I’m the first to admit that searching for an agent is no walk in the park. It’s demanding and sometimes, frankly, it’s also dispiriting. Sending out unsolicited query letters is like cold calling in sales: turn downs are part of the territory. Mostly, you get…nothing. Zip. Nada. You send letters into cyberspace and they seem to wind up marooned there.
Still, the whole query process has benefits as well. You find yourself fine-tuning your “pitch” — and in the process, you find out more about exactly what your book is about. You also find out what works and doesn’t work. Sometimes you even get personal responses from agents. These are often deliberately vague and for this reason, they’re not especially useful. But if you’re really fortunate, you’ll receive invaluable feedback that pinpoints flaws and compels you to address them, which only makes your work stronger.
That’s exactly what happened to me recently. I received a pass from an experienced agent, but she took the time to read my story and respond. She had encouraging words about my novel’s style and main character. But she also give me some very specific suggestions about what she felt didn’t work.
What a gift! As soon as I read her note, I realized what a sharp and incisive reader she was. She had articulated a problem that I sensed, but couldn’t figure out how to fix. As a result, I’d ignored it. But once it was pointed out by a pro, I realized that I absolutely needed to address it before sending out more queries. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Right now, I’m taking a “quick fix” approach: I’m sure I’ll have to do more later, but I want to keep my manuscript circulating.
My great friend Coach Tully calls feedback “the breakfast of champions.” Now I know what he means. Write on!