Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mastering the Levels of Rejection

In Stephen Kings book On Writing, he claims there are three levels of writers: adequate, good, and great. The same categories apply  to rejection letters.

 Looking for and agent is exhausting; you: sort though thousands of lists, read descriptions of work they want and have represented, and try to find someone whose w tastes match your work. You winnow it down to say, 200, and begin your email quests process, adapting your query letter template so it doesn't sound like Dear Agent  form letter.

You wait.

Sometimes not long. I've had rejections sent within minutes of hitting the Send key

Those are generally form letters where the agent states he or she is not reading submissions at this time. 

But those are not the lowest level or rejection; The lowest level  is when you get no reply. (Actually I had one worse than this. More on that later.)

 Form rejections like Dear Author, This is it for us but good luck in your career, is the next level, lets call it Brass. These often arrive within a few days via email. You will receive hundreds of these.

 The Bronze rejections set your molecules going. The agent would like to see a chapter or two. Something in your letter beyond your summary ignited interest in more than the sample ten pages or so. The rejections are more specific, and occasionally the agent will make specific suggestions to revisions. At least you know they have read your material.

The molecules set off alarms when an agent asks for The Entire Manuscript.
You immediately send off the entire work and wait, chewing on a handful of TUMs now and again,
A day or two later The agent sends a message saying she is looking forward to reading your novel.
More TUMS.
You check your phone several times a day to see if a phone call from NY
Each time you open your email. You scan to see if there is a note from her.
A week goes by. Then another.

On a Saturday morning, during a thunderstorm, you see a letter from her in your in box, and you sense doom. Writers are a bit psychic that way. Or maybe its experience talking. Youve been here before.

Crap. You open it.

This is the Silver State of rejections. She writes, while the character intrigued her she did not fall in love with the story. I know you need and deserve someone who can be 110% enthusiastic about your work.
Well crap, back to the database of the 1100 agents.

 In my hundreds of queries for various writing projects, I've only had one snarky one.. Years ago, when we used snail mail to query, my original enter was turned to me in the SASE with "Not this one!" written across the text.

 My rejections have gotten better. First, I can tell the agent has actually read my query because most often they make specific reference to a character or an event.

And some sound as if they regret passing on me.
Even so, at what point do I give up the agent search? When I have exhausted all 1100 agents ?

In some ways I feel like a fraud writing this blog. You're taking advice from a failed novelist. It's like taking dating advice from someone whose been divorced three times. Yet I keep telling myself I am a rock star since, so far, I have yet to reach Gold Level, which is acceptance.
Happy Writing.


  1. I'm sorry that she didn't want your story. :(. It's a good one.

  2. Isn't this like dating? Somewhere around the next corner or agent, you may find that special someone :)

  3. It's exactly like dating! Unfortunately.