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Literary Agents Respond

...Hope comes in different forms...

W

ith the start of the new year, I started sending out query letters on the novel I wrote in 2008. It's called THE G.O.D. DICTATOR. The plan was to email queries to those who prefer email then send out snail mail queries. The plan also included emails to those agents who weren't high on my list (i.e., save postage etc.)

As expected, during the last two weeks I've been getting replies to my queries and they are all rejections. Each rejection is different but they all have something in common. The agents were sending a cryptic message on the reasons for the rejection and I had to decipher it. Why was I getting rejected? (Agents are too busy or too afraid to give an honest opinion). The more I thought about it, the more likely it seemed they hated the story and its premise. If they hated it, editors would hate it and potential readers would hate it.

Ouch.

I spent hours and hours drafting an outline then hours and hours writing the first draft then even more time editing it and it all seemed to be a waste because the story idea was stupid. It wasn't hard to reach that conclusion.

It had to be the story. I was happy with the content and quality of the query letter. I was sending it based on agent's preference and standards. I've educated myself on the markets and fiction writing. The pieces were there except for my stupid story idea. But maybe I was too harsh on myself.

Since I'm an unpublished novelist, agents aren't jumping to sign me up. There are lots of agents who don't take on new clients, and some who only do so with published writers. There are lots of agents who don't touch the genre I write. Once you get past these points, the quality of the writing comes into play. Was my writing poor to bad to awful? No. It was my stupid premise on which I based the story. Time to start the next novel, maybe, but then I received two emails from agents today. I expected more rejections and braced myself for it, but it didn't come.

In the first email, the agent, Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger Inc. in NYC, asked to see the first five pages. It's not a signed contract with champagne chilling, but it does provide some hope and encouragement. It means my story may not be so stupid after all and the question of rejection relates to preferences etc.

Then the second email from Diana Finch of NYC. She's been an agent for close to 20 years. In other words, successes in the biz with experience, knowledge etc. Here's what she wrote.

Thank you for this intriguing query. I would be glad to give the novel further consideration, and as so much depends on the writing itself, I would like to begin by reviewing the first fifty pages or so of the manuscript.

Now we're cooking with gas.

I felt as if she personally wrote those words specifically for me, today, but I know better. Cut and paste, but it's the best cutting and pasting I've seen in a while. My query letter worked.

It's purpose is to intrigue an agent so much so they want to read the ms. Although it's only a partial request, it's better than a rejection and I have more clues in decrypting the rejection letters.

It means my story and premise aren't as stupid I may have thought.

It means hope. Hope enough to continue sending out more queries.

Posted 2009/01/19 at 20h16ET in Literary Agents.

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