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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). 



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:




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.



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.



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



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’.



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. 



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

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( 37 comments — Leave a comment )
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Aug. 8th, 2009 03:36 pm (UTC)
Careful now, editors don't like it when you make their rejection letters public. And since literary agents aren't born, they are summoned from the infernal regions by dark incantation and blasphemous rituals, that might be almost twice as bad.

Good stuff, Jon!

Of course now I'm reluctant to try shopping my piece "Harry Potter is a Sweet Transvestite from Transexual Transylvania." A think with these Twilight books, there's just a glut of vampire stuff out there and publishers are probably leery of making it too pervasive. Stupid Stephanie Meyer anyway.
Aug. 8th, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
I knew it was a long shot, but I really thought the Dalek angle would swing things in my favor.

Ah, well. Can't win 'em all ;)

Edited at 2009-08-08 04:51 pm (UTC)
Aug. 8th, 2009 03:49 pm (UTC)
I'm not a writer, nor an aspiring one, so I just read your post and wondered at this,

"If you sign and return the attached PDF document, promising never to submit work to our agency again..."

Is this a normal practice? Why would an agency want you to promise never to submit your work again?
Aug. 8th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
I'm told it's not common practise (though a good number of short story editors have suggested I send future work elsewhere).

I think they want to make sure their offer to critique my first five pages can't be misconstrued as a bribe, rather than the selfless act of kindness which it is. You know how some writers complain of favoritism and such ;)
Aug. 8th, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC)
That is too darn funny. LOL!
Aug. 8th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
Go on, mock my pain. I can take it :(
Aug. 8th, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC)
This was hilarious! Thanks for the laugh.
Aug. 8th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
Et tu, Mary? :P
Aug. 8th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
You should've marinated the whole thing in Old Spice before you sent it. How would they ever resist it then? :D

Thanks for the funny!
Aug. 8th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
Of course! Why didn't I think of that? After all, garlic powder is so yesterday.

Thanks for the tip, Lon. I'm glad your mom's surgery went well :)

Aug. 8th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)

Sometimes rejection can be a harsh lesson... ;-)
Aug. 8th, 2009 08:49 pm (UTC)
True, very true :)
Aug. 8th, 2009 08:49 pm (UTC)
You're a hoot. You had me going for a minute!
Aug. 8th, 2009 08:55 pm (UTC)
hehehehehehehehe :)
(no subject) - a_r_williams - Aug. 8th, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Aug. 9th, 2009 12:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Aug. 9th, 2009 11:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Aug. 9th, 2009 11:08 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 8th, 2009 10:14 pm (UTC)
HEEEEheehee! Can't wait for the critique =D
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:11 am (UTC)
Thanks. I mailed the contract last night. As soon as they send me the critique, I'll post it :)
Aug. 8th, 2009 10:36 pm (UTC)
Funny stuff, Jon! :D
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:15 am (UTC)
Thank you, sir :)
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:22 am (UTC)
Uh-oh, busted :(

So sorry, Jodi. I didn't think you'd ever find out, and I did change the names.

Also, please accept my apologies for the glitter in your hair thing. I had the same problem when I put it in the envelope. It took me half an hour to brush it all out ;)

Speaking of bad query letters, you must have some great stories to tell. How about giving us a 'Query Letters That Should Never Have Seen The Light Of Day' post on your journal sometime?

(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Aug. 30th, 2009 02:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 9th, 2009 01:27 am (UTC)

‘SyFy’ is not a recognized genre in the literary world. SO funny.
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:23 am (UTC)
Hey, it was an honest mistake :P
Aug. 9th, 2009 05:52 am (UTC)
LOL, you totally sucked me in at first. Hahaha. Love it.
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:27 am (UTC)
Thank you kindly, Ma'am :)

Aug. 9th, 2009 09:59 am (UTC)
Too much fun.
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:25 am (UTC)
Aug. 9th, 2009 10:55 am (UTC)
Lol, wise words, all of them. Now I know where I'm going wrong.
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:25 am (UTC)
It eases my pain, knowing that my failure can help others succeed ;)
Aug. 10th, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
Sounds like Sherlock Holmes is in a real pickle here. Velociraptors have problem-solving intelligence. He'd have them all attacking the fences when the feeders came. ;)

[Catching up on weekend reads. This really made my day!]
Aug. 10th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC)
Hehe, he had enough trouble with that Baskerville mutt. Still, I have faith in him :)
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