Friday, January 14, 2011

Rejection Letter from An Agent: If I could answer it now


from inkygirl, click cartoon for link & below
 Rejection: I would lay bet every writer has received at least one. So, there is the "I'm going to keep trying," and there's the "I suck so I'm giving up" and there is something in between. Who are you? Having had to SEND rejections through the Rose & Thorn Journal, I know just how close some writers came to that acceptance - and how sometimes we never hear from that writer again, and we wish we would. Then there are writers who just do not fit our journal, and no matter how many times they submit, it may never ever work out between us.

This is a rejection letter I received in 2008 for what would become Tender Graces, a book that I'm receiving great reviews on, just as I am with Sweetie  - my responses are in blue -of course I didn't send my responses back, because that just isn't done - but if I could have . . .
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Dear Kathryn,

Thank you for sending your material so promptly - I was really looking forward to taking a look at it (you were! Why . . . dang . . . that's nice to hear). Unfortunately, your project doesn't seem right for me. Since it's crucial that you find an agent who will represent you to the best of his or her ability, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to step aside rather than ask to represent your manuscript (Aw, hon, that's okay - I found a really great group of women publishers and I'm happy! But thanks for taking time to read some of it.).


You have a great imagination - I love the premise and you're a good writer (thank you! That's kind of you - in fact, this encourages the hellvetica out of me to keep trying), but I'm sad to say that I just wasn't passionate enough about this to ask to see more (then we are in agreement - if you aren't passionate about my work, then you aren't right for me, either!). I was intrigued by the theme of spirituality and voices of the dead that the protagonist revisits through objects from her childhood life, but I thought the story lacked direction. I think it's the kind of thing that really is subjective - why some people adore the book on the top of the NYTimes bestseller list, and others don't (I changed something in the first chapter, just because of your feedback about "direction," and perhaps that's what garnered me a contract only a few months after I received your email. Thank you for the feedback - because it turned the corner for my novel).

Just to reiterate, all of these decisions are subjective; another agent and publisher will probably feel differently (Yes, they did, and yes I understand the subjective nature - you really don't even have to feel apologetic, because this is how the business works. Again, to reiterate my point as well, I wouldn't want an agent or publisher who wasn't excited about my work!). I certainly encourage you to continue to seek representation elsewhere (I wish I could offer you some suggested names, but this really is such a subjective business that I'm not sure who it would be right for) (no need for you to suggest, but thanks for being so nice and for the kind offers of help-you could have sent a form letter and you didn't, for that I'm appreciative), and thank you again for the opportunity to take this on (well, thank you for the time you took with me - I'm sure you are a good agent, but things worked out for me after all  - All the best to you, Kathryn Magendie).
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Folks, in most instances, we should never give up. In many instances, we should look at something the agent/publisher has said about our book in their comments and use that to make the book better IF what they are saying makes sense when we look at it objectively and not with emotion- it's your work, after all. In some instances, we may find we want to take another direction for our novel and try something and someone else. In my instance, I by-passed an agent and went straight to a publisher just because I loved their motto: "Southern Fried Fiction," and the rest is "my history." Maybe a rejection will be a springboard to something else: a tighter manuscript, or a different agent, or a small royalty paying press like Bellebooks/Bell Bridge Books, or whatever works for you.

I couldn't "kill the messenger" - I could have been upset at this agent, but look at the time she took with my letter. And the hint she gave me about "direction" that allowed me to see something in the first part of my book I needed to change. And here I am, three published books later - Tender Graces is a well-loved novel and I'm proud of it.

Have a good weekend, y'all!

Cartoon from : Inkygirl: Daily Diversions for Writers

29 comments:

Diane said...

Good message to pass on to each of us. Thank you for the encouraging show of how the journey may not be what we think it will be. :O)

Lori said...

Great wisdom! This same wisdom can be used in other area's as well. Happy weekend dear lady. XX

Teresa said...

I know how frustrating and horrible rejections are, even really, really nice ones like this (and I did get a really, really nice rejection from a literary agent). It still hurt, but she was very kind.

However, there is one thing you hit on, Kat, and that is the excitement. I have an agent now who sold my book, and I KNOW she sold my book, because she loved it as much as I did. She really gave 110% to help me edit it and put it out there on the market.

So Kat is right. Don't settle for any agent or publisher. Look at what they say, see if you can tweak that manuscript one more time and hold out for someone who LOVES your work. And hang in there, it takes time sometimes, but it can happen.

Great post, Kat!

Susan R. Mills said...

So true! We can all learn something from each and every rejection. So glad you didn't give up, Kat!

