Friday, July 18, 2008

Confession: Taking the Plunge

Confession: I finally did it.

I finally started submitting to agents.

I had my query letter approved by Jaden the Wonder-Troll, and began emailing agents today.

<---Jaden in real life.

Using Agentquery.com, I sent out 65 queries. So far today I have received 9 standard rejection forms and 1 personal rejection.

And now, available only here, are details and examples of my rejection exploits. Read and learn:


Attn Ms. Agent,

I read on AgentQuery.com that you represent Young Adult fiction, and are particularly interested in __________. I believe you will be interested in my 60,000 word gender-struggle YA novel Woman's World, book one of a completed trilogy.

In a female-dominated society where men are kept as domestic slaves, one young woman must overcome cultural barriers as she grows closer to her new, abused slave -a romance that uncovers the secret history behind women's rise to power in our world and leads to an exciting, apocalyptic revolution to restore gender equality.

When the famous and reclusive writer known only as the Poetess selects for her first slave a young man whose muteness makes him worthless in society's eyes despite his great beauty, their journey towards trust and compassion in her isolated home sparks a powerful and forbidden romance. Torn with feelings deviating from strict religious and social dogma, and possibly dying from a cancerous illness that makes her shamefully barren, the Poetess struggles to come to terms with the love she feels for the slave she named Shaedyn, and her new, heretic belief that men deserve to be equal with women. Whispers of an underground equalist movement, and their tentative plan to use the Poetess as a political tool to sway the hearts of the nation, excite and terrify the Poetess until a near-deadly failing of health forces her to leave Shaedyn behind and travel to the East Hall, a technological metropolis and secret heart of the revolution itself.

At age 19, Woman's World is one of five novels I have written. Originally posted online at Fictionpress.com, garnishing 61,000 hits, near 1,000 favorable reviews, and hundreds of registered fans, Woman's World takes the female-dominant society stereotype to an intelligent and realistic place with a romance and characters proven to capture the heart of any reader. My other writing credits include a personal narrative in the literary magazine TeenInk, and an award from the Journalistic Education Association for Feature Writing. I would be happy to send you a complete copy of the manuscript for your review. I appreciate your time, and look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,

Savannah



Now, this is not the best query letter in the entire world, and I know that. But I was too impatient to wait much longer, having wasted so much time already. It's a mistake I encourage you not to make.

Within the next three hours I had six standard rejection letters, reaching a pinnacle of ten rejection letters at the end of the day, including one personal rejection letter.

Example of a standard rejection letter:

Dear Savannah:
Many thanks for thinking of me, but I am afraid I do not feel that I am the right agent for your work.

All my best,

Sara


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I’m afraid I don’t represent YA and wouldn’t be the right agent for this.

I wish you luck

Jessica


(Apparently agentquery lied to me in this particular case; learn from this -always double-check your results)

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Dear Author:

Thank you so much for sending the _______ Agency your query.

We’d like to apologize for the impersonal nature of this standard rejection letter. Rest assured that we do read every query letter carefully and, unfortunately, this project is not right for us.

Because this business is so subjective and opinions vary widely, we recommend that you pursue other agents. After all, it just takes one "yes" to find the right match.

Good luck with all your publishing endeavors.

Sincerely,

Kristin
Sara


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The Personal Rejection Letter:

Dear Savannah,

Thank you for submitting your query to the ________ Agency. Unfortunately this doesn't look right for us.

While I like the gender role switch, I'm afraid it's a pretty familiar trope and not different enough to stand out in the current market. It looks like you have a good grasp of storytelling, though, so I want to encourage you to keep writing and trying new things. Though this wasn't for me, perhaps another agent will decide to take a look.

As a side note, I was uncertain about the mention of YA and historical romance. This certainly looks like romance, but I didn't catch a lot of YA or historical with it.

Best of luck in your writing career,

Jodi


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Now, I've only gotten 10 rejections over 24 hours, and I'm sure I have many more coming in the next few weeks. Plus, since I submitted only (I thought) to agents representing YA, my next battle tactic is to submit to Romance agents, as apparently I'm a Nora Roberts sinner with a corset-opener sitting as blatantly on my desk as a Magic 8 Ball (which should be mandatory for every writer, by the way, as they are incredibly useful).

But already the panic is setting in. What if it doesn't happen? What if I can't do it?

This post by Seth Godin and this post from some dude are particularly terrifying.

