So, my book has been doing the rounds of agents for five weeks now, and in that time I’ve had three quick standard rejections and two slower nice ones.
The first nice one said this:
Thank you for writing to me about your book enclosing proposal and three sample chapters.
I was very impressed with the professional way you present this material and I enjoyed the chapters too. Unfortunately, though, I'm not convinced the British publishing industry and buying public are ready in enough numbers for a book which is essentially all about funerals, as engagingly as you write.
I'm so sorry not to be more encouraging. This is just my subjective opinion and, since you write so well and present your book so convincingly, you will no doubt find someone else who will have more confidence in the market for this book than I do.
I wish you the best of luck.
Isn’t that lovely?
The second rejection was terse, but then it was from the CEO of a large prestigious agency, while the message above came from an agent in a small newish agency. The second one said:
I have now had a chance to read your work and have also shown it to a colleague. However, neither of us are confident in being able to place this successfully with a major publisher, so we are unable to offer you representation.
This pleased me too, for two reasons. First, the CEO wouldn’t have bothered to show my work to a colleague if it had no merit. Second, it reinforced the message from the first one, i.e. that the problem is with the marketing.
I also read an excellent interview with the eminent literary agent Carole Blake on The Literary Project blog. The combination of all three has inspired me to rework my cover letter and synopsis, to place less emphasis on the funerals and more on the characters and their personal relationships. Whether that will make any difference or not, I really have no idea, but I’ll be sure to let you know.