Jon Gibbs (jongibbs) wrote,
Jon Gibbs
jongibbs

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A Rejection With A Silver Lining

Just got a rejection email from an agent for one of my novels. 

 

I can’t deny it was a real blow. I had high hopes for this one. On the bright side, the agency gave me some detailed feedback on my query letter. 

 

I suppose she makes some good points. I’ll read through them again once the initial sting of rejection wears off. 

 

In the meantime, I’ve cut and pasted it below – in case any of you guys find her advice helpful.

 

Dear Mr. Gibbs,

 

Thank you for your interest in the Write Good Read Literary Agency. 

 

First, let me start by saying that, having read the five pages you enclosed with your query, I’m inclined to concede your claim that a book like Dracula vs The Daleks has never been offered to our (or any other) agency before. That said, I’m afraid I can’t see myself representing this.

 

However, as you know, our agency recently introduced a ‘Failure Feedback’ policy. At the end of each week, an unsuccessful query letter is picked from the rejection pile and constructive feedback given to the lucky author.

 

This week, your letter was chosen. Please note: following any or all of the suggestions made here does not guarantee future success (though it is my sincere belief that it will help). 

 

PRESENTATION

Before we start, I’d like to make a couple of suggestions about query letters in general.

 

I think it’s fair to say that printing out an individually addressed letter would have made a better first impression than simply crossing out the name and address of the previous agent to whom you pitched, especially when your letter started with ‘You’re the first agent I’m offering this to…’ 

 

Also, while I like the color red as much as anyone else, your choice of crimson ink on scarlet notepaper made for a difficult read.

 

Now, on to the query itself:

 

INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH

WHY US?

We always like it when writers give a genuine reason for choosing our agency to pitch their work to eg; we recently sold a book for one of our clients in a similar style/genre, or as a result of something we expressed an interest in on our website/blog. That said, I don’t think ‘Because your office is in California and I’ve always wanted to go there’ is a good basis for selecting a potential agent.

 

STORY LENGTH

At 430,000 words, your manuscript is a tad lengthy in today’s publishing world. You should consider dividing it into a series – though, if the first five pages are anything to go by, a quick search-and-delete for the string ‘and then’ should make a major dent in the word count.

 

GENRE

For future reference, despite what you may have heard to the contrary, ‘SyFy’ is not a recognized genre in the literary world. 

 

PITCH-PARA

When it comes to the pitch-para itself, what agents really want to know about is the story. Instead of ‘It’s a stonking good read, if I do say so myself’ and ‘My old gran said it wasn’t as bad as she’d expected’, you should tell us about your protagonist’s story problem, along with some of the obstacles that stand in his/her way.

 

On a side note, I know you feel your novel is ready to go straight to the printer, but believe me when I tell you there’s a lot more to the editing/revision process, even after you've ‘ran it through that spellcheck thingy twice’.

 

REFERENCES

Agents are more interested in writing-related experience than your ability to turn your eyelids inside out, no matter how much you think it would ‘wow them at book-signings’. The same goes for your extensive comic book collection. 

 

YOUR CLOSING PARAGRAPH

Most of our potential clients close with something like ‘Thank you for considering my work.’ I’m sure you’ll agree it sounds better than ‘I know you’re not so stupid that you’ll pass up a golden opportunity like what I’m offering.

 

I hope you find these suggestions useful. 

 

One final note; you mentioned in your query letter that you’ve almost completed your second novel, Sherlock Holmes and the Velociraptors. If you sign and return the attached PDF document, promising never to submit work to our agency again, one of my colleagues will provide a written critique of the first five pages of Dracula vs The Daleks.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Agnes S. Hardacre

For the Write Good Read Literary Agency

 

 

I’ll print out the PDF over the weekend. It’s not the contract I was hoping for, but I’d be crazy to pass up the chance of a feedback from an agent.

 

I’ll post their critique here when I get it.


If you found this helpful, you might also like:

Paperback Writer: Great song, but what if it was a real query letter?
   

The Agent Pitch: 10 Responses You Don't Want to Hear

10 Things You Shouldn’t Say to an Agent During an In-Person Pitch

Tags: fiction, fun, humor, writing
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