Monday, November 24, 2014

Hope Over Experience: Getting on the Querying Merry-Go-Round One More Time

A marriage after divorce is said to be a triumph of hope over experience. So is querying agents with a new novel after previous works have been rejected. Here I go!

I sent out my first query letter in 1992. That was before the internet, so everything was snail mail and enclosed SASEs for a response. This was a murder mystery in which a college student was the main suspect. I got a few requests for the first ten pages and some nice feedback after entering a contest. I heard a lot of, “No one reads about college students so there’s no market for this.” It was twenty years before the New Adult category was formed. I think I still have that manuscript somewhere … I should pull it out and take a look … (luckily I printed the whole thing out because I’m pretty sure it ended up being saved to a floppy disk somewhere. Remember floppy disks? Remember disks?)

A few years later, I started writing screenplays, so those queries went more to production companies and managers. Got a lot of really nice rejections. I wrote scripts for about ten years; long enough to meet some other terrific writers and watch as they planned to make their own movies. At the same time, self-publishing began to get hot. I thought if I wrote a novel and couldn’t get an agent, self-publishing would be much easier than making my own movie. Perhaps this was a self-fulfilling prophecy, for after sending out about 70 queries to agents, I did end up self-publishing KEEPING SCORE. And the publishing part was easy. It’s the marketing that makes me want to tear my hair out ….

I may end up self-publishing my vampire novel THE TIES THAT BLEED. This novel was based on a screenplay I wrote back in 2002, and won a few awards with. I got a few requests for fulls, and again these rejections were really nice – the book was good, but since it was in a cold genre, it had to be amazing, and it wasn’t quite there. I’ve got it out to a few small publishers, but in the back of my mind I’m picturing cover art and wondering how to market this one.

And now THE SEESAW EFFECT. I’ve posted a few excerpts from this one -- it’s about a Democrat married to a Republican who becomes the next Rush Limbaugh. Since tone-wise, it’s similar to KEEPING SCORE, I contacted all the agents who’d requested to read KEEPING SCORE. And I got a few requests … one of which already warned me, “This is going to be a tough sell.”

And I know that. It’s got politics, and apparently no one wants touch politics. But I wrote the story I wanted to write, and if I end up self-publishing this one too, so be it. But I’d really like to get an agent out of this. I’ve been dreaming about being published since I was a child, and despite the explosion in self-publishing, it isn’t the same as being traditionally published.

I’ve learned a lot since I sent out that first query in 1992 – mainly because I’ve been working for a literary agent for the past year and a half, so I read several queries sent to her a week. (But only the ones that result in manuscript requests.) One detail I try to keep in mind is that a well-written query can feature a good story and still get rejected because it’s not something the agent is interested in, or it’s a genre that doesn’t sell, or it’s a genre that’s completely flooded. Rejections at this stage in the game are the easiest for me to handle, because I know they aren’t based on my project. The ones that come after the request for a full …. Those are tough.

Hope springs eternal, but I’m bracing myself for rejection. If I don’t get an agent for this project, I’ll look for small independent publishers before taking the self-published route again. And I’ve started my next book – a murder mystery that I’m hoping is more marketable than a book about politics. So please wish me luck!

In case you’re interested, my query letter is below:

Dear Ms. XXXX,

A lot of Democrats lost their jobs this Election Day … but not many are married to the next Rush Limbaugh! That’s the dilemma facing Erin Murphy, heroine of my light women’s fiction novel, THE SEESAW EFFECT.

When it comes to the work/life seesaw, Erin is a balancing-act expert. True, she works for Democrats while her husband Jack is a spokesman for Republicans, but at home they’re in sync. Their jobs stay at the office. Their children -- 13-year-old animal-nut Jessica and 8-year-old Batman-obsessed Michael – come first. And her career is just as important as his.

But on Election Day, everything changes. Suddenly, Erin is out of a job … and Jack is the new star of The Right Choice TV network! As Erin searches frantically for her next position, Jack begins to practice what he preaches. Their house turns into a battlefield: What’s wrong with saying “Merry Christmas” to their Jewish neighbors? How can there be global warming when it’s cold outside? Jessica takes her mother’s side (her father is a “disgusting planet murderer”), while Michael just thinks it’s cool that Dad’s on TV and he’s making a million dollars.

And Michael’s not the only one impressed with the family’s new money: Who are all these new people floating around Jack, and what do they want? As Erin’s friends take sides about what she should do with Jack 2.0, the only person who understands is a fellow stay-at-home parent: Scott. Scott is easy to look at, and just as frustrated with his marriage as Erin is…

But the biggest battle is Erin’s alone: Should she keep pounding the pavement? Or become a perfect trophy wife and mother that Jack now wants her to be? Without a title and a salary, how can Erin figure out who she really is?

THE SEESAW EFFECT is complete at 87,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Jane Porter (ODD MOM OUT), Jennifer Weiner (ALL FALL DOWN), Helen Fielding (BRIDGET JONES: MAD ABOUT THE BOY), and anyone who enjoys stories about life, love and parenting in the upscale suburbs. While many “momlit” books focus on mothers with babies, THE SEESAW EFFECT stands out by featuring a protagonist with teen and pre-teen children who have strong, vocal opinions about their parents.

Last year, I self-published a women’s fiction novel with a similar tone, KEEPING SCORE. KEEPING SCORE appeared on e-book bestseller lists several times, and has a 5-star average rating with 55 reviews on Amazon. Last fall, it reached number six on Amazon’s women’s fiction humor list, and number three on Barnes & Noble’s chick lit list. Before I started writing novels, I wrote screenplays for ten years (winning awards for some of them), and worked in marketing and public relations in Washington, D.C.

Along with my own writing, I’m also an editorial consultant and reader for the XXXX Agency in New York City, and an associate reviewer for the popular book web site, Chick Lit Central ( My own opinions are found at and @JamiDeise.

Per the guidelines on your website, I’ve pasted below my sig line my synopsis and first two chapters.

All the best,

Jami Deise

1 comment:

  1. Good luck with your quest! As you know... I'm bracing for my own rejections. Been there too with the "really nice rejections." They're almost more painful than a flat out "not my cup of tea." Anyway... the dream lives on!