Agent Queries, an Update

Well, I’m back at the computer keyboard after a week off from blogging.  I had something else that kept me away last Sunday (March 18) so I didn’t get a chance to write some of my usual bilious crap.  Here goes this week.

This week I want to write an update on my querying for my first novel, The Anthanian Imperative–Blue.  A rather long science fiction novel (124,000 words), it’s been my pride and joy for over ten years now, and I’m impatient to get it published.  I’ve sent out over sixty-five query letters in various formats recently, as regular letters, as e-mail queries, and as queries filled out on agent websites (six of those so far).  I’ve received thirty-four replies, that is, slightly more than half the agents responded, either by e-mail or by sending a reply in the self-addressed stamped envelope I supplied.  All of those replies were form letters, of course, because no one has asked for anything more.  No agent is going to take the time to sit down and give a personal reply to everyone who queries, I’m sure they’re way too busy for that.  Many agents nowadays have started a new reply routine: they don’t reply at all if they’re not interested, so many of the non-responses I’ve not gotten are really rejections, as much as any form letter.  It’s hard to quantify the responses that way, though, because it can take up to three months for an agent to reply, so the lack of a response doesn’t mean anything for a long time.  Is the agent still mulling it over, or is the lack of a reply a no?

But I’ve gotten a few form letters which, though they’re really rejections, are curious in their wording.  All of them say no, obviously, but several have said something like, “send it elsewhere, someone else might like it,” or “continue to submit elsewhere.” Many wish me luck in my writing career, but the reply worded in that way leaves me curious.  Let’s assume that my manuscript is a pile of horse c–p.  (I don’t think it is, but it may be.)  Is it appropriate for an agent to be encouraging a new writer to continue to send it out if it really is that bad?  That could reflect badly on the agent, and perhaps come back and sting at a later date.  So many form letter replies are so vague as to be almost meaningless, for example, “we regret that we cannot consider your material at this time,” so I’m wondering why an agent would have a letter that encourages someone to continue submitting if they really think it’s lousy.

In any event, I’ve temporarily suspended querying to agents, and am thinking about sending it to publishers directly.  Right now I’m in the process of revising the first chapter as well as making small changes in the rest of the manuscript.  Then several publishers will get the polished final result.  We’ll see what happens.

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