A Tough Nut to Crack

– From Archived Site – 

“This is not going to go well.”

That was my first thought upon enrolling in a Writer’s Digest Boot Camp late last year.  The course was an online one-on-one with a literary agent who would critique the first ten pages of my novel.  Foolishly, I signed up for this course AFTER I sent out the first six queries but I learned of the course after the fact and was eager for some professional feedback.  Besides, six initial queries weren’t all that much.  There would be plenty of opportunity to revise for the next round should I need it (ha!).  Imaging the hubris of an unpublished, untrained author thinking she’d secure an agent in the first round of querying.  Honestly, I didn’t really think it would happen but the fact that it remained within the scope of possibility gives you a feel for how delusional I was at the time.

In terms of the boot camp, three well-established literary agents with experience across all genres were assigned to the workshop.  A specific agent could be requested if a participant had a strong preference for one person.  I looked over all of their profiles and none seemed to focus on young adult/fantasy so I figured any would do.  One of the agents gave a short primer on how to best submit your ten pages.  She noted that she loved thrillers and crime fiction, and provided examples from specific works that spoke to her.  While I recognized all the novels – each very successful in their own right – I didn’t particularly care for any of them.  None where the kind of novels that I typically read.

“God, I hope I’m not assigned to her.  She’ll hate my story.”

That was my second thought.  I’ll let you guess what happened.

Overall, I’m glad I took the course.  It was reasonably priced and though I suspect the agent in question did not care for my genre she gave some very useful constructive criticism.   Criticism that I took to heart and used to update my first ten pages for my next round of queries.  Notably, the agent was quite complimentary of my writing ability which I very much appreciated.

I think one of the most important pieces of feedback I received was that my chosen genre is a tough sell.  That, coupled with my omitting a market analysis in the initial queries likely led to the rejections (or no responses) that I’ve received to date.  So, what does one do?  The way I see it there are at least four possible paths forward:

  1. Stick with my story and identify a plausible market niche and entry strategy before any additional queries are sent
  2. Forget finding an agent and self-publish
  3. Abandon the genre and write another novel that is in an “easier to sell” category
  4. Abandon writing all together and find something else to do with my leisure time
I’ve completed a novel that I think it’s quite good so Option 4 doesn’t really appeal to me.  It’s just a little too soon to give up completely, no?  To date I’ve only gotten seven rejections.  Here’s a an interesting little nugget I’ve pulled from www.litrejections.com.
26 publishers reject A Wrinkle in Time. It wins the 1963 Newbery Medal and becomes an international best-seller. 8 million sales and counting.

Clearly, seven rejections do not equal quitting time.  Now if I get to seventy rejections, well that’s another issue all together.

Regarding Option 3, I read somewhere that Romance is the highest selling genre and filled to the brim with voracious readers.  I actually started toying with some ideas on how to write a story for this genre and here’s a pitch to consider:

A beautiful law student from working class Boston becomes involved with the reclusive son of a local sports hero and reality star.  It does not go well.
I could make this story interesting I suppose, filled with twists and turns and romantic angst.  It could be fun, developing the most ridiculous love story I could imagine.  I mean really, how much worse could it be than Fifty Shades of Grey?

Self-publishing (Option 2) remains a viable option though I’m not sure I’m ready to pull that trigger just yet.

For me the only Option that sparks even the slightest interest is Option 1.  It’s not going to be easy but cracking this nut does appeal to me.  I may not be a trainer writer but I am a trained marketer.  Why not take on the challenge?  I have nothing at this point so there is nothing to lose.


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