My First Query Rejection

Anyone who has submitted work to be represented in the traditional manner (by an agent, who then tries to convince editors at a publishing company to buy your work) knows how daunting it is for first-time noncelebrity authors to get representation and publication.

Now I know a lot of you who are authors, writers, or aspiring professionals in this regard have self-published material and I know there are some very opinionated bloggers on the web who are very passionate about this issue. There are pros and cons to both self- and traditionally- published books but we’ll save that for another time.

I’ve redacted the name of the agent I heard back from since it isn’t relevant for this blogpost. First off, I appreciate her very quick (1 day) AND her personalized response, even though it wasn’t what I wanted to hear:

“Dear Samuel,

Thanks so much for thinking of me for your book.
Unfortunately, this is not quite right for me. However, I really appreciate the opportunity to see your work. I’m wishing you the very best in 2015!”
Warmest Regards,
xxxxxxxx
We know the reading market has slowed down growth as it’s increasingly less likely people will sit through an entire book as opposed to watching videos or going online. This is actually not an insurmountable challenge, and stay tuned because later I will explain why we can’t give up on literacy and getting people to invest more time in reading. It isn’t just good for the industry, or for someone’s bottom line, but also for society: a more literate society is a society with less crime and poverty.
I also, having read books on publishing by publishers and on agent representation by current and former agents, know it’s tough to find that one person out of (tens of) thousands whose idea and marketability is solid enough for a publisher to put in serious effort to market and distribute a book. Sometimes we as aspiring professional authors wish there was less clutter in the agent’s e-mailbox to give ourselves a better shot, but this is unfortunately not true.
But here’s the question: How much of an eye-catching query letter is based on the plot of the book versus the author’s ability to sell it? I have a feeling your credentials or “platform” matters more than the actual book itself. Otherwise Snooki could never have gotten a contract. In other words, was the problem that she isn’t “the right fit”, or that I do not yet have a few ten thousand social media followers whom I can tweet or post about this book to get traction? (speaking of, please follow me on Twitter @sammydrf and I will follow you too). Speaking of social media, as your friendly “Millennial” social media “expert”, I have written, and will write again, about why social media platforms are overrated when judging the value of what is salable or not.
I sent out a few other representation requests, highlighting my active use of social media across multiple platforms AND my experience speaking on live commercial radio, tv, and being printed in newspapers. I actually have been published before as an author in both printed and online newspapers, but not as a fiction author. Sadly, I get the impression this does not have much bearing on my publication history for Big 5 book publishing.
If anything interesting happens with this, I will let you know. Any ideas? share ’em too. I love feedback (and I will subscribe to your blog!).
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4 thoughts on “My First Query Rejection

  1. I just barely wrote a blog post addressing similar issues. I agree that a lot of querying has to do with a writer’s platform, and it’s been a big slap in the face for me lately. It’s too bad that our worth couldn’t be judged by the quality of our novels rather than the quantity of Twitter followers, but commericalism is a rampant thing and there probably aren’t many ways around it. But I hear you. As an author working toward the same goals especially.

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    • I subscribe to the Nelson Literary Agency monthly letter. Last year, agent Kristen Nelson read 35,000+ submissions, asked 46 authors for their work, and too on 1 new client. That’s zero percent acceptance. Granted she is one of the top 10 in the country, and one of the toughest for new potential clients, but I would be surprised if any one is over 1%.
      The bottom line is there are fewer than 1,400 literary agents in the entire country, of all genres fiction and non-fiction. Far more people write to them than they could possibly sign on. It just is the nature.

      By the way, great blogpost. Clearly you are a little further down the query letter road than I lol. what kind of books do you write, by genre?

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      • Typically books falling in the sci-fi/fantasy range. I’m planning on talking a little bit about them in future blog posts, but really, genres are tough for me. It seems every established and aspiring author has a different take on their genres. The best way to get to know a book is to read it eh?

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  2. That’s a good idea. There’s no need to stick to one genre IF you can write well in another genre. I do understand the branding concept of being known for something BUT if one is a very talented writer, he/she can be branded for writing “good books” and thus the book quality is the brand, not the genre.

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