I read a blog post today by Kathleen Ortiz, (Neverending Page Turner) an agent with Lowenstein Associates in New York. It was about Query Etiquette. For those of you who are not writers, there is a process to sending work to agents that includes first having a polished draft of your piece, sending a brief query letter and then waiting until the agent requests the work before sending it. If the agent rejects the work, the author should not respond to the agent no matter how upsetting it might be.
And it is upsetting. A writer pours his blood and sweat into a manuscript and it is baffling when someone else cannot see the merits of the work. I intellectually understand that it’s not personal when I get a rejection letter; the person is rejecting my work for publication, not me personally, but it is very difficult to separate the two when the work is so artistic and intrinsically a part of us.
JK Rowling is reported to have been rejected by many agents and at least a dozen publishers with her first Harry Potter book. There is a list out there of many great and popular writers who had multiple rejections before achieving success, including John Grisham and even Stephen King. Perseverance is critical in this business.
But I digress.
The point that I want to make is that rejection is common. Not every agent or publisher is going to be interested in my work. I had one agent reject my manuscript because much of the story is in the main character’s head and she is “think-y” – not something that appeals to that particular agent. But that’s how I write – and I will find an agent who loves my work enough to represent it. But rejection is not an excuse to be rude or ridiculous no matter how hurt one might be by it.
In the blog posting by Ms. Ortiz, she writes about real-life issues she has had to deal with in query letters. She frames it within the structure of a cover-letter to a resume: in this day and age would you give a potential employer your phone number but not your email address? She discusses doing the research on potential agents (i.e. what genre they specifically represent or the best way to send a query to them). You would never go into a job interview without some information on the company and this is the same type of relationship. Presumably all of the query letters she references in the posting were rejected for their egregious disregard for etiquette. I am certain that the guy who wrote back to her after a rejection and called her less-than-pleasant names not only got some sort of super-rejection but also earned a note to all of her agent friends to watch out for that guy.
So writers beyond writing must do their due diligence and pay attention to the business side of the writing. I know it’s not as fun as the actual placement of pen on paper – or fingers on keys – but it’s a necessary part of the process if you ever want to see your work in print. Don’t leave yourself open to rejection by failing to follow simple rules of etiquette. There are plenty of reasons that agents and publishers have to reject the work with which they are presented; they don’t need help from writers making stupid mistakes.
And if your work is rejected, as mine has been a number of times, then keep your head about you. This is part of the process. The rewards will come, I know, if I can persevere.