for agents should plan to participate. Rules can be found here.

The Chinese Restaurant

Literary agent Melissa Flashman was tweeting yesterday evening:

You may wonder what this has to do with books, but it’s all about meeting expectations in a way that sets you apart from the competition.

San Francisco (the Bay Area, as mentioned in the tweet) has a large Asian population and a well-known Chinatown. So why is it so challenging to be a Chinese restaurant there? Well, for one, the market is saturated. There are a lot of Chinese (and Thai, and Vietnamese, etc.) restaurants in San Francisco, each one offering its version of General Tso’s (or Gao’s, or however that particular restaurant decides to spell it). When there’s a lot of something—more supply than demand—how do you set yourself apart?

The second challenge is that people will already have their favorite places to eat. So these restaurants have to find ways to tempt the clientele away from their usual hangouts.

And then once they’re in the door, how do these restaurants meet the diners’ expectations? By providing what’s familiar—there’s that General Tso’s—while still somehow making it unique enough to set it apart from all the other saucy, spicy fried chicken dishes out there.

The same goes for almost anything you might market, but let’s look at books in particular. You’ve written a paranormal romance. There’s gobs of paranormal romance out there already. How will people find your book? What will make them pick it up instead of whatever is shelved next to it in the same category? And if they already like Patricia Briggs, what can you do to get them to pick up your book instead of hers (or at least after hers)? [A: Get Briggs to blurb your book, if possible, but other than that . . .]

I’m not going to say I have answers to these questions because the answers will vary by book and genre. One can’t market to individuals because everyone is different. The best one can hope to do is get a wide swath of readers with your campaign. And by thinking like a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco:

1. Make yourself attractive and inviting so that the reader chooses you out of the pile of options
2. Provide what the reader craves: something familiar BUT . . .
3. Make sure you’re giving him something unique enough, too, that he comes back for more AND recommends you to friends

It sounds easier than it is. Restaurants are notorious for opening and then folding relatively quickly because if they don’t make it in the first few weeks or months, they never will. Books have a longer, ahem, shelf life and more chances to find that readership, but with more books coming out every day, it’s increasingly difficult to rise to the top of the pile. Of course, writing a really good book helps. But every writer thinks they’ve written a really good book, or at least hopes so. And with so much noise out there, it can be hard to hear/find even the best stuff. So if you’re a writer, you’re really hoping that readers not only discover you but also share that discovery. Word of mouth, good online reviews—this is the stuff that makes or breaks restaurants. And writers.

Big Dipper

Or maybe it’s more like a see-saw. Or a dance: steps forward, steps back. I got two rejections, but then I got two more requests for the manuscript. Back and forth we go.

Actually, it’s like I’ve brought Peter out on the town and am introducing him to people, and they’re telling me, “He seems nice enough, but . . . There’s something not quite right about him.” I want to shout, “You just don’t know him yet!” But at the same time I give Peter a slant-eyed look and say, “Maybe we need to dress you differently.” Thing is, while my feedback has been largely good—”We like your writing, we like your characters, etc.”—no one has said what I can do to make the manuscript better. They all just say, “I don’t feel strongly enough about it.” It’s so vague. How can I get Peter better clothes if no one tells me what he’d look good in?

I guess I’m supposed to figure that out, but I dressed him in what I thought looked good on him, and now others are saying he needs to be changed.


Short walk this morning as (a) it was already getting warm out (but we’re looking at 60s rest of the week, yay!), and (b) I wanted to maximize my writing time since the kids are home tomorrow for Veteran’s Day.

1. “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” by Paul Simon
2. “How Long?” by Matchbox Twenty
3. “Vienna” by Billy Joel [my favorite Billy Joel song!]
4. “Rain on the Scarecrow” by John Cougar Mellencamp
5. “Skin” by Collective Soul
6. “I Am an Illusion” by Rob Thomas
7. “Landfall” by Jimmy Buffett
8. “Get Back In My Life” by Maroon 5

The last three seem to go from: “I’m not here” to “I’m leaving” to “Get back here!”

As for the Paul Simon song, I used to work with a guy named Julio, so I always think of him when I hear it.