Three Rejection Letters – Finding an Agent
Yesterday I received three rejection letters for my novel, The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club. One of them I took pretty hard. I’d pitched the agent at the recent DFWCon in early June and had really hoped she’d rep me.
In her rejection letter, she said, “This story has all the elements I love—an interesting premise and a well-built world. The writing is solid with a nice voice. A dynamic, interesting protagonist.” She concluded by saying she didn’t feel the love she needed to sell the story.
The two others were more to the point.
“I’m afraid this doesn’t seem like the right project for me, but I’m sure other agents will feel differently.”
“Unfortunately, I’m afraid I’m not the right agent for this project. I wish you much luck in getting THE VOODOO HILL EXPLORER CLUB published.”
I still have several queries out and there are other agents who have asked for pages, so all is not lost.
I am early in the query process. Just a few months in, and in that time, my query has improved.
Because of what the first agent I mentioned taught me at DFWCon, my query letter is now a mere NINE sentences. It’s tighter, to the point. It targets what is important to the structure of the story and I don’t get into the subplots and things that might confuse a slush-pile gatekeeper in New York deciding whether to read more or not. Since DFWCon I’ve also gone through the book and cut 10,000 words. If it was not about four boys in the woods building a treehouse near a Russian spy, it went. Period. My inciting incident is in the first 25 pages. Boom.
I learned these important things from the agent who said my story has the elements she loves.
For that I am grateful and a thank you letter, I send them typed on my 1948 Royal Quiet De Luxe typewriter, will say that. She’s like that high school English teacher we all had. The one who was the hardest on us. In the end, the one who taught us the most, and not just about literature but life itself.
Finding an agent is like asking a pretty girl to dance in middle school. You know so little about her. You’re nervous. You think you know how to dance. You’re worried about your blemishes, if your hair is straight, pants and shirt are fashionable, if she will say “yes.” Whether she will fall in love with you just the same. The odds seem so remote and extreme. On one hand, it seems like the best thing to do is sit on the bleachers and watch the cooler kids dance. But at the same time, you know you can dance. You’ve been watching yourself in the mirror for weeks, months, years. And you’ve gotten better and better and better. It’s time to be under the disco ball at center court with a pretty girl.
I am a good writer and I have a solid book and I will get published. I know I will.
I didn’t meet my match yesterday, but there is always today. There is always tomorrow. And I have more books to write. I have two other books already written needing revision.
What I learned yesterday is that I am looking for LOVE. I want to hear a reply that says, “I LOVE YOUR BOOK.” Hedging, doubt, all of that, won’t do. I very much respect and enjoyed the agent who wrote me. I will keep her as a friend. But there wasn’t a spark. There are others to dance with. There must be love or the result will not be good in the end.
And thank goodness, I have other writer friends I have talked with overnight who are in the same boat, beating on against the current….
My current query/pitch:
THE VOODOO HILL EXPLORER CLUB
In 1977, four teen boys, led by KIRK CARSON, build a tree house near the secret hideaway of a Russian spy. The historical commercial fiction work is 88,000 words.
Kirk is fighting his own Cold War among friends, a bully, and himself. He tries to type “I’m trying to change my life,” but instead his typewriter clacks out, “I’m trying to change my lie.” He wishes he could use white out on the whole year.
How Kirk handles the ultimate test of a December blizzard in Upper Michigan and the Russian spy who has been trying to scare them all out of the woods means life or death for his friends.
THE VOODOO HILL EXPLORER CLUB is a nostalgic reminder of an America where kids played outside until their mothers signaled a summer’s day’s end by turning on the porch light.
I have written in journalism and public relations, and for governors and school superintendents for more than 30 years. Since 2014, I’ve been part of Southern Methodist University’s Writer’s Path program.