September 10, 2010 – Rejection

I sent an additional query yesterday afternoon, plus three more today.  I also got a rejection from one of the ones I sent. 

What does a rejection letter look like, you ask?  Well, this was mine (I am not going to say who I got it from, because it’s a polite letter—and damn fast turn-around for a query—and I don’t want to make it seem like I’m down on the agent for rejecting me, because I’m not):

Thank you for querying me but unfortunately I’m going to have to pass.

Please don’t take this rejection as a comment on your writing ability, because it isn’t intended to be one.  I’m sure another agent will feel differently.
 
Best of luck to you with the submission process.

So, we are left to speculate as to why it was rejected.  It’s possible that the form of the query did not float the agent’s boat.  Just because I tried to make my query letter acceptable to one agent (the Query Shark) doesn’t mean that other agents find it delivers what they need.  Maybe she needed to hear more than 250 words to sell her on it. 

It’s also possible that my query (which is a synopsis of my book) is not exciting enough; maybe it makes my book sound bland.

There are also reasons for rejection which have nothing to do with how I’ve written my query or my book.  For instance, none of the agents that I have queried so far do 100% fiction, much less 100% fantasy fiction.  It is possible that this agent/her agency has already met their quota for novels or fantasy novels for the time being.  If an agency wants to keep their mix at 50% novels and 50% TV scripts for the year, then they aren’t going to accept more novels if they are already at 60/40, no matter how great the query sounds.  The same is true if like to keep some sort of balance between their genres; if they’ve been doing a lot of fantasy lately, they’re not going to want to accept any more.

It’s also possible that the agent/agency is so busy right now they can’t take on anything else.  Most places, though, aren’t going to say on their website “not currently accepting submissions” because workloads can rise and fall very quickly and they’d probably have to change their website several times a month between accepting/not accepting.  And if you’re busy as it is, you don’t want the burden of putting on your website that you are too busy to take submissions right now.     

And lastly, this is a book with vampires in it.  How many books are there on the market right now about vampires?  There will be some people who don’t want to take it because they think the market is flooded and it will either 1) be difficult to get a publisher to take it or 2) it won’t do well because there’s too much competition.  Agents only make money from sales, so they want to make a maximum amount of money for a minimum amount of effort.  What they don’t want to do is spend hundreds of hours trying to sell a book to publishers that either is not taken or makes poor returns. 

I am actually not disappointed by my rejection at all.  I feel like I’ve passed some sort of milestone. 

Milestones of Writing

1) Having an idea/telling everyone you want to be a writer.

            Participants: Damn near everyone in the Western World

2) Writing something.

            Participants: A quarter of damn near everyone in the Western World.

3) Finishing a novel.

            Participants: Several hundred thousand people.

4) Actually querying agents/publishers.

            Participants: A few hundred thousand people.

5) Getting a rejection letter.

            Participants: Everyone who did Milestone #4.

6) Getting a request for a partial or full manuscript.

            Participants: A hundred thousand people.

7) Get an offer from an agent/publisher.

            Participants: Less than a hundred thousand people.

*Statistics are for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to be wholly accurate.

As you can see, most people never even make it to the point of getting a rejection letter, so I’m already in a fairly elite class of people.  I feel like this makes me a more legitimate writer.  Sure, I will only reach total legitimacy when I am actually published, but most non-writing people are duly impressed by the fact that someone is actually far enough along in the dream of writing a book to actually query agents/publishers, and even published authors will generally nod their heads in understanding when you mention the “R” word.

And I should point out that being rejected via letter is better than being rejected via no comment at all.  Of course, some agents/agencies are going to be polite and respond to everyone, but there are definitely some who are just going to delete a message without even bothering to reply if it’s really horrible, didn’t follow their listed submission guidelines, etc.  So, in some ways, a rejection is actually a sign of not failing completely.  Complete and total failure is not being acknowledged at all (which may be an accidental oversight or spam filter glitch, but it’s most likely because your query sucked too bad to even rate the form rejection).

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