Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dear Agent, Part III

When you wake up on a cold winter's morning to an inbox full of

We have carefully evaluated your materials and regrettably, your project is not a right fit for our agency. We currently have a very full clientele and must be highly selective about the new projects we pursue


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

you're going to need something that perks you up in approximately 1.6 seconds. Vodka. Triple-chocolate ice-cream with crumbled cookies and hot fudge sauce. Maybe it's

Oh, you like your kittehs to be seen and not heard? Then Dreaming of Kittens at the Daily Squee is for you:

There's also the baby animal vids on YouTube. Pandas sneezing! Polar bear cubs sneezing! Dogs ... doing stuff. If Surprised Kitteh! had surfaced when I was querying I would have single-handedly contrubuted 100,000 hits to that little grey munchkin. There's also many weeks worth of Tuesdays to trawl at Lenore's blog. Emmy in the frying pan! Emmy and Finn in the dishwasher! If it's in her apartment, those two have sat on it.

For more rejection-specific catharsis, there's InkyGirl's Daily Diversions for Writers:

Feeling better already aren't you? Now you're ready for the harder stuff: famous rejections. Not only will you be able to have a belly laugh at the expense of all those foolish agents and editors, you'll have interesting tidbits for dinner parties that will make you sound interesting and not at all bitter:

"Did you know Stephen King's Carrie was rejected thirty times? John Creasey collected 743 rejection slips, and Kipling was told he didn't know how to use the English language. My god, Kipling!" you moan. "The brutes."

Say this with a feverish glint in your eye while stuffing chicken salad in your mouth and your invitation to the next party will be assured.

Then there's whinging to friends. I'll let you in on a little secret: non-writer friends are the best when you want to fish for compliments. Even if they haven't read your book. Come to think of it, especially if they haven't read your book. If you seek commiseration with writer friends the conversation will quickly descend into the famous-rejection-quoting Olympics. But I'll let you in on another secret: while your non-writer friends will shower you with the delicious empty platitudes that you are so craving, in their heart of hearts they don't really believe you can do it. I know this from all the "OMG, REALLY??!" responses I got when I finally got to break the I-got-an-agent news. The "WTF??" was unsaid, but written all over their non-writer faces.

Once you've been propped up by your non-writer friends, it's time to turn back to your writer friends for some chin-up-old-girl tough love. They do believe you can do it. They'll remind you that it's only been x number of weeks, these things take time, you manuscript is excellent and no I don't think sparkles would have made any difference, and so on and so on.

Momentarily buoyed, it's now time to turn to the activity that is best for soothing those jangled nerves: the next WIP. Not only will you fall in love with a whole new cast of characters (which can be heartbreaking because you still very much in love the old ones) you'll be using all this waiting time to your advantage. I wrote a third of an urban fantasy novel while Lharmell was being queried around. (The heroine came out rather quick tempered and ... scary. Gosh it felt good when she knifed her nemesis's tires. I wonder why ...) If the worst happens and your querying comes to nothing, you'll be well on your way to having the next project ready. If you do get an agent, you'll be able to show off all this lovely work you've been doing.

Finally, three and a half months after I sent my first query letter, I got the email. Three little words: "I love this." I let out a giant WHOOP! and jumped all over my boyfriend, who was asleep, poor thing. You're supposed to take a day to think about offers, contact the other agents who've requested the MS, muse over the rewrites required. And I recommend this. I really do. But I think my response when I got the subsequent phone call was "YES YES OH GOD YES thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you."

And then I threw myself a party. Because I knew what was coming next: submissions. More waiting and hand-sitting and dreaded anxiety. I took my OMG, REALLYS??! (WTF??) and my vodka tonics and I bloody well basked.

I'm writing this now from Submissionville. That party seems a long time ago now, but it's a very happy memory that I get to keep even if Lharmell doesn't sell. I've been working hard on book two and falling even more in love with my characters and story. If it doesn't sell I will be crushed and heart-broken, but there's that urban fantasy calling to me, and I can always make my heroine go knife more tires until we both feel better.

I hope you've enjoyed Dear Agent. I've had a lot of fun writing it as yes, it has been some welcome distraction from the "Is it going to sell before Christmas? Is it?? IS IT??!" voices in my head.

