Friday Scorecard

by Richard Perkins

Submission StatsWhere did the week go? You write a manuscript critique or two, send out a few agent queries and a handful of resumes, and before you can say rejection, it’s Friday again. That means it’s time for another agent search stats update.

As you can see from the table, my response time is still pretty speedy, because most of my responses are from agents who take electronic submissions. I’m also starting to look for trends in my responses, to see what I can glean from them. Here are some of the tentative conclusions I’ve drawn so far:

1) My query letter is attracting the right kind of attention.

2) My prose is pretty good, but not stellar.

3) I may have better luck with another book in a different genre in the current market.

It’s tough to draw much from query responses, since so many of them are form letters. However, the two partial requests I received came from agents who had only seen a query letter without a synopsis or sample pages of any kind. And they came quickly. The first arrived 4 days after submission and the second came back 2 hours after submission. That suggests that the query letter is working.

Unfortunately, the manuscript isn’t closing the deal. The remaining responses that weren’t form rejections said that my writing shows promise. Evidently not enough though. That kind of feedback encourages me to keep writing, but tells me I still have to work on my craft . (Probably a good lesson for every author, published or not…)

The third conclusion is an inference from the scraps of feedback in my rejections and the scuttlebutt floating around on various agent blogs. Evidently, it’s very challenging to sell epic fantasy right now. Unless you’ve got an established fan base, or you’ve written something that really stands out, publishers aren’t looking for big fantasy. Agents are understandably reluctant to take chances on debut fantasy novels that are only “pretty good,” like (evidently) Renegade.

So where does that leave me? About the same place I was before I started this agent search. My strategy hasn’t really changed: I’ve still got another 20-30 highly regarded agents to work through on my target list. I’ve still got The Guardian’s Hand to overhaul once I have my remaining reader feedback in hand.

However, instead of forging ahead with the third installment of the Renegade’s Legacy after Guardian, it might be time to write something in a different genre. Maybe urban fantasy, military fantasy or science fiction. Or perhaps something else entirely. Who knows?

If you have suggestions, you know how to find the comment box!

2 Responses to “Friday Scorecard”

  1. Hey! A mutual friend in Boston turned me on to your site. I’ve sold two short stories (one published online and one pending) and hope to be ready to start shopping a novel manuscript in January.

    Your earlier post on finding an agent was very helpful. Reading your posts, make it seem like a manageable project, as opposed to the big, scary mess other writing sites describe. Plus, your approach and use of metrics (like the little chart above) is exactly the kind of thing I was thinking of doing, so now I have a model to work off of.

    I think it’s hugely encouraging that you’re getting positive feedback with the rejections. Most people don’t get any feedback at all. It says to me that you’re on the right track in terms of the craft of writing, so now you just need to look at how you’re using those skills, which is, what I think you’re talking about when you talk about exploring other genres.

    Urban fantasy is very hot now, although I wonder if the market’s tapped out. I think it’d be tricky to find a unique angle. Military fantasy has a smaller pool and might be a good place to break through. I keep hearing noise around Steampunk and the “New Weird”, although I don’t really know exactly how the latter is defined.

    My approach (so far) has been to keep writing things in different styles/genres in the hopes that at some point I’ll hit on that combination of something I do well and that will sell. Fortunately, I read pretty broadly, so I can try lots of different things and still stay within genres I like and am familiar with. Also, I’m trying to avoid trilogy or series ideas, so I don’t have to feel like I’m abandoning something when the first book doesn’t sell–I’d hate to be in that position.

    So that’s my nickel’s worth of free advice (as my Dad would say). Keep smiling and keep the updates coming!

  2. Welcome Bill! Kris mentioned that you might drop me a line. Congratulations on the short story front. I understand that credits like that really help when you’re trying to differentiate yourself from the mountains of submissions every agent and editor scale daily.

    I’m definitely a geek when it comes to metrics. If you read some of my earlier posts, you’ll find charts for tracking draft word count, and revision page count as well as query status. It keeps me from going insane and puts the numbers in a context an engineer can appreciate. Publishing is a numbers game, and as scarce as useful feedback is, I try to divine trends from the raw numbers as much as anything else. Sometimes it feel like reading tea leaves or chicken entrails would be just as reliable though…

    Genres are tricky right now. It seems like everyone is searching for the next huge breakout, but nobody can tell what that will be. (More tea leaves…) I’m having a little difficulty understanding the military fantasy label though. I’d never even heard of it until an agent suggested it as an alternative for me. What titles would you categorize as MilFan?

    Good on you for slogging through NaNo! I wrote the first draft of Renegade in NaNo last year, but bowed out of this year. I’m still deciding what to work on after I finish revisions on Guardian (if I finish revisions on Guardian…)

    Cheers and good luck with your own search!