Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rejections Are A Hint

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Dear Rejecter:

My first novel has received several detailed, flattering rejections from some of New York's top agents. They say the story is well-plotted, deftly written, poignant, a hell of a read, has memorable characters and I'm evidently enormously talented as well as gifted. However — and there's always a however or a but or a sorry — none of these agents has offered representation, citing the crowded and difficult fiction market. I sympathize with their plight, but what am I to do? My query letter works, my novel works, yet I can't get an agent. Help!

Signed,
Frustrated

I think everyone who's spent any time reading this blog knows what I'm going to say here, which is that clearly this person's novel doesn't work. If it did, the many, many people who are paid by their ability to valuate novels for their potential quality would have replied positively. The query letter might be bad and the novel is probably bad too. Write another one.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Frustrated needs to be more specific. Taking him/her literally, they've aready gotten a full read, since it's "my first novel" that's gotten the rejections. So is it the query that's getting rejected, the partials or the novel? It's not clear from the letter.

And not being clear as a writer is not a good thing. So that could be the problem.

Anonymous said...

If Frustrated has gotten feedback that it's a "hell of a read," doesn't that imply they've reached the full stage with agents looking over the entire manuscript?

Tia Nevitt said...

Regarding your ads: Please put some sort of disclaimer right above (and below, just to be safe) the ads. Otherwise, since they are appearing on your site, people might think they are legit agencies.

This post will rapidly disappear off your front page and your readers might not realize that they are scams.

(This was just a suggestion for you; I won't mind if you moderate it.)

green_knight said...

What's the point in a query letter that has people asking for the manuscript if the manuscript does not wow its readers?

I think there is only one course of action for someone who gets compliments on their writing skills but no offers of representation: write a different novel. Not just better, although you should aim for that, but different. What is it about your novel that means it won't fly? It might simply not be a first novel, might need the weight of a couple of decently selling books behind it before someone will take a chance on it.

If, in a workshop situation, you can manage to get somone to say why they're passing, that might help. It seems to me that in this situation - people like it, but they can't see how to sell it - whatever is making them cautious is not something that can be fixed by polishing the language or inserting [whatever], but something that is integral to the story.

You can either find someone who loves it or write a different book, or both. I recommend option c)

Anonymous said...

how is she/e getting that kind of feedback solely from a bad query letter???

It was very clear to me that the author was getting the book read.

brimfire said...

Yeah, it sounds like he might have gotten to a full read. I'd take those comments as positive feedback. Maybe it's just not clicking for those agents now. Write another book, send it off. Persistance and a little bit of luck, that's what it's going to take. Once you sell book two (or three or four), you can always show your agent book one. And, if you resubmit to an agent, you could always say in your new book's query letter that they thought your first book was a "hell of a read". (Um, correct me if that would be a dumb thing to do in a query)

Sandy

Gina Black said...

Sounds to me like the rejections are based on full reads. In that case, my understanding is that when an agent raves but doesn't take it on there's an illusive missing element that lets them say no. JMHO. YMMV.

Or maybe they are writing to an area of the market that's over inventoried?

The Rejecter said...

Argh. Not my game day. Revised.

Jan said...

If I click one of those scam agency ads fifty times, will you get a buck, or is it two cents per IP address?

'Cause if it's the former, I wouldn't be averse to wasting a little time clicking.

The Rejecter said...

It's scaled based on number visitors vs. number of clicks, but I think it has to be a unique IP per ad. There's no reason to click on an ad twice, unless you actually want to go to that web page.

I predict some pretty funny material will come from these ads.

Deb said...

Why on earth would you want to place ads for scam businesses? Just curious--for all it affects me, you could advertise for Atilla the Hun Kinder, Gentler Diaper Service.

And if Fusstrated is getting this feedback on full MS submissions, it might serve him/her to pick up the phone & ask the #1 agent who liked the book, "What's keeping us from getting to yes?" The worst #1 Agent can say is Go Directly to Jail, Do Not Pass Go...

And I would never, in any query,
mention that it's my first novel. I'm long past that time now, but it's nobody's business if this is book #1 or book #23. It's supposed to be the quality of the storytelling that matters. Why give 'em a reason to say no?

Anonymous said...

My guess is, based on my own experience, you write well, but your book doesn't have a ready-made market or a big enough market to make it worth the agent's time.

