Sep 292010
 

The envelope is thin. There’s no return address, but I know. It’s from a literary agent, one of many I wrote asking them to consider representing my latest book. I slit it open.

Dear Author,

“Dear Author”? Whadya mean “Dear Author”?! I spent hours reading guidelines, and y’all said: read the books we agent, find out about our authors, mention us in your query letter, get our name right, we like the personal touch. And you call me “Author”?!

Dear Author:

Sigh. I am just another “John.” I tried so hard.

Alas, just not for me.

Alas, alack, rejection get thee away from me.

Dear Correspondent:

Oh Hey, a variation on the Dear John letter!

Thank you, Shireen, for your query letter; this sounds like a very interesting project. Unfortunately…

First they get you up, then they throw your heart into the ground and stomp all over it. But it was handwritten in black ink, on deep blue paper too. A nice touch.

Dear Author,

Bear in mind that this is just one individual response in a highly subjective business. It could well be (and often is) that another reader will see immediate possibilities.

OK. I pick up the next envelope: “Dear Author.” Sigh.

My list is too full.

That’s direct. No, “it’s not you, it’s us” implication, like a bad boyfriend saying goodbye, letting you down gently as his new girlfriend waits in the car.

We apologize that we cannot respond in a more personal manner.

Well, that was nice of him, apologizing.

On a card stapled to my query letter: Thank you for sending us this material. We’re sorry, but it doesn’t meet our present needs

Agents are like the hot Vinny Barbarino; authors like pleading, screaming-for-attention girls who can’t get no satisfaction. Maybe they’ll like me better on email.

I apologize for the form letter reply, but the volume of submissions I receive has finally made it impossible for me to personalize responses as I have for many years.

Nope, not better on email.

I hope you will understand and forgive me this necessary efficiency.

Oh, what the heck I forgive you, I forgive all you “Dear Author” writers!

I do not feel it is appropriate for me to provide detailed editorial feedback on projects I have decided not to represent.

Forget the editorializing, I just want a “YES” with an immediate offer of a $100,000 advance already!

Dear Author…Unfortunately, in today’s increasingly tough publishing market, I cannot offer the support that you need for your project….Please do not allow this letter to discourage you. Many best-sellers have been passed on numerous times prior to being successfully published.

This is like going into the fortune-teller’s tent at the CNE and being told only good things will happen in your future.

Dear Friend:

Friend? Hey, if you were my friend, you’d offer me representation, a publishing contract, and a 6-figure, no 7-figure, advance!

Dear Shireen Jeejeebhoy,

Alright! She knows my name! [Read, read, read.] Sigh, it’s just another rejection.

Dear Shireen Jeejeebhoy,

Aren’t computers wonderful? Here’s an agent who knows how to mail merge quickly. Still, I rather like having my “Dear John” letter addressed to me personally.

Although the subject matter is indeed gripping, we aren’t sufficiently enthusiastic…

Wha…?!! How can it grip you and not get you all enthusiastic? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Sigh.

Dear Author…You might try www.agentquery.com

I did!

As interesting as your book sounds, I don’t believe I would be the best agent to represent your work.

I do!

I realize it is difficult to judge your potential from a query.

So, um, why do many agents want only a query letter, no sample pages, no chapters?

I have to pass on many interesting projects due to time constraints (much like you have to choose only one or two books at a bookstore, even though there are a lot of good ones.)

I like the appeal to me as a reader (though can’t remember the last time I stopped at two…). But it’s still a rejection! Aaaaiiiiiii!!!

While I found your query intriguing I’m afraid I wasn’t sufficiently enthusiastic to ask for more at this time.

There’s that oxymoron thing again.

I’m sorry to say that I don’t feel we could represent this for you successfully because of the fluctuations in the publishing marketplace. The publishing business has been erratic since the early part of 2001, when most publishers took a big fall in sales.

The market for fiction has been smaller and smaller, and thus publishers and editors have been buying less novels that might be considered “mid-list”–and they’re buying darker material.

Sales since 1999 have been mixed, and, specifically, 2001 showed a tremendous drop in the sale of fiction.

Since then, book chain business has been soft, with yearly increases of two to four percent, but more from nonfiction than fiction–and with a rise in the sale of juvenile and young adult books.

Generally speaking, this means that bookstores and such outlets as Walmart & Costco are selling more copies of a limited number of books, often and not surprisingly by established best-selling authors.

Fewer novels.

I really hate query letters that start with hypothetical questions…

Oops. Forgot to turn on my telepathic communicator that morning. (My query letter probably sucked anyway; it was only my third or fourth try at getting it right.)

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your work.

You’re welcome.

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  • Marg

    Gack-how do you have any self esteem left?

  • I wonder myself! And that’s just a sample too. I have quite the pile in my inbox and my files I’ve accumulated over the years. 🙁

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