I would love to hear about your querying process too, or how you plan to approach it. I'm available for a bout of the famous-rejection-quoting Olympics, and I'm good with the comfy-shoulder/tough-love stuff if you need it. Email me at rhi.hart at

And good luck!!


  1. That first photo of the cat and the ribbons - THAT IS MY MOTHER'S CAT! Hahaha! I need to make a t-shirt of that for my mum's cat. heheh

    I am looking forward to your novel being published! I will order it from the UK/AUS too if it's released there first. I will be your number 1 Canadian fan. ;) Go, Rhiannon!!

  2. OMG! I just spat hot tea over myself (pauses to consider if the word 'hot' was necessary. What other temperature of tea would I be drinking!)
    That was so funny! I really needed that.

  3. Hehe I love that OMG!! cat! How funny that it's you're mum's cat. Thanks Cat, I'll be able to say "my Canadian fan-base..." (Too many cats in those sentences. What am I saying?? Never enough cats!

    Watch the tea, Jade!

  4. LOVE the OMG cat! They cheered me up :D

  5. Thanks for the Dear Agent posts, Rhiannon. Very timely. I think we all make the mistake of imposing deadlines or time posts, like Christmas. I was sure I'd have an agent by December..... which led to, well, you know what.

    I'm sure if you found an agent who loves your book, you'll find an editor who does too, maybe by....:)

    btw, cats are the Best. At least that's what my cat, Spiff, keeps telling me.

  6. It's just an endless bout of heartwrenching waiting, isn't it? You tell yourself, "Once I get an agent, it's all downhill from there," but that's just the second big hurdle of many (the first having been the brilliant most fantabulous book you've just written). And yet, even though I know better, I still keep telling myself this. I just can't imagine the indeterminate amount of waiting involved. To look that far ahead--well, it's just downright exhausting. But I thank you for this post. It's truly reassuring to hear success stories describe the work it took to get there--it makes our own rejections sting, perhaps, just a bit less. But I understand the self-imposed deadline--it gives you something to shoot for, as if creating an imaginary end to that most hateful waiting might make it so.

    I wish you the best, and look forward to hearing your good news.

  7. These last three posts were enlightening and funny. Thanks for doing them. :) Great advice with non-writing friends, loved it.

  8. Great series of posts, Rhiannon! It's nice to know what I can look forward to when I start the querying process. And I hope your book sells soon:)

  9. Elle, cats ARE the best. Look at us, giving ourselves these deadlines... As Carolina says, they give ourselves an imaginary end to things, which is comforting. Silly, but comforting. We're certainly not in an industry for impatient people. And I don't think any of us are impatient. We're just excited and super-keen!!

    Thanks Bethany and Melissa! And good luck to you too.

  10. I absolutely loved the rejected valentine.
    I was so used to getting rejection letters and emails when I finally got an expression of interest I nearly put it in the pile out of habit rather than realising what it said. Then I read it another ten times before I let out a whoop that terrified my husband and my cat.
    Great post - I think it helps to know that querying is difficult for everyone.

  11. This was SUCH an absolutely awesome series. I think I already commented about it, but I've now bookmarked all three sections. :-) The very best of luck to you for selling Lharmell!

    Also, I know I'm a new follower, but I love, love, love your blog! And I left you an award on mine :-)

  12. I laughed aloud at my desk, and my students are all staring at me now! Holy cow, this is a fabulous post!! I love this blog - thanks for visiting me and leaving a comment so I could follow you back. ;-)

  13. Great post! Thanks for sharing. I'm bookmarking this for when I start getting rejected.

  14. So true that Emmy and Finn sit on everything and anything!

  15. Oh, this is Lenore by the way. Visiting friends...

  16. I'm battling the query wars as we speak but like you said, I'm working on my new novel while agents read my MS. I am loving my new peeps. Not more or less than my others, just differently.
    Loved hearing about your experience through the process. :)
    Click to read Karen’s Blog

  17. Great stuff Rhiannon!

    Thanks for sharing your journey. I believe, in a few months time, I will be agonizing over querying myself. =D