Jennybondurant’s Blog


Novel Rejection #1: Ouch

Posted in Uncategorized by jennybondurant on May 23, 2009

Last Saturday I took the plunge and e-mailed off two queries to agents. E-mail is a great thing when agents take them — cuts out the printing and mailing costs, which will definitely add up if I send out 94 queries.

I spent about a month drafting and revising my query letter, plus making a few lists of agents to pitch. The first pitch I sent out was to John Talbot of the Talbot Fortune Agency. I picked John because I recently read Maryanne Stahl’s novel The Opposite Shore. Nice read, and I believe my novel may appeal to a similar audience. It took me an hour to get the personalized e-mail and query pieces ready for Talbot. If it takes me that long to get everything ready, plus research time, I am never going to have time to write another novel!

Second pitch I sent out was to Marcy Posner. Posner represented Stephanie Gertler and, again the audience would be the same for my book. I spent another couple of hours researching specifics on Posner, listening to a podcast interview with her, etc. At least all the research time is also informative on writing and publishing in general.

Posner didn’t waste any time with her rejection of my query, received only 24 hours later. Here’s her succinct response:

Dear Jennifer,
Not for me and I have to admit I have problems when someone uses the term fiction novel – have you heard of a non-fiction novel?
Marcy Posner

In my query, I had listed my work as “a 76,000-word, women’s fiction novel.” I was trying to use the term “women’s fiction” to classify the novel. Just putting “women’s novel” didn’t sound right, nor did putting “women’s fiction” without the word “novel” behind it. At any rate, my pitch crashed and burned without a hope after she classified me as an idiot writer (which obviously I was with that query!). Lesson learned.

After spending the afternoon of my first rejection in a state of depression and wondering why I don’t just self-publish a couple of hundred books and call that good, I moved on. Luckily, I have a great writer’s critique group that supported and encouraged me in the time of darkness.

Query #3 went out two days later.

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11 Responses to 'Novel Rejection #1: Ouch'

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  1. Alon Shalev said,

    Dear Jenny,

    I feel for you, having received many rejections myself. You really do need to check every word you write. Read it out loud. Even better, find someone who is pedantic (maybe in your writers group) and maybe an older, more formal person to read and find the errors – fictional novel is a classic – I’ve heard a number of agents mention this one.

    There is a book by Katherine Sands – Perfect Pitch (I think) – that I would recommend. Don’t be hard on yourself, but realize that the agents (or often a young intern) are just looking for a reason to reject. I cringe at some of the mistakes I’ve made, but it’s all part of the journey.

    Don’t give up, but do revisit everything you write – letters/pitch, synopsis etc. It’s too easy to just blame the agent and move on.

    Good Luck,

    Alon Shalev
    Countdown to a Novel Published
    http://oilspilldotcom.blogspot.com/

    • jennybondurant said,

      Thanks, Alon. I didn’t mean to sound like I was blaming the agent. I realize how much I am learning with every pitch I send. I just hate to make dumb mistakes, which seems easy to do as a novice trying to figure everything out!

      Thanks for commenting …

  2. Noel said,

    I think I dated Marcy Posner in high school … no, maybe a different Posner.

    Brave thing you’re doing, putting it all out there. And helpful.

    bes,
    Noel

    • jennybondurant said,

      Thanks for reading!


  3. Hey Jenny,

    First, as Alon implied about your “fiction novel”, duh, ya think?” (sorry about that). When I tell people I write novels, I can’t tell you how many people have asked me, “Is it fiction?” Agents and publisher won’t miss this and you need to be specific – state the genre first – probably in your case “chick lit”. Make it sound like you know what you are propositioning (so to speak) and don’t confuse it with a romance novel (please!)

    I had to smile at the response by Ms. Posner. I checked my records and I have sent two queries to her, (via email – different manuscripts and genres), and only received one response. The one quoted below was for my mystery novel, about a mystery writer that gets roped into being a private investigator. Sounds like the ill-fated ABC series ‘Castle’ I know, but I wrote it a while ago. Anyway, her response to my QL was:
    —–
    “Dear Gregg,

    Thank you for your query. Unfortunately I don’t love books with writers are the main character. Other will I am sure feel differently and I wish you the best of luck with this,

    Marcy Posner”
    —–

    Other than the obvious grammatical and punctuation errors, I did appreciate the fact that she did not reply with a canned email response. It does show that she at least perused my query. There is hope out there.

