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


  1. yourgifttome on May 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I love this! You should frame it alongside of your wonderful book, EYEWALL, which I devoured and told my friends about.

    Bonnie Bartel Latino

  2. Jeanie Pantelakis on May 29, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    I am Buzz's agent and I think he is the best thing since oxygen. I live on St. Simons Island, Georgia where EYEWALL is depicted. I have Buzz on red alert for weather coming my way. He said not to worry about Beryl. OK, but let me know if anything is headed here that I need to evacuate for!

    Yes, I saw the potential in EYEWALL the minute I started reading it. The agent who didn't is, well, sorry now. I am sure. It is making as big an impact as a Cat 5 on the publishing industry and now everyone wants whatever he writes. Heck, I want to read every blog! His next novel, yes, he is a disaster writer, is VIRUS which is about an Ebola terrorist attack in Atlanta. Holy smokes! That stuff eats up your insides and turns it into bloody coffee grounds. He will have you breathing hard and glued to your seat! Then in a year or so, we have SUPERCELL which has you watching for funnels in the sky and hoping you have a basement!

    Buzz is the best at making it real, because it could be. There is nothing scarier than reality!

    Agents can be critical, but they can be your best cheerleaders also. Hats off to all agents who have the gift of positive discernment, who believe in you and DO NOT GIVE UP.

    Jeanie Collins Pantelakis
    Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency
    210 North Harrington Rd.
    St. Simons Island, Georgia 31522

  3. Buzz Bernard on May 29, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Thanks Bonnie and Jeanie.

    And about Jeanie. I mentioned in the blog that it can take weeks (or in some cases, as I found out, years) for an agent to respond to a query. With EYEWALL, Jeanie responded in less than a day, asked for a full ms., and three days after that offered me a contract.

    WIthin a month, she'd found a publisher. A great publisher, I might add, BelleBooks out of Memphis, TN.

    Jeanie duplicated that effort with my second novel, VIRUS (again with BelleBooks), and already offered me a contract on my third book, SUPERCELL, without even seeing the manuscript (I'm still working on it).

    In my eyes, although Jeanie's not with one of those big-name NY or California agencies, she's clearly a SUPER AGENT!

  4. Frank G. on August 23, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    That's a great story, Buzz! Perhaps the "intern" would like a signed copy of EYEWALL. BTW I can't wait for PLAGUE's release in September. I'm hoping to make the trip over to Alpharetta for the signing.

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