Peter just sent me the following question. And it’s a common one, so I thought I should answer it right quick.
“I sent my query letter out to ten agents, and I got ten rejections. I worked really hard on my pages, and I think they’re great. What am I doing wrong? Why am I only getting form letters?”
What are you doing wrong indeed? Firstly, everybody gets rejected – so don’t feel bad. It’s part of the process. But that being said, let’s talk about a few of the reasons you might be getting those disappointing form letters instead of requests for more pages. There are typically a few specific reasons why this happens. Ask yourself:
1) Are you committed the sin of the premature submission? Are your pages really ready to be seen by anyone other than you? Be honest! Get second reads if you have to. I’m a big believer that this is one of the main reasons writers get rejected.
2) Are you sending your work to the right people? Who are you sending your queries to? Have you confirmed that they represent books that are in fact a good match for what you’re writing?
3) Does your letter do your work justice? Are you highlighting your voice, your story and yourself properly? Are you letting your voice shine through in the letter? Are you making the very easy mistake of being too businessey? Ask yourself if your memoir matches the tone of your letter.
These are three of the most common reasons people don’t hear back from agents – with the news they want anyway. And remember, in my book I talk about acting like a person that an agent wants to be in business with. That means being professional, a class-act! I realize it’s tough out there, really tough – and the bottom line is you might have to just keep at it. Or revise and keep at it. It’s par for the course. . . hang in there.
Question? You can email it. . . firstname.lastname@example.org