    I’ve been pursuing mainstream agents for a number of years and I remember the old days when you had to do it by snail-mail — you can only query one agent at a time. The elapsed time for a response was then measured in months. Thank god for agents that do respond to email queries.

    The real question on your “mainstream agent” query quest is, how much time do you spend on crafting the QL, vs how viable is multiple agent query penetration? If you have a good hook, then blanketing a bunch of agents may be as useful as targeting specific agents that you may believe are interested in reading something that they have previous have represented, or have been successful with.

    Along these lines, I strongly recommend the website “Agent Query” (www.agentquery.com). This is a no-nonsense site that is focused on author’s requirements for an author’s search for publication representation. It has the agent/detail of the folks you want to contact. You can search and find information about reputable agents by genre, email or snail-mail, submission requirements and all the other stuff you want to determine if they are a possible submission source.

    As for the emotional impact of a rejection, get over it right now. It will and continue to happen. Maybe, with the same odds of a lottery win, somebody will pick you up. Believe in what you have written, and don’t stop with your first. I love writing! I’m on my sixth novel and my motivation is that the folks I’ve already shared my works with is more than enough gratification for me, well maybe.

    One final suggestion is writer’s contests. There are many out there and I won’t bother to list them – just Google it. However, if you can put something together in a week, then check out http://www.rmfw.org – the biggest writers group in the Rocky Mountains and you might just be able to squeeze in an entry before June 1.

    Best of luck!
    Gregg

    • jennybondurant said,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Gregg. I appreciate your direction and perspective.

      Regarding the genre, I believe my novel does fall in the genre of “women’s fiction,” something different than “chick lit.” My novel is more serious than the light and humorous tone of chick lit. Definitely not a happy romance though!

      Thanks for sharing your response from Posner. The personal response is great. Makes you feel more hopeful than a form-letter no!

  4. Gregg said,

    Ya, it’s a tough call on what “chick lit” is. I’m a huge Janet Evanovich fan so, is that chick lit? What about “The Color Purple”, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” or “Pride and Prejudice”?

    I guess the real question is, why would you want to categorize your book as “women’s fiction” at all? If I want to promote my books – should I posit it as “men’s fiction”?

    • jennybondurant said,

      I definitely wouldn’t call “The Color Purple” or “Pride and Prejudice” chick lit. I agree using the classification of women’s fiction isn’t as marketable as a thriller or a romance, but there are agents out there who list “women’s fiction” as a genre they represent. (I’ve never seen the term “men’s fiction” used.) Writers such as Anita Shreve would fit in this category. I feel like it would be misrepresenting the work to call it chick lit, but maybe I need to in order to make it more marketable.

      Of course, the point is moot if I can’t find an agent who believes in it. I can call it whatever I want, but if it’s not going to sell, it’s not going to sell. I’m early in the game at this point, however, so I am still working at it!

  5. Abdullah Khan said,

    Dear Sir,

    I can understand your feelings. Recently, I have earned my first rejection. But, this is part of a writer’s life. Keep sending out.

    Best wishes and God bless.

    Thanks & Regards,
    Abdullah Khan

  6. Gregg said,

    By the way, I’ve just checked my “submissions log” for the last of my three of my submissions to my projects.

    Over the last few years here’s the scoop –

    My second (after POD publication and subsequent rewrite): 85 subs via email and about 60% all rejections all with form letter responses.

    My fourth, around a hundred submissions, and 50% response, nada.

    My fifth, around around 35 rejections the first time, and 70 the last time, for those who responded.

    I’ve written and crafted my Query Letter multiple times based on some feedback, but alas, you get the drift.

    Hang in there…

    Gregg

  7. Mel said,

    Hey Jenny! I have no words of wisdom as I have no talent for writing, but hope you get some good news from some of your queries soon! I would read your novel– I normally read non-fiction but make time for some deeper novels, and I also would definitely (just in my reader’s opinion) not categorize your novel as chick lit. Neither would I categorize “Pride and Prejudice” or “The Color Purple” as such. Hoping to see it in print some time in the future!

    Mel


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