from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Archive for the ‘Rejections’ Category

Rejection #7: First of Round Three

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I’ve started my agent search once again–my third attempt after yet another major re-write. I spent my time at the coffee shop last week in sending out query after query, and early this morning, at 3:42 am, I was roused from my slumber by the annoying, tinny alert on my phone indicating that I got an e-mail. Through bleary eyes, I read my first rejection of this round.

Dear Holden,

Many thanks for querying me with THE ACCIDENTAL CITIZEN SOLDIER. This certainly sounds like an interesting premise for a memoir, but I’m sorry to say it’s not quite right for my list at this time. I appreciate your trying me though and hope you find the right home for your work very soon.

My best, [agent name]
Oh well. I’ve broken the seal for this round, and the one thing I am grateful for is that at least they replied promptly. Rejections don’t get me down; I expect to be rejected by most agents. I’ve queried somewhere between 30-40 agents so far, and there has been some interest along the way. It’s a long road ahead (I’m not even halfway there according to this article), but it’s the road I’ve chosen. And if nothing happens by the end of the year, I will probably take a detour and go the self-publishing route on this one.

Rejection #6: The Longest So Far

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When I woke this morning, I had a reply from an agent waiting in my inbox.

Dear Mr. Beck,

My name is [assistant name], and I’m [agent name]’s assistant at [agency name]. Thank you very much for your query and patience–we sincerely apologize for not responding sooner, but due to the sheer volume of queries we receive, we find it difficult to get to all of them in a timely manner.

We just reviewed your submission, and after conferring with senior members of the agency, I regret to inform you we are going to have to pass on The Accidental Citizen Soldier. We read your query with interest, but we’re afraid your project does not fit our current list, as [agent name] isn’t looking to acquire any memoir titles at the moment. Please do not despair–we are confident that with your talents and some perseverance, your book will find a home with the right agent.

Of course, our opinions are entirely subjective and other agencies may feel differently. I encourage you to query widely, as you never know who will feel that “spark” for your book as it currently stands. We appreciate the opportunity to consider your work and wish you the best of luck finding representation.


[assistant name]

[assistant name], Assistant

[agency name]

After I read the rejection in full, I wasn’t even upset. So what if the rejection is three months late? So what if the agent’s website said she was looking for memoir? It feels like there was a lot of effort taken in writing this e-mail, perhaps more effort than I put in my queries.

It’s possible that this is the assistant’s standard form rejection, and if it is, this guy (lady? The assistant’s name is gender-ambiguous) is a fucking genius. If this was a sincerely written reply by an earnest young assistant, I would tell him (her?) to go ahead and use it for a standard form rejection. All it would take is replace my name and title of my book with whomever the agent was rejecting at the moment.

Yes, I’d rather get a lengthy standard rejection like this that seems sincere than a short, seven-word rejection that is clearly sincere. Why? Because the agent-writer dynamic in the query process is severely skewed toward the agent. The agent doesn’t have to write a polite rejection. The agent doesn’t have to write a rejection at all. At least the former tells the writer the agent has manners. The latter tells the writer that this book that you’ve worked years on is only worth seven of my words.

[Hospital update] I’m still in the hospital. Week 12. I’ve started writing again, mostly out of sheer boredom. But I’ve also started smoking and having my daily coffee and sneaking shots of whisky at night, all of which help my creative process.

Rejection #5: First Two for My Second Draft

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These past two weeks, I’ve managed to get off my ass and actually begin the agent search in earnest (again). Even in earnest, I can’t deny my penchant for sloth when doing something I don’t like doing, particularly because of the likelihood of getting rejected. I’ve managed to send out nine queries but hope to send out a total of fifty by the end of the year. If, at the end of the year, I haven’t gotten any prospects or haven’t managed to overcome my sloth, I’ve decided to go the self-publishing route, chalk this one up to a learning experience, and start the new year focusing on the kind of writing I want to do.

The title of this post is misleading. I’ve actually been rejected three times, but the first of them was somewhat hopeful. After a few e-mails sent back and forth, the agent asked for my proposal and a couple of sample chapters. Following advice I found on the internet, I sent the first two chapters as well as two of my strongest chapters.

Here is an excerpt from the response.

Based on what I’ve read (disconnected, short chapters) I get the distinct impression that your work needs a lot of restructuring and editing. You might consider taking the nearly 100 chapters and turning them into a story that flows better. Short chapters like this are like blog entries–and that’s not a format that works well for most books, particularly if you want to draw readers into a story.
If you think I’m off base, then please send me 30 consecutive pages of the manuscript so I can see how the writing flows.

