Thursday, May 27, 2010

Unicorns and False Hope - Part II

First of all I must say that the show of support yesterday was incredible. You people (writers) are amazing and the level of understanding and solidarity that you brought to this topic was both uplifting and inspiring. I have really learned a lot since those clumsy old query days and it means a lot to me that we can look back and laugh at this stuff together.

The second half of this post may make you laugh as well. More likely it will make you scratch your head and say, huh? Hopefully it won't make you cry.

If you missed the first half of this epic tale for some crazy reason you can find it here.

Moving right along here is my continued correspondence with agent (editor?) X:


First of all let me just say thank you very much for having an interest in my work. It is very exciting to have an opportunity to share my narrative voice with a professional in the industry. I am attaching an .rtf file which includes the first three chapters of my book as well as the intro/prologue chapter and a few title pages. I have edited it so that it complies with your requests (except that the title pages are still single spaced because they look really awkward otherwise).

I'm not sure how or if the rules apply to this kind of situation, but normally you don't send title pages to an agent. Not at first. I'm just sayin.

I do want to warn you about a couple of things. First of all this story is very long but one of the main pieces of advice that I am seeking is whether I should rewrite it into two separate books (which could easily be done), or whether I should try to cut this story down to a more marketable size, or perhaps if you think it is good enough to sell as is. Secondly I would like to point out that two of the first three chapters are flashback chapters which, though important for introducing the reader to the protagonist, do not develop the plot and may need to be edited so that they are not so long. If you would like to see the three chapters that occur after these, in which the plot really begins to develop, please let me know and I will send you those instead. Another thing is that the fantasy elements (magic, fright away. I did not want you to think that I categorized this story into the wrong genre just to get you to offer to read it.

This is strange. I mean this is poorly written and certainly proves to my now more experienced mind that my MS was not ready to be read by agents, but the odd thing is that from the things I was saying it looks like an editor is exactly what I was looking for. Funny.

Other than that I really look forward to hearing your opinion about the story, the characters and the writing and I really appreciate you taking the time to give my project a look.

Thank you,


Her honest (and most normal) reply:

Mr. Rush,

Thank you so much for considering REDACTED Literary Services. Having reviewed your manuscript and deliberating over the possible target markets for it, we have determined that your project would be better suited to a larger agency. We wish you the absolute best of luck placing this manuscript elsewhere but are certain you will have no difficulty with that.

Incidentally, everyone here who read it felt this would be a good fit for either a television series or possible script for movie. You might want to look into that.

Thanks again for considering us and have a beautiful week!

Always Sincerely,

This is pretty cool I suppose looking back. I mean it does make it clear that she was not the wolf in sheep's clothing of an editor masquerading as an agent that she first appeared to be. She also has some good points about the larger agency for such a long MS but I'm not sure about the TV/Movie comments. I mean sure, I love the story, and I think it probably could work in those mediums, but how could she possibly know for sure after reading only 3 chapters?

And where the hell am I going to learn how to write a screenplay?

I wrote back to her, clumsily:


Thank you very much for taking the time to review my project. I appreciate your honesty and do believe that you are probably right. I have certainly thought about the film and television possibilities and think that my story would probably make a great anime like Naruto or Avatar. I have decided though that I would like it to be published as a novel first. However, most of the large new york agencies have rejected my project based on a short query letter alone, and without having read any part of the manuscript. I do have a couple of other smaller agencies who are currently reading partials but if I cannot get an offer of representation from anyone I may contact you again in the future just to seek your advice about what my other options might be. Thanks again for your consideration and for taking the time to read the part of my book that I sent you.

Thank you,


And this is where things got weird.

Her reply:


Thanks for understanding. Anytime you need help with your manuscript, we'd love to do it when time permits of course. I'll shop the concept and see what we get. If anything comes up on this end, I'll let you know. Until then, just keep trying. You have a very descript writing voice. The language and imagery is lovely. I think the beginning is a bit long and might need some trimming. The verbage could use a little tweaking as well, but over all, your story is really good. We feel here that with a little clean up and the proper presentation the work could easily be marketed. You just keep working on it, and we're sure something wonderful will happen for you.

