Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dear Author

Another early rejected query:

May 12th, 2009


I am writing to you seeking representation for my young-adult commercial-fiction novel which has the working title, Warrior-Monks, and is complete at approximately 475,000 words. The sequel, which is untitled, currently exists only in outline form. Warrior-Monks is intended for young adult readers ages 13-17, who are buying books in droves these days, but I am certain that once you read the manuscript you will find that it is mature enough and compelling enough to enthrall even the most discerning adult reader. I am including a synopsis but will not include any sample chapters because your website clearly states that you will request a manuscript if you have an interest.

I can't believe I told her that young adult readers are buying books in droves these days. She's a literary agent for god's sake, as if she doesn't know that.

One sure fire way to insult someone is to tell them how to do their job. If you really wanna infuriate them have no idea what your talking about on top of it.

I love Eastern Cultures and the many art forms they incorporate such as – Martial Arts, Calligraphy, Japanese Swords, and the Tea Ceremony as well as all the traditions and high level of art that go into them. I also love Magic and Fantasy and Eastern Religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism. Warrior-Monks incorporates all of these themes in a fantastic way which has never been done in young adult fantasy to my knowledge. There are no wizards, witches or vampires in my story, just a bit of everyday magic and mysticism that has not been written about in this way before.

I do like the bit where I point out that there are no witches, wizards or vampires. It's a good way to say how my MS stands out from a lot of the other stuff out there. The rest of the paragraph is insufficient though. I can't remember where I got the idea to talk about stuff I like instead of telling what happens in the story but it clearly doesn't work.

I have never been published but I am confident that many authors like Christopher Paolini and Brunonia Barry have proved that you do not have to be a highly experienced or best-selling author to write an incredibly entertaining book. I also do have some personal qualifications to write this story. For example my own mother died when I was eleven years old and I was then sent to live with a cruel aunt and uncle and eventually did end up at a reform school in Northern Idaho which although strange, was not nearly as fascinating as the place in which my characters find themselves within this book.

Again, an agent is only interested in personal qualifications if you are writing non-fiction, such as a memoir.

Please feel free to reply to this email, or to call me on my mobile phone at any time at 206-555-1212, or even to write to me at home at:


Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Matthew M. Rush


Her reply:

Dear Author, Please forgive this impersonal note. We receive a tremendous number of query letters and are forced to focus our attention on a limited number of projects. We regret that we must decline the offer to review your work. We encourage you to keep writing and we wish you every success. Sincerely, REDACTED.

This form rejection seems a little lazy. I mean I understand the slushpile is enormous and agents (and their assistants) are extremely busy. I am also aware that this query stinks like a hog farm on a hot day but Dear Author? I mean come on. Begging forgiveness is a nice touch but if you aren't going to take the time to address each writer just leave the salutation out. It just looks bad.

We're told over and over to address our queries to you by name. Even as dumb as I was back then I knew not to address a letter to Dear Agent, Dear Sir or Madam, or To Whom it May Concern. Address a query letter that way and I guarantee it won't concern anyone.

Otherwise you can't blame her. Astronomical word count? Check. Ignorance of genre? Check. Telling her how to do her job? Check. Complete lack of pitch, hook and any idea of what happens in the story? Check.

Lazy form rejection. Why not?


JE said...

"I can't believe I told her that young adult readers are buying books in droves these days."

LOL! I hope this is the one and only time you did this.

And...I saw your other post on my blog last night. I noticed that too, I thought it was funny. My email address is listed on my profile page. Drop me a note.


And...I can't wait to see how the new query does for you. Have you worked out anymore of it since posting it on the Bransforums?

Matthew MacNish said...

Umm I can't remember but I bet I did it more than once. I was really excited back then, sending out like 20 queries a day, with ... as you can see, little regard for their quality.

I have not revised the query since I got that great advice from Ellie G on NB's forums. I have been concentrating on revising the MS. Plus blogging and trying to network and bring followers to my blog takes a lot of time.

I did enter the single sentence pitch and opening paragraph contest over at the query tracker blog so we'll see how that goes.

JE said...

I made that same mistake. Bumped myself right off my top five agents list without even thinking twice. Grrrr.

Networking, blogging, followers, maintaining a web presence in general(FB, Twitter, Bransforums...etc..etc..) has proved difficult. It's hard to keep everything you need going. But, I'm sure one day it will all be worth it. Let's just hope we don't pull our hair out before then ;-)

Good luck on the query tracker pitch.


