I'm keeping this one as short as I can.
I read a blog post where an unpubbed author stated he follows all the advice about querying agents, never insults them or misspells their names, and does absolutely everything he possibly can to get his query right. And yet he never receives requests for partials or full manuscripts.
I would imagine he's not alone. I would also imagine there are thousands and thousands of other unpubbed authors who feel the same way he does.
I also know that novels like THE HELP were rejected dozens and dozens of times by literary agents. I even know an agent who rejected it.
I also know that a several novels that were rejected by every literary agent and publisher in the US went on to become huge hits on Amazon Kindle.
And, I also know that publishing is subjective and when you're querying a literary agent you're also querying the agent's personal taste in writing style, storyline, and what he or she thinks can be sold to an editor who also has his or her own personal distinct taste in fiction.
But I also know this, a well kept little secret with some. I've read where some literary agents believe nothing has ever come from unsolicited queries...for them personally. They've either nurtured their authors with big books or they've actively gone after them. I'm not saying this is the case across the board...far from it. But it does leave room for thought about the subjectivity of the query process.
The advice given to the guy who was seeking advice from this publishing professional was that he should seek out writers conferences and try to learn more about querying.
I'm not saying this is the wrong advice. Who knows? Maybe spending a small fortune, when gasoline prices are going to hit the four dollar mark this spring, is worth his time. Maybe he will, indeed, at least get a request for a full manuscript from an agent if he does go to a conference. I'm sure he has a slim chance.
But my advice to him would be to check out what's going on in e-publishing right now and start taking control of his own career. If you're an author, there hasn't been a better time in the history of publishing than right now. I would tell him that he's not the first author to experience tons of rejections from literary agents and he's not going to be the last.
Then I would ask him how many other great manuscripts like THE HELP are being turned down on a daily basis because they don't resonate with literary agents...or editors. The cycle has been going around for many decades. I would imagine there are plenty, and I would hate to think about how many great books like THE HELP I missed because my reading list has been so dependent on the taste of a select few...people who I wouldn't let decorate my bathroom let alone pick my reading list.
I'm not knocking agents and editors. I don't want it to sound that way. I'm sure the advice given was what the publishing professional believes is accurate. We need them all, especially literary agents. And we'll need them more in the future. I'm just pointing out that there are two viable sets of advice nowadays for authors, not just the advice that's been handed out for the past fifty years or so. And before an author spends their hard earned money schlepping to a writers conference, he or she might want to take advantage of other opportunities that seem to be working out quite well for more than a few authors.
In this case, I speak from personal experience. It isn't hearsay. I can tell you right now I have no regrets about getting into digital publishing eight years ago when everyone else was still laughing at it. As an author, I never would have had the chances I've had in "traditional" publishing. I would still be sending out queries and wondering if I should schlep to a writing conference. And I truly believe there isn't a conference or workshop on queries designed that would change anything for me.