How do you determine the difference between heavy competition for agents vs. if your work is just not good?

So you’re sending out submissions with no luck. Why? Well, your query may need work. The book idea itself may need work.


Your query and your book might be just fine. But because there are so many other queries in the queue, and perhaps bad luck and lack of serendipity and an annoying scarcity of fairy dust, agents and/or publishers aren’t biting. There’s just a lot of competition.

The problem is in being able to figure out which it is. You must do the work of figuring it out. Get a qualified critique partner. Hire an editor, someone who can address the big picture of your book: Is it interesting or is it boring? Does it feel derivative, or fresh? Does it make readers want to turn the page or fall asleep? Is it pretty good but have a fatal flaw?

Study your query letter, and read lots of resources on queries. How does yours stand up? Is it compelling? Does your book seem sellable?

This is where it’s helpful to be part of the writing community. If you have other friends who are writers, they can be of tremendous help in identifying where the problem might be. Unfortunately, friends who aren’t writers and don’t understand this whole process are usually no help at all.

There could come a point where you’ve done all you can, nobody’s biting, yet you have objective outside feedback that says your book really is good. What should you do?

Any or all of the following:

-Keep querying.

-Self publish.

-Write another book and query that one.

Just remember, the problem could be your book. Or… maybe not.


If you should decide to invest in some personalized counsel, I offer coaching for unpublished authors here: My Coaching Services


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!