Nicola Morgan said...

Good post, Matthew. Learning by mistakes, eh?! Well, I once wrote a covering letter IN RHYME. And IN COLOUR. Arghhhh.

Good luck! (And yep, you really will need to get that word count down - slash and burn.)

Suzette Saxton said...

I'll let you in on a little secret - my most successful query was my very shortest - we're talking less than 100 words. So the pitch contest you entered on QT (good luck, BTW) is good practice for making your query concise. I propose an experiment - send out a very short query to a handful of agents, and see if your success rate is any better!

Also, be glad for the form rejection - some agencies don't reply at all when it's a "no."

Thanks for linking to my blog, and for your thoughtful comments. I look forward to getting to know you!

Matthew MacNish said...

Thanks to everyone for stopping by.

Justine, you're the best

Nicola, you're right. Every day I cut a little more. Slowly making progress. I would have loved to see that colorful rhyming query of yours. I'm sure it didn't work but probably was fun regardless.

Suzette, thanks for everything, as usual. And you're right, I really need to subscribe to the less is more school of thought a little ... more. I look forward to getting to know you too.

I do feel like I should point a couple of things out though: These queries that I am posting are all from almost a year ago. I have made a lot of progress since then and even had a few bites from agents (until they realized the length of the MS). So there is some hope for the future. I just need to CUT THAT MS!

I don't want to experiment with or revise my query too much before the MS is really ready, but I will definitely try some of these ideas once it is.

Thanks all.

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Hi, Matthew! Just wanted to pop over and follow - and cheer you on as you fine-tune that query and that MS. How's the hacking-it-down part going?

Matthew MacNish said...

Slowly but surely Zoe, trying to stay at it. Part of the problem is that I got a promotion at work since finishing the third draft or so, so I have a lot less free time ... um never mind I only do work at work.

Anyway thanks for the comment and follow!

FantasticFiction said...

Hey Matthew! Whats up? Rejections suck but tha main thing which you probably know is that the agents could just be rejecting because of the massive wordcount. I hope you get through soon!


Matthew MacNish said...

Hey Ariel, I'm sure you're correct. This is completely un-scientific but I estimate that 75% of the agents don't read past that massive word count. No matter how good the novel is it would be a huge commitment just to find out.

I eventually tried querying leaving the word count out, and got some bites that way but it felt dishonest (and didn't work in the long run anyway, once they saw the MS).

Unknown said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog!!! I love meeting other blog peeps and what a fun blog you have! Wow what a query I hope that my first one is slightly better than that! However I will agree a lazy rejection was returned to you.

Oh I'm told that I am not the norm in the lines of followers! I'm still amazed at how many have joined the bandwagon, happy to have them all, including you! I have returned the favor and now follow you!

Matthew MacNish said...

Thanks Jen, you're most welcome. I'm glad you like the blog, sometimes it's a little hard to muster the courage to post the worst of these but it's a powerful experience to be able to laugh at yourself and besides I've learned a lot in the process, with a lot of help from others so I figure I owe it to my karma to give back what I can, hopefully helping some other writers not to make the mistakes I have.

Now your first query will be better than that. Thanks to me! Just kidding, but at least you had the wisdom to start blogging before you began querying. I wish I had thought of that.

Matthew MacNish said...

BTW Jen, no big deal but you forgot to follow. Unless there's some wrong with blogspot that is.

Shelley Sly said...

Hi Matthew, thanks for your kind comment on my blog! I was actually browsing another blog (can't remember which) when I saw the title of yours in the sidebar. As someone who has queried (too early in the game and made too many mistakes, I admit), I really appreciate your blog. I'll be following along! :)

Matthew MacNish said...

You're welcome Shelley and I meant it. I have to ask though, what is that cityscape at the top of your blog? Is it Baltimore? I don't think it is but I have been wrong about these things before.

I do feel that I vaguely recognize that building with the sort or criss-cross exes going up the sides but I'm not sure.

Unknown said...

Hi Matthew! I found your blog by way of Falen Formulates Fiction. I loved this honest post highlighting part of your query journey. I haven't reached this step in the process yet, but I'm taking in every scrap of advice others have to offer -- so thank you!

It's nice to meet a fellow Georgia writer. Looking forward to following!