Publisher’s Feedback: Capritare

I haven’t sent out any queries for Capritare in over two months. In fact, with the new novel in the works, I haven’t referred back to my submission tracking sheet in a long while. Today, I received this unexpected letter from a publisher. It is–by far–the most indepth bit of feedback I have received.

Mr. Hargis,

Thank you very much for the chance to read CAPRITARE. We have reviewed the manuscript, and your story has promise, though could benefit from some additional work. I was very interested by the world you created and the core of the story. If you’re interested in revising the manuscript to resubmit, I’d be happy to reconsider it.

Some of the thoughts I had while reading:

  • By dropping us in the story with no lead-up, I was too fish-out-of-water in order to get a footing in the narrative. Since the story is about Capritare’s journey, start at the beginning and let us discover existence in this new world alongside him.
  • Too often I was confused by the names of people, places, and things, unsure of what was actually going on. You can smooth over the culture shock with a light description of things before naming them, so the reader has a more concrete idea of what the object is.
  • On the other hand, the lofty descriptions got away from me too easily. Your primary target audience for YA should be 15-20, with a secondary of 13-15 (20+ is good for YA, but something that comes naturally). I’m not saying to dumb down the narrative, but streamlining would go a long way to hitting the buttons you want with your intended audience. Try to strike a balance if at all possible.

While your submission isn’t quite right for [NAME] Publishing at the moment, you do have promising talent as a writer, and we would be interested to see more of your work in the future.

So, there are some good comments in there, as well as some great suggestions. These statements echo what many of my readers have noted. I want to keep the LitFic feel, so I believe that taking it out of the realm of teen readers is my best bet. Capritare was my first novel, and provided a huge amount of learning and experimentation for me. So, the question is: to do a major edit? Or lose the YA tag and self-publish?

FREEBORN is written in a much more ‘commercial’ style, so it has become my new arrow pointed at the mainstream market. Capritare may have to hang in the background and serve as my ‘loss-leader’.

Decisions, decisions…

I’m a Loser Baby

Well, after a month of waiting, 10,000 authors’ blogs will have entry fodder for the day. ABNA announced the winners of those who made it past the Pitch phase in the contest.

General Fiction
YA Fiction

I searched the YA list; not once, nor twice, but seven times to make sure my name was missing. I did a “Find” for my real name, my pen name, my birth name, my mother’s maiden name–just in case. Nothing. So, I repeated the search on the GenFic list, just in case it was mistakenly categorized. Nothing.

So, I am putting the whole experience into perspective.
1. The contest entry is really only equal to a single query submission.
2. I know the pitch I am currently including in queries is much stronger than the original I submitted to the contest.

Here’s the new tagline:

Starting over can be a good thing—unless you’ve already lived a thousand lifetimes,
and still can’t get it right.

Here’s the new Pitch:

Oblivion. Rebirth. Failure. Oblivion.

Capritare has no idea how many times he has repeated this sequence, but he knows it is time to end it. He stands before the three sovereign entities. Which one will lead him to completion: the masculine Yramid, the feminine Pheras, or the mysterious Esque? He will be granted seven such choices in his short lifetime, after which he will be judged.

He is not alone on his quest. Hundreds of others struggle with the ever-changing embellishments of wings, antlers, tentacles; and the search for a lifelong companion. In a world where girls can be masculine, boys can be feminine, and everyone can switch at any time—Capritare experiments to find a mate. His experiences lead him through the sweetness of love, and the pain of disappointment.

As the seventh cycle ends, they each must vow to only one of the entities. Capritare is drawn to one in particular, but he is afraid to eat the proffered seed that will confirm his choice. If it is the wrong one, he will return—yet again—to oblivion.

So, like all the other “losers”, I move on. Time for another querying blitz! And I’ll be trolling the blogs to see how many more response posts I can find.

[Disclaimer: At the request of a friend, I must note that this is not a self-pitying post. The title and use of the the term “Loser” are intended as tongue-in-cheek hyperbole!] ::: insert smirk here :::

30 Minute Rejection

Over the last two days, I have focused on an agent querying blitz.  At this point, I have submitted thirty-six queries. By researching not just each agency’s website, but also blogs and online interviews, I have been able to further narrow down the hundreds and hundreds of agents to a much more manageable list.

There are 5 agents in particular that I would most like to court. These constitute my “All-Star” list. I am drawn to these agents for a number of reasons:
– Past success as measured by recent and overall manuscript placement
– An amazing roster of current clients represented
– An interest in novels with the themes, genre and demographic-target of my Capritare trilogy

I pulled out all the stops when querying these agents. In addition to following the “Submission Guidelines” perfectly (as always), I also tailored the query using specific information I learned about the agents online. It will be interesting to see if this experiment results in anything more than a good ol’ form rejection.

Speaking of rejections…

I received my quickest one ever today. I emailed the query, and within thirty minutes, got my response.

“Sent from my Ipad.
Thanks, but we will pass.”

If only an acceptance from one of my All-Star agents would come through that quickly.

A Celebration of Rejection

As I ran through my morning routine, I thought through three possible ideas for today’s blog. I decided on a topic, but then checked my email to see if there might be fodder waiting there. There was–my first rejection lettter. Booooo! I mean–Yay!  

Dear Mr. Hargis:
Thank you very much for your query, which we have read with interest. Unfortunately, the project does not seem right for this agency, and we are sorry that we cannot offer to serve as your literary agent.
We also apologize for the form rejection.The sheer number of queries we receive prevents personalization in order for us to respond in a timely fashion.
We wish you all the best in finding more suitable representation, encourage you to query widely, and thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your work.
The Stringer Literary Agency LLC
In 2000, I sent out appoximately 75 article and poetry queries which resulted in 5 paying acceptances. That’s a success ratio of 1:15. I have queried nine agents at this point. In my little self-coded system of stars & highlights denoting the “fit” of each agency for my novel, this one only received one star–uncircled. So, I am not disappointed. In fact, I am celebrating. 
Rejection letters only come if the groundwork of submission has been completed. Rejection letters are the proof that there is actually someone at the other end. The submission process is complicated–each agent or publisher requires a different set of information. The queries have to be catered to the specific recipient and it can take up to six months to receive a response. So, it’s nice to know that all that effort isn’t just evaporating into cyberspace.
There are still eight queries out there, and one of them is with an agent who received five stars–circled, underlined and highlighted. My goal is to get six more queries out this week so I can hit that magic number fifteen. It’s been good to me in the past. Perhaps, some morning a few weeks from now, I’ll be chewing on ideas while making coffee and decide to check my email first. Maybe there will be another cut-and-paste email for me to drop into a post–an Acceptance letter.
When that happens, I’m hoping it will be from the five-star agent. But, if I can celebrate a rejection from a one-star, I am sure I will be able to find it within me to celebrate any acceptance–even if the star isn’t circled. 
What a crock. Writers always say stuff like: “Well at least I heard something back.” OR “It was a rejction, but there was a personalized line from the agent in it.” Like that really makes the sting any more comfortable. Rejection sucks–whatever its shape or form. It makes me feel inferior, less than, and sometimes angry as hell. I probably should insert some silver lining here. You know, be happy and shit. I refuse. Not in the Invisible Ink. What I honestly, plainly want to say is: Rejection Sucks. Hard.