Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Writing Wednesday: The best rejection I’ve ever had

After writing a novel the hard part of being an author comes in, selling the novel, to do that you have to be able to handle rejection. My first novel “Invasive Thoughts” got rejected by over 200 agents before being accepted by PublishAmerica. I’m hoping that will be a personal record and is reflective of the fact I didn’t know how to write a good query letter. However even authors with good query letters for novels that have gone on to be best sellers have been known to get 80 rejections from agents.

For the current novel I’m trying to sell, “The Setting Earth” I’m taking a much different approach, I’m sending out one personalized letter a day to agents. So far the rejection letters I’ve gotten have been faster and not just the standard form letter. The best rejection I’ve gotten has been from Janet Reid, She even put my query letter up on her blog.

To start my query letter I looked over her blog to find the things she likes and dislikes in a query letter and wrote it from there.

This was my full intro:

Dear Janet,

I’d like to say that I am looking for an agent to represent JD Salinger's inside account of the story behind the headline, “The Pope Elopes”. I’d like to say that, but in reality I am looking for representation for my fully finished and carefully edited 65,000 word Science Fiction novel “The Setting Earth”.

It addresses a major problem I see in most books published today, there aren’t enough books with my name in the byline.

You will see that it has a lot of similarities with the Bible as it involves people, places and events. Hopefully because of these similarities it will move as many if not more copies.

The very next day I got a wonderful reply:

ok, this is hilarious in the extreme but what the hell are you doing with
Publish America?
And you need a yesterday. Darrel Nelsons who are DEAD come up
on google before you do (NOT a good thing!)

I KNOW you can write, because this query is funny, but you're making some
beginner mistakes.

There's a blog about queries called
It should help you get this into better shape. First, start with the main
character, not the setting.

This is probably not going to be a good fit for my non-SFF list, but
you're clearly talented.


Thanks to her personal letter I can fix some of my beginner mistakes, like not having my name, Darrell B. Nelson, anywhere on this blog.

I also reworked my description of the novel to talk about the main character first.

Naturally the best response to a query letter would be, “Send me the full manuscript.” But getting a personalized letter like this is close.

It’s really great to have a professional point me in right direction as far as what to put into a query letter.


Stephanie B said...

Useful. I have every intention of of using your experience to help me as well.

I hope that doesn't offend you. I like you.

Project Savior said...

I don't see how that could be offensive.

Doctor Faustroll said...

My last cover letter resulted in a restraining order, and it wasn't nearly as creepy as yours.

And what kind of name is Darrell B. Nelson? Were you conceived during a rerun of Ozzie and Harriet? Just curious. I'm using it as a keyword on my site, just in case. :-)

Stephanie B said...

A less charitable person might feel I'm using you and nothing more. I am using your experiences and lessons learned, but I'd be here even if you weren't helpful.

wngl said...

Great post, but honestly everybody knows you don't mention the pope in your query letter.

I'm in the process of refining my query letter and you've given good food for thought here. Thanks for sharing your experience!


Project Savior said...

Dr F,
I've been to your blog and if someone was looking to see good writing with a unique voice, something agents look for, I can't see how them mistaking your blog with mine would hurt.

I'm glad you find my experiences helpful. That's why I've been posting them. That and it works hopefully it will work as I reminder to me as to stuff I did right and wrong so I won't repeat mistakes.
But if your worried, I could send you another short story that didn't work for you to look over as payback.

Stephanie B said...

Sure, I'll look it over.

Honored to be a reader.