Monday, January 24, 2011

I Maybe Am Not Completely Inept

I believe it when agents say they are busy people. Whether they are constant bloggers or not, I understand that I don’t understand all that goes into their job. I also understand that agents are people, and may want to spend time with other people doing some of the non-work things people like to do.

For those reasons, I can easily accept form rejections on queries. I can accept waiting longer than the agent’s self-posted average response time, especially when said agent suggests sending a follow-up email if that happens. Not hearing back from an agent when they say specifically in their guidelines that they don’t respond to queries unless they’re interested doesn’t bother me either. Not hearing back from an agent who says they respond to every query bothers me a little, but I send a follow-up email and/or get over it. If I never hear from them, maybe that agent just wasn’t for me.

That said, in the midst of form rejections, I received a pleasant surprise. This particular agent didn’t respond in the time specified on his website so I sent a follow-up email. After a big chunk of time passed, I figured I wouldn’t be hearing from him, but lo and behold a response came. There was something different about this form rejection… could it be that it wasn’t a form rejection at all?

Rather than the usual “doesn’t fit my list at the time” or something similar, which is what I’ve come to expect in a rejection letter, this agent (or his assistant?) wrote that he was “intrigued by the premise” but that the sample pages didn’t draw him in. He even gave a reason why the writing didn’t engage him!

What really caught my attention was one phrase. Intrigued by the premise? Intrigued by the premise! *Gasp* Dare I think it?

I think I dare…

My query letter might not suck!!!

I’ve come a long way.

Okay, yeah, there’s that little problem of my sample pages not being engaging, but do you know what’s harder than re-writing an entire novel? Writing a good freakin’ query letter! I literally have seventeen pages of query re-writes. (And I do mean literally). Let’s not even add to that how many query re-writes I’ve done for my second novel. I’ve written so many queries for my two complete manuscripts that I’ve given certain Word documents names like “Query Omnibus.”

I’ve thought that maybe this agent has several forms of form rejections. Form rejection A for situation A. Form rejection B for situation B, and so on. I've also thought that maybe I'm reading too much into into this. But I've pushed those thoughts aside. Why burst my own bubble?

I don’t know if this agent realized I’d find encouragement in his seven-sentence response email and I didn’t write back to tell him I appreciated his opinion because I didn’t want to clutter up his inbox, but I appreciate his efforts just the same.

As I move forward into a new round of querying, I’m submitting a different project. One that has seen almost as many revisions as its query letter. I don’t suddenly expect non-form rejections from every agent I reach out to (actually, I’m hoping to get no rejections and to finally make it past the querying stage), but I did want to take a moment to thank those agents*who take the time to blog, grant interviews, and do so much to make it easy for writers to find information about this whole query process (and beyond). I’ve learned a lot from you.

*Not to slight the writers, editors, and other industry professionals who are also awesome in their giving of helpful information.** I thank you, too. But you know, when you have a theme and stuff going you gotta roll with it.

**Or who just make me laugh:


  1. Found you on Mafi's list.

    The key is not to give up :) Good luck with your new project.

  2. Janet Reid had the best piece of advice on Query Shark about just this situation. After polishing a query letters to perfection don't forget to go back and do the same to the manuscript. Hopefully you can resubmit to that agent after revisions.

    Good luck with the rewrites & next round of querying!

  3. Thanks, Florence and SM!

    As my mom would say, a word to the wise is sufficient. Thanks for the advice. Cha, (I feel) my current project is much more polished than the first so hopefully I have better luck this time around.

  4. I like your optimism! I guess that's the thing about the writing can't give up. Cos giving up is pretty much like The End.

    You're going well. Keep it up! And g'luck on your querying journey :)

  5. Never give up. Never surrender.


  6. So felt like I wrote this post! I've had those moments from agents or editors -- just a few little words here or there -- that suddenly allows me move from saying "I don't suck" to "I might actually be a good writer, maybe."

    And just wondering what your genre/project is?

  7. Yah for personal rejections! Amazing how just one of those can keep you going isn't it?

    Like you said above, "Never give up, Never surrender." (But do avoid large, living rock monsters,)

  8. Jenna - Glad it's not just me! The one I've previously queries was paranormal and about werewolves, which I know the market is flooded with but one can't always help the stories that come to them. The one I'm sending out right now is YA sci/fi. Well, science fantasy is probably more accurate. It's about super-powered aliens. Thanks for asking!

    Marjorie - Thanks! I shan't!

    Miriam - (And adorable little cannibals.)

  9. Whenever you put yourself out there for anyone to critique it sucks. The problem with publishing is that you're putting yourself out there for others to critique that get paid to do so. I think this creates a Simon Cowell approach to everything as they're looking for the next "Publishing Idol". If you get a rejection on pages you've written, keep in mind that you are being rejected because the person that evaluated doesn't think they can sell it. "Selling" and "Good Writing" have absolutely nothing to do with each other (I welcome anyone to argue this point with me differently). Just remind yourself that you are wonderful and that somewhere out there is a person that really does want to read your work. It's just finding that person that's the hard part.

  10. Aaw, thanks for the encouragement! The only way to find that person is to put myself out there even to the people who will turn out to not be the right agent.

    I've read that some agents have rejected writers whose work they thought was sellable. They just didn't fall in love with it enough to represent it. So it looks like it can go both ways. (Isn't it great to know there's so many reasons your submission can be rejected?)

    I'm hoping to fall into that category of writers who are able to pull off both "good writing" and "selling". Best of both worlds!