Three weeks ago I began the process of querying agents for my new novel, Sentimental Journey. Before I started sending them, I heeded a lesson from my previous attempts to secure agents for Walking In Dreams, (a middle grade novel which failed to find representation or a publisher), and Autumn Colors (a romance which failed on the agent search, was published by a small publisher, went out of print in six months, and subsequently self-published).
I knew I needed an agent for “Sentimental Journey” if I wanted any chance at a major publishing house. And I knew how important the query letter is to getting a foot in an agent’s door. So I had my letter critiqued three separate times. Why more than once, considering I was using the paid service of professional editors/agents? Why did I not have total faith in one? Because this time I was determined to come up with a letter that would grab the attention of multiple agents, with the obvious goal of finding one who asked for the entire manuscript and fell head over heels in love with it.
Different agents are, I learned, turned on (and off) by different approaches to a query. The first critique cleaned out the most blatant problems with my letter. But I knew that wasn’t enough. So I took advantage of a service offered by a well-known editor, and took the letter to another level. But I still wasn’t convinced it was where it needed to be.
I toyed with the idea of sending it to Query Shark. But the risk of that was it could take months to be considered, and it might never be reviewed. I did send it to the BookEnds blog, and perhaps it will appear there – although I’m sure they get so many that the odds of yours being selected might approach the odds of winning the lottery.
So I paid an agent who offers this service. Once again, her feedback resulted in a more concise and targeted letter.
If the letter was as great as it should be, considering the editing and critiquing it underwent, I would expect to receive at least a request or two for additional material by now. Instead, I’ve received two rejections (out of 12 sent), silence from two whose websites indicated if you don’t hear from them in 2 weeks you can consider it a pass, and the remaining 8 are hanging out. I’ve continued to send to additional agents. But I have to admit to discouragement.
Thin-skinned, you say?
Well, it’s not that kind of discouragement. It’s facing the reality that in spite of what I’ve done to arrive at as perfect a query as possible, it’s still not good enough. And I don’t know what to do next. Suggestions are welcome!
Likely I will just keep trying until I exhaust my list of agents. But meanwhile, I’d love feedback on the letter content from others who have been more successful. So here is the body of the letter, and anyone out there who wants to is welcome to weigh in on its positives and negatives:
“Sentimental Journey is a 98,000-word women’s fiction. My style has been described by writing instructors as having similarities to Anne Tyler, with some Maeve Binchy, voice of Barbara Delinsky, and the emotional appeal of Nicholas Sparks.
Meredith Fields’ formerly placid suburban life is shattering piece by piece. Keith, her husband, says he’s fallen in love with his young assistant, and wants a divorce. She feels guilty over placing her mother, Katherine, in a nursing home. An accomplished author, she’s bored with her romance books, and has a tight deadline for her next book – which she hasn’t quite started.
As Meredith sorts through her mother’s house and finds clues to the woman’s shadowy past, she recognizes much of her mother in herself. She begins to understand why her mother related so poorly to her children, and is shaken by parallels in her relationships with her own children. Her growing compassion for Katherine’s difficult life becomes the catalyst for her new novel, Hope’s Illusion, the first two chapters of which are included in Sentimental Journey. Meanwhile when Meredith finds a journal she kept in her twenties, she is reminded of the love she once felt for Keith, and the extent of his loss settles in. A series of crises forces them to confront their relationship, showing Meredith the way to restore her spirit and mend her shattered life.
I am the author of Autumn Colors, a romance, released earlier this year. I’ve also published several articles in professional journals, an article in Runners’ World, and contributed chapters for two nonfiction books. More information and excerpts from Autumn Colors can be found on my website (www.dawnlajeunesse.com).
Thank you for your time and consideration.”
Have at it, readers!