You’ve probably heard over and over again that when it comes to searching for a literary agent, you need to be patient. The querying process can be dreadfully long, so staring at your email day after day isn’t the best way to approach the task. But there comes a time when, after receiving what feels like an infinite number of form rejections, you’re not sure whether your book has what it takes anymore. So how do you decide if it’s time to move on to something else?
First, you need to eliminate the possibility that there’s nothing wrong with your book, but that there’s something wrong with your submission strategy. If you’re receiving a ton of rejections and no requests for material, consider these three possibilities:
Possibility #1: Your query isn’t the best it can be. Did you do a lot of research before writing (and sending) your own query letter? Did you have other writers read it and give you feedback? Consider revising your query letter, taking a query letter course, or asking someone else to read it and give you feedback. Maybe this is your issue.
Possibility #2: Your opening pages aren’t the best they can be. If you’re getting partial requests, but not being asked to send along the full manuscript, then your issue might be that your pages aren’t living up to the hype of your query letter. Polish your first few chapters again to make sure they’re making the right first impression. (If you think you need help with this, I’m hosting a live webinar on “the first chapter” in May.)
Possibility #3: You’re not querying the right agents for your project. If you didn’t put as much emphasis on the research part of the querying process, then your issue could be that the agents you’re querying aren’t really looking for what you’ve written.
Now, if you’ve eliminated all those possibilities and you really think that it’s time to move on to a new project, then that’s a decision you need to make on your own. There is no concrete number of rejections you can receive before you know it’s time to query something new. But you know what you can watch out for? Your own passion for the project. If you’re no longer passionate about the manuscript, if the idea of revising it again makes you want to hide under a blanket for a week, then moving on to something else is probably your best decision. Your passion for a project will be infectious, and it’s impossible to find other people to champion your work when you’re no longer interested.