Rejection is an expected part of traditional publishing. I’m proud to present to you my very first rejection of what will surely be a long and lucrative writing career.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to consider your project REM WORLD: GREAT AWAKENING. I’ve had a chance to read your query and sample materials, and I’m sorry to say I’ll pass at this time. Please keep in mind that this industry is super subjective, and so is my reaction; what doesn’t excite me might be exactly what another agent is looking for. I encourage you to keep querying to find your agent match! I’m sorry I cannot be more specific at this time, but please do keep trying. Watching for agent wishlists on Twitter with the hashtag #MSWL can provide some direction toward the right agent for this project.
Thank you again for the chance to consider this one. I would love for you to keep me in mind to query when you have other projects ready. I wish you the best as you move forward!
It took 23 days to receive this response from my first choice of a literary agent. It’s a polite, succinct form rejection offering broad advice to the rejected author.
Maybe ‘rejected author’ isn’t quite the right way to say it. ‘Rejected project’ is more apt. Because an author is not the sum of a single work. A project can certainly communicate a great deal of who the author is—in fact, the best projects should do this, if you want my opinion—but it’s never the full picture. And how could it be, when each of us (as living creatures) carry so many memories and emotions and opinions?
What I mean to say is this: A love story and a horror story penned by the same person will be wildly different, but oddly the same. How you present yourself to the world is precisely as important as the fact of the person. It’s like a difference in font, in tone.
“I’ll never let you go,” he whispers, his eyes glinting in the single candle flame.
“I’ll never let you go!” he bellows, eyes glinting in the raging fire of the corridor.
Facts and presentation. But it doesn’t exactly drive home the point I’m trying to make here. The adult fantasy I’m querying right now is about weathering the long-term effects of trauma. It’s about love and healing and destruction. This is the bulk of it, the main themes, but it’s only a sliver of who I am. This is my untrusting, frightened side that freezes people out. This is my lesson that I cannot run from unpleasantness, my reminder that it will lead to worse situations.
I’m writing a dystopian novella right now about growing up with a narcissistic parent and finding a place in the world as an adult. Learning to love, romantically, when you’ve been taught it’s shameful and dirty. It’s another small part of me. This is my angry, rebellious side that wants to both destroy everything I know and also maintain the status quo. This is my lesson that neither of these things will truly bring me happiness. This is the lesson that taught me balance. (Well, in at least one aspect of my life.)
But they’re both me. They’re entirely different stories, written in different genres with different characters and settings. And they’re me.
My point is that I’m not a rejected author. The agent rejected my story, rejected a small part of who I am, how I chose to present that part of myself. REM World is a ‘rejected story’, but I am not a ‘rejected author’.
A book is like a song and it’s almost never the lyrics that turn people away.
When I received this rejection, I felt like it said: “I’m not in the mood for this melody.” As if the agent didn’t care for a doleful tune at the moment, but something more exciting and uplifting. And maybe that’s not it at all, but with no other information to form my theory, this is the conclusion I’ve drawn for myself. I’m a strong believer in gut instincts. I don’t feel as if I’m wrong.
Though REM World isn’t this agent’s Holy Grail, Chaste Kingdom might be. Or the vampire story I’ll be working on after that. Or the other trilogy I’m keeping under tight wraps. But if none of them are, then that’s fine, too.
I expected rejections the moment I sent my first query letter out. Before then, even. I expected rejections years before I finished REM World, before I even imagined REM World. Maybe that’s what makes this easier for me. I’m not heartbroken my first choice of a literary agent rejected REM World. I don’t think she made the wrong decision to reject it, either.
Why? Do I think the story isn’t ready? That it isn’t good? Not at all. I’m beyond proud of REM World and have no doubt of its success.
If an agent doesn’t absolutely adore a project I’m querying, I fervently hope they will reject it. I know who I am as a person and I know I want the strongest of champions, the most passionate of agents, to stand with me as I go into battle and forge my writing career. And the agent that doesn’t love my work is not going to be that for me.
So, future agent, here is my message to you: Love my project with fierce zeal or please, I beg you, send me a rejection so I can find someone who will.