Thank you again for thinking of us and feel free to submit anything anytime.


Looking back now it is not QUITE as strange as it sounded at first, but this is still not normal. A reputable agent does not "shop the concept" before offering representation to a writer. They offer to represent you based on their passion for the story and writing and THEN they convince editors to love it as they do. Shopping the concept to see if it will sell first is not professional, not allowed by the AAR and just kind of underhanded.

That may not be what she meant. Reading the entire paragraph now it seems as though she meant she would consider it again, after heavy revision, but the wording is not very clear. One thing that is of course wonderful is that she had some very nice things to say about my writing, which was encouraging then and is encouraging still ... I'm just not sure exactly how to feel about it since it's not clear exactly what her motives might have been or what kind of agent/editor she was.

Looking back now I get the feeling that she was just a brand new agent just getting started out in her own agency at the time. She probably also did not have much experience working as an assistant or intern at any real agencies. Who knows how she came to the decision to try her hand at being an author's literary representative.

Needless to say I'll be looking to work with more experienced agents once I begin querying my novel again.

So what do you guys think? Is this what you expected? What would you have done had you experienced this kind of thing at my level of ignorance? What would you do now?

Leave your thoughts in the comments and more importantly don't forget to come back tomorrow for Elana Johnson's actual query for CONTROL ISSUES.


K. M. Walton said...

I have a theory.

I was lucky enough to sit with Eddie Gamarra at the SCBWI conference in NYC -- he was the moderator at my first critique round. He's a Hollywood agent for TV and film.

When she said, "Shop the concept" I'm thinking she's referring to her earlier statement of telling you the book would translate well into a TV series or film. Eddie used the word 'concept' quite a few times during his presentation and said it's all about the short concept pitch in Hollywood -- that's what sells entire movies and TV series.

Maybe she really feels the book has that power...feels it enough to pitch the actual concept.

Who knows?

Again, thanks for sharing your experience.

Vicki Rocho said...

Sounds like a new agent who wasn't completely bogged down yet. The problem with new agents, I guess, is that there's no track record to tell if they'll be good or bad ones.

I'd be very excited about the personalized responses, though! She was very encouraging, I thought.

Candyland said...

Wow. Speechless. This is the strangest back and forth I've heard of. Thanks for sharing:)

Ohhh and in honor of Elana's query tomorrow, you might mention I'm having another CONTEST with her help
*wink wink*
(She's giving away query critiques)

Matthew MacNish said...

Will do Candace.

JE said...


I think you might be right, though, about the true meaning of her last contact. I think it's probably just worded weirdly. Then again, maybe not. Whose to say, really? I mean, as a newbie yourself at the time, I could see how this would both make you smile and confuse you. And then look back and make you bang your head on the desk ;-)

KM had a good point to, though. Either way, it's good to know she liked your voice. Doesn't every writer want to be told they can write well?

Thanks for sharing, Matt!!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think this is very positive! Time to start looking up Hollywood leads, Matthew.

Hannah said...

That second response was a little off but it could have just been a rookie move. Who knows? I've never seen anything like that before.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Larger agency? script. Did they give you a number, contact??? *Cheese*

Matt, I love how openly you share with us. Gives me hope and even the urge for me to a little more open myself. *Shrug*.

Thank you.

Jessica Bell said...

Wow. That wasn't what I expected. I expected much longer email after reading the first one. They actually seemed prety normal, just polite. I think you may be right. she may have just been starting out. By the way, I cracked up laughing when I read the paragraph of yours starting with "I do want to warn you ..." LOLOLOL Thanks for sharing Matthew!!!!

Courtney Barr - The Southern Princess said...

As always thank you for sharing. This is definitely an interesting example...I agree with everyone else - your voice was appreciated and that sometimes is just as important. It keeps us moving. ;o)

Visit My Kingdom Anytime

Lindsay said...

Hmm, another interesting one.
It was great that she had positive things to say about your writing though.:)

Unknown said...

That does seem odd. But entertaining!!

Jaydee Morgan said...

