Now, right off the bat, I want to say that my entries are not meant to unfairly and accusingly point fingers at every agent, editor, and publisher who are probably doing their best. I’m just trying to lighten the mood for those of us who are frustrated, and let’s face it, there are enough of us that we could easily break off and form our own sovereign nation—Rejectistan. Kind of rolls off the tongue, right? Maybe Rejectopia? The world doesn’t really need another “Stan”.
The first thing we have to come to terms with as writers is that for all the time and work and research we invest, our masterpieces will ultimately be pushed aside by some agent somewhere just because the illiterates from “Jersey Shore” suddenly gave him or her a manuscript for a “Snooki Cookbook” (a “Snookbook”?). C’est la vie. We can’t stop agents from going after something they know will give them instant gratification; all we can do is try to make our ideas more marketable—no easy task.
When my first book, “The Notice”, didn’t find an agent right off the bat, I assumed it was because the market had become abruptly inundated by 26-year-old foreign policy scholars looking to introduce the world to Bosnia & Herzegovina. Well, Bosnia hasn’t exactly become as vogue as I was anticipating. This leads me to another conclusion: Either A) 99% of those agents never read a word of what I sent them—the fastest automated rejection letter I ever received was 5 minutes after emailing an agent—or B) My book didn’t sound marketable or profitable enough at a glance.
At first I thought I must be doing something wrong with my query letters. I bought all the books documenting how to write a proper one—most of which contradicted each other, naturally—and honed my art with Holmsian (Sherlockian?) attention to detail. I wrote a dozen or so letters the way one book told me to write them. I wrote another dozen letters the way a second book told me to write them. I wrote dozens of long, detailed letters. I wrote dozens of short, humble, honest letters. All were met with rejection. I was never given a single reason why my book was repeatedly ignored, only painfully polite form rejection letter after form rejection letter.
Remarkably, I never even grew the least bit bitter…heh, heh. (Menacingly shakes fist at “How to Write a Great Query Letter” books) However, the process did give me time to read up on agents and search for what they truly look for in a project. There are ways to make your book marketable even if you’re idea, at a glance, may not sound like a bestseller. Find books out there similar to your own and find the agents who sold them. It takes hours of sleuthing, but ultimately it may yield the only payoff you’ll get outside of distributing your life’s work for 99 cents on Amazon.
In the end, my book ended up benefiting tremendously from the rejection cycle. It gave me time to get more feedback, move around some elements, rework some chapters I wasn’t 100% happy with, and now I have the book I think I was always meant to write. But I didn’t do it the first time. Or the second. Or the third. I had to grow and learn in order to get there.
UPDATE: Talk about irony. The day after I wrote this post, I received my first response from an agency regarding “The Notice”. No good may come of it, but who knows—this may be the beginning of the end to my complaining