Put your good writing skills to work on something entirely different. The positive feedback you recieved is proof you're a good writer. You just picked the wrong project.

I'd be willing to bet you have several projects simmering on the back burner. Pick one and get going. A year from now, I promise you'll be glad you did.

Anonymous said...

My guess is, based on my own experience, you write well, but your book doesn't have a ready-made market or a big enough market to make it worth the agent's time.

Put your good writing skills to work on something entirely different. The positive feedback you recieved is proof you're a good writer. You just picked the wrong project.

I'd be willing to bet you have several projects simmering on the back burner. Pick one and get going. A year from now, I promise you'll be glad you did.

Anonymous said...

There isn't any indication of how many rejections the author has had but if he/she is getting great personalized feedback, DO NOT GIVE UP. The same thing happened to me, 100+ rejections over the course of 18 months, many form, several extremely complimentary. Eventually an agent loved it, an agent at a well-established and respected firm with many sales. Then he found an editor who loved it. None of this would have happened if I'd given up. Sure, write another novel. But keep this one going!

Anonymous said...

I would ease up on telling people to click the ads, or having bloggers say they're going to click the ads multiple times. Technically this is known as "click fraud" and Google takes it quite seriously.

Aimless Writer said...

I came, I saw, I clicked.
Note to the Rejecter; You're not suppose to ask them to click the ads. Its in the rules. If they catch you, you could get bounced.
But I totally think the ads are a good idea. (you also can't click your own ads)
Re: Good manuscript, always rejected. Evidently not the right time for this masterpiece. Shelve it, write another and dust the first one off in a couple of years to try again.

The Rejecter said...

Yeah, I'm not going to ask anyone to click again. As for the content of the ads, I don't control that, and scam agencies put up a lot of ads, so that's what it's going to be.

Thanks for the advice, everyone.

underaredstar said...

Im sure you can ask adsense to not do the scam agency adds.

Also there is a Amazon based ad program thing like adsense that tends to advertise books and such.

Jan said...

I'm clicking the ads for my own personal edification, as in what do these people claim they can offer? But I won't click more than once, especially since it doesn't help The Rejecter.

Anonymous said...

Frustrated -- Without reading your book no one will be able to tell you what the problem is, but it's entirely possible these agents are telling the truth -- it's good, but it's just not good enough. It's so competitive out there right now that an agent's not going to take on something, no matter how well-written, if they don't absolutely love it and they're not absolutely convinced they can sell it.

You may catch a lucky break with a younger agent who's not at one of the big houses. It also couldn't hurt for you to a) take a good hard look at the MS, b) have it read by a critique group or other readers if you have them, or c) work on something else while you continue to shop this MS.

Remember, it only takes one yes.

Anonymous said...

Re scam agencies: Ethical issues aside, I'd consider being okay with furthering their business vs wanting to find work in a legitimate agency. I'm just saying...

The Rejecter said...

Google cannot tell the difference between a scam agency and a real one. I could email them about individual sites and they would probably remove them, but there are literally HUNDREDS of fake agencies, contests, search sites, novel writing courses, vanity presses ... and they're all going to come up because they use the same words that are found in the entries.

Deal.

Richard said...

As the first poster said, "...not being clear as a writer is not a good thing." The same can be said of the sad state of rejection letters, which either gush apologies or appear to have been written by robots.

Fortunately, a solution is now available: Custom Rejection Letters! Please visit www.richardimanning.com/rejection.htm to view samples.

No longer do agents have to worry about having just the right rejection letter to express their disdain or sympathy for an author's submission.

Note: the above is satirical. In case you couldn't tell. But please visit the site anyway for a humorous look at an otherwise non-humorous situation.

Nancy Beck said...

Frustrated,

If you're up to a crit, you can try posting either your query or the first chapter of your novel in the Share Your Work section of the Absolute Write Water Cooler (that's the forums, in case you don't know).

You'll be asked for a password, but the password is right above the dialogue box that pops up.

Then you can decide what genre your novel is in and paste away - there's also a separate section for query letters, too.

If you can handle your stuff being subjected to fresh eyes, this might be a good solution as to whether you should continue shopping this around as-is, make some revisions before sending around again, or shelving the novel altogether.

BTW, a lot of first novels never make it to publication, and your novel might just be that.

Solution? Write another, better novel.

Good luck!