The first rejection letter

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Nearly a month ago, I made a decision to leave my full-time job and really go after this writing thing. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved stories. Not just hearing them, but telling them too. And now, I’m trying to make this passion of mine a reality.

Anyone who knows me personally, or follows this blog, or is fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have picked up one of my recent works, understands that I’ve tried my hand at self-publishing. I’ve published two books in the last two years – all within the realm of self-publishing – and I’ve learned a great deal from the experience. Some good and some bad. But what it’s taught me is that you have to be serious about a dream. Sure, it comes from within, but you have to be disciplined with that inner feeling. Otherwise it’s wasted. Wasted time and wasted energy.

I can certainly say that I got absorbed in the hype of self-publishing. This is not to say that self-publishing is a bad thing. No, do not hear me wrong on this. There were so many great stories about writers who began their careers in self-publishing so naturally I wanted to do the same. The recent craze involving Hugh Howey’s new sci-fi series, Wool, makes me think that there is a place for self-publishing success. That someone can, and will, be successful at self-publishing if they are ambitious enough and know how to tackle the marketplace.

But that’s Hugh Howey’s story. Not mine. I have since resolved to try another route: to go beyond self-publishing and find representation from an agency. Though I may return to my roots someday, I feel like this is the road I’m headed on. And to my benefit, I will have the opportunity to republish and reprint my original works on a larger scale if I choose to do so. What’s more, I can further learn how the industry works and how it truly functions. That, I’m sure, will be an ongoing process. One that I’m looking forward to with much anticipation.

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In the spirit of that new road I’m on, I’ve decided to share my first rejection letter. What I’ve attached is the image of my first email query letter. To those who are unfamiliar, the query letter is intended as a means to gain interest for your work. If you’re a writer looking to get a book deal, you would address one to a writing agent or agency, all in the hopes that they will be interested enough to back you and your manuscript. You could call it an open solicitation to sell your book and yourself. Believe in it. Own it. Because if you don’t, then nobody else will either.

I removed the names of the parties involved, as well as their contact info, as I don’t want to be responsible for a lawsuit (that would be bad). I just want this to be a good reminder that all things take time. Not every hit will be a homerun, but I’ve seen homeruns hit before so I know they’re possible. I also want to make mention that by no means is this a “I’ll show you” moment to the agent. I would hope that anyone reading this will be encouraged to keep moving forward because I’m sure I’ll get more of these rejection letters in the future. I can only hope that they’ll be as cordial as this one was. Nobody likes being told their idea is crap. That could require some counseling. In some ways, it feels like I lost my prom date. Which is fine because there are plenty of fish in the sea. Interestingly enough, the book I’m soliciting is about being single (a larger dose of irony, if I do say so).

So to wrap up, this is the new journey I’m on; a road to representation and more publications. A friend of mine recently told me that every failed attempt is another step towards inevitable success. That’s a great way to survey the landscape of one’s own life. We usually hear about the success stories and momentary triumphs, but we easily forget how many missed shots there were in the lead up to that final breakthrough. This letter, marked up with my notes and my thoughts, is just one of those stories. From here, I’ll just need to keep stepping and see where it goes from there.

Comments

  1. JC,

    I am a guest here so please take my thoughts as just that. Thoughts.

    First, I am an aspiring writer (not author) trying to finish novel number one. So you have more experience than I. Here is my first thought, I am proud for you. You earned a real rejection letter, with comments. It is my understanding that it is hard to get any response at all. Good for you, because that shows some level of interest on the part of the agency.

    Secondly, thank you for posting the letters. It is very helpful to folks like myself who have not traveled down this road yet. I have been studying the art of the query letter and it is nice to see one that isn’t the perfected version of some person who couldn’t get published so they write a self-help book.

    I noticed that when I read your blog posts, I find they are succinct, tidy, and on point. I like that. But when I read your query letter, it felt rambling, semi-scattered, and full of unnecessary words and adjectives. I have been told that the query letter is the agency’s first impression of your writing style and that they use it to gage how well the book will read. I wonder if my impression was a reason behind the rejection, and not the story idea.

    It is very possible that I am off base so please feel free to disregard all of my comments. Best of luck with everything and if I am still welcome, I would like to become a follower of yours.

    • Thanks for the comments. They are well received.

      I like how you call yourself an aspiring writer rather than an author. That certainly hits home based on the latest post I made. Regarding the comments about the art of a query letter, I wish I had the answer. Unfortunately my first time out was not the best showing I could have had. The query letter is intended to hook an agent, give the meat of your book and then tell something about yourself. I attempted to do this, but I feel like I missed out on some basic elements the first time around.

      For instance, I could have been less wordy. It’s good to give some credits about yourself (like writing a blog, how long you’ve written, the passion of the project, etc.) so you’re not just saying “hey, I have this great idea. Please, please publish my book!” It can look like desperation from what I’ve been told. It’s better to be concise but also present yourself in the style of the book. The voice of my manuscript is conversational. It’s like a one-on-one discussion. So I want the agent to understand that in my letter. I’ll probably just need to refine this for the next time.

      And I’ll be sure to follow your blog as well! Best of luck to you and I hope we can be of help to one another down the road.

      -J.C.L.

  2. Well, good luck with your pursuit. Is there any particular reason why you have turned away from self publishing for the time being?
    There are, of course, many routes to publication. You just have to find the ones that suit you.

    • Thanks.

      I think that partnering with an agency will suit me best right now. When I first self published, I was working 8-5 and my work was rather demanding so it seemed like the quickest way to learn the process of getting published and how it worked. Additionally, I wasn’t in a place where I felt like my voice as a writer was strong. I really wanted to get my feet wet and see if writing was more than just a hobby.

      It’s also about resources. If you can accumulate the necessary resources then self publishing may be a good fit. Illustrators, editors, good mentors, etc.
      There’s a lot more than just having a good idea.

      Ultimately it just comes down to what you think is best though, as you suggested. I hope that answers your question.

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