Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

PitchWars Round-Up: The Qualitative Part

Or, in non-academic speak, the part where I haz all the feelz.

I haven’t done any serious agent-blog-stalking in about a year. Once I figured I had a good picture of the field, I hit Query Tracker to start my first round of letters. Since then I’ve been working on a separate manuscript and composing became more important than stalking. I lay all this out to indicate that I might be outdated in my perspective. Here’s a post from D.L. Orton in 2011 that estimates your chances in being offered representation by one given agent as 1/2000 assuming all things are equal (which, of course, they are not).

When I was in grad school, I ran into one of my profs in a coffee shop. “How’s it going, Gregg?” He gave a relieved chuckle (which, from a such a phlegmatic man, was rather out of character, I thought). He held up two fingers, indicating about a 2″ distance. “Great. I’ve only got about this much to grade left.” Given that something he was grading was mine, I was appalled. “You go by volume?” He shook his head. “It’s the only way you can.” Of course, after I started teaching, I knew exactly what he meant.

We are volume.

The whole process that agent-less writers are going through, as I explained to a friend is:
1) Write amazing manuscript, but now you need
2) An amazing query letter (different writing style) so that the agent in question will read
3) Your opening pages or chapters and be so wowed as to request
4) Your full manuscript, which is so amazing that said agent will
5) Offer representation

Orton guesses that her agent will consider representing about 1/15 of the full manuscripts that she has requested. That’s about 6.5%, and for all I know the agents who requested mine figured they should only do full requests – not every agent did, but I don’t want to assume that they’re not going to treat my first three chapters in the same way that they’d treat the three chapters that they requested from someone who straight up queried them. That is to say, if they’re not wowed after 3 chapters, and then after 4, and 5, they might not finish. And let’s say they do finish – is my writing a good fit?

I’m not trying to downplay the delight I feel in what’s gone on so far. I mean, come on, 1/15 is a lot better than 1/2000, and that’s what participation in PitchWars has meant. It’s also meant that my query letter has been dramatically improved and that puts me in a better position with this manuscript with other agents.

BECAUSE. 6.5% is not good odds. I am delighted at how far I’ve come and I’m battening my brain down for the storm that will be probable rejections. And I will be disappointed but disappointment doesn’t mean abject failure. It definitely means “not now” and “not this person,” but there are other agents and other times. Life after query.

This is how I keep myself sane. I try to balance hope and optimism, but I use different scales for each one. Hopeful? Damn straight. Super hopeful. Very excited. Optimistic? Not so much, because statistics and percentages.

So the next things to do:
1) Get that query letter out
2) Work on next manuscript.

What else is there?


7 responses

  1. She’s pretty hardcore about most stuff, but not a fan of Dark. Whoops!

    February 3, 2013 at 8:11 am

    • LOL Well, maybe the next book won’t give her nightmares! :)

      February 3, 2013 at 8:14 am

  2. arbliss

    Great post, Kurt! You really are a terrific writer. I’ve been reading your posts a lot lately and if your manuscipt is anything like your blog, then I imagine it to be intriguing and insightful. I did want to tell you something funny that happened to me, though. It pertains to somethin you wrote in this post. I know above you said that “it definitely means “not now” and “not this person,” but that’s not always true! I queried Andrea Somberg back in August 2012 and got rejected almost immediately. She was the VERY first person I queried with RULES OF PROTECTION and my pitch definitely wasn’t up to par. During PitchWars, Andrea requsted my full manuscript. I thought for sure she would recognize it and throw it back in the pond, but she didn’t. In fact, until I pointed it out, she hadn’t realized I queried her before with this book. Guess my mentor, Shelley Watters, knew what the heck she was doing when she took the red pen to my pitch/query. LOL But to make a long story short (I know…too late!), Andrea Somberg offered me representation and is officially my agent! Amazing right? So maybe sometimes (in unusual cases, at least) it’s just “not now” and “try again in a few months after PitchWars!”

    Love reading your posts – keep up the great work! :)

    February 1, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    • My coach Michelle has been incredibly helpful and supportive of the ms, but I suspect it’s not going to be commercial enough so get me representation. Not giving up hope by any means, more of lowering expectations for this round. It’s a good ms, but good doesn’t mean marketable or agent-able. Which is both an adult thing to say AND a marvelous rationalization!

      That is such fantastic news for you! Congratulations! More PitchWars success!!! You’ve told Brenda, right? The pitch and 250 you posted make me think it’s going to get snapped up in short order. Is it premature to ask what you’re working on now?


      February 2, 2013 at 8:04 am

      • arbliss

        Thanks, Kurt! Yes, Brenda saw my post yesterday. :)

        And I think we each have our own difficulties to overcome with our MSs. Yours might be the commercial factor, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find an agent. It just means you might have to look harder than others, or be more persistent. I haven’t read it, but going off your blog alone, I can see your talent. And I’m betting an agent would choose a non-commercial MS with excellent writing over a commercial one with fair writing any day!

        My biggest problem with my MS was that no one knew how to classify it. It’s basically a romantic comedy with some elements of suspense. But how can something suspenseful have humor, right? See – that was my problem. I was getting full requests, but the agent would read the entire thing, say that they really liked it, and then throw me back into the pond because they didn’t know how to classify it. So frustrating! LOL Then I just started chalking it up to “the agent couldn’t have liked it enough or they would’ve found a way to classify it.”

        I’m working on a book proposal at the moment for two more books in my RULES OF PROTECTION series, then have some editing to do to another completed MS before I can start another book. What else are you working on?

        February 2, 2013 at 10:37 am

        • Ah, that’s great that you’ve got a bunch of work lined up! I hope you’re able to parley RULES into a series!

          My current WIP is very different from SOVEREIGN PALACE, not at all dark, probably upper MG. I’m aiming for Tove Jansson’s Moomin world with Norman Juster’s Phantom Tollbooth. Not meaning to put myself in their league so much as try to create that kind of mood. I found those books very magical when I was growing up and I still like returning to them, although I’ve found that the Moomin books I liked least as a child are the ones I love the most as an adult.

          The fact that it’s not in the same vein might mean that SP gets trunked, but I wanted to write something that wouldn’t give my wife nightmares. Yoink!

          February 2, 2013 at 1:44 pm

          • arbliss

            LOL Your poor wife! :) I’m thankful my husband’s not a writer…he really likes all the mafia stuff. There’s a bit of mafia stuff in mine, but it’s not blood and guts stuff.

            I like to vary my stories and have some ideas for a darker story, but don’t know if I could make it as dark as I imagine it. It might be a stetch for me. Might make for a great challenge, though. :)

            February 2, 2013 at 5:00 pm

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