Rejection Emails from Agents

FailureOne of the agents who seems to do a very good job of communicating with writers and people desperate to have their proposals read is Nathan Bransford. Up until about two minutes ago, I thought Nathan was still working as a literary agent for Curtis Brown in the US. I used to subscribe to his blog and found it really interesting, especially since it is full of tips for writing manuscript queries. I have to confess, when Nathan rejected my Times of Trouble proposal, I cowardly unsubscribed from his blog. I was having a weak moment, and didn’t unsubscribe in anger, more in acknowledgement that I couldn’t face receiving emails from him about all the amazing work he was receiving, when he didn’t rate my work as amazing. I am human after all. And a writer. Having just checked out his new and improved blog, I see that Nathan has now become an author himself and is no longer a literary agent. Congratulations Nathan!

Here is the proposal I sent to Nathan when he still was an agent (on the 21st October 2009):

Dear Mr Bransford

I have been following your blog for the past few months and although I have no idea what ‘The Hills’ is, I really enjoy your daily musings and the discussion it evokes from aspiring writers. (Please blame my unfamiliarity with ‘The Hills’ on my geographic location rather than personality incongruence).

Following the collapse of her dream career, Ellen plods through life as a miserable recluse, too broke to move out of home. But when she learns that her estranged sister Sophie needs help and that her mum has hired a private investigator to find her, Ellen is filled with a new sense of purpose.

What has scared Sophie so much? Why does the young and inexperienced private investigator turn down Ellen’s offer of help? What do two murders and attempted blackmail in London have to do with Sophie hiding in Sydney ?

As Ellen learns more about Sophie’s past she finds that her glamorous, popular sister hasn’t been living her dreams either. Sure, it’s been a long time since she saw Sophie, but she is pretty sure she never dreamt of being a prostitute. When it becomes clear that Sophie has discovered something that is worth killing for, Ellen finds herself in a race to save her sister from the people who want her silenced.

Times of Trouble is an intricately plotted crime story which follows Ellen’s transformation into a woman who is brave enough to do whatever it takes to bring her sister home. The plot relies on misdirection of both the characters and the reader, as Ellen finds help and betrayal along the way.

Set in London , Adelaide and Sydney , Times of Trouble is approximately 105,000 words long, and is aimed at casual readers who enjoy the intrigue of crime fiction. I noted from your blog that you have a fondness for fiction set in other countries. I’m not sure how much the UK and Australia count as ‘other’ from the USA , but hey, there’s no harm in trying!

This is my first novel. I am 28 years old and live in Sydney , Australia . I have a degree in commerce and work in marketing. I am very aware of the need to promote new work and am comfortable with all aspects of publicity and media. I don’t live on beans and rice but I am happiest when writing.

Thank you for your consideration. The full manuscript is available on request.

Kind Regards

Victoria Rollison

And here is Nathan’s response (sent back only two days later! Impressive!)

Dear Victoria,

Thank you for your recent e-mail and for reading my blog, I appreciate it.  I regret to say that I don’t feel that I’m the most appropriate agent for your work.

However, opinions vary considerably in this business, and I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.

Best wishes,

Nathan

Suitably polite, and vague. Thank you for responding Nathan, it might sound sarcastic to say it, but I really do appreciate it. It’s when you don’t hear back at all that you feel most disappointed.

Below is a rejection letter I received from Broo, agent at the Wade & Doherty Literary Agency. This one also came via email two days after I sent my proposal. I’ve never worked out if Broo did read my work, or if this is an automated rejection letter. I’ll probably never know!

Dear Victoria

Many thanks for sending me this material, which I read with interest.

I considered it carefully but I’m afraid on balance it just doesn’t quite grab my imagination in the way that it must for me to offer to represent you. So I shall have to follow my gut instinct and pass on this occasion. I’m sorry to be so disappointing, but thanks for thinking of us. Of course this is a totally subjective view, so do keep trying other agents and I sincerely wish you every success with it elsewhere.

With all best wishes

Broo

Similarly, I have no idea whether Nancy Yost read my work or not. Here was the rejection email I received from her:

Thanks so much for your query, but your project is not for me at this time.
Best of success in finding the perfect advocate for your work.
Nancy Yost
Thank you to everyone who responded to my queries. I truly appreciate you all. Each and every one.

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8 Comments on “Rejection Emails from Agents”

  1. Everett Powers says:

    At least they sounded personal. Two of them. It’s really, really tough to break in. Especially now when the whole publishing industry’s in an uproar.

