A Reader Says:
Publishers and editors are looking for diverse stories written by diverse authors, yet when we submit our queries to Bookends’ agents all we get is “not the right fit” or “didn’t feel strongly enough to request pages”. This dismissal of our efforts is based on a query letter only since we are not allowed to submit even one page of a manuscript. I really hope that publishers and editors are aware of this policy which does not help get diverse manuscripts into their hands.
I think of this as the myth of the publishing gatekeeper. The idea that you would definitely be published if it wasn’t for those pesky agents blocking your way in the door.
Believe it or not, pesky agents actually know what they’re doing and while I have definitely passed on books that went on to sell to publishers that didn’t mean it was because I was too blind to see the truth, but because I was not the right agent for that project. The same holds true of a publisher who passes on a project only to have that book later sold to another publisher.
On the other end of that spectrum, I have offered representation on books that never sold, the authors however eventually did, because we stuck together and worked hard on the next book and sometimes the next book after that.
I fully understand how discouraging rejection can be, especially when it’s on the query alone. I’ve faced it as an agent. However, agents are readers first and if we read the back cover copy (aka your query) and it doesn’t grab us enough to want to read the rest then we aren’t the right audience for your book. Having a diverse and own voices story is something we, as many in publishing, are actively looking for, but one aspect of what we’re looking for isn’t enough. We also need to find a story and voice that will grab us and that we believe will grab editors and readers.
All BookEnds agents do offer the option of including sample pages with your query and, often, especially when I’m on the fence, I will read those sample pages before making a decision on the query.
Querying and breaking into publishing is a difficult process, staying published and building a career isn’t any easier. If you are consistently getting rejections on your query I would consider that instead of blaming the gatekeepers you take a look at your query to see if you can strengthen it and then take a look at your book to see if that could use a rework as well.