Should this happen to me, I've decided I shall become a publishing rebel, self-publishing and distributing to my few Internet friends as their weekly allowance...well...allows.


Caption: I shall become a Publishing Pirate. You hear that term here first, kiddos.

Paolini, your route is not looking so bad. Perhaps I was deeply, terribly wrong about you.

BUT Paolini did self-publish first (As far as I'm aware). At least I've tried to play fair. :)

6 comments:

Opalyn said...

Oh, dear. I didn't know publishing was that hard in America!
In Sweden we just send our work directly to the publisher - I've acually never heard of anyone having an agent.

Jaden said...

Opalyn- that's why there are no famous Swedish authors. They have it too easy. Easiness encourages laziness, and laziness is next to Godliness.

Savannah, tell me if I guessed your agents right. In order:

1. Sara Crowe
2. Jessica... (couldn't guess this one)
3. Kristin Nelson @ Nelson Agency (they don't use paper... somehow)
4. Jodi Reamer

Perhaps you should write a book about a dragon who finds a Boy Egg while hunting in the Lower Lumbar mountains, and becomes the... (drumroll) Last of the People Riders!

Paolini would say you copied, but who's he to talk plagiarism?

- Jaden

Opalyn said...

You misunderstood me, Jaden. Swedish authors have agents - but only after they get published. And we do have famous Swedish authors. Astrid Lindgren, Selma Lagerlöf, August Strindberg, Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson are some of them :P

Thing in the Coat said...

Awesome. I knew one had to quibble over percentages and fees with agents, but I never realized they were quite so picky about the clients themselves, since, you know, they end up as paying customers. Also, I thought you submitted works to the publisher before contracting an agent to wrangle the legal affairs. Well, live and learn.

Good luck with the publishing deal. I tried to read your story, but personally, I just couldn't get into it. Don't get me wrong -- it's good: The actual style and diction floored me, because I honestly was not prepared for something quite so advanced for a fifteen-year-old (I wish I had written that well at fifteen). The problem is that it just failed to reach out and grab me -- mostly, I think, because of the characters, which aren't entirely enthralling to me. So far, by chapter four, the mute bishonen is pretty much just... well, a mute, which is perfectly understandable, given the nature of his character; but the viewpoint character, the Poetess, is more or less only defined as being a Writer Womyn, with a capital W and a quill dribbling purple, and she so far doesn't really have any apparent shades of character beyond this or have anything particularly interesting to say that lies outside of writerly esoterica. Of course, this is just my opinion, lowly and uncalled-for, and for the most part derives from the fact that writers writing so prominently about writers simply rubs me the wrong way: It often seems to me a conceit, like the author's ego slithering into the story, and so I usually can't help but keep them at arms' length. This just might not be my kind of story, I suppose, and no doubt you would probably find my material equally off-putting.

Still, I suppose I'd better download the story soon, before it hits publication and is taken down from FictionPress, so I won't be forced to buy it. Because, like most people on the Internet, the idea of someone getting my money galls me to the very soul, worrying the walls of my innards like some sort of particularly-abrasive kidney stone that drilled through my bladder and soldiered its way through to comfortable new lodgings in my intestinal tract.

Poetry aside, good luck on hitting the shelves. Hope to see the words Woman's World embossed on some spines sometime I'm walking through Books-a-Million.

P.S. Just a thought wandering idly in an overwhelmingly idle head, but have you perhaps considered other avenues of drumming up attention for your book? I've recently become addicted to podcast books, so I just thought that it wouldn't hurt to look into new media. Warm up your chops, break out a microphone, and it shouldn't cost anything more than time, and could possibly garner a whole new audience. Sounds faddish, to be certain, but believe you me, there's nothing quite like a rich voice to enhance a story.

Marie said...

Some comments on your query letter:

Your second paragraph is a decent blurb, but the following paragraph does nothing but go over the same ground in more detail. It might be a good idea to conflate the two, and have one succinct but informative paragraph outlining the basic plot of the book.

At age 19, Woman's World is one of five novels . . .

The wording here makes it sound like the book is the one that's 19 years old. Needs a fix, yes?

The fact that the agent would be accepting a reprint is a point against you, but there's nothing you can do about that now. Yes, you're probably willing to remove it from its online home if it gets snapped up, but the fact remains that it's no longer fresh meat.

Good luck, though!

Emu2 said...

Posting work to be published on Fictionpress = bad idea.