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.