Dear Agent Manners,
Having sent my novel out to about eight carefully chosen agents, and having had them all decline to represent me (though a couple asked for partials), I am at a loss as to what to do next. Each response was gracious and encouraging, but none of them asked me to query again were I to revise it. What should I do? Shelve it and begin working on a new novel? Search for more agents to send it to? Find a way to rewrite my current one so substantially as to warrant a new round of querying? And if I were to submit a new novel down the road to the agents who requested partials, is it worth politely reminding them of our previous exchange?
Disheartened in New York
Agent Manners is sure that many who follow this column would be dismayed that you are considering moving on after only 8 negative responses. Many of those who are agented can no doubt report a far larger number before finding a match.
Evenso, your questions are not without merit.
Query widely is the standard advice. There’s no reason not to be particular in your choices of agents, of course. In fact, it’s encouraged. However, consider that Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected over 30 times before finding a home. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle scored 26 rejections before it got an offer.
Agent Manners advises that you do, indeed, consider querying more agents, and while you’re at it, keep working on a new novel to submit should this one not find a home. Just yesterday, one of my newer clients – Mary Robinette Kowal – described why it was her fourth novel that came to my desk, rather than an earlier one. Agent Manners suspects the number of authors who initially sell their first novel is probably a low percentage. So, by all means, keep writing!
Of course, if there are reasons in the responses to consider revision, do not lightly cast them aside if the resonate with you and fit your vision of the story. By all means revise and then query again to see if there is interest in seeing said revision. But do remember that even though agents and editors read widely and near-constantly, their feedback still only represents one opinion, however informed it might be.
Do not despair. This is only one step on the road to publication. One has to experience the journey before one enjoys the reward.