I have sent out more than sixty queries. One agent has requested to see my full manuscript, and six others have requested partials. All of these submissions were ultimately rejected. Many of the responses have been that the manuscript seems like a good, well written story, but no one is AS in love with it as they would need to be to sell it in this market, and/or they are not sure where they would place it.
This is discouraging. It makes me wonder if I should throw in the towel, and maudlinly reflect that my manuscript might just be too beautiful to live. But then I start to think of why I should keep going.
When I was finished with the original draft, I contacted a few teacher friends around the country to ask if they would offer it to students in my target group (gifted middle-school boys) to read and answer an accompanying questionnaire. I didn’t want kids who knew me, because I thought that might interfere with the honesty of their answers.
I ended up with ten guinea pigs beta readers, all tempted by the promise that I would put their names in the acknowledgments section if the story gets published. A few girls wanted to read it, too, which was fine with me. I stressed in the questionnaire that I wanted to know what was wrong with it, and that anything just written to be nice might hurt the chances of it getting published. I also asked them to write down the words they didn’t understand, so that I could include it in a glossary (gifted kids enjoy things like glossaries).
Although one girl wanted me to work a vampire into the story, the rest of the readers really liked it. They mentioned a few questions they’d had that had gone unanswered (which I fixed), said that they would recommend it to friends, and offered unsolicited ideas for sequels. One said to his teacher that Jim and Jack is one of the best books he has ever read.
One question on the form was about whether or not they thought they were the right age to read it, and if not, what age would they recommend? The students ranged from 11-16, and each thought that their age was exactly the right one, for different reasons. None of them wrote down words for the glossary, which didn’t surprise me; gifted boys don’t usually like to admit when they don’t know something.
This is what keeps me going, when I am feeling down about querying, and when adult beta-readers/critique partners suggest that it might be MG instead of YA. I’m not sure exactly how to find an agent who thinks like a gifted teenaged boy — that’s not the sort of information that gets shared in profiles or on websites. If there’s one out there, though, I intend to hang in there until I find him/her.
What keeps you querying?