I didn’t think the agent was off base but sent my first 30 pages in anyway in the hopes that they would paint a better picture of the flow of my manuscript instead of random chapters.

The agent’s responses had been prompt, usually arriving in inbox several hours after I sent them. It’s been eleven days and no response so I think it’s safe to say it’s a rejection.

The second response and first outright rejection was also the shortest I’ve ever received.

I’m sorry. This is not for me.

Ouch. It’s tough to wake up to, a message like that. No words of greeting or even the agent’s name at the bottom. Those seven words were the entirety of the response. At least the second wished me luck.

Hi Holden,
Thanks for your query but I’m not currently taking on any memoir or narrative nonfiction.
Best of luck,
[agent name]

Three rejections but it’s too soon to feel down. Rejections are a natural part of getting published and I know it’s a long road ahead. It may not be good form, but I post these rejections so that at least those of you in need of a dose of schadenfreude can get some joy from them.

Rejection #4: Three for the Price of One

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This month was supposed to be a productive month for me. A rewrite-the-entire-book-and-change-it-into-a-fucking-literary-masterpiece kind of month. Instead, I’ve probably revised a couple of paragraphs and spent the rest of the time reading and smoking and drinking and watching old movies. In a lame attempt to salvage the month, I decided to query one more agent and try my luck. The one redeeming quality of this rejection is that it was quick; the rejection came less than 24 hours after the query submission. I’ve always been a rip-off-the-bandage-quick kind of guy.

Dear Author:

Thank you so much for sending the [agency name] your query. We’d like to apologize for the impersonal nature of this standard rejection letter. Rest assured that we do read every query letter carefully and, unfortunately, this project is not right for us. Because this business is so subjective and opinions vary widely, we recommend that you pursue other agents. After all, it just takes one “yes” to find the right match.
Good luck with all your publishing endeavors.
[agent name]
[agent name]
[agent name]
[agency name]

Again, an impersonal “Dear Author” rejection. At least they were honest about their “im-personality.” I say “they” because all three agents in the agency have their name at the bottom of the rejection. It’s kind of like trying to hit on a girl at a club and, having been rejected, hearing her two friends say “No, thanks” when you weren’t planning to play for them anyway. Three rejections for the price of one, or maybe just one agency-wide rejection.

* This is my fourth reply (still a small number, I know) but I assume that the one agency who hasn’t replied for the past three months just didn’t bother with the rejection letter, making a grand total of five.

Rejection #3: Second Dose of the Day

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This is the rejection that hurt the most, primarily because it was one that I thought I had a chance with. In terms of the dating analogy I’ve been using to describe my search for an agent, this was a case where I got to first base only to get shut down. After a second date, I was politely and tersely rejected. “Thanks, but I don’t see things going anywhere. Bye.”


Thanks for sharing this memoir with us.

It’s a compelling story and well-told but we don’t think we’d be able to get a major house interested in it. It’s the nature of memoirs that they’re really tough to sell. We hope you find an agency willing to take it on.

Best of luck,
[agent’s name]

I still haven’t heard from the third of the agents I queried a month ago, but I figure it’s more of the same. Time to start querying again. It’s a rule of probabilities. The more agents I query, the greater chance I’ll have of finding one who’ll take me. I guess my story is not so appealing so it looks like I’ll have to get busy.

Rejection #1

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I woke up this afternoon—I need to stop drinking—to my first rejection e-mail.

Hi, Holden, 

Thank you for your query. While your project certainly has merit, I’m just not wild enough about what I’ve read to ask for more. As I’m sure you know, it’s important that your agent be totally excited by/committed to/passionate about your project, and I’m afraid that just didn’t happen here. But opinions vary considerably in this business, and mine is just one. I’m sure you’ll find others who feel differently. I hope so!

I wish you the very best in your search for representation.

Warm regards,

[Agent’s name]

[Agency’s name] Literary Agency

It’s not hard to figure out who it was since I’ve only sent a query to one agent. It’s not surprising because I sent it prematurely—is it a big problem among aspiring writers?—and as befits the metaphor, both she and I left the experience disappointed.

Oh well. Hopefully I’ll have more luck tomorrow. Today I need a drink.

Written by Young

April 10, 2010 at 5:22 pm