I noticed that someone was directed to this blog by this Google search: ‘how many agents should you query before giving up?’
I started this blog with posts about NOT giving up, so I hope that some of the inspirational stories on it were helpful. But if success in querying agents was the measure of a book’s success, there’d be damn few of them published.
I’ve posted the rejection stats, and for every series of rejections that seems outlandish, another one comes along. Agents represent books, yes, but they also reject thousands of them and buried in that pile of “sorry, I’m just not as enthusiastic as I should be” are the ones that they kick themselves about later.
But obviously, not everyone is suited for this Darwinian business of writing and so it’s a legitimate question to ask: When should you give up?
Give up when your writing stands in the way of your living; when you spend so much time obsessing on boards about your rejections that you no longer value and appreciate the good things in your life.
Give up if, like Terry Fallis, you’ve self-published and posted podcasts of your chapters on your website but unlike him, no-one’s listening.
Give up when readers who don’t know you at all (like a book club you’ve approached to dsicuss your work) give you anonymous comments that tell you your book is beyond repair. Otherwise, repair it.
Give up if you done all the polishing you can do and have entered your manuscript, or parts of it, in writing competitions and didn’t get any traction.
Give up if you’ve gone to writers’ conferences and didn’t meet anyone who encouraged you at all.
In other words, give up if and when it isn’t worth pursuing anymore or because the judgment is in, and you can’t write. Because the hard truth is that not everyone can.
But don’t give up if your writing is good, simply because agents you’ve never met have read a few pages of your manuscript, or worse, just a query letter, and decided not to offer representation. That’s like deciding you’ll never marry because you tried online dating and didn’t meet anyone you liked.
If you really believe in your work and it’s not making you crazy, don’t give up. You try every avenue until there aren’t any left, and then you do what Terry did, and see what happens.