  2. […] a previous post, you have seen the rejection emails I received from agents. You may also have seen my comments on agents and publishers who still […]

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  8. KS says:

    Thanks for sharing your synopsis, covering letter/proposal and multiple rejections. It’s very brave of you to do so, and is much appreciated by a writer such as myself.

    I hope you don’t mind me giving you some feedback regarding your synopsis and proposal as a writer and reader.

    1. Publishers and agents ask writers not to make the covering letter or synopsis trivial in any manner.

    So using your synopsis as an example – “What has scared Sophie so much? Why does the young and inexperienced private investigator turn down Ellen’s offer of help? What do two murders and attempted blackmail in London have to do with Sophie hiding in Sydney?” – shouldn’t be included.

    2. The covering letter/proposal you submitted to Affirm Press should include a brief introduction of your story.

    2.a. Also, the part referring to Twilight – considered a best seller is another “no-no” given its success, and it has nothing to do with your book (crime) which should be the focal point.

    In case your wondering, I started reading Twilight recently… after watching the movies. Personally, I believe the writing starts off okay, but gets worse the further I read. I spotted three mistakes within the first four chapters. I will admit, I have only read half and nothing has happened in the book besides Bella meeting Edward and a few others. So the success of it really makes me think deeply on what’s appealing to the target audience – any writer established or aspiring should try to find a reason as why they believe it is doing so well, instead of knocking it in letter form.

    Using your proposal to Affirm Press, I would have written it differently. Please keep in mind I have not read your story, other than what you have written in your post above and “about me” page.

    My version:

    I’m an Adelaide based writer of crime fiction, who has a degree in commerce and work in marketing.

    I have attached a synopsis and sample chapters of my novel, Times of Trouble. The novel stands at 105,000 words. I believe my novel will appeal to the readers of such crime authors as Ruth Rendell and PD James. (If you feel like adding another sentence here do so)

    Set in London, Adelaide and Sydney, Times of Trouble is a crime story following the transformation of Ellen Goddard, a failed concert pianist who embarks on a mission to save her somewhat estranged sister, Sophie from London who could become the next victim of murderous thugs.

    >>>The next paragraph is where you need to explain what inspired you to write such a story… No more than two or three sentences and write it concisely <<< (Example) Inspired through my interest in crime related issues… (you get the drift, right?)

    ——————————————————————————————————————-

    Note: Don't write – "I noted from your blog that you have a fondness for fiction set in other countries. I’m not sure how much the UK and Australia count as ‘other’ from the USA , but hey, there’s no harm in trying!"

    Why? It detracts from the proposal/cover letter and doesn't sound as professional as it should. And the same applies to using the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence.

    It's not a good idea to write – "I can also provide a marketing plan and a positive manuscript assessment on request."

    Why?

    1. Literary agents and publishers have people who specialise in marketing of this type. I under no circumstance am taking a dig at your experience or qualification here, I write this in hope that you'll understand that the agent or editor reading your submission might flag it as "someone difficult to work with" although you may not be. They want a writer who is flexible and easy to work through the process, and not with someone who wants to call the shots, especially in the case of a publisher as it's their money that they're investing in your work if they take it on. Keep in mind, they try to get to know you through this submission and judge you based on it as they don't know you in person. This is the same situation when applying for work. However, in saying this I believe luck does play a minor role.

    Anyway, your marketing in this area should only be building a solid social media platform with a strong following relating to your writing. You may already have this… I don't know. (I would say more on this, however, I do intend on leaving this type of information for my seminars)

    2. A positive manuscript assessment doesn't mean that the story is good or that the agent or publisher viewing your work has to take it on. It is only for you to have another opinion and to minimise errors within your story, improving it's chances of publication. An agent or editor decides on suitable at the time they read your submission.)

    ————————————————————————————————————————

    (Close off proposal/covering letter with:)

    Thank you for taking the time to read my submission. My novel is complete and ready for viewing. I hope to hear from you with regards to my novel, Times of Trouble.

    Yours Sincerely

    Victoria Rollison.

    I have book marked this page, as for any writer, I think it gives us better insight on what goes on in the background of submissions and process. It's very daunting stage of writing and can drain the fun out of it for some.

    Once again, thank you for sharing it.

    I hope my feedback/comment is of use to you or any new writers preparing to submit.

    Good Luck 🙂


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