Early last month I sent out the Second Round of query letters to prospective agents in and around the New York City area.
With regard to the First Round, I didn't get so much as a bite. But there was a certain peace that came with the waters being that calm, knowing that I was learning how to swim by being thrown into the pond, and that this would be my first feel of just how cold the temperature of those waters really were. I'd read somewhere that email queries to literary agencies sort of exist on a quid pro quo basis, which is to say that emails in theory don't take much time to write and send, so why should agencies even bother with a response?
There were two lessons learned here.
The first lesson was that, at least for me, the obsessing over format right down to the font size of these emails was quite time consuming in itself. Even now as I get ready to send out my Third Round, I'm constantly modifying what I've sent the first two times according to what I think worked and didn't work, and this includes revising the actual Query Letter and Synopsis over and over again on an agent-to-agent basis. That being said, the bigger lesson learned was that these agencies receive hundreds upon thousands of these emails regardless of how much work was put into making the submissions beautiful, and they have every right to just not respond if the material doesn't fit their needs.
But I did get a few nibbles on the Second Round, if only just pecks at the hook as it dangled in the water, in the form of a grand total of two rejections to date. And as I knew would be the case, I was exhilarated, knowing that at least I was playing the game and getting some sort of return. Someone, somewhere, now knows that I want in.
And so the learning continues as I move forward with the Third Round (which I plan to send off this week), a batch that was originally intended to be a blitzkrieg covering both coasts, but has now been downsized to make room for more of those valuable lessons to occur. It's much more important to send out quality versus quantity at this stage, because if there is some sort of deal-breaking mistake being made on only your second round of queries, it's better to be able to take that data and refine it for fishing in the next pond rather than having no more ponds to fish because you've thrown out all of your hooks. Oh, look, I've burrowed deep into a new metaphor.
But I like the investigative reporter one better (see "All the Publisher's Men ... and Women" above)!
And as was the case the first time around, I read in order to get a better understanding of what it is that I write and am trying to sell. And it looks like what I write is the difficult-to-market, non-genre classification that has become a genre unto itself, the lofty-sounding "Literary Fiction." John Grisham's A Painted House was instrumental as part of this discovery, as I found myself missing the characters and their struggles long after I turned the last page of this modern-day and off-trajectory effort from the author, a To Kill a Mockingbird for this generation.