Ready to surrender… but an agent’s rejection stalled the white flag

So I’m at that joyous point of the querying process where the rejections are rolling in thick and fast. Now, I’m tough enough to accept rejection, but the hard part here is that, without exception, every email from an uninterested agent comes across as – and most probably is – a generic response with my name merely pasted to the top (although I did get one “Dear Author” email too. Nice). And even though us novice writers are told to expect rejection, it does knock your confidence a little when it’s relentless. Hence, these rejections and their detached nature began to make me feel a little despondent.

As a consequence of this (and the fact that I’m slowly running out of agency options) I was about ready to give up on a traditional publishing deal and head down the self-pub route instead (or just head down the pub). Whilst self publishing was always a plan B for me, it was still a prospect I’d hoped to avoid… and it was knocking the wind out of my follow-up novel too.

However, in the space of just a single email, my faith in my book was restored.

The email in question came in the form of a rejection – no big deal; just another to add to the pile – but this time it was a personal reply from the agent himself. He told me he enjoyed my work and really liked the writing, but that as a crossover novel somewhere between sci-fi and a classic British seafaring adventure, he couldn’t see himself successfully placing the book. Thus, his rejection was based entirely on business reasons. Fair enough.

What his email did do, though, was (a) put a human face behind this bastion of impregnability that is the literary agent, and (b) give me reason to feel that my book isn’t in fact a load of crap, but simply hard to market – and therefore a very hard-sell to agents. Of course this isn’t great news, but I was warned of such a dilemma by my editor, so it comes as no shock.

Nevertheless, the upshot of this is that from this single email with an explanation of exactly why my book was rejected, I feel rejuvenated and ready to continue the querying process with a new angle of attack and a rejigged manuscript.

Interestingly, something I also found amusing was that this was the exact same agent to whom I sent a query without actually attaching the manuscript. I thought that his email to inform me of such a blunder would be the last ever I heard from him. Thankfully it wasn’t. It didn’t end in a 10-book, six-figure deal, but there’s plenty time for that yet.

So, if like me you’re feeling down at the lack of progress with agents, don’t give up. One of the main reasons people fail is because they quit (much like I was ready to).

Don’t quit.

Thanks for reading.

13 comments on “Ready to surrender… but an agent’s rejection stalled the white flag

  1. Hah! Awesome, you got a personal response saying they liked your work but couldn’t imagine selling it. Well done!

    I wonder, doors this mean you need to hit up the small print publishers that focus on the steampunky kind of niche?

    • gpeynon says:

      That is exactly what I was thinking. It has given me another avenue to pursue if (when) all of the agencies say no. Will require more bloody research, but it could prove fruitful.

      P.S. That bag of nails is on it’s way…

  2. Kate Loveton says:

    Glad you got that needed boost. I like your concept – hope it soon finds a home.

  3. Of the few queries I’ve sent all have been answered with form rejections or silence. Good for you for getting some actual feedback. Best of luck with the small publishers and if that doesn’t work out, I think self publishing is still a good option!

    • gpeynon says:

      Yeah, I think it will be self-pub in the end. I just wanted that moment when the publishers send you the first copy of your book and you know that you’re a real writer – but I’m thinking not with this particular book. Any news on your novel?

      • I sent a total of seven query letters, and by the time I got the second rejection letter I’d already decided to self-publish. My reasons (in no particular order): 1. I’m impatient. The thought of waiting months to hopefully find an agent, then waiting months to hopefully find a publisher, then waiting months for the book to be published wasn’t working for me. 2. I like control. The more I learned about rights and the book development process, the more unsure I was about traditional publishing. 3. My book is about vampires. I have a feeling the publishing houses believe the market for vampire fiction is saturated, or perhaps they already have their share of vampire novels to promote and don’t want another.

        This isn’t to say I would never try the trad publishing route again. I have a new adult book floating around my head that I think would do well the traditionally published route–now I just have to write it!

        So, with my current novel. It’s going to an editor Monday for the first round of edits and I’m about 2/3 the way through the first draft of the sequel. If all goes according to schedule the first book will be released in July 2015 and the second in the fall.

  4. Mr Pootler says:

    It’s so frustrating when the replies are just by the numbers. I’ve had a fair few of those and just one that gave a little bit of feedback – and it was largely marketability for me too – and it really does make all the difference. Keep going!

    • gpeynon says:

      How did you do in the end? Did you try to alter the marketability, or push on regardless? It’s certainly a conundrum…

      • Mr Pootler says:

        I’m trying to rephrase my query to hint at more marketability than is immediately obvious. Mine’s a very British book about a British high street and British folk traditions and tales (although they’ve spread across the world before and since), and the agent’s qualm was about lack of international marketability. Sadly, the Britishness is inbuilt into the narrative, so I can’t really change it too much without it being a completely different book. I’m trying to highlight the current international appeal of the quintessentially British Doctor Who as an example in my query letter as well as a few other things.

        I’ve just sent it off for a professional critique from Writers’ Workshop and have specifically asked about marketability, so hopefully that’ll be of use.

        Other than that, I think it’s just about research research research to find agents who are interested in my kind of waffle. It never ends!

      • gpeynon says:

        Well, good luck. Sounds tricky.

        You’re the second person in two days who has mentioned researching agents properly. That’s another one add to the list then…

  5. Mr Pootler says:

    Are you in the UK? I’ve just signed up to Agent Hunter, which seems like it might make it a little easier to narrow down likely agents. Could be worth a try, but I haven’t fully investigated all the functionality yet.

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