To me, it was akin to getting a “Dear John” letter from an old girl friend long after I’d married someone else.
But here it came, a rejection letter (email) from a literary agent for Eyewall over a year after the novel had been published and more than two years since I’d contacted—-and long forgotten about—-the agent.
Rejection, a lot of it, is part of the business for most writers. Here’s how it happens: You send a query letter and maybe a few sample chapters of your book to a literary agent explaining very briefly what the book is about and why you’d like that particular agent to represent it to publishers. (Agents are the gate keepers for major publishing houses.) With Eyewall, I was told “no thanks” 113 times. That, believe it or not, is not unusual in the world of first-time novelists.
Sometimes, in this age of emails and instant communications, a response from an agent will come in a matter of minutes (I think my personal best is 60 seconds), other times it may take weeks. A few agencies will say if you don’t hear back from us in six weeks or so, assume we aren’t interested. Fair enough.
Usually, after three months, if I haven’t received a response from an agency, I can safely assume my query’s in the trash bin. That’s not always the case, but it is 99 percent of the time.
I realize agents are inundated, overwhelmed, buried with queries and manuscripts. Hundreds per week at big name agencies. By the way, an experienced agent can tell after reading just one or two paragraphs of a manuscript whether it’s marketable or not. At any rate, I understand that it takes time to receive feedback.
But over two years? Come on. Get real. Why bother? Did the agent think I was sitting around waiting to hear back from him/her after that length of time? It wasn’t the agent I heard from anyhow, but an “associate,” probably code word for an intern. That’s okay, but again, why bother? Didn’t the agency have more recent queries to respond to, like ones that were maybe only a year old?
I’m not upset. In fact, getting a “Dear John” note long after Eyewall had gone on to a modicum of success brought a good chuckle to me. I just find it totally bizarre that an agency would waste its time dealing with a query that had more dust on it than Phoenix in a haboob.
Hey, I kinda figured out you weren’t interested. Oh, and thanks for telling me why the manuscript wouldn’t work.
-May 29, 2012-
IMAGE: from the movie Dear John