There’s a fork in the road ahead. I’ve about reached the end of shopping The Forge around to agents. I think I may try one last wave in November. At this point, it looks like I've exhausted the AAR Online and Agent Query lists. Many of the names I’m finding are duplicates. I’m going to search https://mswishlist.com/mswl/fantasy for agents who looking for #grimdark #epicfantasy.
The “keep trying” and “stay positive” advice is welcome. 40+ explicit rejections (and 50+ implicit rejections) is pretty solid evidence the query pitch isn’t interesting enough. I guess I need to work on this.
No response so far has looked more intimate than a pure boilerplate “pass." While some folks suggest I can try to decode the wording to find some underlying reason for the rejection, I’ve also read about the importance of an agent avoiding the appearance of giving notes to an author, in order to avoid a resubmission. The form-letter rejections cannot be decoded further.
Query Shark or a professional Query Edit is a possibility. Critters.org beta readers can help with this, also. Since I seem to have run out of agents interested in #grimdark #epicfantasy, any more querying will look like I'm badgering them.
A book outside the Tales of the Red Ranger series — but set in the same world — is a possibility. World-building gave me something like 900 years of prequel stories. There are centuries of sequel stories, too, but they won’t center on the technology shift.
A mystery, solved by a High Priest of the Temple of Cythan strikes me as fun. More #grimdark. Less sweeping. Not an earth-changing quest, but a personal journey. There’s a place for world-weary problem-solving and youthful enthusiasm trying to keep the Temple running smoothly.
Unrelated to the books, I still need to clean up the "Shoemaker’s Row" story based on beta-reader comments, and shop this around again.
Rereading 25 Things Writers Should Know About Rejection. Item 3, on gatekeeping, is an important perspective. I can hate it all I want, but it’s a testament to the (lack of) interest in my book. Also, item 16, on risk aversion, is important. Publishers are willing and able to leave money on the table — if they didn’t, lulu.com wouldn’t exist. Looked at the other way, self-publishing is how writers pick up money left behind by traditional publishers. (Also, the notion of a "comfortable agent” suggests to me there’s too much money not going to either writers or uncomfortable, struggling agents. I suspect the copyright laws protecting art after the artist’s death tends to stifle new artists and preventing risk-taking in the publishing industry.)
Chuck Wendig suggests a volume akin to 200 rejections is possible. I’m willing to send that many queries, but I’m not sure where to find so many unique agents. (I’ve found 153.)
My non-fiction is marketplace-driven. What seems difficult is understanding what the demand in the fiction market really is. While agents try to describe their desires, many descriptions are poetic, leaving me unclear on whether or not I should query them.