Monday, 29 March 2010

The Age Of Uncertainty

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.


JJ Beattie said...

Those are two excellent rejections (you know what I mean!) and I've been wondering how you were getting on.

I think they bode very well for future subs.

SueG said...

these are very encouraging, but also go to remind us all that agents are not necessarily about literature. They are essentially salesmen and are out to sell a product. If the market isn't right for your work, your work will have a hard time finding an agent. That doesn't mean, though, that it published it wouldn't sell. If the agent route doesn't work out, there are lots of ways to skin this cat -- and I don't mean self-publishing.

Carol said...

Those are very positive rejections and I bet re-working your synopsis will probably do the trick

Hmmm, would it be worth looking at books with a similar subject matter and seeing who published them? (Just a thought...and one you have probably already had)

C x

Pat said...

Proof if proof were needed that they believe you can write. Changing the emphasis is a good idea - it 's just about finding the right outlet.
As my ex-agent said - unless they can sell 100,000 many publisher are not interested.
We have to keep on keeping on:)

Queenie said...

Thanks, JJ, and - I hope you're right.
SueG, thank you for that.
Carol, I think part of the problem may be that there isn't another book with similar subject matter.
Pat, you're so right, we do.

HelenMHunt said...

I have a really good feeling about your book. I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

Debs said...

They were both very positive about your writing, which is wonderful.

I agree with Helen, I think it's only a matter of time before you find the right person for your book.

Bernadette said...

Me too!

All you need is an agent (and publisher) with a bit of imagination who can see that the reason these books don't 'sell' is because there aren't any on the shelves!

Still, it might be worth emphasising the spiritual/humanist side of it, as they may be a little more comfortable with that.

Karen said...

The fact that there isn't another book like it, surely means there's a gap in the market! Shame some agents aren't willing to take a chance on something different, but great to know you're doing all the right things writing-wise :o))

Reworking the synopsis from another angle is a great idea. I've read traditional rom-coms where the heroine just happens to have an unusual job - you could pitch it like that maybe?

Queenie said...

Helen and Debs, thanks for your support: *mwah* to you both!
Bernadette, that's a good point, thank you, I'll give it some thought.
Karen, that's a good point too, I am very lucky to have such kind and useful friends!

womagwriter said...

There are always going to be agents who'd prefer to play it safe. You seem to have hit two of them already - they like the book but are too scared to take it on.

There'll be someone out there with more gumption, I bet!

Great idea to rework the letter and synopsis to give it a broader appeal. I also have a good feeling about this book -keep at it!

Queenie said...

Thanks, Womag - and all of you, for your support. I can't tell you how much it helps.

Debi said...

Very encouraging indeed.

Remember, you only need one ... Try to think of each rejection as bringing you closer to the one who says yay. I'm convinced they are out there somewhere ...

Miss Footloose said...

Oh, God, groan, sigh. I recognize those rejection notes! The writing is great, the stories are wonderful, but there is no market for it.

For my book there is no market because Americans are not interested in reading about places they wouldn't go to on vacation. Really? Nobody?

(My non-fiction book is about living in Ghana, Palestine, Armenia ... clearly not the Caribbean or the south of France.)