I'm not sure there's anything underhanded there - just a polite way of saying that it still needed some work. I think that you got a personal response with nice things to say about your writing is a plus. Hey, I say it's all good and you move on - at least she didn't try to sell you any editing services.

Bryan Russell said...

Hmmmm. There's a number of different interpretations for that string of emails. The one that struck me was that she liked your writing but didn't think the project was right for representation yet, and that she was something that's very rare in a literary agent: uncomfortable with saying no.

Partly, because she thinks you have talent and might be able to edit the book into shape. But partly it just seems like she's dancing around the no, as if she's scared of offending anyone. It strikes me as rather hesitant, and she dangles things so it's almost not a no...

I think I prefer clarity. Yes, no, maybe (if you do a, b, and c).

Tahereh said...

wow! i've never seen anything quite like this before!! though i have to say i'm relieved she didn't turn out to be a skeezy agent who was just trying to manipulate you for your money. in fact, her rejection in conjunction with her praise makes her words far more powerful. i don't think she was just saying those things for any reason except to share her thoughts with you -- and what fantastic thoughts to share!

she was probably just a new agent (like most others have mentioned) and while her correspondence is a bit strange, perhaps she felt comfortable with your approach and felt she could be candid?

and honestly, we ALL make mistakes at the beginning of the query process (i sure did, anyway), and your email exchanges could've been much worse. so i commend you for your sense of professionalism, and i applaud your courage in sharing this with us.

so happy to have you in the blogosphere! i'm sure something great will happen for you very soon!

Sarah Ahiers said...

weird. i would have been really confused if i had gotten that response...

Zoe C. Courtman said...

I'm still a little weirded out by her response - and no idea what she meant by "shop the concept". (Sounds like K.M. Walton's comment was probably closest to guessing what she meant!) Kudos on getting that positive (and specific) feedback! Thanks so much for always being so willing to share your experiences with us. Love this, Matthew!

T.J. Carson said...

Yeah I'm a newbie querier too! I started querying way too early with my novel and pretty much exhausted my agent list by the time someone showed me THE WAY! lol

OhCRAP! Nice to meet you by the way!!!! :) Glad you found your way to my blog! Def put a smile on my face to hear that you've heard of me through another's blog :D

HMM and I think it's really cool you found an agent who was so amicable! That is REALLY hard to find, especially as a new writer. Even though she passed, I mean that is awesome that she maintained a correspondence with you! REaly cool, you don't know how luck you are. lol. Wish i could find one of those. They're rare though. ha.

Shannon Messenger said...

I kinda thought the same thing as K.M. I worked in Hollywood, and went to film school, and 'shopping the concept' were words that got thrown around (since Hollywood is big on buying ideas and then giving them to experienced screenwriters to write. Half the time if they buy your screenplay all they really want is part of the idea). But that's pure speculation.

She did give you some nice compliments though, so it wasn't a total loss. Thanks so much for sharing!

Helena Carlo said...

How cool is it that you're sharing this with us??
I liked her feedback too. Better than a form rejection, right? :)

dolorah said...

Strange, but definitely not the worst experience an author could have. At least she offered some good points about your novel, and early on in the writers experiences, that's most benificial.

You're probably right about her just being new. If you were to check on her now, I wonder if, like you, she has had some growth experiences, and might even laugh at this whole exchange.

I'm actually glad it wasn't some horrendous scam. I've a feeling your responses probably scared her as well. And again, at least you were polite in her learning experience.

Thanks for sharing this moment with us. It is helpful to learn from other's minor mistakes.


MBW aka Olleymae said...

yep you are so brave. Thanks so much for sharing.

I'm also glad she didn't turn out to be crazy/scheming/predatory.

Those are some awesome compliments and I can't wait to see what happens with your next round of queries!!! ;)

Talli Roland said...

Hm. This is perplexing. Something is not quite right about it - the 'shop the concept' thing definitely raised red flags! Sounds like someone who is very new to the industry and isn't really quite sure what they're on about (sorry, I've become very cynical about 'nice' rejections from agents unless they are very personalised and clearly show they've read your work!).

I must clarify I'm not saying your work wasn't something that they admired or thought had potential... but it just seems strange! Thank you for sharing it.