It's that time of month again: lucky 13th has come and gone (today's the 14th, you very smart readers, I know, but better late than never). And here are my rejection stats and advice for the month.
This month has been a little more productive than last month. While I didn't request many more partials based on the query alone (okay, actually I requested 1% more this month than last month), I did request more partials based on the first 20 or 50 pages. I read 3 full manuscripts (2 more than last month), but signed only one client.
So, of approximately 600 queries since December, I've signed one author. To put that into perspective, you have a 29% chance of getting pages requested based on your query. A 12% chance of getting more pages requested based on the initial sample. And a .167% chance of being signed.
Things that will significantly increase your chances? Based mostly on bios of people I request and reject, those who have worked with editors, participate in critique groups, and attend conferences, are much more likely to have more pages requested. Why is this? Because they've worked on their craft longer. If not longer, than they have been using the right tools.
Put it this way: two people are building a house. One man is building it based on the other houses on the street, from what's he's observed. The other man took classes, bought the right tools. Which house is going to be sturdier? Last longer? Be more visually pleasing? The man who took classes, right? Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. There might be one man in a million that can build that house with no prior experience and you can't tell the difference between him and the professional. For your sake however, don't consider yourself the exception. More often than not, you are the rule.
This month, I've noticed a change in how I read things. Maybe I'm becoming a "real agent"? Haha, let's hope so. Last month, I think I was looking at a good five pages of a partial before giving it the boot. Giving it a real chance. I don't have the time anymore. More often than not, I don't get past two paragraphs. Sometimes, I actually stop at the first line. When people tell you how important that first line is, they aren't joking. First line, first five pages, first fifty, first one hundred, the whole book. Open your ms, what's happened in the first page? What's happened by the first fifty?
That's my advice this month. It's short, it's bitter-sweet, but maybe it will help. Have a writer/editor friend read your manuscript and give you constructive criticism (or pay for it; this route is invaluable if you find a good editor because they are an unbiased party). Examine your ms at specific points- first sentence, first paragraph, first page, first five pages, first twenty, first fifty. What's happening at each of these points? If nothing has happened by page five, you might have too much back story. You might be starting in the wrong place. If nothing has happened by page fifty (has the main character's life been altered by this point?) then the beginning is too slow.