Carolyn V. said...

I agree. Each rejection can teach us (but they are still painful). This is a great post Kat! Thanks. =D

Glynis said...

Love the post! Love your virtual response to agent!

Rejections hurt but make me more determined. I have stripped my ms apart and starting again. One rejection hinted at having a move around of my timeline. Do you know what? They were right, it works.

john bord said...

Over the Years I have gotten lots of Dear John's.

KarenG said...

That was one a nice long encouraging rejection letter.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

What a cool rejection letter! It basically was a professional mini-critique, and I'm glad it led to your current situation. Nice of you to pass it along, as it's always good to be reminded that rejection can lead to growth, literary and otherwise. :-)

Karen said...

Kathryn, love you way of looking at things. You are so neat! Stay warm!

Terri Tiffany said...

I have to say--that was one pretty amazing rejection letter! Mine are usually form ones:)

Eryl said...

...and here I am, three published books later - has such a lovely ring to it!

Walker said...

Never give up never surrender.
Where did I hear that?
Scooby Doo I think?
No, it was some Tim Allen movie, banana quest or something like it.

I think it was their loss and your gain.

You showed the strength to keep going forward until you succeeded.

GALAXY QUEST that's the name.
Movie sucked but Sigourney Weaver showed enough cleavage to make it worth watching.

michiko said...

Hi Kathryn
I found you in here that took so long I thought was you are busy with writting your books.
I had look at Worldpress on your videos.
I was disappointed to seen too much coverd with snow at your mountains though only my memories are a beautiful your moutains:-)

Sorry I don't like the cold winter
where I lived in Melbourne that rerely see the snow.

Hope you will get back to the treadmill and Yoga soon.
Have a great weekend.

Janna Qualman said...

You know what's worst for me? Not hearing ANYTHING (yay or nay), even after I've followed up. :(

demery bader-saye said...

Great post! Wonderful encouragement. I love the idea of writing back (but not sending) a response to agents... it suggests that this really *is* a conversation, that there really is power on both sides, that this really is about finding a good match. If I have a voice in the process, too, then I'm not just passively sitting back feeling sorry for myself with each rejection. As always, thanks for the good encouragement, Kathryn. I'm loving Tender Graces, by the way. It is so rich & deep & lovely.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Love it, friend! So so glad you are with BelleBooks. They're as awesome as you are.

Posting linky love at my blawg. :)
xxo

~JarieLyn~ said...

Wow, this post is a real eye-opener. What a great rejection letter. I'm so glad you shared it with us because it is very helpful and encouraging. I loved your responses too. I picture you saying it with a heavy southern drawl which is my very favortie kind of accent.

Doreen said...

well, I loved it! constructive feedback is good, as long as we can move on with it.

T. Anne said...

What a GREAT attitude you have! I loved your (blue) responses at her insight. I think if more people look at rejection in the manner in which you did, there would be a lot less bruised egos. In fact I hope to one day share at least one of my many rejection letters that were personal on some level. I really did learn through those as well. Again, thank you for sharing! It's great to see someone as successful as yourself in the same trenches as so many other writers. I like you even more.

Rachel Cotterill said...

Aww, that's a really lovely rejection letter. I'm studying for my PhD and when I got my first conference submission rejected, I was cut up for a while, but the feedback was SO helpful in getting my act together and writing a much better paper the next year.

Lynda Young said...

I'd be elated if I got a rejection as detailed as that. Usually it's the old one-liner rejection letter. Congrats on your success! :)

Jessica Nelson said...

Wonderful post and I loved your blue comments ;-) More of us writers need to have such a good attitude!

Texas Playwright Chick said...

It's great that you were able to see the 'critique' in there! Lucky it wasn't a form letter since she gave you a hint. I totally agree that you need an agent/publisher, etc., that is passionate about your work!! Words of wisdome!

Debra said...

Strickly from a readers point of view, I'm certainly happy you never gave up!

A Cuban In London said...

Well, this is a great post, even if it deals with a sad, and dare I say, unnerving subject. What called my attention the most was how your book was called 'the project'. I'm a project manager for Chrissakes! Project is what we call a scheme, an initiative, not a book! Well, you proved them wrong. Good on you. Keep up the good work.

Greetings from London.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Kathryn .. love how feisty your replies are .. or would have been - & delighted you've published so many.

Keep on going .. for all its worth .. cheers HIlary

Gaston Studio said...

Love your comments to the points in the letter Kat and am so glad you went elsewhere and found exactly what you were seeking.

MT said...

I really liked this post. Thanks for letting us take a look at this very personal experience. :)