With reluctance, I am pulling After Wendy from the query trenches. The market is saturated with retellings, the word count isn't standard, and it doesn't fit neatly into genre expectations. While I would love to see this book in print sooner rather than later, I am shelving it because I don't feel it would do well as an independently published novel either. While there are romantic elements, I worry there isn't enough for those seeking a YA romance. Instead, it's a coming-of-age story with a romantic subplot and a fair amount of monsters and bleakness. Maybe once the retelling craze has died down, I'll give it another go.
Last week, I finally nailed down the main plot for The Secrets of Annwyn. This series, which has had its overarching conflict for going on two years, is officially ready to write. I'll be working on a map, my magic system rules and limitations, and character arcs before I begin chapter one next week. I hope to have a running word count to share next month.
After Wendy has proven difficult to sell. If you've been with me since Lipstick Covered Magnet, you won't be surprised by my inability to write to market. I'm hoping that a final revision, to add more monsters and tension, will bump up the word count closer to market standards. If I still can't find anyone interested, I might independently publish. Even if it means I make less money, I'd rather it be available to anyone who wishes to read it.
Favorite read: Boys in the Valley by Philip Fracassi
Favorite watch: The Queen's Gambit
March TBR (many rolled over from February):
Night's Edge by Liz Kerin (Tor Nightfire)
A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher (Tor)
Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle (Tor Nightfire)
Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh (Tordotcom)
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini (Tor)
My fantasy series, The Many Doors of Annwyn, has officially begun. I am 3,500 words into the first draft, and I can't wait to hit over 50k during NaNoWriMo!
After Wendy has been sent to ten agents, seven of which have rejected it. I intend to bump up the word count a bit, to somewhere closer to 60,000, in case that is the reason why it's been shot down. I was also told that there are many classic retellings/reimaginings releasing soon and that it might not be the right time to shop a Peter Pan sequel. But we'll see.
Apart from those two projects, I'm brainstorming for a TV series and am getting excited about an interdimensional travel short story.
The Name of the Wind
The Fifth Season
The Ballad of Black Tom
After Wendy is officially in the query trenches! I sent my first letter today and will update you monthly (unless I receive good news before then).
I'm currently outlining my fantasy series about Merlin's adventures outside of Camelot. It will feature doorways into other planes of existence, magic, the last living dragon, and rips in reality. The first draft will commence on Monday.
I have also been tossing around ideas for a heady sci-fi short story that I intend to build into a TV pilot. I'm still working out the finer details, but it should give off The OA vibes.
My Spooky TBR for October:
Lute by Jennifer Thorne (ARC)
Little Eve by Catriona Ward (Paperback ARC)
The Binding by Bridget Collins
Bone China by Laura Purcell
The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements
Quite a bit has happened in the last four weeks, so here are my current numbers:
2 full requests
4 closed queries without a response
24 unanswered queries
1 request for pages after an in-person pitch
Yesterday I heard back from an agent who asked for a full request. Here is the message I received:
Thank you so much for bearing with me while I have been considering LIPSTICK COVERED MAGNET. The lead up to the holiday season has been more busy than I was expecting which is probably a good thing for an agent, but has slowed me down in reading. As you know I really like your writing. It's so clear and confident and you differentiate your different POV characters so well which many writers can't pull off in shifting narrative perspective stories.
All of that said, I'm not sure I have a strong enough vision for placing this piece in the current market to be very useful to you at the end of the day. This market is particularly tough at the moment, especially if you're pitching something just above the YA range that deals with these challenging issues. (I knew that when I requested the full but I did want to read more to see how it felt as I kept reading.)
I was wondering if there is other work of yours I could consider either now or in the future? I'm very drawn to your confident voice-y writing style, but I wonder if it would be a better plan for you to prioritize another project and have this as a follow-up book? As a debut novelist, you want to make as strong a showing in your first book as possible and I'm not 100% sure this is the book to do that.
And of course I must qualify all of this by saying that these comments are completely subjective to me--everything in this business is so subjective--and others may well feel differently. I just like to try and give some thoughts about why I'm passing on a particular project so it doesn't feel like the frustrating black hole so many authors face while querying. I hope this is helpful. It's really more strategic advice than a critique of your writing.
Thank you again for sharing your work with me. My door is always open to future submissions from you. You are a very talented writer and I'm sure you have a successful career ahead of you.
All my very best,
This response brought me the validation and confidence I had been lacking since starting the querying process. It's easy to fall into negative self-talk and feelings of inadequacy when all you receive are form rejections which offer nothing more than a "not for me". Querying is frustrating, time-consuming, and deflating but I'm so glad I was able to talk with an agent who saw something in my writing. It's just a shame I had to write a book that doesn't fit into a neat box.
I'll keep my remaining queries open but don't intend to open anything new. I knew going in that Lipstick Covered Magnet would be a difficult sell. New adult never took off and my characters and the themes involved are too mature for YA but too young for what most adult fiction readers are looking for. I think it's time to shelf it, for the time being, and work on something more marketable--with my own twist, of course. I mean, who doesn't want a punk rock love story? It's time to take a step back from the querying trenches and focus on my next project, The Rock Show. And I'll be sure to send it to this lovely agent once it's polished.
About three weeks have passed since my last update, so here are my current numbers:
2 full requests
2 closed queries without a response
11 unanswered queries
1 request for pages after an in-person pitch
Though these numbers haven't changed much, I'm optimistic. If Lipstick Covered Magnet proves too difficult to sell in the current market, I'll shelf it until I have something more traditional in bookstores. I've had numerous agents tell me the premise is great and my opening chapters are intriguing but they don't believe it will fit on their list. Even with the 17 rejections under my belt, I'm hopeful.
As I mentioned in my previous post, querying is a numbers game. I'll send out a new query each time I receive a rejection but otherwise focus on my second novel.
Since my last post, I have sent out 24 query letters and submitted to Pitch Wars. Of those queries, I am sitting on the following:
10 rejections, one after a partial request
2 full requests, one I declined based on the agent's reputation
12 unanswered queries
The world of publishing is chaotic. Though I have had a few nibbles, the majority of feedback thus far has been negative and packaged in a form rejection. For those who aren't familiar with the querying process, a form rejection is essentially a copy and pasted reply. I realize agents don't have time to offer personalized responses and am accepting of the fact many will pass without telling me why. However, some do the bare minimum. I received a form rejection which started with "Dear Writer". Would it be so hard to type my name in place of the generic address?
I have a great deal of waiting to go but am happy to say that a few agents have expressed interest. On October 14th, I am headed to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference and will be able to pitch Lipstick Covered Magnet to an agent there.
This is an arduous process. Some days I feel overwhelmed and inadequate. Other days go by with optimism. It's a roller coaster ride of emotions but I'm happy to say I've put myself out there.
Lipstick Covered Magnet has eaten up the better part of three years. I wrote a first draft I ended up chucking in 2019, deciding to start from scratch at a different point in Skylar's life. The current version began in November 2020. NaNoWriMo really helped me get the words on the page.
After editing the first draft of LCM and sending it to beta readers, I found there were some plot holes or areas which needed fleshing out. The beta reader feedback was mostly positive and helpful and the finished product wouldn't be as polished if it weren't for the critiques I received.
I finished my final additions and line edits last week and am now in the process of querying agents and pitching my novel to contests and publishers. To date, I've sent out 7 query letters and will be sending at least one per day for the foreseeable future.
I'll keep you posted on replies as they come in!