What’s Your (Query) Number?

Querying for a literary agent can be a long and arduous process. Rejections are plenty, so get used to that if you decide to take the traditional publishing path and are in search of a literary agent to represent you to one of the big five publishing houses—Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House (a fairly recent merger between Penguin and Random House), and Simon and Schuster. Even the best, most successful books can be rejected multiple times before finally being published. Here are examples of some best-sellers, along with the author and number of times they were rejected:

Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling, 12

A Time to Kill, John Grisham, 16
M*A*S*H, Richard Hooker, 21
Dune, Frank Herbert, 23
The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks, 24
The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger, 25
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle, 26
Carrie, Stephen King, 30
The Thomas Berryman Number, James Patterson, 31
Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 38
The Help, Kathryn Stockett, 60
The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde, 76
The Lost Get-Back Boogie, James Lee Burke, 111
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig, 121
Chicken Soup for the Soul, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, 134
Roots, Alex Haley, 200

Always assess and re-assess to make sure you’re giving the best query you can and that your story is truly ready, but don’t get discouraged and don’t give up. These authors didn’t and look what happened.

That being said, the traditional path might not be right for you. Only you can decide that. I was determined to follow this traditional publishing route and query agents for as long as it took to find that just-right agent who connected with my story and would help my book’s world find its way into your world. But, as I queried, I also researched and ultimately came to the conclusion that I’m too much of a control freak to publish traditionally. I want to have more involvement in the process and decisions than I feel I would have with traditional publishing. I write because I can’t not write (you writers out there will get that), and that’s all there is to it. I don’t need a deal with one of the big publishing companies for that. It just happened to be the only way I knew to share my story with others, and at the time I started querying, it was really the preferred path. But things have changed (or maybe I’ve just become better educated) and many publishing options are available, including self-publishing. With print on demand (POD) now well established, self-publishing has become a very viable choice, one that is quickly growing into a legitimate and respected publishing path, and the path I’ve decided to pursue. I’ve learned to never say never, but right now, that’s the plan.

Granted, there are still those who throw a half-cooked book out there via a self-publishing avenue just because they can, giving self-published books as a whole a bad reputation. But, more and more, authors are doing what it takes to put out a great self-published book and turn that negative perception of self-publishing around. I have a lot to learn in order to do this right, but I’ve never shied away from a challenge and I’m not going to start now. I’ll tackle this one step at a time, with the first step being to make sure the book is the best it can be. So, that’s where I’m at. After multiple reviews and revisions prior to this self-publishing decision, I feel I’ve taken the book as far as I can on my own (which included lots of critiquing eyes) and have now passed my manuscript off to a professional editor (for probably only the first round of edits). I’ll share all about that journey in a future blog.

So, are you wondering what my query number was? Drum roll please…61. Anybody else want to share how many queries it took them to get published by whatever means – big publisher, small press, indy press, vanity press, self-published, etc.? Go ahead, tell us, what’s your number? Feel free to share even if you are still on your journey (example – 61 and counting). And remember, every rejection puts you one query closer to a published book and no matter the number, you’re in some pretty good company. YOU WILL GET THERE, just like they did!

Happy Writing!
Traci

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3 Responses to What’s Your (Query) Number?

  1. Ashley Nixon says:

    Traci,

    I relate to this very well! I think I felt that I'd gone as far as I could with Cutlass and to move on in my journey, I needed to DO something. It's a hard road, but well-worth it with lots of lessons! Good luck!

    I never kept count of my rejections, but I definitely queried before I was ready and that, of course, lead to a lot of rejection. It hurts…and you always think you'll get to where it doesn't affect you, but I think, if you get to that point, then maybe you've lost hope.

  2. I'd been told by other authors to be prepared for rejections so I got numb to it pretty quickly. I figured if they didn't like my story as much as I did, I didn't want them anyway.

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