Thursday, January 14, 2010

My first rejection

January 14, 2010

Dear Author: Thank you so much for sending the [name redacted] Literary Agency your query. We’d like to apologize for the impersonal nature of this standard rejection letter. Rest assured that we do read every query letter carefully and, unfortunately, this project is not right for us.

Because this business is so subjective and opinions vary widely, we recommend that you pursue other agents. After all, it just takes one "yes" to find the right match.

Good luck with all your publishing endeavors.

And there it is! My first rejection letter. And it's a form letter -- the worst kind of all. No feedback. No "You're almost there, keep at it." Nothing but no. Yay.

I ended up sending out two letters to prospective agents yesterday, the first included the first five pages of my manuscript as per her instructions, and this one, which consisted only of the query (per this particular agent's instructions).

Want to know a secret? This didn't hurt nearly as much as I thought it would. Weird, huh? I fully expect to receive my second NO any time now -- since that's the one I sent to the Mikey of the agent world (she doesn't like anything!). Of course, I screwed that one up. BUT, it contains a sample of the book, something the above agent didn't see.

So we'll see. But I know from exhaustive research that no author -- not one -- got accepted the first time they sent a query or a manuscript. Stephen King? Dozens of rejections. J.K. Rowling? Rejected by every single agent and publishing house except one -- and it got rich from her in the long run.

So, there's no telling. But I shall persevere. The process has only just begun. (Why am I starting to sound like John Paul Jones?)

I'll update if I hear from Agent No. 1 today.
UPDATE: I sent a third query out late this afternoon to an agent in Tennessee. I found him on the Internet and he reps what I write. So we'll see. In summary -- three queries out, one rejection, two pending. I'm told many published authors send out up to 50 or even 100 queries before they get an agent. It's gonna be a long winter.


  1. They'll be sorry one day. Hey Terry, have you considered self-publishing the book while you look for an agent or publisher? Hang in there and keep fighting the good fight!

  2. That kind of letter is pretty typical, and it does hurt the least precisely because it is so impersonal. Hopefully you won't get one of the sarcastic ones: "Alas, this isn't right for us. SO sorry." The ones with comments are painful, but they're like gems, because you can then take that criticism and work with it.

    Have you been to The Public Query Slushpile? It's a peer review of your query letter. Sometimes it's helpful to have other people look it over and offer suggestions.

  3. Marty: Thanks for the kind words! No, I haven't really considered self-publishing. I'd rather give the traditional route a go first. Not sure why, but self publishing seems to have a really negative stigma in the "traditional" publishing field.

    Kristy: Yeah, the form letter style was so impersonal it felt like I was being rejected by an ATM machine. I hope I can get some comments at some point. That would be very helpful.

    As far as peer reviews, I've had quite a bit actually. I put earlier versions of the query on Nathan Bradford's site, as well as on the Writer's Digest query review section. I got some very helpful comments that, I think, helped me. I also submitted it to the Query Shark, but so far she hasn't bitten.

  4. You'll get a bite Terry. I got a feeling...
    At least the first one is out of the way and it seems like you have a great attitude about it, so it's sure to come.